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Biden plans to welcome Kenyan president to White House for state visit in May

FILE - The White House is seen at sunset in Washington, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. President Joe Biden plans to welcome Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House in May, hosting a state visit after reneging on his promise to visit Africa last year. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced Friday that the visit set for May 23. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - The White House is seen at sunset in Washington, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. President Joe Biden plans to welcome Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House in May, hosting a state visit after reneging on his promise to visit Africa last year. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced Friday that the visit set for May 23. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) 鈥 President Joe Biden plans to welcome Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House in May, hosting a state visit after reneging on his promise to visit Africa last year.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced Friday that the visit set for May 23 will mark the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Kenya diplomatic relations and 鈥渃elebrate a partnership that is delivering for the people鈥 of both countries while affirming 鈥渙ur strategic partnership鈥 with Ruto鈥檚 country.

It 鈥渨ill strengthen our shared commitment to advance peace and security, expand our economic ties, and stand together in defense of democratic values,鈥 Jean-Pierre said in a statement. 鈥淭he leaders will discuss ways to bolster our cooperation in areas including people-to-people ties, trade and investment, technological innovation, climate and clean energy, health, and security.鈥

Word of Ruto鈥檚 visit comes after Haiti announced this week that it is working on an official agreement with Kenyan officials to secure the long-awaited deployment of Kenyan police forces there. High-ranking officials from both countries recently met in the U.S. for three days to draft a memorandum of understanding and set a deadline for the arrival of forces in Haiti from the east African country.

Jean-Pierre added Friday that, beyond Kenya, Rutto鈥檚 visit to Washington will 鈥渇urther the vision鈥 that 鈥淎frican leadership is essential to addressing global priorities.鈥

First lady Jill Biden traveled to Kenya last February during a five-day, two-country tour of the continent. The White House also confirmed that both Ruto and Kenyan first lady Rachel Ruto will be honored with a dinner with the Bidens.

The White House hosted a state dinner celebrating close ally Australia in October, which followed the president鈥檚 skipping a stop in that country earlier in 2023 to focus on debt limit talks in Washington. But those festivities last fall were toned down some given Israel鈥檚 ongoing war with Hamas.

Biden said in December 2022 that he would visit sub-Saharan Africa the following year, which would have made him the first U.S. president to travel there in a decade. The president pledged at the end of a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington with 49 leaders, in which he suggested the continent would be a strategic focus as the U.S. made political and financial commitments.

But other priorities interceded in 2023. Biden pulled off last-minute trips to Israel and Vietnam, as well as a secretive journey to Ukraine. He ended last year by skipping a December U.N. climate change conference in Dubai, while sending Vice President Kamala Harris in his place, and never scheduled an Africa trip.

Biden is now seeking reelection in November鈥檚 election while juggling a host of pressing foreign security matters, including the Israel-Hamas war and continuing discussion in Congress over proposed foreign aid for Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

On Friday he traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, making good on months of saying he鈥檇 visit the site of a Norfolk Southern train derailment that spilled a cocktail of hazardous chemicals and caught fire in February 2023.

Vice President Kamala also spoke Friday at the Munich Security Conference and was asked about Washington鈥檚 鈥済rowing transitional mindset鈥 toward Africa 鈥 a characterization she disputed, countering that 鈥渢he future has to be about partnership and investment.鈥

鈥淚 believe that we must think differently about the relationship between the United States and the continent of Africa,鈥 the vice president said, adding, 鈥淲e look at the future of the continent and how it will affect the world: It is indisputable. There will be a direct impact.鈥

Harris noted that the median age on the African continent is 19 and that population growth means that, in coming decades, as many as 1 in 4 people in the world will live there.

鈥淚n terms of the future, we must see the innovation that is currently happening there and partner with African leaders and nations,鈥 she said. 鈥淎nd change the way we are thinking, in a way that is not about aid, but about partnership. Not what we do for the continent, but what we do with the continent and its leaders.鈥

Will is a national political reporter based in Washington.