By Ajong Mbapndah L
The African continent should have a seat at the table in major international meetings, where key decisions about the future of the international community are being made, the Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department said. Nathan Tek was speaking to Pan African Visions on the sidelines of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit presently ongoing in Washington, DC.
The high-profile push for inclusion in the G-20 comes at a time when the AU has shown renewed unity and purpose on some high-profile issues, banding together to combat COVID-19 and establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, which came into force in early 2021.
May we know how the State Department feels about the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, two days into the summit?
Nathan Tek: This summit will underscore the values that the United States places on our collaboration with Africa on the most pressing global challenges and opportunities as well as on the Biden Administration’s commitment to revitalizing global partnerships and alliances. We expect to engage a wide range of African and U.S. stakeholders to illustrate the breadth and depth of American partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society and citizens and these are partnerships based on dialogue that harness the ingenuity and creativity of our people. This summit aims to achieve several core objectives including deepening and expanding long-term U.S.-Africa partnerships to advance shared priorities to amplify African voices to meet the challenges and to leverage the best of America including our government, and private sector to uplift and empower African institutions, citizens and nations.
May we know the criteria that were used to select participants for the summit?
Nathan Tek: Invitations were directed to countries that are of good standing as members of the African Union, and with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations. We wanted to be as broad-based and inclusive as possible in issuing these invitations so that we could have as collaborative, a relationship as possible, and as collaborative conversations as possible during the summit.
Some critics say the U.S. has invited some of the leaders whose values from human rights to issues of democracy are not in sync with what the U.S. stands for. What do you have to say about that?
Nathan Tek: This summit is an opportunity to advance our most pressing issues regionally and globally with leaders on the continent and we took an inclusive approach towards the invitations in close collaborations with the African Union. Our foreign policy is rooted in our values, and these are values towards the promotion of human rights and these are core principles of the Administration’s foreign policy. We will never hesitate to raise our concerns about human rights in our engagements with African governments. We will continue to do so and do everything to ensure that there is a culture of strong respect for these rights both here at home and abroad.
We have seen Secretary of State Blinken hold engagements with several leaders across the continent and we specifically want to talk about President Tshisekedi of DR Congo. How is the U.S. trying to help resolve the issues between DR Congo and Rwanda?
Nathan Tek: We remain deeply concerned by developments in Eastern DRC; we want to see full implantation of the November 23 outcome of the summit in Angola and we support the efforts led by the East African community, Kenya and Angola. We encourage countries in the region to work together to restore peace, security and trust while respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. State support of arm groups is unacceptable and we reiterate our concerns about Rwandan support for M23.
We also saw outside the summit grounds several protesters from countries like Angola, Ethiopia and Cameroon. What is the State Department is doing to make sure that the voices of these protesters are heard?
Nathan Tek: The African Diaspora is critically important to our relationship with the countries and the president recently announced a Council for engagement with the Diaspora that will be focusing on engaging and interacting with the Diaspora. We had a great event yesterday (December 14) with several Diaspora leaders to talk about their concerns and aspirations for the future of the continent. We believe it is a comparative advantage for the U.S. to have so many African voices who are playing a critical role in the United State’s prosperity. We look forward to listening and having a respectful collaborative conversation with the African Diaspora.
With regards to the promise from the Biden Administration to advocate for Africa having a permanent seat at the G20 and UN Security Council, how serious is the administration about it?
Nathan Tek: We see Africa as a rising geopolitical power and Africans must have a seat at the table in major international settings where key decisions about the future of the international community are being made; that is why we are pleased to support the AU G20 membership. We have consulted with all our G20 counterparts on this decision and we will work with the Indian presidency of the G20 and other delegations that support this change as well as working with the AU in the coming years.
How will the post-summit engagements between the U.S. and Africa look like?
Nathan Tek: One of our key goals coming out of this summit is to ensure that there is a stable engagement beyond the three days summit. That is why we announced the announcement of a new special presidential representative for African leaders summit implementation and that will be Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who brings a wealth of experience to this position. His full-time job is to coordinate with African representatives from government, civil society, business and other counterparts including the Diaspora to strengthen the U.S.-African partnership.