Obama invites 47 leaders for summit

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IOL pic jan22 barack obama africa summit Reuters American President Barack Obama will ask 47 African heads of state to join him for a landmark summit designed to boost international relations. File picture: Jason Reed

Washington - President Barack Obama will invite 47 leaders to a landmark US-Africa summit in August, seeking to widen US trade, development and security ties with an increasingly dynamic continent to which he traces part of his ancestry.

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 idea for the summit, which takes place with Washington increasingly aware of China's attempt to enhance its diplomatic profile in Africa, was first announced by Obama in a speech in Cape Town in June.

Egypt, which has caused the Obama administration to thread a foreign policy needle with an erstwhile ally after a military takeover, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.

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.

One notable inclusion is Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the International Criminal Court on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1 000 people dead.

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 Al-Shabaab insurgents.

Sapa-AFP


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