WASHINGTON: Lawmakers representing the incumbent President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party accused House Speaker Mike Johnson of ‘disrespecting Africa’.

These accusations were levelled on Friday, after he did not invite Kenyan President William Ruto to address Congress during his upcoming visit to Washington.

Biden has invited the key US ally from Africa for a state visit next week. This is the most prestigious trip a foreign leader can pay to Washington, which includes a ceremonial welcome and formal dinner at the White House.

Leaders on state visits often address joint sessions of Congress. However, Johnson — a Republican — ‘brushed aside’ an appeal for an invitation to Ruto, made by both the top Democrat and Republican, serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In a letter to Johnson, 14 House Democrats told Johnson they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision and said, “The people of Kenya deserve more respect.”

“Foreign adversaries like China, Russia and Iran are working tirelessly to subvert America’s alliances, particularly in Africa,” wrote the lawmakers. The lawmakers included the likes of Gregory Meeks, who is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Your choice not to provide the Kenyan president, a key African partner, the opportunity to address the Congress helps create an opening for autocratic adversaries to make inroads in African public opinion.”

Four foreign leaders have addressed joint sessions of the current Congress, which the Republicans currently control. They were the prime ministers of India and Japan and the presidents of Israel and South Korea.

“Failing to offer the same invitation to President Ruto risks sending the message that African partnerships are less valued by Congress” wrote the Democratic lawmakers.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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