“Despite the focus and emphasis on these issues, the United States has remained committed to its principles of strengthening and promoting democratic institutions, encouraging good governance and accountability and also promoting good human rights, including respect for the LBG [lesbian, bisexual, gay] communities across Africa,” Johnnie Carson, former assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Hillary Clinton and senior adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said at a press conference on Tuesday at the summit.
Also on Tuesday, a young activist from Zimbabwe asked President Barack Obama what leaders and the private sector could do to “create this economic environment that fosters for the growth and development of Africa as a continent?”
“Some of the incredible cultures of some of our U.S. businesses that do a really good job promoting people and maintaining a meritocracy, and treating women equally, and treating people of different races and faiths and sexual orientations fairly and equally, and making sure that there are typical norms of how you deal with people in contracts and respect legal constraints -- all those things I think can then take root in a country like Zimbabwe or any other country,” Obama said as part of his response to the question.
Ahead of Obama’s remarks and the question and answer, Vice President Joe Biden referred to homosexuality in his speech.
“We also know that nothing is more consequential to Africa’s future than the steps nations take to empower your people -- to make the most of their talents,” Biden said. “Of course, to state the obvious, no two countries in Africa or anywhere else are the same.
“No two countries will do it the same way,” Biden said, “but there are certain common ingredients to success in the 21st century that have become self-evident.
“The need for economic integration; a court system that adjudicates disputes fairly,” Biden said. “A commitment to invest in all of a society’s people and respect their rights, because countries that respect citizens’ equal rights no matter what their gender or religion, no matter who they love, tend to be the … most attractive to attracting international talent and international investment,” Biden said.
According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of the 57 countries on the African continent – or almost 67 percent.
Of those 38 countries, heads of state and other dignitaries from 34 attended the summit – Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.
On Aug. 1, a Ugandan panel of five judges ruled that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act was not valid, because it had been passed by Parliament without a proper quorum. The ruling does not preclude the law from being reconsidered and put in place with the proper quorum requirement.