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US Vice President Embarks on State Visit To Kenya

A leading Kenyan legislator told VOA U.S Vice President Joseph Biden is scheduled to meet President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as well as the leadership of parliament’s reform caucus Tuesday. Mr. Biden arrived late Monday in Nairobi as part of a three-day official visit to the country.

Olago Oluoch, co-chairman of Kenya’s parliamentary reform caucus, said his group will present a progress report to Mr. Biden about the much-needed reforms the country has embarked upon.

“He’s got a series of meetings; first he is meeting the President of the Republic of Kenya, Mr. Mwai Kibaki, and he is meeting the Prime Minister. Then, later, he is going to be meeting the speaker of the national assembly, parliament and, lastly, he is going to meet me and four of my colleagues who are leaders of the parliamentary caucus for reforms,” he said.

After addressing a joint news conference with President Kibaki, Mr. Biden is also scheduled to visit Kenya’s parliament, which is set to open Tuesday after a recent recess.

President Barack Obama’s administration has urged Kenya’s coalition government to reform crucial state institutions. America’s envoy to Kenya, Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, said “the United States will not do business as usual with those who do not support the reform agenda, or who support violence. Let me assure you that we will take specific actions to back up those words.”

But, legislator Oluoch said Kenya has taken steps to address the demand for reforms.

“We believe that (in) the agenda for the meeting today, we will brief the Vice President of the United States (Mr. Biden) how far we have reached, what challenges we are still facing and what our expectations are,” Oluoch said.

Local media reported recently that President Obama wanted to see Kenya’s ongoing constitutional review process to be successfully concluded. But, he added that the United States is not pushing for either a “yes” or a “no” vote at the referendum scheduled to be held on 4th August.

Mr. Obama said, "I think it's up to the Kenyan people to make a decision about the direction of their country. But, as a great friend of Kenya and as president of the United States, I am hoping that the Kenyan people, through a process of self-determination, are able to take advantage of this moment."

Legislator Oluoch praised Washington’s support for Kenya’s constitutional review process.

“Ambassador Ranneberger has been very positive on the need for Kenyans to be educated of the draft (constitution). The U.S government, through its agency USAID, has been able to reach out to the youth and reach out to women who are the marginalized in our society in such a way that they have been mobilized to understand the constitution, so that finally they can be able to make their own decision,” Oluoch said.

He said Mr. Biden’s visit is a demonstration of the strong bond between Washington and Nairobi.

Oluoch also added that it was a great honor for the country to host the Vice President of the United States at a time when Kenya needs support from her true friends.