On the 4th of August, more than 50 African heads of state are expected to discuss important matters of stability with U.S. officials. Apart from some heads of state that were not invited due to human rights violations within their countries (Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and the Central African Republic), all invited officials are expected to plan the future of this economically-growing continent. Moreover, another important matter involves the U.S. and how it can become a close partner to these countries.
During the summit themed “Investing in the Next Generation”, officials will be trying to identify which interests are shared by their countries and how they can support their young generation in terms of education, health care as well as work opportunities.
As the African continent still faces events of armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies, the first and foremost goal that officials should have is ensuring that peace and stability is a reality on which development can occur. Consequently, domestic security will be an important topic on the agenda of summit participants, as they will be discussing how to end violence.
Joseph Siegle, research director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington, explained that summit participants would also be considering national military reforms, as Africa’s police and military don’t always show professionalism. As a result, their interventions could lead to inappropriate responses especially where the safety of innocent bystanders is concerned. What summit participants now face is the difficult task of addressing and separating the domestic issues from the transnational components of threats, Siegle added.
During the summit, state representatives will also be addressing human rights issues. There has been criticism that the agenda lacks in some aspects (attention to elements of governance, democratization and human rights) and some social groups are unhappy that they weren’t made part of the discussions with the African leaders, in spite of the civil society forum that should take place on Monday.
Adam Shapiro, Front Line Defenders rights group representative, noted that what should separate this summit from any other investment summits involving Africa is its emphasis on human rights. He explained that in previous summits, there were no expectations that issues of governance or human rights should be brought up by African officials.
Shapiro expressed his desire that President Obama identify those heads of state who have gained power transparently, through state elections. He has also expressed his disapproval of the participation of some other leaders who have been accused of human rights abuses (such as Teodoro Obian Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea and the president of Egypt).