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Citizen TV's Ayub Abdikadir puts Biden on the hot seat with tough questions [Video]

Citizen TV's Ayub Abdikadir praised for putting President Biden on the spot to justify the Kenya-led Haiti mission

Citizen TV news anchor Ayub Abdikadir during a joint press briefing at the White House on May 23, 2024
  • President Biden and President Ruto addressed the media on the Kenya-led Haiti mission at the White House
  • US to provide intelligence and logistical support to the mission, emphasising the collaborative effort with Kenya
  • President Ruto detailed comprehensive measures taken to address domestic insecurity in Kenya

President William Ruto and U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the media in a joint press conference at the White House on May 23.

President Ruto and President Biden faced tough questions from Ayub Abdikadir of Citizen TV, on the controversial multinational security mission planned for Haiti.

A delegation of Kenya's command staff arrived in Haiti on Monday ahead of the deployment of 1,000 police officers from the country. Haiti is set to receive the first 200 police officers this week.

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The mission, which has seen Kenya taking a leading role with substantial backing from the United States, has sparked intense debate given the global geopolitical context and domestic challenges within Kenya.

Abdikadir opened the session by questioning the rationale behind the U.S. supporting Kenya's involvement in Haiti while ending its own protracted military engagements, such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Isn't it ironic that while America is ending its forever wars in Afghanistan, the latest in 2021 under your leadership when you withdrew troops from Kabul, you're committing Kenya to another foreign war 12,000 km away from Nairobi? I mean, why the discrepancy, why the dichotomy?” he asked President Biden.

President Biden responded with a distinction between the two situations, highlighting the unique challenges and strategic importance of stabilising Haiti.

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“There's a reason why Afghanistan has been known as the graveyard of Empires. The likelihood of anybody uniting Afghanistan is highly, highly, highly unlikely.

"Now, with regard to Haiti, Haiti is in an area of the Caribbean that is very volatile. There's a lot going on in this hemisphere, and we're in a situation where we want to do all we can without us looking like America, once again, is stepping over and deciding this is what must be done. Haitians are looking for help, as well as the folks in the Caribbean are looking for help,” he explained.

Biden emphasised the U.S.'s role in providing intelligence and logistical support rather than leading the intervention, highlighting the collaborative effort with Kenya’s first-rate capabilities.

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President Ruto reinforced this perspective, asserting Kenya's sovereign decision-making and commitment to global peace.

"We don't find that the U.S. is committing Kenya because the U.S. cannot commit Kenya. I am the President of Kenya. It's me to make that decision, and it's the people of Kenya to commit their own troops using their own structures. We've gone through the processes in Kenya. Parliament has approved, we have a clear mandate, we have a clear framework," Ruto stated.

Abdikadir then directed his attention to President Ruto, raising concerns about the prioritisation of international commitments over pressing domestic security issues, particularly the banditry in Kenya’s North Rift region.

He questioned, “Isn't it an irony that you are putting out the fire in a faraway neighbour's home when our own home is on fire?”

President Ruto responded by outlining the comprehensive measures taken to address domestic insecurity.

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"I made a commitment to the people of Kenya to sort out insecurity in the North Rift. I have followed that with action. As we speak, there are 3,000 military officers and 2,000 police officers in the North Rift.

"We have renovated the first 15 schools and completed them. We have reopened 20 schools that were closed in the North Rift, and that exercise is ongoing," he detailed.

It is important to note that Kenya's former Chief of Defence the late General Francis Ogolla died in a chopper crash during a tour of the North Rift region to inspect the progress of the security intervention.

Ruto stressed that Kenya’s international commitments, including the deployment of troops in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were consistent with its dedication to regional and global stability.

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"Even as we were deploying troops and policemen in our own country in the North Rift to address the banditry problem, we still deployed a thousand troops to the DRC because that is our neighbourhood. We have 5,000 troops in Somalia because, equally, that is our responsibility. Haiti should not be an exception," he said.

President Biden supported Ruto’s statements by elaborating on the U.S.’s broader humanitarian efforts.

“We’re engaged in alleviating human suffering worldwide, including providing $375 million in humanitarian aid for displaced people in the DRC this year alone,” he noted, highlighting the multifaceted nature of U.S. foreign policy and its support for global security initiatives.

Both leaders emphasised the interconnectedness of local and global security, advocating for a balanced approach that addresses immediate domestic needs while fulfilling international responsibilities.

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The Haitian mission, as articulated by both presidents, represents a significant step in this direction, aiming to stabilize a region in crisis through collaborative international effort.

President Biden also answered question on why the United States is not contributing troops to the multinational Haiti mission.

"We concluded that for the United States to deploy forces in the hemisphere just raises all kinds of questions that can be easily misrepresented by what we're trying to do," he said.

The U.S. president added that in that regard the best approach was to look for partners who would lead that effort and America would support the mission with supplies and logistics.

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Without being on the ground, U.S. forces will facilitate the mission with intelligence, logistics and other resources including $300 million (Sh40 billion).

America is also going to support the mission with $60 million (Sh8 billion) in equipment assistance.

Watch the video below

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