Augustine Ruzindana

What is the utility of African Leaders’ Summit in Washington?

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By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, June 13   2014 at  01:00

In the last few years, there have been summits held between African heads of state and the top most political leaders of Europe, China, India and Japan. These summits have yielded some goodies, in terms of aid for Africa.

President Obama, on the other hand, perhaps because of his African roots, gave caution lest he is accused of bias in his relationship with Africa, and did not seem to have any intention to call a summit with African leaders in Washington.

However, more than 50 African heads of state have been invited to Washington in August although it will be more of a workshop than a summit. The White House has informed African ambassadors that no African leader will have a one-on-one meeting with President Obama.

Instead, the African leaders will have an “interactive dialogue” with President Obama on August 6, preceded by a state dinner on the White House lawn for all leaders, the previous evening. Once the “interactive dialogue” is concluded, it will be the end of the summit and there will be no final communiqué or official press conference as is the tradition at other summits. No doubt all African leaders will shake the hand of President Obama but there will be no substantive discussions. Diplomats might regard this procedure as an unusual breach of protocol, but that is what will happen.

On the first day of the three days, the African leaders are expected to be in Washington, they will have a programme focusing on civil society and a meeting organised by the chairman of the Senate sub-committee on Africa.
Cabinet secretaries have been asked to host African leaders for private dinners on the evening of the first day. It seems the most critical meeting will be a US-Africa CEO six hour summit, which will be organised by the Secretary of Commerce and attended by about 300 corporate CEOs to discuss business and trade.

Michael Bloomberg, a business tycoon and political leader has added his name to this summit as its co-host, in order to draw corporate peers to the meeting.

This is indeed an innovative summit, which could perhaps be regarded as a birthday celebration since it happens to fall on President Obama’s birthday than a working meeting with any expected tangible results.
Perhaps each parliament in the various African countries will evaluate the outcome of the visit of their head of state to Washington in August this year and compare it with those in China, India, Japan and Europe.

I got a question about the last article I wrote on the pilgrimage to Namugongo on Martyrs Day. The question was why the Muslims who were killed at the same time with the Christian martyrs are not celebrated. Indeed, it is an important question because as a matter of fact, the Muslims killed were more than either the Catholics or Protestants martyrs.

The Protestants were also more than the Catholics, yet the martyrs celebrations are more of a Catholic martyrs’ event. I can only attest to the fact that it seems Kabaka Mwanga was not sectarian and only responded very harshly to what he saw as a challenge to his absolute power and also to him as a person since the persons involved were largely his palace staff.
The missionaries had infiltrated his kingdom up to his own household. The Catholics venerate martyrs and saints more than the Protestants and Muslims, that is why Martyrs Day is identified more with Catholics who have canonised the martyrs as saints, so that you can now find a Lwanga or a Kizito in Malawi or Argentina or France as a Christian name.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.

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