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The US will designate Kenya as a “major non-Nato ally” as Washington seeks to upgrade its relations with Nairobi at a time of growing Russian and Chinese influence in Africa.

The step will be announced on Thursday at a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Kenya’s President William Ruto during the first state visit by an African leader to Washington in more than 15 years.

The announcement comes as Kenya prepares to send up to 1,000 police officers to Haiti as part of an international effort backed by the US to try to stabilise the security situation in the Caribbean nation. The US has pledged $300mn to underwrite the cost of a Kenyan-led security force.

Kenya will be one of 19 countries — and the first from sub-Saharan Africa — to receive the US designation of “major non-Nato ally”. This involves a higher level of security co-operation with the US, though it does not involve any specific defence guarantees.

“This visit will . . . highlight Kenya’s important role in global peace and security,” Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, told reporters on Wednesday.

He pointed to Kenya’s role in counterterrorism — the US maintains an overseas military presence at Manda Bay to support counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab, the Somalian Islamist militant group linked to al-Qaeda — as well as the planned police presence in Haiti and its participation in the Ukraine contact group, a clutch of countries that support Kyiv’s defence against the Russian invasion.

Ruto, a staunch ally of the US who faced legal obstacles at home against sending the force to Haiti, told the Financial Times ahead of his visit to Washington that as soon as formalities “were sorted out, we will deploy”.

Biden did not follow through on a vow to travel to Africa last year, but on Wednesday he promised to make the trip in February 2025 if he were re-elected as president in the November election against Republican rival and predecessor Donald Trump.

Haiti has been mired in a political and security crisis since the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, with dozens of violent warlords expanding their control in the subsequent power vacuum. More than 80 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, is currently controlled by different gangs, according to UN estimates.

A spate of attacks in March led to the collapse of an interim government led by prime minister Ariel Henry, who was travelling to Kenya at the time to shore up Ruto’s support for the international mission.

Henry, who first requested a multinational force in October 2022, was replaced last month by a transitional presidential council made up of representatives from political parties and civil society.

While the UN authorised the mission in October last year, its progress has faltered. Kenya will lead the mission with 1,000 officers, while other nations including Chad, Jamaica and Bangladesh, have offered to send personnel.

The council on Tuesday said that the force should be deployed by the end of the month. “Haiti, through the Haitian National Police, will have overall control over the mission on the ground,” the council posted on X.

The US defence department has flown 57 sorties into Haiti in recent weeks, carrying civilian contractors and cargo to support the mission. Haitian police recently retook the areas surrounding the airport from gangs.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said US carriers might resume flights to the Haitian capital in the coming days after they were suspended in early March.

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