House Speaker Criticized for Not Inviting Kenyan President to Address Congress

Kenyan President William Ruto would have been the first Kenyan leader to address a joint session of Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) called out House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday for declining to invite Kenyan President William Ruto to address a joint session of Congress this week.

Mr. Ruto was on a three-day state visit to Washington, where he met with President Joe Biden and attended a state dinner, making him the first African president to make a state visit to the White House since 2008.
“While @SpeakerJohnson might not have given the President of Kenya the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress, the CBC was proud to welcome President Ruto to the United States Capitol today,” the caucus stated on social media. “We were honored to present President Ruto honorary membership in the CBC.”

The Kenyan leader also shared details of his meeting with the CBC on X, noting that his country recognizes the caucus’ role “in advancing social justice, human rights and economic development across the globe.”

“We implore the Congress to take lead in reconfiguring the global financial architecture where power is not in the hands of the few,” Mr. Ruto stated.

“A bold, robust and targeted approach will free Africa of the debt burden and transform the world,” he added. “I was honoured to be recognised as the Honorary Member of CBC.”

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Earlier in May, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Mr. Johnson, requesting that a formal invitation be extended to Mr. Ruto to address Congress.

They stated that such an invitation would “underscore the importance of the U.S.-Kenya relationship,” with Mr. Ruto being the first Kenyan president to have the honor.

“The country has played an important stabilizing role in East Africa and beyond in recent years and stands poised to attract significant American investment that can help catalyze African economic growth,” they wrote. “It is crucial for members of Congress to understand how Kenya’s active participation in Africa’s future and beyond is vital for peace and stability in the region and aligns with the broader economic and strategic interests of the United States.”

Speaker’s Explanation

Mr. Johnson turned down the request, citing scheduling restraints.

In a statement to USA Today, the speaker’s office said it offered the Kenyan Embassy “over 90 minutes of engagement including a one-on-one visit with Speaker Johnson, bipartisan leadership meeting with Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members, and a bicameral meeting.”

Mr. Johnson met with Mr. Ruto on May 22, according to the speaker’s office. The two discussed economic investment, regional security, and the Kenyan government’s efforts to enforce anti-corruption and bribery laws.

A group of foreign policy-focused House Democrats said in a May 15 letter that they were “extremely disappointed” by Mr. Johnson’s refusal to issue an invitation.

The lawmakers called on Mr. Johnson to reconsider his decision, noting that “failing to offer the same invitation to President Ruto risks sending the message that African partnerships are less valued by Congress.”

“Foreign adversaries like China, Russia, and Iran are working tirelessly to subvert America’s alliances, particularly in Africa. You have spoken previously about the need to strengthen America’s influence in the face of these threats,” they wrote.

“Yet your choice not to provide the Kenyan President, a key African partner, the opportunity to address the Congress helps create an opening for autocratic adversaries to make inroads in African public opinion,” they added.

President Biden said at the post-meeting press conference on May 23 that his administration was working with Congress to designate Kenya a major non-NATO ally and to make it the first African country to receive funding through the CHIPS and Science Act.

T.J. Muscaro contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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