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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

The African Leader Summit Should Be About American as Well as African Political Violence

December 13, 2022
Christian Davenport

Blog

In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Christian Davenport, the Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding at the University of Michigan and PVG editor, addresses the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Every now and then a group of political leaders gets together in an effort to address some issues that concern them, as well as occasionally to celebrate some monumental achievements. One such gathering will take place on December 13–15 with the convening of the US-African Leaders Summit in Washington DC. The objective of this gathering is to “build on our shared values,” which includes a wide range of political, economic, and social/cultural topics:

  • Fostering new economic engagement
  • Advancing peace, security, and good governance
  • Reinforcing commitment to democracy, human rights, and civil society
  • Working collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health security
  • Promoting food security
  • Responding to the climate crisis
  • Amplifying diaspora ties
  • Promoting education and youth leadership

While such events in general are much needed, it is especially the case that such a meeting with African leaders is very much needed as there are a variety of problems/issues that could use some attention. Unfortunately, there are four complexities regarding this meeting which will likely interfere with getting to the heart of what is ailing the continent. Three of them concern Africa and one concerns the United States.

First, political democracy in Africa is in, if not dire straits, then on the ropes. Limits to time in office is crucial to any conception of political democracy and African leaders are among the longest enduring on earth; in other words, African political leaders generally don’t leave once in office and when they do leave, some political violence is often involved.

There are clearly other issues: e.g., the lack of free and fair elections for many African nations as well as the limited opportunity for alternative political orientations to receive a chance at victory. Go to V-dem, pick a dimension and the region to check things out. It’s not good and it’s been getting worse lately. African leaders need to be reminded what institutions and practices are associated with political democracy as well as what it takes to get there.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.