By KEVIN J. KELLEY
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
President Uhuru Kenyatta is among leaders said to be invited to the first US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington.
The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama will hold the summit in August – with President Kenyatta said to be on the invitation list.
The reported inclusion of the Kenyan head of state among 47 African leaders marks a decisive turn for the better in relations between the Obama and Kenyatta administrations.
Mr Obama's former chief diplomat for Africa had warned in thinly veiled terms a year ago that Mr Kenyatta's election would have negative “consequences” for ties between the two longstanding allies.
The US president then snubbed Kenya during his three-nation Africa tour in June and July.
President Kenyatta's indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity was acknowledged by the White House as the chief reason why Mr Obama skipped a visit to his father's homeland.
The American president subsequently telephoned the Kenyan president, however, following both the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport terminal fire in August and the Westgate massacre the following month.
Kenya's acting US Ambassador Jean Kamau said last month that relations with the US were “strong,” adding that she saw no indication of the “consequences” that had been threatened.
The August 5-6 summit “will build on the progress made since the president’s trip to Africa last summer, advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people,” the White House said on Tuesday.
The list of those invited is said to exclude the leaders of Sudan, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau.
Washington has levied sanctions against Sudan and regards its president, Omar al-Bashir, as persona non grata due to his refusal to cooperate with the ICC, which has charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity.
The US has also long had poor relations with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.
The Obama administration has made critical statements regarding setbacks to democratic governance in both Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau.