June 8, 2015
African Heads of State will join U.S. President Barack Obama and other Group of Seven leaders today in Germany at the G7 Summit to discuss ways to assist in countering threats pose by terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic states as well as discuss how to help expedite the Ebola recovery efforts in West Africa and strengthen health systems across the continent.
The African Heads of State – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senegal’s President Macky Sall and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn – are invited as guests to the summit as part of an outreach to essential but non-G7 countries.
Joining them also will be Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
This will be the first meeting between President Obama and the new Nigerian President Buhari. President Essebsi was recently in the U.S., where he met President Obama at the White House and other key officials.
The two-day summit is an opportunity for leaders of the seven largest industrialized democracies – Japan, U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy – to convene to discuss global economy and other non-economy but essential issues such as global health, climate and terrorism, and how best to move forward on those issues to achieve their bilateral and multilateral targeted goals.
On top of their agenda also is the ongoing situation in Ukraine and Russia’s role as an aggressor. Until last year, Russia, one of the largest industrialized democracies, was a part of the group that once known as G8. Russia’s involvement in Ukraine led to it being ousted from the group last year. The U.S. and other G7 leaders have called for continued sanctions against Russia.
During the meeting with the African leaders, G7 leaders will discuss ways their countries and African leaders can work together to support a successful climate agreement and the right kind of renewable energy initiatives and greenhouse gas emission reductions that the continent needs to successfully secure access to energy to meet the demand of its population without damaging the environment.
President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, which has become somewhat of a proxy for the U.S. to engage with African countries, is crucial to assisting the continent attain its targeted goal of securing reliable and affordable electricity for its people. President Obama will meet with the African leaders separately to discuss ways to better harness his Power Africa initiative and also discuss trade initiatives.
The meeting with the G7 leaders will also focus on the ways they can assist Nigeria and Tunisia in combating terrorism.
With the rise of extreme Islamist groups and terrorism in some countries in Africa, Africa needs the U.S.’s and other developed countries’ assistances most acutely in fighting groups like Al Shabab in East Africa, and Boko Haram in Nigeria- who in the past two weeks launched a new offensive in the country. Nigeria Forces and its neighboring allies’ have had recent victory against the group.
President Buhari, who vowed to end Boko Haram’s strong hold in Northeast Nigeria, last week visited neighboring country Chad.
U.S. military assistance and training of the Nigeria Security Forces is crucial in helping Nigeria’s efforts to combat Boko Haram.
The leaders will most likely emerge from the meeting with informal pledges to fight terrorism.
The U.S. already provides counter terrorism and security assistances to African militaries in East and West Africa through various formal and informal mechanisms including through peacekeeping operations, military education and training, and foreign military financing programs such as Global Peace Operations Initiative, Africa Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, Trans Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership, Partnership for East Africa Counterterrorism and African Military Education Program, all of which are implemented through the State Department and the Department of Defense.
The Obama administration is asking Congress for $9 million increase in funding in FY 2016 to help support its counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The funds, which includes a $2.4 million increase for the International Military Education and Training program, will go towards sustaining counterterrorism programs and major equipments such as aircraft – including spare parts and follow-on operational and maintenance training which often require years of sustainment.
In a testimony last Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar said now more than ever before, the U.S. share security responsibilities with other countries to help address security challenges in other countries and regions. Even though substantial progress has been made over the last decade addressing political instability in places like Africa, and African countries are increasingly taking charge of their own security, “significant and complex security challenges remain.”
He underscored the significance of U.S. counter terrorism assistance to the continent by highlighting the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, DRC and South Sudan.
“Terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram threaten the regional and international order,” said Assistant Secretary Talwar. “Many African countries have difficulty monitoring their maritime domain, leading to piracy and other significant economic and security threats. Narcotics trafficking fuels corruption and undermine governments. And while some sub-Saharan African countries have achieved rapid economic growth in recent years, nearly 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live in extreme poverty – contributing to insecurity by feeding the desperation that can drive individuals toward crime and terrorism.”
He added that all of these problems point to the need for strong government institutions on the continent, and the U.S. is “committed to helping our African partners build institutions and reform security sectors, so that they can manage these challenges over the long-term.”
Also on the agenda at the G7 summit is the global health system and the ongoing Ebola recovery in West Africa and how the leaders can work together to achieve a zero index.
Speaking ahead of the meeting in a press conference, a White House official said President Obama plans to urge the G7 leaders to work to support a stronger actions that will support global health security around the world.
The meeting between President Obama and President Buhari will mark an important step in mending the strained relationship between the two countries that developed as a result of the lackluster efforts and inefficiency of former President Goodluck Jonathan administration to curb Boko Haram’s terrorist rampage in Northeast Nigeria and to rescue the 200 plus girls that were kidnapped last year at their boarding school in a Northeast village.
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