By Obinna Amaobi
United States President, Joe Biden, hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts to deepen democracy not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa.
Biden spoke in Washington, while meeting with leaders of six African countries billed to have elections in 2023, on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit.
According to a statement issued yesterday by presidential spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, Biden said he has followed the trajectory of the Nigerian president since 2015, when he was elected president from being an opposition leader at a time he (Biden) was a vice president. He added that it was very heartening that Nigeria remained a model for democracy, especially the fact that Buhari was not seeking a third term.
The US president encouraged Buhari and the Nigerian electoral umpire to continue to be totally non-partisan.
Biden said the meeting with the select African leaders, including those of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone, was to discuss elections and democracy in Africa, share experiences with the United States on the forthcoming elections, as well as encourage the countries to continue with the democratic process.
Biden pointed out that he really understood challenges facing the countries and expressed the willingness of the United States to support them in every area of assistance might be required.
Responding, Buhari expressed appreciation to the US president for his positive remarks and congratulated him on attaining the peak of his political career, which is the presidency of the country.
He also thanked Biden for organising the summit with African leaders and wished him well in all his endeavours.
Meanwhile, Biden called on the Africa Union (AU) to join the G20 as a permanent member. He also stated that he was upholding and defending the foundational principles of global peace and security enshrined in the UN Charter and in the AU seminal documents, while also meeting the challenges that impact every nation.
The session with African leaders, including Buhari, was tagged, “Partnering on Agenda 2063.”
Biden recalled that in September, at the United Nations General Assembly, the United States had fully supported reforming the UN Security Council to include permanent representation for Africa, adding that the continent belongs at the table in every room where global challenges were being discussed and, in every institution, where discussions are taking place.
Biden disclosed that he was asking the US Congress for authority to lend $21 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the multilateral institution to provide access to necessary financing for low and middle-income countries.
Biden stated, “We are leading a global effort to pursue equitable arrangements for global creditors to provide debt relief so that nations can prioritise their people, not back-breaking debt payments. And I’m asking the Congress for the authority to lend $21 billion to the IMF to provide access to necessary financing for low and middle-income countries which is so difficult to come by now and to help Africa’s recovery efforts and support projects that build resilience against future crises.”
The US president revealed that one of the new commitments of his administration was investment in countering democratic backsliding through their new African Democratic and Political Transition initiative, noting that they would be collaborating closely with African governments, regional institutions, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
“My administration will work with the United States Congress to invest $75 million to strengthen transparent, accountable governance, facilitate voter registration, support constitutional reform, and more.”
Furthermore, he said they would also work to support and strengthen the security benefits that flowed from good governance, including a new 21st Century Partnership for African Security, stating that the Department of Defense would work with their African partners to boost reforms that build their security capacity.
According to him, “On Tuesday, I also directed the establishment of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States, so we can tap into the enormous strength of the diaspora communities here in the United States and make sure their insight and experiences are reflected in our work.
“And finally, I’m grateful that all of you have made the journey to Washington for this summit, and I’m eager to visit your continent.
“The United States fully supports the blueprint you laid out in Agenda 2063 to build an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa that is driven by African people, centered on inclusive and sustainable development where Africa is an indispensable global partner.
“I’m eager to hear from all of you how can the United States deepen our partnerships with you and better work with African nations and the AU to fulfill the aspirations of Agenda 2063. And I want to thank you all again. And I’m now going to turn it over to Secretary of State Blinken to facilitate our discussion.”
In his remarks, Chairperson of AU, Macky Sall, commended Biden for the attachment to the African partnerships, pointing out that the summit presents an opportunity for Africa to revitalise its common agenda with US government.
“Certainly, times are uncertain and troubled, the challenges are more numerous. It is in hard times that friendship finds its greatest test of greatness, trust and mutual respect,” Sall added.