Remarks by Vice President Biden in a Statement to the Press with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
12:56 P.M. (local)
PRESIDENT KIBAKI: I think we are all ready. Members of the media, this morning we held very useful discussions with the visiting United States Vice President, the Honorable Joseph Biden, on a broad range of issues touching on both bilateral and regional matters. In the meeting, the Kenyan side included the Right Honorable Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Vice President, Honorable Kalonzo Musyoka, and some cabinet ministers.
As a government, we are happy that Kenya and the United States enjoy extremely warm and friendly relations that go back to our independence. Our meeting today, therefore, provided a welcome opportunity to review our bilateral relations and exchange the views on key issues of mutual interest in a candid and cordial atmosphere.
I briefed the visiting U.S. Vice President of the important milestone that have covered -- that we have covered in implementing our reform agenda. The referendum on a new constitution, scheduled for 4th August this year, is the most important reform initiative for the Grand Coalition Government. We are confident that through this process, Kenyans will get a new constitution.
We have also expressed our appreciation for the U.S. support in many areas of cooperation, especially in health, agriculture, and security. We have requested that assistance be extended to other sectors, including transport, housing, energy, and water.
We also requested the U.S. administration to encourage American investors to take advantage of the single East African Common Market that will become a reality next month. The single market will also -- will allow free movement of people, goods, services, and capital throughout the five member countries that compromise -- Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi.
We also discussed other regional matters, including Somalia. Stabilization of Somalia is a high priority in our common efforts to secure regional peace and stability. Both the United States and Kenya are concerned about the growing acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and the instability caused in Somalia by extremist groups. This matter must be addressed with greater urgency. We have asked the U.S. government to provide the leadership to forge a concerted international effort to stabilize Somalia.
We also discussed present developments in Sudan, in the context of the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement, of which both our governments are guarantors. We have noted the recent elections in Sudan. We expect that the referendum planned for January next year will take place as scheduled. In our view, the best way of supporting Sudan’s internal stability, regional peace, and prosperity is to respect the verdict of the people, irrespective of the outcome of the referendum.
At our meeting, we also appreciated the continued keen interest that President Barack Obama has continued -- has shown in Kenya. We thank President Obama for his support, and count on his administration’s goodwill and cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I now wish to invite the United States Vice President, Joseph Biden, to make his remarks. I thank you very much.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. President. I am honored to be here in this beautiful country with such a rich and diverse culture and so many qualified leaders. It’s great to see you all. And thank you for giving me all the time you did this morning.
Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, I have had -- I think we’ve had some very productive discussions today and covering many interests, some of which you’ve mentioned, Mr. President. But I must tell you, I was truly impressed by the mutual cooperation between you and the Prime Minister and your commitment -- your commitment to -- your mutual commitment to reform.
We reaffirmed our commitment to work together and to deepen Kenya’s democracy, and to strengthen the rule of law and advance the prospects for a peaceful, prosperous future.
We focused as well on the need to fully implement Kenya’s reform agenda, and the importance of the constitutional reform process.
And we share the wish of the people of Kenya for a peaceful constitutional referendum that unites Kenya and accelerates the implementation of these reforms.
As President Obama said in a recent interview, the upcoming constitutional referendum is, as he said -- and I quote -- "a singular opportunity to put Kenyan governance on a more solid footing that can move beyond ethnic violence, and move beyond corruption, [and] can move the country toward a path of economic prosperity."
And we talked a lot about economic prosperity. Better governance is just not an end in itself -- it is a path to job creation and to a better economy. Two-thirds of your citizens are under the age of 25, and they are an incredible source of strength. But they also represent a challenge to create positive, creative, and productive outlets for their energy and enthusiasm in a prospering economy.
And as Kenya moves forward, so too will the United States in strengthening our relationships with you, both economically and politically. Kenya is already the largest recipient of U.S. support in sub-Saharan Africa. Putting in place a new constitution and strengthening your democratic institutions with the rule of law will further open the door to major American development programs such as the Millennium Challenge and will, I predict, bring about reinvestment by American corporations and international organizations in Kenya that could provide millions of dollars in assistance in grants through the Millennium Challenge, as well as begin to further build the economy of this great country.
Reform is also -- will also encourage, as I said, new foreign investment and reinvigorate tourism. As I told the President and Prime Minister, Americans want to do business here in Kenya. I come from a state that is the corporate state of America. I can tell you, when these reforms take place, you will find a completely different atmosphere about investment in this country. Americans want to do business here, they want to travel here, and with the right climate they will come.
And I’ve noticed, Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, when we invest, it has the tendency to generate additional investment -- additional investment from other parts of the world. We see a prosperous Kenya in not only the interest of the Kenyan people -- and all of East Africa -- but in everyone’s interest. And so we encourage -- with these reforms, when they occur, we encourage the investment -- and not just Americans, but everyone from around the world would like to see this country grow.
I also discussed the cooperation that we have underway and will continue in the shared challenges in the region, including Somalia and the Sudan.
I assured the President and the Prime Minister that the United States supports Kenya’s effort to secure the border in the face of very real threats from those who wish to spread chaos through despair and violence.
We recognize that Kenya’s long term stability and development are tied to regional security and development, and the United States is committed to work with Kenya to achieve both those objectives. And I look forward to speaking in more detail tomorrow about this partnership between the United States and Kenya, and my absolute conviction that Kenya’s best days are yet to come.
For today, let me simply say thank you to the President and the Prime Minister for their hospitality and for the very good exchange of ideas we had, and for making me more optimistic than I have been about the prospects of this reform occurring. And I want to thank all of the cabinet members as well for the hospitality they’ve shown me and my delegation. And I will have more to say about this in a major speech I’ll deliver tomorrow.
Thank you all very much, and thank you very much, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT KIBAKI: Asante sana.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you very much.
1:08 P.M. (local)