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U.S. says committed to Kenya on trade, security

Saturday March 10, 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Amb Bob Godec, DP William Ruto at State House, Nairobi on Friday, March 9, 2018. /PSCU

NAIROBI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday held talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and assured him of Washington's commitment to Kenya on trade and security, a statement said.

Tillerson, who arrived in Nairobi on Friday afternoon as part of his tour of Africa, said the U.S. is interested in widening its investment in Kenya and strengthening trade relations between the two countries.

"There is no question about U.S. commitment to Kenya on trade and security," he said, according to a statement issued after the meeting from Kenyatta's office.

Tillerson said the U.S. is eager to engage Kenya in helping its Big Four -- food security, universal health care, decent housing and manufacturing -- efforts, especially on relevant investments.

"The U.S. is glad to see Kenya building investor confidence because that will help in the growth of the economy," Tillerson said.

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The Big Four agenda include increasing manufacturing contribution to the economy from 9 percent to 15 percent, achieving universal access to health insurance, achieving food security status and building 500,000 new homes.

Tillerson said Washington looks forward to seeing successful implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) because it offers a big market in which the U.S. wants to engage.

He also welcomed the impending direct flights between the U.S. and Kenya, urging Kenya to maintain the security framework it has established to make the initiative a success.

Kenyatta, for his part, said during the meeting that the solid friendship and cooperation that continues to deepen, only serves to encourage Kenya to strengthen its resolve to work together with the U.S. toward an even brighter future, the statement said.

He said he is keen to see an increasing footprint of U.S. companies and businesses that have chosen to establish their regional bases in Kenya.

"Leading U.S. multinationals... have opened their regional offices in Kenya; thereby providing themselves with the best platform to access the vast African market," Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta expressed optimism that with direct flights between Kenya and the U.S. starting this October, there will be an "exponential increase" in the number of American tourists, business people and students, taking advantage of world-renowned tourism products and growing trade and investment opportunities in Kenya.

The Kenyan leader said the long-standing mutually enhanced security and military collaboration between Kenya and the U.S. has played a big role in counter-terrorism, especially in the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia.

He said the security situation is still dependent on AMISOM and Somalia partners, and that the planned UN/AU withdrawal of AMISOM by 2020 needs to be carefully reviewed.

AMISOM stands for African Union Mission in Somalia, an active regional peace support mission set up by the AU with the support of the United Nations.

"Kenya calls on the U.S. to strongly consider the proposal made to have a surge operation in Jubba Valley region, which was made almost three years ago, in order to root out al-Shabab," Kenyatta said.

On South Sudan, the Kenyan leader said that his country, together with other regional partners, has remained fully engaged in finding a lasting solution.

Tillerson praised Kenyatta for reaching out to opposition leader Raila Odinga, saying that was a major milestone in consolidating national unity.

"I am cheering for success of Kenya," Tillerson said, noting that the two leaders' meeting will "make positive contribution" to efforts of healing Kenya's post-election tension.

Earlier on Friday, Kenyatta and Odinga agreed to establish a joint office to thrash out political issues that will lead to reforms.

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