New Content Item (1)
Caption for the landscape image:

Pentagon, FBI, CIA chiefs’ visits to Nairobi and why Kenya is the new US top officials' favourite destination

Scroll down to read the article

US Federal Bureau of Investigations chief Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Service Director Director-General Noordin Haji in Nairobi.

The visit by Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director Christopher Wray this week is the latest in a series of top US officials that have been trooping to Kenya since President William Ruto took office in September 2022.

Dr Ruto, who was in the US for a state visit last month, has been leaning towards Washington and the West, unlike his predecessors Uhuru Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki who looked East to China.

US First Lady Jill Biden visited Kenya in February last year.

Other top officials who have been to Kenya are Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, Principal Trade Adviser and Spokesperson on US Trade Policy Katherine Tai, and Brian Nelson, the US Department of Treasury’s Under-secretary for Counter-terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Mr Wray met Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Mohammed Amin, National Intelligence Service head Noordin Haji, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Executive Twalib Mbarak and the Director of Public Prosecutions Renson Igonga at their offices.

Dusit D2 Complex

The FBI boss, who was in the country for five days, also toured the Dusit D2 Complex in Nairobi, where a terrorist attack left 22 people dead on January 16, 2019.

Worldwide, Kenya is ranked 16th in organised crime, a threat that ignores borders and is transnational in nature. It also takes many forms.

“Part of my mission is to push for the strengthening of our cooperation,” Mr Wray said in a statement, adding that the partnership is in fighting corruption, terrorism, money laundering, narcotics, cyber-crime and human trafficking.

“Tackling terrorism and other threats requires teamwork. Everyone brings their unique capabilities,” the FBI head said.

He added that training and joint operations are part of the solutions to emerging threats, saying there is need for a regional counter-terrorism centre.

Early this year, President Ruto met Mr Burns in Nairobi. The meeting was attended by US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman and Mr Haji.

Dr Ruto stressed the role Kenya plays in regional peace and security and as an ally of the US.

He talked of working together in addressing global security challenges.

The CIA chief said he appreciated the strong ties between the two nations, adding that the US values Kenya as an ally in the war against terrorism and other security issues.

“Our continued cooperation is vital in ensuring the safety and stability of the region,” he said.

Ms Raimondo met President Ruto in April. She acknowledged the efforts Dr Ruto’s administration has made to improve Kenya’s business environment and attract US investments.

The US Commerce Secretary and Dr Ruto said they had identified opportunities for collaboration in green energy and clean technology.

She had led the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) to Nairobi and announced deals with American companies and a partnership with Kenya to facilitate data flows, empower digital up-skilling and harness the potential of AI.

“I chose Kenya as my first official trip to Africa because of its leadership in digital transformation and to demonstrate the US business community’s commitment to commercial opportunities in Kenya and across the continent,” she said, adding that the US is focused on making Kenya the African digital hub.

Austin, a retired US general, flew to Kenya and held talks with Defence Secretary Aden Duale and President Ruto in September last year.

Mr Austin talked of the steps Kenya and the US have taken to improve defence cooperation and advance mutual security interests.

“Kenya is a key security partner of the US and an important leader for the region. We appreciate the work you do side by side with the US. I look forward to deeper and stronger partnerships,” he said.

He visited Manda Bay to meet Kenyan and US soldiers, telling them they had an important role to play in promoting peace and security in the region and the world.

During Dr Ruto’s state visit, the US pledged to extend the Manda Bay airport runway by 10,000 feet.

“Military cooperation between Kenya and the US spans 50 years. Kenya is a valued strategic partner in tacking mutual threats and bolstering regional security,” Mr Austin said.

In just two weeks in July last year, Washington dispatched two senior government officials to Nairobi with a message to President Ruto on good governance, human rights and a subtle push on the geopolitics surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war.

The visits by the two officials came hot on the heels of a Russia-Africa summit in Moscow. Seventeen leaders from Africa attended the conference, with President Vladimir Putin promising grain to the continent.

Ms Tai was the first to arrive. Her visit was significant because the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations were ongoing at the time.

The two had met in September 2022 when Ms Tai led a government delegation to Nairobi for the inauguration of Dr Ruto.

She held meetings with government officials and co-chaired a meeting of the US-East African Community Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council.

Ms Tai and Dr Ruto discussed the African Growth and Opportunity Act and its role in strengthening US relations with the continent.

Then landed Mr Nelson, who held talks with President Ruto on security, terrorism, food security money laundering and other issues.

David Monda, a professor of political science, says the US sees Kenya as an anchor state in diplomatic initiatives in the Horn of Africa.

“The US is also keen to use Kenya as a base to secure global maritime chokepoints in the Indian the Indian Ocean,” he said.