By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Reactions have trailed the advocacy by President of Kenya, William Ruto, for African leaders to be represented in meetings with world leaders through the African Union (AU), expressing dissatisfaction with a system that allows 54 leaders from the continent to meet with “one gentleman from another place”.
His position reinforces growing sense of pride and self-determination among African leaders who are pushing back against Western dominance and demanding greater representation in global affairs.
President Ruto’s comments also highlighted the importance of African unity in the face of external pressures.
By asserting their right to be treated as equal partners, African leaders are sending a message that they will not be pushed around or dictated to by more powerful nations.
At the 2023 IGW African Leadership Ceremony with Mo Ibrahim, President Ruto stressed that African leaders should be respected on the global stage and not be treated as children by world leaders, noting that African leaders are elected by their people and deserve the same level of respect as leaders from any other part of the world.
The President referred to his attendance at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC with President Joe R. Biden in December 2022. During the summit, 50 African leaders were present but were unable to have a one-on-one meeting with President Biden. President Ruto criticized these types of arrangements where African presidents travel the world to meet with the leader of one country, stating that it was unfair.
He suggested that the African Union should attend group meetings on behalf of Africa instead. By doing so, African leaders can work together and be better represented on the global stage.
“Let me give you a case to in point,” Ruto told Mo Ibrahim during their conversation. “We decided, for example, that we are going to assemble our market using the Africa Continental Free Trade Area market, that’s good ecosystem. And the positive thing is that it was unbelievable at the rate at which we were able to achieve consensus and we were able to achieve ratification. And I want to tell you, it is among the things that happened in the shortest time possible. It tells you there is greater realization that unless we act in concert, unless we act together, we are unlikely to make any impact anywhere. We have at least on the market issue, we have put that together.
“There is a debate that is going to evolve. Like for example, we have also decided that it will not going to be business as usual. We have these meetings Africa-US Meeting, Africa-Europe, Africa -Turkey, Africa-India, Africa-Russia, and Africa-Japan.
“We have made the decision that it is not intelligent for 54 of us to go and sit before one gentleman from another place. And sometimes we are mistreated. We are loaded into buses like school kids. It’s not right. It’s not right. So the decision that we have made as AU is that going forward, if there is going to be a discussion between Africa and any other country, we are going to be represented by the chair (of the African Union Commission).”
He called for home-grown solutions to African problems which he listed to include, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, violent extremist non-state actor activities, and the potential for foreign terrorist fighters to infiltrate the area.
This position has however generated diverse reaction on the social media following the re-emergence of Ruto’s video clip. Reacting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Lex_199 said, “Ruto talks big but has zero conviction. Pres. Kagame – who he has referenced here, must be wondering how serious this guy is♂️ – he’s thinking..we said we won’t be summoned, and here you are less than a year later heading to Italy. It reflects poorly on the strength of the African Union, and shows why Africa led by people like Ruto, etc al is easy to exploit – everyone is there to sort out their interests.”
Also reacting, on X, John Lester wrote, “Ruto & Kagame have perfected the task of appearing 2 care deeply about African sovereignty & unity, while both heavily influenced by western state & corporate interests.
“He ONLY started mentioning this as criticism of Russia’s African summit. As demanded by thestate department.”
Marara said, “He consistently does the opposite of what he says, and it’s embarrassing.”