June 20, 2024

Biden invites Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. He is the longest serving president in the world in power for 43 years

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has invited Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit taking place in Washington D.C. December 13-15. He is the longest serving president in the world who has been in power for 43 years.

Obiang, who heads an authoritarian regime in Equatorial Guinea, is a former military officer who has served as the second president of the central African nation since August 1979.

As the longest-serving president of any country ever and the second-longest consecutively-serving current non-royal national leader in the world, Obiang has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses. Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea continues to have one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Equatorial Guinea is currently a dominant-party state, in which Obiang’s PDGE holds virtually all governing power in the nation and almost all seats in the legislature. The constitution provides Obiang sweeping powers, including the right to rule by decree, effectively making his government a legal dictatorship.

In a statement on November 3, the U.S. government said it “has been concerned by reports of arrests and harassment of opposition members and civil society, and we urge the government to allow its citizens to freely and confidently express their preferences at the ballot box.”

“On the opening day of Equatorial Guinea’s electoral campaign season, the U.S. government calls on the government of Equatorial Guinea to honor its international commitments and constitutional principles by supporting a free and fair vote,” the government said in a statement.

It called on Equatorial Guinea to “cultivate a more inclusive, peaceful, and democratic society by ensuring the expression of diverse political perspectives, a free and fair voting process, and the protection of the human rights of all individuals.”

After graduating from military school, Obiang held numerous positions under the presidency of his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, including director of the notorious Black Beach prison. He ousted Macías in a 1979 military coup and took control of the country as President and chairman of the Supreme Military Council junta.

After the country’s nominal return to civilian rule in 1982, he founded the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) in 1987 which was the country’s sole legal party until 1992. He has overseen Equatorial Guinea’s emergence as an important oil producer, beginning in the 1990s. Obiang was Chairperson of the African Union from 2011 to 2012.

Who else will attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ summit?

Special Assistant to President Biden and National Security Council Senior Advisor for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Dana Banks, told reporters during a news conference on November 22 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. He also invited the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat.

All the four countries not invited by President Biden are currently run by strong men who took power by the guns.

As of Wednesday, forty-five African heads of state and government had confirmed attendance to the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit. The White House has not released information about those who have confirmed attendance and those who have not.

Such information is often released days to the event as there does not seem to be a deadline for reservation.

Banks and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, who briefed reporters on Tuesday during a teleconference about the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’s agenda said 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.”

Several African countries have been sanctioned by the African Union as a result of coups and counter coups, especially in West Africa where democracy has been tested in recent months, with coups and coup attempts in Burkina Faso, Mali and elsewhere. The United States on its part recognizes most African nations, except a few like Western Sahara.

What’s the full agenda of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit?

At their press briefing on Tuesday, November 22, U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, laid out the full agenda for the three days of the conference.

He said, “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.

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.

“Let me just focus a little bit on the first day.  I think what we’re seeing here is an opportunity to have as many players as possible involved in the discussion.  One of the events which I think is extremely interesting and important, and one that has generated some interest I’ve seen from your questions online, is the African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum.  And let me go through that quickly.

“As you know, the African Union has identified the African diaspora as the sixth region of the African Union.  And we also see the diaspora as a huge resource and opportunity for engagement here.  So this event on the first day will bring together youth leaders, civil society, political actors, creatives, and folks involved in climate and other areas.  I think what we’re seeing is a lot of interest in the event.  Let me just point out that one of the areas – there’ll be a breakout session on education, a breakout session on creatives, and a breakout session on climate and energy.

“The one that I’d just focus on quickly is on creatives.  As you know, the creative industry is becoming a more and more important part of GDP on the continent and here in the United States.  And bringing actors from the continent together with their counterparts here in the U.S. is a wonderful opportunity to synergize and to get these groups working together and collaborating on music, on fashion, on culture.  And that’s a huge outcome that we see from that event.

“The second one, real quickly, is the civil society forum.  Again, we’re fully aware of the fact that the – we call it the megaphone of governance – isn’t just that held by governments, but rather by civil society actors, NGOs.  A lot of voices are involved in that.  And this event will allow policymakers to come together with members from labor, from civil society, in order to talk about how do you strengthen institutions and reduce corruption, an important support also for the AU’s Agenda 2063. 

