President William Ruto on Monday started his statement released in Rome by defending his attendance of the Italy-Africa Summit, despite last year saying he wouldn’t attend such forums.
President Ruto said he was present because of the “pragmatic approach” by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
“Let me begin by appreciating President Sergio Matterella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the Government of Italy for convening this Summit. I have previously noted that an invitation extended by one country to all 54 African nations did not necessarily serve Africa’s best interests,” Ruto said.
“But those of us present at this conference, representing our colleagues, find it different and inspiring due to the pragmatic approach you, have taken, Madam Prime Minister.”
President Ruto had on April 29, 2023 said he would not to attend summits convened by a leader of a single country inviting all African heads of state as it was disrespectful.
Ruto said African leaders should be respected on the global stage and not be treated as children by world leaders.
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. So the decision 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).President William Ruto
Speaking at the 2023 IGW African Leadership Ceremony with Mo Ibrahim, the President said African leaders deserve the same level of respect as leaders from any other part of the world, and should not be summoned and lectured by a single leader.
“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. So the decision 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 said.
AU Assembly’s Decision 762 of February 2020 resolved that the African Union/African Continent is to be represented at partnership meetings between the African Union/African Continent and a partner country by the Members of the Bureau of the Assembly of the Union, as well as chairpersons of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Chairperson of the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) of AUDA-NEPAD and the Chairperson of the AU Commission.
Regarding the mistreatment, Ruto was referring to an incident in London in 2022 when they were bussed during the burial of Queen Elizabeth II.
The President last year said a meeting of six or seven was enough to represent Africa, maintaining that was the position he would take as Kenya’s President “for any other meeting that we are going to have between Africa and any other country”.
In what appeared to keep to his word, President Ruto in July 2023, skipped the Russia-Africa Summit and chose to be represented by the African Union in line with the AU Assembly’s decision.
“President William Ruto will not be personally attending the Russia-Africa summit; instead, he will be represented by organs of the Africa Union. This decision aligns with the stance of African Heads of State and Government, who believe that for Africa to engage in meaningful discussions with global partners, partnership summits organised by external parties need to be reviewed to establish an effective framework for African Union partnerships,” State Houses spox Hussein Mohamed said on July 26, 2023.
But in November, Ruto attended the Saudi- Africa Summit, and in January the Italy-Africa Summit.
In Italy, at least 20 heads of state and government were squeezed in the Palazzo Madame, the seat of the Italian senate, and had the family photo on the floor of it. They didn’t look amused.
They included the presidents of Tunisia, CAR, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Congo Brazzaville, Comoros, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Somalia and Mozambique.
Also present were prime ministers of Libya, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Morocco, Eswatini and Uganda.
Burundi, The Gambia, Benin, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea sent their vice presidents, while Tanzania, Egypt, Algeria, Sierra Leone (Health and Sanitation Minister), Rwanda and Malawi were represented by their Foreign Ministers.
Seychelles, Lesotho and Cameroon settled for their ambassadors.
The presence of the heads of state and government was despite African Union chairman Azali Assoumani, AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki attending. They are the ones who addressed the forum.
On the other hand, the European Union was represented by President of the EU Council Charles Michel and President of EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen.