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AU Official Anticipates Stronger Ties at US-Africa Summit

  • James Butty

AU Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

AU Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

A senior official of the African Union said next month’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington should provide Africa and the United States an opportunity to enter into a strategic partnership.

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairperson of the AU Commission said African leaders look forward to discussing with President Barack Obama issues such as investing in the continent’s future and peace and security.

The summit is scheduled to take place August 5 and 6.

He said the U.S.-Africa summit is a great opportunity for Africa to enhance cooperation with the United States, the world’s largest economy.

“Africa and the United States share a lot in common, in heritage and cooperation in many areas. As you know, many people of African descent live in the United States. And so, this is a good occasion for Africa to chart a new paradigm in terms of cooperation. And so, a summit that brings President Barack Obama and many heads of state and government from Africa is an excellent opportunity to bring closer the two peoples – that is the United States of America people and African people,” Mwencha said.

He said the African Union will bring content to the key issues of discussion at the summit – investing in the future and looking at the issue of peace and security.

“Africa has strategic partnerships with many regions of the world, with Europe, with Asia, even with Latin America, but this kind of relationship doesn’t exist with the United States of America. And so, this will be an opportunity for Africa to establish the kind of cooperation,” Mwencha said.

Mwencha also defended the AU’s decision at its May summit in Equatorial Guinea to grant immunity to sitting heads of state, despite criticism by some rights groups that such a decision runs contrary to the fight against impunity.

Mwencha said the decision is in line with what is done around the world where sitting heads of state are immune from prosecution.

“Serving heads of state and government were granted immunity, and that is in line with the African Court of Justice (ACJ) when it was given a mandate to try officials accused of committing crimes against humanity,” he said.

Mwencha said the AU decision does not deviate from what is done by most countries where serving heads of state are immune from prosecution while they are serving.

“During the time you are serving, those cases will remain active. If there is crime, those leaders will be tried once they leave office,” he said.

African leaders have accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of disproportionately targeting Africans for prosecution, and the ACJ was set up to handle human rights and justice issues on the continent.

Mwencha denied the decision to grant immunity to sitting African leaders accused of human rights violation or crimes against humanity was in repudiation of the ICC.

“I don’t think one should talk about a reaction because, as I said, if you look at many jurisdictions at the national level, heads of state and government are not indicted before their own courts. And so, that is not limited to just Africa. You go around the world, even where you are in the United States that is the case. So, that is not in many ways a reaction. That is the reality of life,” he said.