Jill Biden embarks on a five-day trip to Africa to Namibia and Kenya


When Jill Biden lands on Wednesday for a five-day trip to Namibia and Kenya, it will be her remarkable sixth official solo visit to the continent as head of a presidential administration, her first as first lady after five visits as second lady during the Obama administration.

“This whole journey is going to be exciting and we still have a lot of work to do,” Biden told reporters just before leaving. The long-awaited visit comes as President Biden wraps up a high-stakes trip to Ukraine and Poland to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, and the two trips have intertwined goals. In this case, the First Lady’s trip is part of an aggressive display of US support for African nations as China’s grip on the continent grows and at a time when US intelligence suspects China is considering supplying arms to Russia. a development which Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said would be a “serious problem”.

The first lady’s trip also comes just months after the president welcomed heads of state from 49 African countries to Washington and promised that “the United States will do everything for Africa’s future.” During that three-day summit in December, the President announced that he would be traveling to Africa this summer and that seven other senior members of the administration, including Jill Biden and Vice President Harris, would be making trips this year to show their commitment to partnership with Africa. The First Lady’s trip is the first by a senior White House director to fulfill that promise.

“Across the political spectrum, it has long been a problem that Western influence on the African continent is declining as China increases its involvement there,” said Matt Carotenuto, professor of African history at St. Lawrence University. “If you look at Kenya, for the last 15 to 20 years they have received huge loans from China to fund infrastructure. Kenya has been a great strategic ally and supporter of the US, but this is one area where the government will need to double down if it is to maintain that influence, as funds have poured in from other areas.”

According to the White House, Biden’s visit will focus on empowering women and youth and promoting “our shared values ​​of democracy, healthcare collaboration and economic prosperity.” In particular, she will meet with the First Ladies of both countries with whom she forged relationships at the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Gender-based violence as well as HIV support will be topics of events she will attend, with major discussions on reproductive health being particularly important, such as PEPFAR – the US President’s Contingency Plan for AIDS Response launched during the George W. Bush was launched – is up for reapproval this summer. In Namibia, where she is visiting for the first time, Biden will address college-age students to highlight the role of youth in democracy, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30.

In Kenya, visiting for the third time, a key part of her trip will highlight food insecurity in the Horn of Africa, which is experiencing its worst drought in decades – and how the crisis has been exacerbated by a slowing flow of humanitarian dollars, and by China’s rhetorical and political Support for Russia in Ukraine.

“She was genuinely motivated to use her return after her third visit to Kenya to draw attention to a dire and imminent food crisis that cannot wait for further intervention and mobilization by the international community,” said a senior White House official . who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about internal planning processes. “So we really intended to use their trip to signal the Government’s continued leadership and partnership with the region in dealing with this crisis, but also to really help generate additional support before it hit the hardest for the most concerned is too late.”

In her memoir Where the Light Enters, Biden wrote about walking to the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with her granddaughter Finnegan, then 14, in 2014 and driving on “winding red roads that snaked through the hills like battle scars” in a hospital that treats women and girls who have been raped by gangs and soldiers. “The stories haunted me: women of all ages were being cruelly and brutally tortured as an act of war,” she wrote. “Often wounded beyond recognition, unable to control their bladders and bowels, these women were evicted from their homes and forced to walk for days to seek sanctuary at Panzi Hospital.” Biden will be joined on this trip by another granddaughter, Naomi. accompanied.

Biden’s African trip has been in the works for almost as long as she has been First Lady, with several attempts to make it happen being halted by various national and international events. “Africa is very special to them. She loves people. She loves the culture. She loves the scenery,” said Michael LaRosa, executive director of Penta Group and former press secretary for the First Lady. “She has had strong experiences there on previous visits and she recalls in her book how much they meant to her. So it’s no surprise that she’s returning as First Lady.”

This trip to Africa is her fourth international solo trip of the administration and then one, following the 2021 Olympics in Japan and consecutive trips in the summer of 2022, including a trip to Ukraine’s war zone on Mother’s Day to meet with First Lady Olena Zelenska Tour of Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador before the United States hosted the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. “She sees her role on the international stage as championing her husband and the government through soft diplomacy,” LaRosa said. “She wants to be there as his deputy, but doesn’t see herself as a foreign policy partner or advisor and doesn’t want to be one either. He has a lot of them and she doesn’t see foreign policy as part of her role.”

Africa has been a regular destination for First Ladies since Pat Nixon’s eight-day trip to Liberia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast in 1972, moved by Senegal’s House of Slaves and its “Door of No Return” that brought President Bill Clinton on a visit the following year .

Laura Bush made visits to Africa a core part of her time as First Lady; By the end of her eight years in the White House, she had made seven trips to 15 African countries and was a major promoter of PEPFAR and the President’s Malaria Initiative. In one visit, she and her daughter Jenna Bush held a church service in Rwanda to hold children infected with HIV to reduce the stigma of the disease.

Michelle Obama traveled to South Africa to meet with Nelson Mandela and returned a few months later for Mandela’s funeral. During her husband’s second term, she made several trips, sometimes with daughters Sasha and Malia, to raise awareness of a program called Let Girls Learn, which focused on girls’ education in middle school and the problem of dropping out of girls when they get their period.

Melania Trump’s only foreign trip was a visit to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, during which she was criticized for her decision to wear a white pith helmet and which included a visit to an orphanage and a photo shoot in front of the Egyptian pyramids.

Regardless of how a trip is perceived domestically, it is almost always viewed as an honor and received positively in the host country. Anita McBride, who was Laura Bush’s chief of staff and now directs the First Ladies Institute at American University, recalls when Tanzania had just become a PEPFAR recipient country and the President and his wife were getting tested for HIV on national television to see that ward off stigma. “It was a really bold move on her part,” McBride said, “and it has allowed Mrs. Bush to really speak publicly during her visit to Tanzania about what an important message this was for her country’s leaders.” Citizens.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/02/21/jill-biden-africa-trip/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Jill Biden embarks on a five-day trip to Africa to Namibia and Kenya


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