Foreign Affairs Chairman Meeks leads first congressional delegation to Africa

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Saturday, 19 February 2022 15:59

U.S. Congressional delegation holds news conference in Kyiv
Leader of the U.S. Congressional delegation and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), speaks at a news conference, in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 28, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The new Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks is leading the first congressional delegation to Africa of his tenure, The Africa Report has learned.

The group of seven Democratic lawmakers departs today for a four-nation tour that will take them to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire.

Meeks is the first African-American lawmaker to lead the powerful committee that helps set US foreign policy. After taking over the gavel from fellow New Yorker Eliot Engel following Engel’s defeat in the 2020 Democratic primary, Meeks vowed to put sub-Saharan Africa “on the front-burner” of US foreign policymaking after the continent was perceived as getting short shrift under President Donald Trump.

“The previous administration’s focus on great power competition reduced Africa to a pawn in a great game,” Meeks said last year at an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “And frankly, this approach was insulting because it assumed that Africans lacked any agency for how they affected, and were affected by, foreign affairs.”

Meeks is joined on the trip by Reps. Ami Bera of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Brenda Lawrence of Michigan and Troy Carter of Louisiana. All are members of the Congressional Black Caucus save for Bera, who is Indian-American.

The delegation is due to begin its trip in Sierra Leone for meetings with President Julius Maada Bio and other government officials as well as opposition leaders and members of civil society and non-governmental organisations. They will also tour Bunce Island and give public remarks at the former slave trading port.

The group will then travel to Monrovia, which this year commemorates the bicentennial of the arrival of the first freed American slaves who would eventually found the country of Liberia. White House Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks led a Joe Biden administration delegation to the country this past week.

The congressional delegation is expected to meet with President George Weah and members of his government and attend a roundtable event to discuss good governance and accountability, and commemorate Liberia’s Bicentennial Anniversary. Meeks’ panel passed a resolution earlier this month highlighting US-Liberia ties while also calling on the Weah government to redouble its efforts to “counter corruption, advance the causes of human rights, and implement critical economic reforms”.

The delegation then travels to Tanzania for meetings with Prime Minister Kaasim Majaliwa, alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative, and conservation officials and partners. Then it’s off to Côte d’Ivoire for meetings with President Alassane  Ouattara and Prime Minister Patrick Achi as well as African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

While in Côte d’Ivoire, the delegation is also scheduled to observe the African-led annual Flintlock exercise, US Africa Command’s premier and largest annual special operations exercise. This year’s exercise is expected to bring together more than 400 service members from more than 10 African partner and allied nations from 15 February to 28 February.

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