President Joe Biden will host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for a meeting in Washington on Thursday as the White House weighs sanctions against parties to the conflict in the northern region of neighboring East African country Ethiopia.
The meeting at the White House will be Biden’s first meeting as president with an African leader.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the two would “discuss efforts to protect democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth, and combat climate change.”
Kenya is taking the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month. The United States and Kenya have long cooperated on economic and security initiatives, including combating terrorism.
The Biden administration is considering punitive action in relation to a worsening crisis in northern Ethiopia, where thousands have died and millions are in need of humanitarian aid.
Ethiopia’s national army launched a ground offensive on Monday against forces from the region of Tigre, the region’s ruling Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said.
Fighting broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF.
The conflict has left about 5.2 million people in the Tigre – more than 90% of the population – and 1.7 million in other regions dependent on food aid. The United Nations blames a government blockade for the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The government denies that it is withholding aid.
Last month, Biden signed an executive order paving the way for potential sanctions against the Ethiopian government and the TPLF if they play a role in prolonging the conflict, hindering humanitarian access, or serious human rights abuses.
The White House also said Biden and Kenyatta would discuss “the need to bring transparency and accountability to the domestic and international financial systems”.
Kenyatta’s name surfaced earlier this month in a “Pandora Papers” leak that major news outlets called a secret trove of documents they said were attempts by several global leaders to hoard money in tax havens.
Kenyatta did not respond to the allegations but said he would do so later.