Kenyan and US officials signed documents in Washington on Tuesday that outline plans to raise bilateral relations to what a US diplomat called “a new level.”
Tibor Nagy, the assistant US secretary of state for Africa, said at a briefing that Kenya ranked as “one of our key friends in Africa — nay, in the world.”
Kenyan Foreign Minister Monica Juma emphasised the potentially historic nature of the “bilateral strategic dialogue” that concludes on Wednesday in the US capital city.
“Our presidents are thinking big,” Dr Juma said in reference to Uhuru Kenyatta and Donald Trump.
“We are talking about the future of prosperity,” she said.
Describing the aspects of the Kenya-US dialogue which are focused on economic development, Dr Juma added that “this ambitious trade and investment portfolio must be able to help build wealth for our people. It must create more jobs, it must create decent living, it must contribute to the prosperity of ourselves and the world.”
She, however, cautioned that bilateral efforts to promote prosperity in Kenya are threatened by “international jihadism.”
“This is probably the greatest risk to our strategic relationship because even if we think big, even if we create the right environment for investment and trade, unless we are able to tether the threat that comes with extremism, then we are at a risk,” the Kenyan foreign minister said.
Dr Juma noted that she had been directed by President Kenyatta to work with US officials to jointly mitigate and defeat the immediate threats to the countries’ security and prosperity.
“In this regard, our cooperation in defence and security becomes the guarantee for our continued prosperity,” she said.
The Cabinet secretary added that she had held talks on Tuesday with US Defence Department officials at the Pentagon.
Those discussions will continue on Wednesday, she added, to identify “the next steps in strengthening our defence and security cooperation”.
Neither the Kenyan nor the US officials offered specifics on the content of the current talks that arose from a meeting between President Kenyatta and President Trump last August.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that the talks on Wednesday will be “finalising key infrastructure deals” as well as “deepening our security cooperation and enhancing civilian security and governance assistance”.
The latter element is understood to refer to US assistance in rooting out corruption in Kenya.
The Kenyan and US officials are scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday evening at which concrete results of the bilateral strategic dialogue are expected to be presented.
Deputy Secretary Sullivan echoed his State Department colleague in saying that Kenya ranks among “our strongest partners … in the world.”
Mr Sullivan explained that the Kenya-US bilateral strategic dialogue aims to advance the two countries’ joint goals in economic prosperity, trade and investment, defence cooperation, democracy, governance and civilian security and multilateral and regional issues.
Assistant Secretary Nagy noted that the current round of talks is only the first in what will become an annual series aimed at deepening Kenya-US relations.