No Obama-Uhuru meeting planned at US-Africa summit


President Barack Obama will not be holding one-on-one meetings with any of the African leaders who attend an August summit in Washington, the head of a US-Africa business group said on Monday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta would thus be unable to confer with Mr Obama on several sensitive Kenya-US issues if he does travel to Washington for the August 5-6 event.

The White House has not released a detailed schedule of the summit, but an overview was apparently made available to Stephen Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa, who posted a commentary about it on the US News website.

The decision not to arrange individual meetings with Mr Obama “has caused some African leaders to ask what is the utility of the trip,” Mr Hayes wrote. “This breaks all protocol tradition as the Africans know it.”

“No doubt Obama will shake the hand of each president, but there will be little substantive dialogue.”

The nearly 50 African leaders invited to the summit have been asked to attend “an interactive dialogue” with Mr Obama on August 6, Mr Hayes revealed.

“What, many ask, is an interactive dialogue?” he wrote.

The White House is also planning to have members of Mr Obama’s cabinet host African heads of State for private dinners on the evening prior to the summit’s opening, Mr Hayes added.

“Cabinet secretaries and African government ministers rank below heads of state, of course, and protocol-sensitive heads of State may seriously question whether they should attend,” the US-Africa business leader observed.

“Furthermore, who is hosted by the secretary of state or the secretary of defense will be noted by those hosted by less prestigious cabinet officers. It may be all too easy for some heads of state to take umbrage.”

Mr Hayes cautioned, however, that it is “too early to say” whether the summit will be a media spectacle intended to burnish Mr Obama’s legacy or “a working meeting with real results.”

“An innovative programme is being planned,” he commented. “This is a programme of high risk, ultimately to be judged by the results to come. We shall hope and then we shall see.”

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