Biden in talks with Kenyan leaders

June 8, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 8 – US Vice President Joe Biden is holding talks with Kenya\’s president and prime minister to discuss ways to stabilise the region, with troubled Somalia and Sudan high on the agenda.

He arrived for the meeting at State House Nairobi shortly before 11am.

Biden arrived in Nairobi Monday evening on what is his first visit to the homeland of President Barack Obama\’s father since taking office. He flew in from Egypt, where he discussed the crisis sparked by Israel\’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy last week.

"Joe Biden’s trip to Kenya is very significant because it comes at a time when the country is talking reforms… but I am sure he is not coming to tell us what to do because Kenyans know what to do with themselves and the future," Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told journalists late Monday.

"I do not think the mission of the visit is to criticize us, we just want to discuss issues," he added.

Kenya is Washington\’s top ally in East Africa and has come under intense US pressure to implement reforms called for by the international community following deadly post-election violence two and a half years ago.

The vice president went into a meeting with former foes turned coalition partners President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga Tuesday morning. The three were expected to address a press conference after the meeting.

But Biden\’s office suggested his trip to Nairobi would focus on regional issues, notably the ever-worsening security and humanitarian situation in Somalia and the prospects for secessionist southern Sudan.

"In addition to discussing a range of bilateral issues, the vice president will address our shared interests in peace and stability in the region, particularly in Sudan and Somalia," a White House statement said.

Early Wednesday afternoon Biden will meet with South Sudan\’s president Salva Kiir. The two are expected to discuss the January referendum on self-determination in southern Sudan.

Scott Gration, the US envoy to Sudan, warned last month that there was no more time to waste in preparing for the referendum.

The widely-predicted decision by the southern oil-rich half of Sudan to acquire independence would have wide-ranging effects on the region.

Washington has also repeatedly voiced concerns that one of Kenya\’s other troubled neighbours Somalia, two thirds of which is controlled by hardline Islamist insurgents, was becoming a new haven for Al Qaeda operatives.

The embattled Western-backed government in Mogadishu has recently been mustering more international support ahead of a planned military offensive aimed at reclaiming control of the country.

"Somalia remains important to us and to the region and it will be discussed," Musyoka told journalists on Monday night.

The third and last stop in Biden\’s trip is South Africa, where he is due to arrive on Thursday and later attend the United States\’ opening World Cup game against England.


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