23 January 2014

Africa: U.S. Keen for Uhuru to Attend Africa Summit - Envoy

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama told Africans the continent doesn't need "strongmen," instead it needs strong institutions. Today, many Africans ... ( Resource: Obama's Record on Africa Mixed, Some Africans Frustrated )

Nairobi — The United States Embassy in Kenya says it hopes President Uhuru Kenyatta will accept an invitation from President Barack Obama to attend the US-Africa Summit in August.

Obama is set to invite 47 leaders to the summit that seeks to widen US trade, development and security ties with an increasingly dynamic continent to which he traces part of his ancestry.

US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec told journalists on Thursday that the summit will enhance Africa's relationship with the US and specifically Kenya.

"The United States is committed to its partnership with Kenya; we have done so many things together, in security, in education and so many other areas in the last 50 years and that commitment has not changed," he affirmed.

"President Obama is committed to Africa's welfare. President Kenyatta has been invited and this summit will build on the broad partnership that US has with Africa generally and Kenya specifically in many different areas."

According to the White House, the meeting is meant to focus on "trade and investment, security and a wide range of challenges and gives an opportunity to President Obama to speak to leaders of Africa."

Godec said Kenya was of great importance to the United States. "Our partnership with Kenya is important and so the President invited President Kenyatta and we hope he will accept the invitation and we look forward to have him in Washington."

The envoy was speaking when he visited Mathare Primary school where he made food donations.

Obama will send out invites to all African nations that are currently in good standing with the United States or are not suspended from the African Union - meaning there will be no place for states like Egypt or Zimbabwe.

Obama will hold the talks on August 5 and 6, seeking to cement progress from his trip to Africa last year.

A White House statement said the trip would "advance the administration's focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America's commitment to Africa's security, its democratic development, and its people."

The United States maintains sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe and key officials over suppression of democracy and what Washington sees as politically motivated violence.

Other notable absentees on the invite list include Sudan and Madagascar. Also not on a list distributed by the White House were Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar. Washington has concerns over the subversion of democracy in both nations.

There will also be no invitation for Sudan, whose president Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Kenyatta's invitation has been seen as unique as he is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the ICC on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1,000 people dead.

Godec however said, "At the end of the day, the ICC is a process which is ongoing and the United States is again committed to expand its partnership with Kenya."

"It is important to have a continuing engagement with the government and the people of Kenya. We hope to have a very successful conference in August and we hope that President Kenyatta will accept the invitation."

The indictment has been one of the reasons why Obama is yet to visit the homeland of his late father as president.

But Obama has spoken to Kenyatta on the telephone, and the Kenyan leader has enjoyed more interaction with the outside world since a massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents.

The summit, together with Obama's trip to Africa last year, and a promised future visit before he leaves office, might go some way to assuaging disappointment that he did not pay the continent more attention in his first term.

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