Leaders were invited to the White House for the first ever US Africa summit
- Included were dictators and despots with shocking human rights records
- Obama’s speech barely acknowledged the oppression rife across Africa
By Corey Charlton and Ted Thornhill
Published: 13:42 EST, 6 August 2014 | Updated: 03:46 EST, 7 August 2014
President Barack Obama drew a diplomatic line at the first ever U.S-Africa summit at the White House this week by not inviting Zimbabwe’s brutal dictator Robert Mugabe.
But the guest list still included several other African leaders with only slightly better human rights records.
The White House promoted the summit as the largest-ever gathering of African leaders in the United States, with more than 50 countries represented.
The red carpet was rolled out for Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who shot or jailed virtually all his political opponents, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who threatened to ‘cut off the head’ of any homosexuals in the country and for Cameroon’s Paul Biya, who has the dubious honor of ranking 19th on author David Wallechinsky’s 2006 list of the world’s 20 worst living dictators.
Many of the leaders were later photographed in the White House, posing for individual portraits with Obama and the First Lady.
The President’s opening speech avoided the prickly issues of homophobia and torture and instead sought out similarities between the two continents.
He opened with: ‘I stand before you as the president of the United States, a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa’.
Before going on to say: ‘Our faith traditions remind us of the inherent dignity of every human being and that our work as nations must be rooted in empathy and compassion for each other, as brothers and as sisters.’
Here we run the rule over nine of the most controversial leaders who enjoyed the lavish affair.
Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his wife Constancia Mangue De Obiang, pictured arriving for a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit
Pictured outside the White House waving and grinning with his wife President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s longest serving dictator after seizing power from his uncle and mentor (who used to hang regime critics from the capital’s street lights) in 1979.
Since then he has won the yearly elections with 99% of the vote. Taking the lead from his uncle, he has since had shot or jailed virtually all political opponents and ruled the country with an iron fist. Despite running one of sub-Saharas biggest oil-producing countries and amassing a personal wealth in excess of an estimated $600million, he’s far from generous with his riches.
The average income of his citizens is $2 a day, few live beyond 53 and 20 per cent of children die before they reach five years of age. Last year the country ranked 163 out of 177 on Transparency International. There is no freedom of the press, the country’s one television station is government-run and clean water is scarce. In 2011, the United States’ Department of Justice made moves to seize more than $70 million in assets from President Obiang’s son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue.
Justice Department lawyers alleged Nguema, on top of his official government salary of $100,000, used his position to amass more than $100 million through corruption and money laundering, including a $30 million dollar mansion in Malibu, California, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet and one of the world’s finest Michael Jackson memorabilia collections including the red and black ‘Thriller jacket’ and Jackson’s crystal-studded ‘Bad Tour’ glove worth more than $2m. He was also the focus of a corruption investigation in France who seized his 101-room Paris mansion, a collection of cars and other luxury assets. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
President Blaise Compaore (With First Lady Chantal Compaore) of Burkina Faso seized power in a bloody coup
Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore is another African leader who seized power by bloody coup. The Burkina Faso president’s 1987 uprising left his predecessor Thomas Sankara dead – who himself had taken power four years earlier alongside Compaore. In 2011 he watched as protests gave way to calls for his resignation over claims of police brutality and government corruption. However, his presidential guard eventually squashed a mutiny, then made concessions to appease the remaining protesters – but questions remain over corruption among the ruling elite.
Cameroon president Paul Biya (with his wife Chantal Vigouroux) pictured at the President Obama’s summit yesterday
Paul Biya has the dubious honour of ranking nineteenth on author David Wallechinsky’s 2006 list of the world’s 20 worst living dictators. The Cameroon’s grip on his country’s presidency has remained tight since he came to power in 1983 and there have been widespread allegations of fraud and voting consistencies in every election cycle. In fact, Mr Wallechinsky claims in the Huffington Post Biya is credited with the innovative election fraud tactic of paying for a set of international observers to certify his elections as legitimate.
Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos (in Japan) Human rights groups claim his government has murdered many
Human rights groups claim Angolan president Jose Eduardo do Santos has murdered many and exploited the country’s resources to his own gain. After Mariah Carey was paid $1million for performing for him last year, Human .Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen said: ‘It is the sad spectacle of an international artist purchased by a ruthless police state to entertain and whitewash the father-daughter kleptocracy that has amassed billions in ill-gotten wealth while the majority of Angola lives on less than $2 a day’
President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (with his wife, First Lady Zineb Jammeh) attended the dinner at the White House
Barack Obama shakes hands with Gambia’s Yahya AJJ Jammeh as the presidents pose for an official photo
Gambian president Yahya Jammeh took power in a military coup in 1994. Although the coup itself was bloodless, in the 20 years since he has been accused of countless breaches of human rights. In 2008, he threatened to ‘cut off the head’ of any homosexuals in the country. The following year, it was reported up to 1,000 Gambians had been abducted by the government on charges of witchcraft – they were taken to prisons and forced to drink poison.
