Biden says Kenya to become a non-NATO ally

A diplomatic upgrade and a surprise appearance by Barack Obama: U.S. President Joe Biden pulled out the stops as he hosted Kenyan counterpart William Ruto for a lavish state visit aimed at competing with Russia and China for influence in Africa.

At a gala dinner in a large pavilion set up on the White House lawn, Biden praised "the belief in freedom, democracy, dignity and equality" that he shared with Ruto, the first African leader to receive a Washington state visit in 15 years.

Biden matched pomp with a string of deals on security, climate and debt — and delivered an Irish-inspired toast in honor of his guest.

"Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand," Biden said.

For his part, Ruto praised the "enduring bonds of friendship, partnership and solidarity between Kenya and the United States."

Former president Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, made a brief surprise appearance at the start of the gala, where 500 guests dined on beef and lobster and enjoyed performances by a gospel choir and country star Brad Paisley.

 'A strong and committed friend'

Earlier in the day, Biden announced a plan to make Kenya the first major non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa, saying it was the "fulfillment of years of collaboration" against the Islamic State group and Al-Shabaab jihadists in Somalia.

The move will see Kenya join 18 other such allies including Israel, Brazil and Ukraine, boosting military and diplomatic links, although without a formal security pact.

Biden also thanked Kenya for agreeing to lead an upcoming international police mission to Haiti, where months of gang violence have left the tiny Caribbean nation on America's doorstep in a political and humanitarian...

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