U.S. President Joe Biden hosts Kenyan first couple at state dinner

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a toast to William Ruto, Kenya's president during a state dinner at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Photo by Al Drago/UPI
1 of 9 | U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a toast to William Ruto, Kenya's president during a state dinner at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Kenyan President Willian Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at a high-profile state dinner Thursday night that was headlined by country music star Brad Paisley.

In addition to Paisley, the Howard Gospel Choir performed to "honor President and first lady Ruto's love of gospel and country music," the White House said.


The event is also being attended by dozens of guests, including administration officials, such as Pete Buttigieg, secretary of Transportation, and his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg; and Lloyd Austin, the U.S. secretary of Defense, and his wife, Charlene Austin.

Also attending were the president's son, Hunter, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden; actor Le Var Burton and his wife, Stephanie Cozart Burton; and former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.


The event began with an outdoor cocktail party before guests headed inside a pavilion for dinner, which was served on mirrored table tops and featured a "hanging centerpiece created from 15,000 pieces of reflective metallic strips," according to the White House.

Biden gave a toast to his Kenyan counterpart just before Senior White House Military Chaplain John Scott led a prayer, which was followed by a performance by the Howard Gospel Choir of Howard University.

The Kenyan president's two-day visit centers on $470 million in government and private spending and other agreements that seek to help the East African nation's transition to green energy and development of more robust housing infrastructure, as well as improving healthcare and service, including developing the pharmaceutical sector in the country.

Kenya is also focusing on promoting democracy and improving human rights.

Much of the investment will go to help the East African nation's green energy transition, housing, health -- including developing the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector -- and promoting democracy and human rights.

Coca Cola is to invest $175 million in Kenya over the next five years, which the company announced during Ruto's tour of its Atlanta headquarters.

Virunga Power announced would spend $100 million over six years to create hydropower projects that will provide 31 megawatts of renewable power to help foster growth in west and central Kenya, the White House said.


"Together, the United States and Kenya are working to deliver on the challenges that matter most to our people's lives: health security, economic security, cybersecurity and climate security," Biden said in a speech welcoming Ruto earlier Thursday, while noting 90% of Kenya's electricity comes from clean energy.

Ruto also held talks with congressional leaders including Senate majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Ruto also met with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, which granted Ruto honorary membership, and where the Kenyan leader called for a democratization of the global financial system and debt relief.

Ruto's state visit is only the sixth world leader to be invited to "countries with close and strategic working relationships with the U.S. military and defense civilians," the White House said.

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