Liberia: “African Elections in 2023 Will Be Consequential”
Fourth from right, US President Joe Biden with President Weah (3rd from left), and other heads of state discussing upcoming elections in Africa, 2023.
US President Biden raps with African Leaders, including those going to the polls this year
US President Joe Biden has met with President George Weah and heads of state from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone to discuss upcoming elections.
“The elections in Africa in 2023 will be consequential. While the United States does not support any specific candidate or party, the United States is committed to supporting electoral processes to deepen democracy in Africa,” the White House added.
The meeting with Presidents Weah, Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Andry Nirina Rajoelina of Madagascar, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, and Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, ended with a commitment to “free, fair and transparent elections” that would be conducted by independent national electoral bodies, according to the US statement.
The US-African Summit saw delegates from 49 African countries, as well as the African Union, invited to talks.
Biden has sought to rebuild US relationships abroad after four years of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, which saw the country withdraw from international bodies and accords.
The White House noted that the US President’s views on the elections in Africa in 2023 as consequential and that the United States is committed to supporting electoral processes to deepen democracy in Africa.
It added that the Biden administration plans to provide over US$165 million to support elections and good governance in Africa in 2023 on top of nearly US$50 million in support of civil society and the electoral commissions in the Nigeria and the DRC.
“Together the leaders discussed the challenges of holding elections and exercising the right to vote, including foreign interference and political violence, and shared best practices for how to manage these risks and ensure transparency and public confidence in the electoral process. Participants reaffirmed their commitment to hold free, fair, and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent, and impartial national electoral bodies, as enshrined in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance,” the White House said.
It added that Biden reflected on the recent midterm elections, noting that the strength and resilience of American democracy was reaffirmed in the process, and he reinforced his administration’s commitment to working collectively to renew and defend democracy at home and abroad.
“Although elections themselves do not equal democracy, President Biden underscored that holding elections is fundamental to a functioning democracy.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s push for a relationship with Africa also comes against a backdrop of global competition with Beijing, which has invested in the region at a level that has far outpaced the US in recent years.
As the summit wraps up, Thursday’s talks were dedicated to high-level discussions about the US partnering with the African Union’s strategic vision for the continent. That includes food security, an issue that has drawn global concern amid soaring food prices linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at a US-Africa Leaders Summit event on Thursday, Biden said African leadership and innovation were critical to addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. He even announced support for the African Union joining the Group of 20 (G20), a global forum for major economies, as the United States seeks to build stronger relations with African nations.
That is why his administration has expressed support for reforming the United Nations Security Council to include an African representative, as well as giving the African Union a permanent place at the G20, Biden said.
“Africa belongs at the table in every room – in every room where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place,” he said.
“It’s been a long time in coming, but it’s gonna come.”
Biden’s comments arrive a day after Washington unveiled a string of new investments and trade deals in Africa, as part of the three-day leaders’ summit in the US capital. Adding the African Union to the G20 would give African nations a bigger say on that issue and other key world concerns, such as climate change and the response to COVID-19.
It could also help countries in the region access a common framework for restructuring their debt.
Meanwhile, Biden said on Thursday that he will soon make a visit to sub-Saharan Africa and would dispatch many of his top advisers to the continent, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Excerpts of AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES also contributed to this story.