Speaker Mike Johnson earns condemnation for his treatment of Kenya’s president

A shortsighted snub of Kenya’s president by House Speaker Mike Johnson has drawn condemnation from the Congressional Black Caucus.

The caucus met with Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday and denounced Johnson’s refusal to host the leader for a joint meeting of Congress, an offer traditionally extended to other world leaders. Johnson is planning to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at the Capitol, for example, an invite that has understandably been met with criticism as Israel’s military faces international condemnation over its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Such an address from Ruto would have been the first by an African leader in nearly two decades, according to USA Today. The outlet reported that more than 60 members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed a letter to Johnson demanding that Ruto be “treated with the same respect granted to other heads of state.” And they warned him that the lack of an invite, which Johnson’s office told USA Today was due to a scheduling conflict, sends a dangerous message about which countries are deemed “worthy of addressing Congress” and that it “diminishes the importance of our nation’s relationship with the continent of Africa.”

President Joe Biden, for the record, invited Ruto to the White House for an official state visit, including a state dinner.In its statement to USA Today, Johnson’s office said: “We offered the Kenyan embassy over 90 minutes of engagement including a one-on-one visit with Speaker Johnson, bipartisan leadership meeting with Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members, and a bicameral meeting.”

Here, for example, is footage of Johnson sitting for a photo op with Ruto in the Capitol, an arrangement that inarguably lacked the pageantry of a joint congressional address.

Johnson’s snub speaks to what I deem to be an American arrogance or ignorance about African nations’ roles as power brokers, both now and in the future. I felt similarly last year, when then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy booted Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who’s the only African-born member of the House, from the Foreign Affairs Committee and its subcommittee on Africa.Africa has the youngest, fastest-growing population in the world, it’s rich in resources needed to power the high-tech revolution, its leaders are increasingly wary of U.S. imperialism and paternalism, and lately some of its nations have shown openness to cooperating with China and Russia. Now is the time for the U.S. to make serious inroads with Africa — and not presume their leaders will be satisfied with mere sit-downs and photo ops.

Fortunately, many Democrats, including Biden, seem to have gotten the message. Republicans? Not so much.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com