Justice and the rule of law aren’t on the agenda. Instead, the meeting will focus largely on the economic potential that Africa offers America. Sen. Christopher A. Coons , who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs, noted that the United States still has strong ties based on years of development assistance. “I think history will show Africa is the continent of the greatest opportunity this century,” Coons said. “We have a moment that is passing us by, and we should build on these relationships.” The event is, in fact, a sprawling networking affair that will bring together foreign dignitaries, American and African CEOs, policymakers and activists for several days of business deals and panel discussions, as well as private dinners and at least one dance party. There are close to 100 side events, on top of a three-day formal conference that includes one day solely devoted to business issues. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who will lead the business segment along with former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg , is slated to announce new deals between the United States and Africa totaling $1 billion. Rep. Gregory Meeks, who is co-chairing a reception in the Capitol on Monday night, said his goal is “to have some real deals that are cut” before the guests polish off their appetizers and drinks at his event. Business leaders are intensely focused on the summit. The chief executives of Coca-Cola, General Electric and other major firms will be in town, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting 11 heads of state in seven separate events.
The American-supported United Nations Mission in South Sudan launched a nation-building program, with about $1 billion in annual financing. Just weeks after South Sudan’s independence, ethnic conflicts over cattle and grazing land broke out in Jonglei State. When massacres ensued, allegedly abetted by government security forces, the United Nations Mission failed to publicize government abuses or demand a response from President Salva Kiir. The United Nations was also largely silent when Mr. Kiir dismissed his cabinet and vice president in July 2013. When members of the South Sudanese armed forces began massacring Nuer soldiers and civilians in Juba last December, it’s little wonder that civil war followed.
In Africa’s richest country, Nigeria, corruption and mismanagement have left many people reliant upon $600 million in annual American aid. For years, Boko Haram has been committing atrocities across the country, including the April abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls. Initially, however, the group was just one of many calling for Islamic law to cleanse Nigeria of corruption. Then, in 2009, its founder and leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was arrested and executed after clashes with the police. Hundreds of others were subsequently arrested and killed by government security forces on suspicion of links to the group. This only intensified support for Boko Haram, even as it grew increasingly violent. If American and other Western leaders had urged Nigeria to respect the rule of law when it first engaged with Boko Haram, the sect might have eschewed such savagery.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his henchmen have conned the West out of billions of foreign aid dollars, using these funds to rig elections, torture critics and perhaps worse. The Ugandan Army needlessly prolonged the war against rebel leader Joseph Kony, commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, while looting its own bloated defense budget. Uganda supported some of the rebels responsible for mass murder and rape in Democratic Republic of Congo; the Ugandan Army also stole up to $10 billion worth of timber, minerals and elephant tusks from that country, according to the International Court of Justice. The Ugandan Army’s backing of President Kiir in the South Sudanese civil war has almost certainly prolonged that conflict. Ugandans serving in the American-supported African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia even reportedly sold guns to the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab. Museveni has so prodigiously looted American aid, mainly earmarked for public health, that rates of malaria are now significantly higher than they were in the 1990s. Women at Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s largest, are more likely to die in childbirth today than they were during Idi Amin’s presidency in the 1970s. Some critics of Museveni’s government languish in jails where, their lawyers say, they are tortured or killed. The Obama administration is ignoring graver abuses stemming from Mr. Museveni’s long assault on the rule of law.
Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya are also imperiled by a culture of impunity.