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Biden woos Kenya's Ruto with state visit

By AFP

May 23, 2024 10:31 PM


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President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet Thursday for his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, who was making the first state visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 15 years at a time when the United States is losing ground on the continent to China and Russia.

In a step to tighten ties with the strategic East African nation, Biden was set to ask Congress to grant Kenya "major non-NATO ally" status. Another 18 countries currently have the status, which prioritizes military and diplomatic links, although without a formal security pact.

The visit -- including a joint press conference and a lavish White House dinner -- comes as the United States and ally France are on the back foot in Africa, where massive Chinese investments and aggressive use by Russia of shadowy paramilitary groups are changing the geopolitical balance.

Greeting Ruto in front of a colorful honor guard on the White House South Lawn, Biden emphasized that the two countries are "united by the same democratic values."

"We are stronger and the world is safer when Kenya and the United States work together," Biden said.

Ruto, who also underlined Kenya's democratic record, said he would discuss climate change, debt distress and East African security with Biden.

"I am confident, Mr President, that the partnership of the United States and Kenya will give us the solutions that the world so seriously needs," he said.

Talks in the Oval Office were also expected to focus on Kenya's leadership of an upcoming international police mission to Haiti, where months of gang violence and political chaos have left the tiny Caribbean nation in humanitarian crisis.

"Democracy is obviously on the back foot globally and we see Kenya as an important, stable democracy in East Africa," said a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The state dinner was to feature heirloom tomato soup, fruitwood-smoked beef short ribs and lobster, with banana ganache for dessert. Entertainers will include country music star Brad Paisley and a gospel choir.

The White House has promised partnership announcements in health and the battle against climate change, as well as private sector investment.

The two countries will also issue a "joint vision statement" on reducing the mounting debts of developing countries and the handicap it represents for African countries trying to grow their economies.

Biden held a major summit for African leaders in 2022, but the 81-year-old has not made good on promises to visit the continent as president.

The Democrat, who faces a rematch against Donald Trump in November's presidential election, quipped on Wednesday that he does plan to visit Africa -- next February when starting a new term.

Africa has often been on the back burner for US diplomats but the continent now presents a growing headache in Washington.

Russia has established new footholds -- most recently in Niger, where the United States has agreed to withdraw its 1,000 troops, while Russian troops come in.

The United States also faces competition from China, which has pumped billions in infrastructure money into Africa for the past two decades.

bur-sms/bgs

© Agence France-Presse

 

 

Biden woos Kenya's Ruto with state visit

Washington, United StatesUSKENYADIPLOMACY

By Danny KEMP

RECASTS, UPDATES THROUGHOUT WITH VISIT STARTING, ADDS BIDEN, RUTO QUOTES

President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet Thursday for his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, who was making the first state visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 15 years at a time when the United States is losing ground on the continent to China and Russia.

In a step to tighten ties with the strategic East African nation, Biden was set to ask Congress to grant Kenya "major non-NATO ally" status. Another 18 countries currently have the status, which prioritizes military and diplomatic links, although without a formal security pact.

The visit -- including a joint press conference and a lavish White House dinner -- comes as the United States and ally France are on the back foot in Africa, where massive Chinese investments and aggressive use by Russia of shadowy paramilitary groups are changing the geopolitical balance.

Greeting Ruto in front of a colorful honor guard on the White House South Lawn, Biden emphasized that the two countries are "united by the same democratic values."

"We are stronger and the world is safer when Kenya and the United States work together," Biden said.

Ruto, who also underlined Kenya's democratic record, said he would discuss climate change, debt distress and East African security with Biden.

"I am confident, Mr President, that the partnership of the United States and Kenya will give us the solutions that the world so seriously needs," he said.

Talks in the Oval Office were also expected to focus on Kenya's leadership of an upcoming international police mission to Haiti, where months of gang violence and political chaos have left the tiny Caribbean nation in humanitarian crisis.

"Democracy is obviously on the back foot globally and we see Kenya as an important, stable democracy in East Africa," said a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

- Lobster and gospel choir -

The state dinner was to feature heirloom tomato soup, fruitwood-smoked beef short ribs and lobster, with banana ganache for dessert. Entertainers will include country music star Brad Paisley and a gospel choir.

The White House has promised partnership announcements in health and the battle against climate change, as well as private sector investment.

The two countries will also issue a "joint vision statement" on reducing the mounting debts of developing countries and the handicap it represents for African countries trying to grow their economies.

Biden held a major summit for African leaders in 2022, but the 81-year-old has not made good on promises to visit the continent as president.

The Democrat, who faces a rematch against Donald Trump in November's presidential election, quipped on Wednesday that he does plan to visit Africa -- next February when starting a new term.

Africa has often been on the back burner for US diplomats but the continent now presents a growing headache in Washington.

