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Kenyan president meets with Obama amid awkward press conference with Biden

Kenyan President William Ruto met with former President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., on Thursday in between a series of meetings with President Joe Biden and his team at the White House.

The Kenyan president’s state visit to Washington will conclude Thursday with a state dinner at the White House.

Earlier in the day, Ruto held a “two-and-two” press conference with Biden where the two leaders pledged to continue to back the Multinational Security Support mission to support Haiti.

The president did stumble into several gaffes during his appearance with Ruto. Biden mistakenly referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as “President Kamala Harris” and predicted that Africa, a continent that boasts more than 1.4 billion people, would soon surpass a population of 1 billion.

Traditionally, joint press conferences follow a two-and-two format, where two American reporters and two reporters from the visiting nation ask one question each to the American president and the visiting dignitary. Reporters often attempt to buck that trend, and Biden called out one in particular who attempted to ask two on Thursday.

“You guys never keep the deal, but that’s OK,” the president responded, though he eventually answered the question later in the press conference.

Finally, after the conclusion of the press conference, numerous U.S. reporters yelled additional questions at the president, who jokingly shouted “Whoa!” before exiting the room without delivering answers.

Biden also appeared to read directly from a sheet of notes while answering multiple reporters, including lengthy responses on the U.S. commitments to the International Monetary Fund’s plans to develop African countries and the specific U.S. humanitarian effort in the Congo.

Kenya is leading the support mission to Haiti, organized to address the outbreak of gang violence in the country, and is in the process of transporting troops from Nairobi to the Caribbean. The United States, however, is only providing logistical support and equipment and will not send troops.

“We concluded that for the United States to deploy forces in the Western Hemisphere just raises all kinds of questions that can be easily misrepresented,” Biden said Thursday when asked to defend that decision. “And so I’m very grateful for President Ruto’s leadership here.”

“We are in a situation where we want to do all we can without us looking like America, once again, is stepping over and deciding ‘this is what must be done,’” he added later in the press conference.

Following the press conference, Ruto met with Obama, whose father was Kenyan, at Blair House, just across the street from the White House and the traditional lodgings provided to visiting dignitaries.

“I have had a productive engagement with the Former President of the United States of America Barack Obama,” Ruto added in a post on Facebook. “We exchanged views on democratic developments, climate and peace and security challenges in Africa.”

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“We reviewed opportunities available to Africa’s young and dynamic demographic in tech, innovation, higher and technical education and exchanged ideas on how Kenya and Africa can leverage on U.S. institutions and technological capacity to advance its interests,” he added.

After meeting with Ruto, Obama later attended a private reception alongside Biden and former President Bill Clinton at the White House. Obama was not expected at the state dinner, the White House said a day earlier, but the former president was spotted entering the dinner and joined Clinton in attending.



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