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Uhuru-Trump meeting elevates Kenya’s profile

It took a Kenyan-American to ascend to the presidency of the United States before the White House could deign to arrange an official visit of their POTUS then, Barack Obama, to Nairobi. But after the much-hyped 2015 visit, that was pretty much it on strengthening  diplomatic ties between the two countries.

And notably, Obama made history as the first sitting US president to visit Kenya. Of course, former US presidents have visited Kenya as private citizens namely Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In fact, one former president visited on what was ostensibly a natural history expedition, but served as a hunting safari in 1909, for one Theodere Roosevelt.

Today, visiting the White House by an African leader is still considered a big deal and it is noteworthy that Uhuru’s visit is the second one-on-one meeting the US president has held with an African leader since he took office last year.

The first meeting, with Nigeria’s 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April, ended with the US president reportedly telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again. 

With all eyes on the Uhuru-Trump meeting, media houses went the extra mile to send crew days in advance to give a blow-by-blow account on the visit.

Gone are the days when, for instance the Kenyan media, would have to rely on wire services or global media giants such as CNN or the BBC to get information on outcome of such meetings. In fact, local media houses do not even have to rely on the Presidential Press Service either.

Interesting though, even as Kenya was upbeat about Uhuru’s meeting  US President Donald Trump, barely made a blip on the American press. However, Trump’s failure to make a press appearance with Uhuru dominated the headlines even as POTUS stirred controversy when he refused to acknowledge questions on the death of Senator John McCain.

During the meeting, Trump and Uhuru agreed to bolster tourism, trade relations and improve security, especially in the Horn of Africa. Trump gave Uhuru re-assurance that the two countries — US and Kenya — will continue to work together to grow their partnerships.

The benefits of direct Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi to New York, which will commence in October, were also a highlight of their talks.

Recently, I met a Chinese student who intimated that it seems that foreigners are getting more scholarships than domestic students in his country. I explained that perhaps it is because Beijing was playing catch up to the United States and its Western allies. It also explains why Nairobi has received visits from a sitting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

And tomorrow, British Prime Minister Teresa May is expected in Nairobi for talks with Uhuru in a bid to deepen and strengthen global partnerships. – The writer is a Political Science PhD student at Northern Illinois University, USA.

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