US expected to designate Kenya as major non-NATO ally: Source

US President Joe Biden is expected to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally during a three-day state visit by Kenyan President William Ruto this week, a source familiar with the plans said.

Kenya would be the first sub-Saharan African country to receive the designation, reflecting Washington’s drive to deepen relations with the East African nation, which has long also had close relations with Russia and China.

Biden’s move comes as Kenya is preparing to send forces to Haiti as part of a UN-led force deploying to address the security crisis in the Caribbean.

The designation is granted by the United States to close, non-NATO allies that have strategic working relationships with the US military.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Biden in March designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally of the United States, fulfilling the promise that he had made to Qatar earlier in the year.

Gyude Moore, head of the Africa Initiative at the Center for Global Development, said Kenya had proven to be a dependable and reliable partner for the US at a time when South Africa was pursuing its own more independent foreign policy.

“It makes sense for them to be given that designation. But what it means for the average Kenyan on the ground remains to be seen,” said Moore.

Cameron Hudson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the move would formalize a shift that has seen Kenya “move more squarely into a US orbit” in recent years, including greater cooperation on Somalia.

“It’s very significant. No other sub-Saharan African country has it,” he said.

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