Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center-left on podium and seen on video screens, accompanied by House speaker Tagesse Chafo, center-right on podium, addresses the parliament in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Nov. 15 (AP Photo)


Two years ago, Ethiopian[1] Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a genocide against his country’s ethnic Tigray, killing upwards of a half million people. Abiy remains unapologetic. The former cyberintelligence officer still prefers to spend millions of dollars on a troll army to incite anti-American[2] hatred than feed his besieged people.

When President Joe Biden[3] sent envoys to engage Abiy at the height of the Tigray war, the Ethiopian prime minister gleefully used his rejection of them as a means to humiliate the United States before his militant constituency. Nevertheless, national security adviser Jake Sullivan has offered Abiy an invitation to Washington to attend Biden’s U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit.

Then there is Liberia. The U.S. has a special relationship with the West African country dating to its founding by freed American slaves. Recent decades, however, have not been kind to Liberia. It suffered two civil wars, followed by a fragile recovery. Former soccer star George Weah won election in 2017 and became president early the next year. His tenure has been a disaster for Liberia’s recovery. He surrounded himself with war criminals, and corruption exploded.


At the bicentennial of capital Monrovia earlier this year, U.S. delegation head and National Security Council official Dana Banks chided Weah on corruption. He ignored her. He has since sought to weaponize Liberia’s judiciary against political challenger and squeaky-clean philanthropist Alexander Cummings, Jr. In recent weeks, the U.S. government has prepared new sanctions to compel Weah to adhere to the rule of law. Weah, meanwhile, has decamped for the World Cup in Qatar while Liberians face hunger due to a scarcity of rice. Despite this, Biden has invited the would-be Liberian despot.

Indeed, rather than promote democracy, Biden appears to be assembling a gallery of rogues. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who seeks to rule for life, is on the invite list. So, too, is South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, under whose rule South Sudan has fallen to the bottom of Freedom House’s Global Freedom rankings, scoring worse than even North Korea and Eritrea. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, complicit in religious violence[5] against southeastern Nigeria’s Igbo people, is also on the invite list.

While a sustained and serious U.S. focus on Africa is long overdue, Biden, Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken show condescending racism[6] by failing to hold African leaders to the same standards they would expect of European, Middle Eastern, or Latin American leaders. Abiy’s crimes, for example, match if not surpass Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, and yet the White House would not host Putin. The same is true with Weah, whose record, corruption, and disdain for democracy match Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, a man for whom Biden would never roll out the red carpet.

China and Russia often extend their influence in Africa at the expense of human rights and good governance. Perhaps Biden believes his summit meets the great power challenge, but he undercuts the American brand and ability to compete if he signals to Africans that the U.S. will cozy up to Africa’s worst abusers in the same way that Russia and China do. Biden may like to repeat the mantra that "diplomacy is back," but sometimes ill-considered diplomacy can do more harm than good.

The U.S.-Africa summit should not include the continent’s worst offenders but should rather set a standard and embrace and reward those leaders who demonstrate a commitment to democracy, economic transparency, and human flourishing.


Michael Rubin ( @mrubin1971 ) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.[8]


  1. ^ Ethiopian (
  2. ^ troll army to incite anti-American (
  3. ^ Joe Biden (
  5. ^ religious violence (
  6. ^ show condescending racism (
  8. ^ @mrubin1971 (


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