“Finally, let me wrap by just mentioning the peace, security, and governance forum.  The idea here is again to look at the linkages between democratic institutions and governance and how they impact long-term peace and prosperity.  We will see our secretaries of State and Defense and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development coming together with a set of African leaders to talk about these inter-linkages.”

The Summit, only the second of such event of its kind in Washington D.C., will be the biggest U.S.-Africa engagement in Washington D.C. since former President Barack Obama hosted African leaders in 2014.

The gathering in the American capital aims to advance shared priorities and foster stronger ties between the United States and Africa. It will also provide an opportunity to advance the Biden administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people, as well as emphasize the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent.

The Biden administration has said that the Summit “will demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa, and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.”

“Africa will shape the future — not just the future of the African people, but of the world. Africa will make the difference in tackling the most urgent challenges and seizing the opportunities we all face,” the administration added.

President Biden has held several other summits since he was inaugurated in January 2021. On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden held the first of two Summits for Democracy, which brought together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector in a shared effort to set forth “an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.”

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit comes just months after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken unveiled the new U.S. policy for Africa in South Africa last August.

The new policy says that the United States will pursue four main objectives in Africa. The four objectives in the new strategy are fostering openness and open societies, delivering democratic and security dividends, advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunities, and supporting conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition.

To realize its ‘openness and open societies’ objective, the U.S. will promote government transparency and accountability, increase the U.S. focus on the rule of law, justice, and dignity, and assist African countries to more transparently leverage their natural resources for sustainable development.

For democracy and security dividends, the U.S. will focus on “working with allies and regional partners to stem the recent tide of authoritarianism and military takeovers, backing civil society, empowering marginalized groups, centering the voices of women and youth, and defending free and fair elections, improving the capacity of African partners to advance regional stability and security and reducing the threat from terrorist groups to the U.S. Homeland, persons, and diplomatic and military facilities.”

To advance the pandemic recovery and economic opportunities for Africa, the U.S. will focus on “prioritizing policies and programs to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and build capacities to increase preparedness for the next health threat, supporting manufacturing initiatives for vaccines and other medical countermeasures, Promoting a stronger growth trajectory and debt sustainability to support the region’s economic recovery, including through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), Prosper Africa, Power Africa, Feed the Future, and a new initiative for digital transformation and partnering with African countries to rebuild human capital and food systems that were further weakened by the pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

And to advance the conversation with Africans, climate adaptation and a just energy transition, the U.S. will focus on “partnering with governments, civil society, and local communities to conserve, manage, and restore the continent’s rich natural ecosystems, supporting countries in their efforts to minimize and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, including enhancing community, economic, and supply chain resilience, working closely with countries to accelerate their just transitions to a clean energy future, energy access, and energy security, and pursuing public-private partnerships to sustainably develop and secure the critical minerals that will supply clean energy technologies.”

The new strategy begins by acknowledging that “Sub-Saharan Africa plays a critical role in advancing global priorities to the benefit of Africans and Americans,” and that it “has one of the world’s fastest growing populations, largest free trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations (UN).”

It asserts that “It is impossible to meet today’s defining challenges without African contributions and leadership,” especially because “the region will factor prominently in efforts to: end the COVID-19 pandemic; tackle the climate crisis; reverse the global tide of democratic backsliding; address global food insecurity; promote gender equity and equality; strengthen an open and stable international system; shape the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and confront the threat of terrorism, conflict, and transnational crime.”

“Building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s actions and commitments to deepen our engagement and partnerships in Africa during the past year, the strategy articulates our new vision for a 21st Century U.S.-African Partnership. It recognizes the tremendous, positive opportunities that exist to advance shared interests alongside our African partners,” it says. “At the same time, we acknowledge that Africa’s potential will continue to be challenged as long as deadly conflicts divide societies, corruption impedes economic progress, food insecurity heightens the risk of famine and malnutrition, and repression stifles human rights and democratic expression.”

The new strategy acknowledges that as President Biden noted in his address to the African Union last year, “none of this is going to be easy but the United States stands ready now to be your partner, in solidarity, support, and mutual respect.”

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