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FACT CHECK: Is Ruto first African leader in 20 years to get US state visit invitation?

Kenya’s William Ruto recently said he is the first African president in 20 years to be invited on a state visit by a United States president. 

Ruto made the claim at the mega crusade of Benny Hinn, the televangelist, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 24 and 25.

“The president of the USA has invited the president of Kenya for a state visit. One of a kind in 20 years, no African president has had a state visit in the USA,” he excitedly announced.

The clip of his address, which was published by Citizen TV, has accrued over 239,000 views in 11 days on a YouTube channel that has over 4.6 million subscribers.

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Ruto’s claim elicited varying reactions from several Kenyans on X(formerly Twitter), with some reposting the president’s comments and others celebrating the purported feat.

While X user Sirengo Maurice said Ruto is about to “put Kenya on the global map with a history-making” state visit, another user questioned the importance of talking about a state visit at a religious crusade.

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WHAT IS A STATE VISIT?

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A state visit is a formal visit by the head of state of one country to the head of state of another country, usually at the invitation of the latter.

Osita Agbu, a professor of international relations at Baze University in Nigeria, said state visits are “extremely important” and “holistic”, given that they provide an opportunity for the countries’ leaders to discuss several important issues.

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To the United States, a state visit is considered the highest expression of friendly bilateral relations between the country and a foreign state. It usually lasts for four days and features official public ceremonies.

The events would typically include a White House dinner, a state department luncheon, and an invitation to stay at Blair House, the designated residence of several foreign dignitaries visiting Washington DC. The Blair House is also known as the president’s guesthouse.

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Typically, state visits are not organised to discuss or debate policies. They are a celebration which focuses on strengthening the ties between the leaders of both countries.

VERIFYING RUTO’S CLAIM

To ascertain the veracity of Ruto’s claim, TheCable checked records of the earliest and most recent state visits to the US by African presidents.

President Edwin Barclay of Liberia was the first leader of an African nation to travel to the US for a state visit in 1943 during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd US president.

Meanwhile, in 2008 — sixteen years ago — John Kuffour, former president of Ghana, and his wife were hosted at the White House by George Bush, the 43rd president of the US.

Bush appreciated Kuffour and his delegation for honouring the visit and praised the Ghanaian president for his “compassion and effort in building a thriving democracy”.

Before Kuffor visited the US in 2008, Mwai Kibaki, the third president of Kenya, had also been welcomed on a state visit by Bush in October 2003.

VERDICT

President Ruto’s claim is false. Although he is the first Kenyan president to be invited to the US on a state visit in over two decades, he is not the first president of an African nation to receive a state visit invitation from a US president in 20 years. 



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