Republic of Congo President Hopeful After US-Africa Leaders Summit

Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso says significant developments came out of this year’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.

In an interview with VOA this week, Sassou Nguesso said that during this summit, the goals were more defined, including helping the African Union gain a greater voice at the United Nations.

“For example, President [Joe] Biden declared that Africa [African Union] is certainly going to be a member of the G-20. I believe this is a clear orientation that we appreciate. Mr. Biden also declared that in the next few years, America is going to get involved with Africa [the African Union] finding its right place at the Security Council of the United Nations as a permanent member,” he said in French.

The G-20 comprises the world’s major industrial and emerging economies. South Africa is currently its only African member. 

Biden also said his administration would spend $55 billion to help African countries over the next three years and that he hoped to deepen Africa-U.S. cooperation.

“Our nations have worked closely together for a long time to improve the lives of countless people in all our countries in meaningful ways, on both sides of the Atlantic. And with this summit and with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, our eyes are fixed squarely on the future,” Biden said at the summit.

“That’s also an important development,” Sassou Nguesso said, “especially when the debate allowed us to highlight Africa’s priorities. [African Union chair] Macky Sall and all the other leaders emphasized Africa’s priorities, whether it’s related to basic infrastructure, developing the agriculture sector, digital, education, health, the energy question.” 

The White House said $165 million of the funds would be used to strengthen democracy and good governance. Yet some criticized Biden for inviting leaders who have been in power for a long time. U.S. officials said all leaders in good standing with the African Union and the United States received an invitation.

“Democracy and good governance are a process,” Sassou Nguesso said. “I always give this particular example: The French Revolution triumphed in 1789 with all the problems related to freedom, human rights and democracy. Imagine that in France after all the struggles that had happened during that time, women only had the right to vote after the Second World War. … The process had developed and until today in certain countries in Europe, there are [election] challenges. Even here, in the U.S., we were surprised to see what happened at the Capitol [on January 6, 2021].”

“There is considerable progress in Africa,” he continued. “Now, as for the leaders who have stayed in power for a long time, what if that was the will of the people? Elections are meant to ask people to share their opinions. What if the people vote in favor of stability?”

Coups, conflict

Some African countries have also recently seen a recurrence of coups and, in the case of Libya, ongoing conflict. Sassou Nguesso said that without peace, security and stability, development cannot be achieved. And what happens in one country has the potential to affect an entire region, he noted.

“As long as we don’t resolve the Libya issue, we won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in the Sahel region. So, the terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, the problem related to peace in general is an important one. As the chairperson of the AU’s High-Level Committee on Libya, we are in the process of organizing a reconciliation forum there,” he told VOA.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

The Congolese leader shared his hopes that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was extended in 2015 for another 10 years, would be renewed.

According to U.S. officials, AGOA has been a focus of U.S. economic policy and commercial engagement with Africa since it took effect in 2000. It provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for nearly 2,000 products.

Leading trade officials in sub-Saharan Africa and the Biden-Harris administration held a ministerial during the summit where they discussed the need to strengthen implementation and modernize AGOA to translate opportunity into concrete benefits for the African people.

Sassou Nguesso has been in and out of power for more than three decades. Asked if he’s going to be a candidate at the next elections, he said that people who govern while thinking of the next elections are abandoning their essential tasks. He told VOA he was not one of those people and was concentrating on trying to execute the programs for which he was elected. 

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