The U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit has generated significant interest — and also criticism — from civil society groups and NGOs that wonder whether their voices will have a seat at the table when roughly 50 African heads of state, U.S. President Barack Obama and corporate leaders gather in Washington, D.C., this August.
Now, the U.S. Department of State is gathering information about what side events organizations are planning to hold around the time of the high-level meeting.
“While we are not sponsoring, sanctioning or approving events hosted by outside organizations, we are very interested in knowing more about these activities,” the department wrote in an email distributed to attendees of a recent panel discussion about the summit, where many concerns about participation were raised.
Chief among those concerns is the Obama administration’s decision to engage with nearly all African heads of state, despite some dubious human rights records — for instance, Equatorial Guinea — among them. Only those countries currently suspended from the African Union (the Central African Republic, Egypt, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau) or under U.S./U.N. economic sanctions (Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe) have been excluded.
The State Department has created an online submission site for information about planned events, though the email did not specify how or whether the existence of side events will affect the official summit’s agenda.
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