February 6, 2023

Biden administration: Why we did not invite Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit taking place December 13-15

Sahle-Work Zewde, Joe Biden and Abiy Ahmed
Sahle-Work Zewde, Joe Biden and Abiy Ahmed

The Biden administration clarified again on Friday why it did not extend an invitation to the Ethiopian leader and head of government, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is hosting in Washington D.C. between December 13 and December 15. The invitation was extended to the country’s ceremonial President and head of state, Sahle-Work Zewde.

“The invitation that the president sent out is extended at the head of state level,” a senior Biden administration official told Today News Africa on background.

President Biden invited 49 heads of state and the chairperson of the African Union Commission to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington. All the countries invited and the AU have confirmed attendance, the official said.

About 45 heads of state have confirmed in-person attendance while one vice president and two foreign ministers have been delegated by their heads of state to represent their countries. The last leader was not disclosed.

“I can just say that we have 50 confirmed delegations and majority of those are heads of state,” the official said, adding to the list the chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat who was also invited by President Biden.

“As I mentioned, the few RSVPs (reservations) that we got that are not at the head of state level, it’s because for whatever reason, the head of state is not able to come, and they deferred the invitation to either head of government, vice president. And we accepted that as their head of delegation,” the official told Today News Africa. “So it’s not up to us to decide.”

While the president is also the head of state in virtually all African nations, in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister is the head of government and the person with real power who can send his nation to war and is better positioned to negotiate peace or mingle with other foreign leaders. The president is the head of state, a position simply seen as ceremonial.

The official said that it was still a bit early to confirm wether President Biden plans to have any bilateral meeting during the summit but that he and Vice President Kamala D. Harris will have “significant engagement throughout the summit.”

The senior administration official also told Today News Africa on Friday that 246 African and American companies are fully credentialed to attend the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington December 13-15.

“As of December 2, 301 private sector attendees had registered,” for the U.S.-Africa Business Forum taking place on the second day of the three-day summit, a senior administration official told Today News Africa. “Fully credentialed are 112 African companies representing 30 countries, and 134 U.S. companies.”

At a teleconference on November 22, Special Assistant to President Biden and National Security Council Senior Advisor for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Dana Banks, told reporters that Mr. Biden invited 49 African heads of state, excluding those from Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, and Mali, four countries currently suspended by the African Union.  All the four countries not invited by President Biden are currently run by strong men who took power by the guns.

Banks and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, who briefed reporters on Tuesday, November 22, during a teleconference about the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’s agenda had said that the event is meant to strengthen U.S.-Africa relations and highlight the U.S. commitment to the African continent.

Last week, the White House National Security Council disclosed to Today News Africa the process President Joseph R. Biden Jr. used to invite African governments to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

In an email to Today News Africa, a White House National Security Council spokesperson said that President Biden used three criteria to invite African governments to the Summit.

“President Biden invited all sub-Saharan and North African governments that 1) have not been suspended by the African Union, 2) of states the U.S. Government recognizes, and 3) of states with which we exchange Ambassadors,” the official said.

The official added that “President Biden looks forward to hosting leaders from across the African continent,” adding that “Our goal is to host a broadly inclusive Summit.”

What’s the agenda on Day 1, day 2 and Day 3 of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit?

The first day is our widest aperture day.  We’re having a series of forums – an African and Diaspora Young Leaders forum; a civil society forum; a peace, security, and governance forum. There will be discussions on climate as well as on health,” U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, told reporters at a news briefing on November 22. “The second day is dedicated to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, and a full day of opportunities for African and U.S. businesses to come together and to meet with delegations from the continent. And the third day is the leaders day, obviously, with President Biden and heads of delegation, heads of state from the continent involved.”


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