Why President Ruto's State visit to the US is significant

US Ambassador Meg Whitman during an interview on Spice FM on Wednesday, May 15. [Standard]

US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman asserts that President William Ruto's impending State visit carries profound significance, underscoring the robust six-decade-long alliance between Kenya and the United States.

Scheduled for next week, May 23, Ruto's visit is deemed the pinnacle of diplomatic honors accorded to a Head of State in the US.

Speaking on Spice FM on Wednesday, the envoy elucidated that a State visit entails formalities such as a state dinner at the White House, attended by approximately 300 to 400 guests.

Notably, such formal dinners are exclusive to State visits and not typical for regular Head of State visits.

"We've been working together for 60 years on regional peace and security, trade and investment, climate solutions and this has been a tight working relationship for many years. It has had its ups and downs like every relationship but it has been a very solid relationship. We will discuss important issues to both countries," remarked Whitman.

Moreover, the ambassador disclosed plans for bilateral engagements between the Kenyan cabinet and their US counterparts.

She highlighted the itinerary, comprising a formal welcome ceremony, extensive interactions with various branches of the US government, and engagements with the American populace, marking the visit as a notable honor for Kenya.

"There will be a very formal welcome ceremony and then lots of interaction with other branches of the government. So it’s very formal and a big honour for the Kenyan people," she said.

Whitman noted that President Joe Biden's administration has hosted only five other state dinners during his tenure, with Ruto's visit marking the sixth and final one of his first term.

In addition to diplomatic matters, Whitman touched upon her rapport with opposition leader Raila Odinga, emphasizing mutual respect and regarding his potential leadership of the African Union as beneficial for East Africa and Kenya.

Reflecting on recent discussions, she expressed admiration for Odinga's leadership.