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‘Kiss of Death’ Security Pact With US Threatens Kenya With ‘Vassal’ Status

© AFP 2023 / MANDEL NGANUS President Joe Biden (L) welcomes President William Ruto during an official arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 23, 2024. Ruto's visit is the first state visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 15 years.
US President Joe Biden (L) welcomes President William Ruto during an official arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 23, 2024. Ruto's visit is the first state visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 15 years. - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.05.2024
Kenyan President William Ruto has received an atypically warm reception in Washington this week, becoming the first African leader to be invited to the US for a state visit since 2008. The trip is expected to strengthen relations between Nairobi and Washington, threatening Kenya’s independence in the process, African affairs experts tell Sputnik.
President Ruto’s three-day visit to the American capital got off to a regal start the US ordinarily reserves for larger and ‘more important’ partners, with the Kenyan head of state greeted at the airport by First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday, and given literal red carpet treatment when he arrived at the White House to meet President Biden.
Ruto will hold high-level meetings with his US counterpart, other senior American officials, diplomats and businesspeople, and get treated to a lavish state dinner meant to signify the importance of Kenyan-US relations.
Amidst the pomp and pageantry, Kenya is expected to be designated the US’s first major non-NATO ally in Sub-Saharan Africa, providing Nairobi access to concessionary loans, expanding access to US weapons stockpiles, and offering new opportunities for joint training. The pact will also give Washington a chance to expand its footprint in East Africa amid a string of recent diplomatic and security setbacks in the region – including demands by Chad and Niger that the US pulls troops out of the countries.
Significant headway is also expected to be made in the US-sponsored push to send 1,000 Kenyan militarized police to Haiti to try to restore order in the troubled Caribbean island nation, with the controversial deployment greenlit by Kenya’s cabinet earlier this month.
Economic relations between Kenya and the US are modest, and have actually faltered slightly over the past two years, with trade dropping from $1.4 billion to $1.3 billion between 2022 and 2023. Washington is hoping to make up for this through a series of targeted investments in housing, and aid for Kenya’s education system, run by USAID and the State Department, and expected to pay dividends in the form of future generations of young Kenyans sympathetic to the United States.
US President Joe Biden greets Kenya’s President William Ruto upon his arrival at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, DC on May 22, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.05.2024
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Kenyan ‘Door to Africa’

“Kenya is an entry door to Africa - as such any country wishing to infiltrate the continent would find it beneficial to court Nairobi,” Dr. Michael Ndonye, a political commentator and senior lecturer at Kabarak University in Kenya, told Sputnik, commenting on Washington’s efforts to woo Ruto.
“The United States is strategic in choosing whom to work with in the global South. Seemingly, they are willing to go beyond what they did in history to bring Kenya closer,” Ndonye believes, pointing out that historical experience shows that Washington isn’t willing to invest in a major international relationship “for a pittance,” i.e. unless it gets something major out of it.
“We expect military support, trade deals and relational advantages. However, Kenya will have to accept to be flooded with US goods, culture among others,” the academic said.
As far as major non-NATO ally status is concerned, Dr. Ndonye pointed to an array of tools Washington has at its disposal to dominate allies, “includ[ing] economic, political and military subjugation” – all issues Kenya should be worried about.

‘Considerable Strategic Importance’

Kenya has “considerable strategic importance for the US,” says Professor Alexis Habiyaremye, a political analyst and senior researcher at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Economics.
This relates “both [to] its position in the Great Lakes region, but above all, because of its proximity with the Horn of Africa. The US military already operates a military base in Manda Bay, in Lamu County, not far from Somalia. Being able to control the Horn of Africa and by extension, the Gulf of Aden, is obviously of capital importance to the US. Kenya plays an important role in this strategy, especially after the US supported its [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] ally in the Ethiopian civil war and therefore weakened its alliance with Ethiopia in that strategic configuration,” Habiyaremye explained.
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Habiyaremye fears Kenya will get boxed in internationally after being granted major non-NATO ally status by the US, suggesting the agreement essentially boils down to “vassalization status,” akin to the ‘Allies and Friends of the Roman People’ vassalage bond of the days of the old Roman Empire.
“Such a vassal status implies that Kenya will from now on have to consider as its enemies whoever the Americans designate as their enemies, and as friends whoever the US sees as its friends…The move is therefore designed to bring Kenya into the club of countries that unconditionally supports US wars and kowtows to its closer allies (the Five Eyes). This is an alliance from which Kenya, as the vassal, has little to nothing to gain, apart from symbolic honorific gestures thrown to the leaders of such countries,” the observer warned.
Such status makes sense for the US, according to Habiyaremye, given the recent setbacks Washington suffered after its troops got the boot from Niger and Chad. As for Kenya, the scholar isn’t certain what exactly Nairobi gets out of the agreement.
“It would only be useful in case Kenya has enemies and would need to benefit from US protection. As Kenya does not conduct any hostile policies to its neighbors, let alone to remote territories, any US support will be limited to joint military exercises and some more symbolic honors if any Kenyan president happens to visit Washington,” he reiterated.
A U.S. soldier walks past parked armoured vehicles and tanks of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Calvary Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, as they are unloaded at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. The U.S. military vehicles are on their way to Eastern Europe to take part in the Atlantic Resolve military exercises, in which American troops train together with NATO partners to help ensure stability in Europe. - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.05.2024
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Paraphrasing famous Henry Kissinger quote that ‘it may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal,’ Dr. Habiyaremye pointed out that since the United States is a “declining hegemon,” it means that as the decline continues, its allies will face growing security-related challenges.
“Some of them will try to jump ship in time, others may find themselves tied to the wars and atrocities committed by their alliance. In general, Kenya should not have to worry so much if it limits the US military presence on its territory to the existing bases. A stronger involvement may turn out to be a kiss of death for the Kenyan people,” Habiyaremye warned.
Dr. Nicodemus Minde, an adjunct lecturer in international relations at the United States International University – Africa in Nairobi, agrees, telling Sputnik that major non-NATO ally status is not only “dangerous” for Kenya, since it forces Nairobi to bow to US and Western demands, but robs the strategically important African nation of its ability to bargain on important issues internationally.
Enhanced security cooperation, including the deployment of additional troops kicked out of neighboring countries, is “counterproductive” for Nairobi, Dr. Minde believes. “It actually puts the country in a rather awkward position regionally and internationally,” while giving Washington a chance to “leverage its position in Africa.”

“I think Kenya should be worried about the over-exuberance of the US as it tries to forge closer ties. Kenya should be careful not to be used and dumped by the US just like how it happened in Afghanistan,” the scholar warned, recalling that Kabul’s status as a US major non-NATO ally didn’t exactly help its government in the fateful late summer of 2021.

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