The White House says President Joe Biden plans to address the need for “transparency and accountability” in domestic and international financial systems when he meets with the Kenyan leader on Thursday. President Uhuru Kenyatta is under scrutiny over revelations that he and his family hid millions of dollars in hidden accounts abroad.
Kenyatta is one of more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of secret accounts revealed in recent reports known as Pandora Papers. He and his relatives have about $ 30 million in holdings abroad, according to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The consortium obtained millions of leaked documents detailing the hidden wealth of prominent world leaders, politicians, corporate executives and celebrities. Kenyatta has denied wrongdoing.
Biden was expected to address the “elephant in the room” during his evening meeting in the Oval Office with Kenyatta and senior Kenyan officials, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden has spoken about what he sees as “inequalities” in the international financial system.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t meet people you don’t agree with,” Psaki said. “We have a variety of interests in working with Kenya and working with them on issues in Africa, in the region, and that will be the main focus.”
The visit comes at a difficult time in East Africa as a nearly year-long war in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia continues to shake the region.
The United States is looking to Kenya, a longtime ally in counterterrorism efforts, to help end the conflict in neighboring Ethiopia, which has left the area ravaged by a man-made famine. Biden has threatened to impose sanctions against Ethiopian officials and others involved in the conflict if the fighting does not end soon.
Idaho Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said meeting with a strategic partner was “long overdue.” He urged Biden to use the meeting to address internal tensions in various parts of Kenya and the impact they could have on next year’s elections.
Risch also said he is concerned that Kenya will borrow from China, which accounts for about a third of Kenya’s external debt service costs for 2021-22 and is its largest foreign creditor after the World Bank.
“The Biden administration must make these issues a central theme in discussions with President Kenyatta and other senior Kenyan officials this week,” Risch said.
The meeting will be Biden’s first in-person participation as president with an African leader.
The White House said the leaders were also expected to discuss issues of democracy and human rights, as well as security, economic growth and climate change.