Watch Video Here:
Obama and African leaders gather for African Summit photo
‘I STAND BEFORE YOU AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND A PROUD AMERICAN. I ALSO STAND BEFORE YOU AS THE SON OF A MAN FROM AFRICA: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SPEECH
President Obama toasts his guests during the dinner held on the White House South Lawn
Good morning, everyone. Michelle and I were honored to host you and your wonderful spouses at dinner last night. I hope people didn’t stay out too late. The evening was a chance to celebrate the bonds between our peoples. And this morning, we continue our work, and it’s my privilege to welcome you to this first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
So we come together this week because, even as the continent faces significant challenges, as I said last night, I believe a new Africa is emerging.
To my fellow leaders, I want to thank you and your teams for helping us to shape our agenda today. Our work can build on the valuable contributions already made this week by civil society groups, the private sector, young Africans, and — at our first session of this summit – our faith communities, which do so much to sustain the U.S.- Africa relationship. Different though they may be, our faith traditions remind us of the inherent dignity of every human being and that our work as nations must be rooted in empathy and compassion for each other, as brothers and as sisters.
Today is an opportunity to focus on three broad areas where we can make progress together.
Number one, we have the opportunity to expand trade that creates jobs. The new trade deals and investments I announced yesterday are an important step. And today we can focus on what we can do, as governments, to accelerate that investment — economic and regulatory reforms, regional integration, and development so that growth is broad-based, especially among women, who must be empowered for economies to truly flourish.
Second, we have the opportunity to strengthen the governance upon which economic growth and free societies depend. Today we can focus on the ingredients of progress: rule of law, open government, accountable and transparent institutions, strong civil societies, and respect for the universal human rights of all people.
And finally, we have the opportunity to deepen our security cooperation against common threats. As I said, African security forces and African peacekeepers are in the lead across the continent. As your partner, the United States is proud to support these efforts. And today, we can focus on how we can continue to strengthen Africa’s capacity to meet transitional threats — transnational threats, and in so doing make all of our nations more secure.
Watch Video Here
Obama recalls ancestral roots during Africa Summit toast
Rwanda president Paul Kagame’s rule over his country has been notable for its restrictions on the press – (seen here at the White House on Tuesday with his daughter, Ange Ingabire Kagame)
Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame with Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday
When he came to power in 2000, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagawe inherited a nation still raw from the brutal genocide of 1994 which claimed up to one million lives. But during his heavy-handed time in power, the country’s ranks for press freedom have plummeted and a suspicious number of public and political opponents have been harassed or have died in increasingly suspicious circumstances.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casting a vote in his country’s 2011 elections
Barack and Michelle Obama have an official portrait taken with Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, signed harsh anti-gay laws this year. They criminalise gay relationships, being involved in gay societies and organizations and gay marriages. Violation of this law can result in up to 14 years in prison, with dozens of homosexuals already jailed. Jonathan also sparked major controversy over his decision in 2012 to end fuel subsidies. He is also accused of pardoning corrupt politicians.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is embroiled in major controversy over electoral violence. He has pleaded innocent to murder and other charges for an alleged role in organizing violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after Kenya’s 2007 elections. The case is before an international criminal court, and Obama pointedly skipped visiting Kenya when he toured Africa with his family last summer.
Guinea president Alpha Conde came to power in December 2010 and while known for his brainpower and charm – has also been criticised for being impetuous and authoritarian.This assessment comes not just from his political opponents, but from his allies, too, according to the BBC. Opposition figures accused him of rigging the vote in the December 2011 parliamentary elections. However, after agreeing to delay the vote until 2013, Conde’s Rally of the Guinean People won, with the Supreme Court stamping its approval on proceedings.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta with Barack and Michelle Obama
And look who else was there…
Former U.S. President George W. Bush pictured joking with one of the spouses of the African leaders at a symposium organised by Michelle Obama
Smile! President Barack Obama and African leaders pose during the family photo session at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, on Wednesday, Auhust 6, 2014, at the State Department in Washington
Good job: US President Barack Obama((L)) appauds with African leaders during a group photo at the US – Africa Leaders Summit at the US State Department in Washington DC
Finger wagging: President Barack Obama, front row third from left, points his finger upwards as he arrives for the official family photo at the US African Leaders Summit at the State Department in Washington