The meeting with Kenyatta will be Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with an African leader since he assumed the US presidency.
US President Joe Biden will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as war and a humanitarian crisis shake neighboring Ethiopia.
Thursday’s meeting will be Biden’s first face-to-face talk as president with an African leader.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that leaders will discuss “efforts to uphold democracy and human rights, promote peace and security, accelerate economic growth and address climate change.”
The Oval Office talks come weeks after Biden signed an executive order threatening sanctions against Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders involved in a conflict affecting the Tigray region if no action is taken. soon to end the 11-month war.
But the situation appears to have deteriorated on the ground, with Tigray’s forces saying the Ethiopian government has launched a large, long-threatened military offensive against them in an attempt to end the war.
A statement from the Tigray foreign affairs office earlier this week alleged that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian “regular and irregular fighters” launched a coordinated assault on various fronts.
Kenya, which shares a border with Ethiopia, has long had a strong relationship with the United States, partnering with Washington in its efforts to thwart armed attacks. It has also been relatively loud among African nations about the war in Ethiopia.
Kenya holds the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of October. Kenyatta arrived in New York on Sunday to chair a council debate.
Speaking to reporters at the UN on Tuesday, Kenyatta said the two sides in Ethiopia must reach “a political resolution because we do not believe there is a military solution.”
The Biden administration is conducting an interagency review as it considers targets for possible sanctions.
The review is, in part, to ensure that all agencies are “fully on board” with the proposed goals, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The Biden administration has said it will move forward with sanctions quickly if there is no dramatic change on the ground.
The UN has warned that hundreds of thousands are living in conditions similar to a man-made famine as the conflict escalates.
With the Ethiopian government rejecting international “meddling” in its affairs, emphasis has recently been placed on trying to find an African solution to the crisis that has killed thousands of people.
The White House also said that Biden and Kenyatta would discuss “the need to bring transparency and accountability to national and international financial systems.”
The reunion comes as the Kenyan leader has faced scrutiny over his and his family’s overseas properties discovered in the Pandora Papers.
Kenyatta is one of more than 330 current and former politicians identified as owners of secret accounts revealed in recent reports from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The ICIJ found that while Kenyatta publicly campaigned against corruption, his family kept some $ 30 million in extraterritorial assets.
The Pandora Papers disclosures are expected to be raised during the Oval Office meeting, the administration official said.