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Japan, Hussein Mohammed differ over Ruto’s ‘state’ visit

Japan says President William Ruto’s visit to the country is an “Official” one.

This confirmation, done through a statement on the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, puts to rest speculation regarding President Ruto’s three-day tour of the country.

“H.E Dr William Samoei Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya, and his spouse, Mrs Ruto will pay an Official Visit to Japan from February 6 to February 9,” Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry’s statement states in part.

It adds: “This will be H.E Dr Ruto’s first visit to Japan as President. During their stay, the President and Mrs Ruto will make a State Call on Their Majesties the Emporer and Empress of Japan, and Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan will host a Luncheon in honour of the President and Mrs Ruto. Mr KISHIDA Fumio, Prime Minister of Japan, will hold a summit meeting with the President.”

The Foreign Affairs statement appears to contradict an earlier correspondence by Kenya’s State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohammed.

Mohammed, on February 5, 2024, indicated that President Ruto was headed to Japan on a State visit, and not an Official one.

“This marks the first State visit by a Kenyan Head of State since President Mwai Kibaki’s ten years ago. The visit follows Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s State visit to Kenya in May 2023 and celebrates 60 years of diplomatic relations between Kenya and Japan,” Mohammed’s press statement read in part.

A State visit is the highest form of diplomatic exchange between two countries. It is normally done formally by a Head of State at the invitation of the host President.

The visit is a coveted and unique honour that focuses on bilateral relations. It reflects the highest level of hospitality, honour and formality in relations between nations. On arrival, the visiting head of state is treated to pomp and colour including full military honours and a 21-gun salute.

An Official visit, is, meanwhile, a low-key engagement that could range from the Head of State to top government officials such as Cabinet Secretaries. The host country in this case chooses whether to extend honours such as a luncheon or not.

Several Japan-made commodities, including cars and electronics are popular in Kenya. In return, Japan mainly imports coffee and Titanium Ore from Kenya.

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