Photo courtesy: State House Kenya

Open Letters to Kenya President Ruto and USA President Biden

President William Ruto’s May 2024 visit to Washington marks a milestone in the 60-year relationship between the United States and Kenya. Prior to the trip, Amnesty International Kenya and Amnesty International USA Section Directors Irũngũ Houghton and Paul O’Brien delivered two separate open letters calling on both Heads of State to uphold justice, equality, and human rights in their respective countries.

Collectively, Amnesty International Kenya and Amnesty International USA urge President Ruto and President Biden to use this opportunity to engage in honest dialogue, strengthen the bonds between the two nations and set a powerful example of rights-respecting leadership on the global stage by acting on seven issues.

The Amnesty International USA letter urges President Biden to raise four critical areas with President Ruto:

  • Police Reforms: Emphasizes the need for professional, accountable, and human rights-based policing in Kenya, citing recent unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions by police.
  • Equality and Non-Discrimination: Calls for action against rising discrimination and violence based on identity, specifically targeting vulnerable groups and opposing harmful legislative proposals.
  • Support for Civil Society and Independent Institutions: Advocates for operationalising the Public Benefits Organizations Act and strengthening oversight bodies to combat corruption and ensure transparent governance.
  • Strengthening Diaspora Ties: The proposal is to introduce a bilateral tax treaty to reduce double taxation and support the Kenyan and US diasporas in the U.S. and Kenya.

The Amnesty International Kenya letter urges President Ruto to raise three critical areas with President Biden:

  • Suspend Weapons Transfers to Israel: Calls on President Ruto to press the Biden administration to halt weapons transfers to Israel, citing evidence that U.S. munitions are being used in unlawful attacks against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
  • Uphold the Right to Seek Asylum: Since May 2023, thousands of asylum seekers have remained stranded along the US southern border in dangerous conditions. The letter urges President Ruto to press for the abandonment of restrictive U.S. asylum policies and the restoration of the right to seek asylum at the U.S. border.
  • Combat Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women: Draws attention to the high rates of sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and the lack of access to adequate post-rape care services. Urges President Ruto to ask President Biden to ensure comprehensive healthcare for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence.