June 8, 2023

Why Biden did not invite Eritrea, Somaliland, Sudan, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit

Isaias Afwerki, Joe Biden and Muse Bihi Abdi
Isaias Afwerki, Joe Biden and Muse Bihi Abdi

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. did not invite Eritrea and Somaliland to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit he is hosting in Washington D.C. December 13-15 due to bad or lack of diplomatic relations with the United States, two senior administration officials told reporters on Wednesday.

Currently, Somaliland and the United States do not have official diplomatic relations. And while Somaliland operates a representative liaison office in Washington, D.C., it does not have formal diplomatic status under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In the case of Eritrea, although the United States established diplomatic relations with Eritrea in 1993, following its independence from Ethiopia, and was one of the first countries to recognize Eritrea’s independence, relations have been frosty over government detention of political dissidents and prisoners of conscience, including religious minorities, the closure of the independent press, limits on civil liberties, violations of religious freedom, and reports of human rights abuses. They worsened in the past two years over the war in Tigray.

Biden did not also invite Sudan, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso because they are currently suspended by the African Union following coups and counter coups in the West African nations, Mary Catherine Phee, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and Judd Devermont, Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters at a teleconference to preview the summit.

“On countries that we did not invite, as Molly (Marry Catherine Phee) said, countries that are not in good standing with the Africa Union were not invited.  So that includes Mali, Sudan, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. We also did not invite countries where we don’t have diplomatic relations, such as Eritrea. We do not have diplomatic relations with some of the territories that you named, so they’re not invited as well,” said Devermont.

Phee and Devermont said President Biden is thrilled about the event and that everyone in Washington DC is excited about it as well.

“Everybody in Washington is excited – think tanks, Congress.  We, Judd and I, receive emails every day from folks wanting to participate and engage and meet with Africans who will be visiting us.  So I know that Secretary Blinken believes that this is an opportunity to consolidate his working relationships with his peers, and also to really deepen our discussions on issues that are priorities for Africans and for Americans.  And those issues include climate change, food security, health security,” Phee said during the briefing.

Devermont added that the three-day summit is “an opportunity for us to deepen our longstanding partnership and to focus on new areas and topics that will really define the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.”

He said, “One of the animating themes of the summit is building 21st century partnerships.  We believe that this is a decisive decade.  The way in which the world will be ordered will be determined in the coming years, and President Biden and Secretary Blinken believe strongly that African voices are going to be critical in this conversation.

“So throughout the summit, we’re going to talk about some of the most pressing challenges in the world, from the pandemic and climate change and the negative consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to issues that affect all of us – democracy and governance, security, trade and investment, and development.  We are going to spend those three days listening, learning, engaging, discussing, and I’m confident at the end that we’ll have a stronger partnership that we can build on as we move into 2023.”

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