Russia has established new footholds -- most recently in Niger, where the United States has agreed to withdraw its 1,000 troops, while Russian troops come in.

The United States also faces competition from China, which has pumped billions in infrastructure money into Africa for the past two decades.

bur-sms/bgs

© Agence France-Presse

 

 

BHP, Anglo battle highlights copper popularity

London, United KingdomMARKETPRICESMETALCOPPER

By Emeline BURCKEL

BHP's battle to buy rival miner Anglo American has shone a spotlight on copper, the industrial metal in strong demand owing to its key role in greener technology.

UK-based Anglo on Wednesday rejected a third offer worth $49 billion from Australian giant BHP, which has set it sights on creating a copper behemoth.

Copper is a vital component for energy storage, electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines.

Meanwhile Anglo has said that should it remain independent, it will offload its diamond and platinum businesses -- traditionally seen as more prestigious than its copper operations.

Amid the BHP bidding war, copper on Monday reached an all-time high at $11,104.50 per tonne.

It traded at $10,398.50 on Thursday, with traders and investors banking profits according to analysts.

Copper production is struggling to keep up with demand -- and by purchasing Anglo, BHP does not have to uncover new mines, a project that comes at great expense.

"To mine 200,000 tonnes of copper, you need $10 billion and 10 years," said Philippe Chalmin at commodities research group Cyclope.

However, with copper's high price, new mining projects could become economical.

"The now significantly higher price level could even stimulate production in the medium term," said Barbara Lambrecht, commodities analyst at Commerzbank.

Peru's Minister of Energy and Mines, Romulo Mucho Mamani, recently declared that the rise in copper prices should attract investors.

Peru is the second largest copper-producing country, behind Chile.

Buying Anglo American would give BHP control of key mines in both nations, and put it in charge of about 10 percent of world copper production.

- Diamonds not forever -

Anglo has said that as a standalone company, it would either split and sell its De Beers diamond business.

"The diamond is rather in crisis," Chalmin told AFP, noting that consumers are opting for cheaper synthetic stones.

According to Queensmith, a jeweller based in Hatton Garden -- the central London district renowned for its jewellery stores and workshops -- "lab-created diamonds can cost up to 85 percent less and are considered a more sustainable option than mined diamonds".

Real diamonds are falling out of favour also owing to ethical reasons.

So-called blood diamonds, which have been used to finance conflicts, notably in Angola and Sierra Leone, are however kept off the market through the international Kimberley Process certification scheme.

De Beers "has lost its former strength, that is to say a virtual marketing monopoly", said Chalmin, in particular because of competition from synthetic diamonds.

Amid the BHP takeover pursuit, Anglo American is set to rid itself also of its platinum division.

BHP has made clear it does not want Anglo American Platinum, the world's biggest producer of the metal.

Anglo American itself has indicated a plan to demerge the unit should it remain a standalone company.

Unlike copper, platinum is threatened by the transition to greener energy.

The metal is widely used in the production of catalytic converters, which reduce harmful emissions pumped out by vehicles powered by combustion engines.

As consumers switch to electric vehicles, platinum's price has suffered in recent years.

UN creates Srebrenica genocide memorial day

 

 

The UN General Assembly voted Thursday to establish an annual day of remembrance for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, despite furious opposition from Bosnian Serbs and Serbia.

The resolution written by Germany and Rwanda -- countries synonymous with genocide in the 20th century -- received 84 votes in favor, 19 against with 68 abstentions and makes July 11 "International Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide."

Ahead of the vote, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic warned the General Assembly that the move "will just open old wounds and that will create a complete political havoc."

But he said he did not deny the killings at Srebrenica, adding that he bowed his "head to all the victims of the conflict in Bosnia."

"This resolution seeks to foster reconciliation, in the present and for the future," said Germany's ambassador to the UN Antje Leendertse.

Church bells rang out across Serbia on Thursday in protest. The Serbian Orthodox Church said it hoped the gesture would unite Serbs in "prayers, serenity, mutual solidarity and firmness in doing good, despite untrue and unjust accusations it faces at the UN."

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, meanwhile, denied a genocide had even taken place in the Bosnian city and said that his administration would not recognize the UN resolution.

"There was no genocide in Srebrenica," Dodik told a press conference in Srebrenica.

Bosnian Serb forces captured Srebrenica -- a UN-protected enclave at the time -- on July 11, 1995, a few months before the end of Bosnia's civil war, which saw approximately 100,000 people killed.

In the following days, Bosnian Serb forces killed around 8,000 Muslim men and teenagers -- a crime described as a genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice.

The incident is considered the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II.

In addition to establishing the memorial day, the resolution condemns "any denial" of the genocide and urges UN member countries to "preserve the established facts."

In a letter to other UN members, Germany and Rwanda described the vote as a "crucial opportunity to unite in honoring the victims and acknowledging the pivotal role played by international courts."

 


AFP


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