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Africa in focus

Africa in the news: Obama goes to Kenya, Buhari meets Obama, and Nkurunziza wins third term in office

President Obama arrives in Kenya, the first leg of his trip to sub-Saharan Africa

President Obama departed for Kenya on Thursday night, the first stop on his visit to East Africa. On Saturday morning, President Obama will open the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, where he will, according to U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, stress Kenya’s role as a “center for innovation and entrepreneurship.” Later in the day, Obama will also hold bilateral meetings with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, discussing trade and investment ties as well as counterterrorism operations and instability in Kenya’s neighbors, Somalia and South Sudan. The president is also expected to hold a public event on Sunday in addition to a session with Kenya’s civil society before departing to Addis Ababa late on Sunday.

Over 20 members of the U.S. Congress are accompanying the president on his trip, in addition to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Susan Rice, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. Kenyans are expected to closely follow President Obama’s trip to the country, often considering his visit to be a “homecoming” given the president’s ancestral ties to Kenya. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Kenya and the first American head of state to address the African Union once he travels to Ethiopia on Sunday.

For updates and analysis of the president’s visit to and relationship with Africa, follow the Brookings webpage.

Nigerian President Buhari visits Washington, D.C.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria made an unprecedented trip to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with President Obama and other high-ranking United States government officials less than eight weeks after his inauguration. The visit follows Buhari’s establishment of his 100-day agenda and focused on identifying priority areas for U.S. support within Buhari’s plan as well as strengthening the Nigeria-U.S. partnership. Foremost on the joint agenda is tackling the violent extremist group Boko Haram, creating economic stability through key reforms to the energy sector, improving governance, fighting corruption, and enhancing government capacity to provide public goods and services to its people.

At Buhari’s meeting with Obama on Monday, the two heads of state agreed that more needed to be done to support the fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram, in terms of both military action and socio-economic development for the regions affected by the conflict. However, in a speech on Wednesday at the United State Institute for Peace, Buhari argued that the U.S.’s Leahy Law—which prohibits U.S. military support to governments accused of human rights violations—is preventing the U.S. providing strategic support to the Nigerian military, which has been accused of war crimes. Furthermore, in a Washington Post op-ed, Buhari stressed that he would not be assembling his cabinet before September, in order to give the administration enough time to select the appropriate leaders for certain government agencies and address corruption within the government.

For more on Buhari’s trip and the challenges facing his administration, please see the following pieces: “Obama, Buhari, and African policy dilemmas” by Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard Joseph and “Analysts and policymakers discuss challenges confronting Nigeria’s new government” by AGI Director and Senior Fellow Amadou Sy.

Incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza wins Burundi’s presidential election

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On Tuesday, Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in office with 69.41 percent votes in the long-delayed presidential poll. According to the electoral commission head, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the voter turnout was about 72 to 80 percent with a lower turnout in the capital city of Bujumbura after a night of gunfire and explosions. The government has dismissed criticism of the poll, which the United States said lacked credibility. Mediation efforts coordinated by the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, had been unsuccessful and opposition parties had boycotted the elections. Although the names of President Nkurunziza’s four main presidential rivals remained on the ballot, the closure of most independent media prevented them from campaigning.

Apart from the reports of violence on Monday night, the U.N. news center noted that the elections were “broadly peaceful,”  and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on political parties to engage in an inclusive political dialogue. U.S. Ambassador to Burundi Dawn Liberi also called for all parties to go back to a mediation process. Yesterday, a leading opposition politician called on President Pierre Nkurunziza to hold talks with rivals and form a national unity government, which some experts had earlier claimed “unlikely.”

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