Obama’s 5 Most Atrocious Dinner Guests at the US-Africa Leaders Summit

President Obama talks with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz at the US-Africa summit.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images

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As the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit winds down in Washington, headlines have been dominated by concerns over ebolacompetition with China, and what food was served at the mega-dinner the White House hosted for attendees. (Papaya flavored with Madagascar vanilla, anyone?) What garnered less attention, however, was the parade of autocrats from the continent that descended on DC for the event.

Maybe the White House was aiming for a spirit of inclusion and engagement, but there hasn’t been much focus on the handful of leaders in attendance who happen to have troubling records on human rights and civil liberties. At a wrap-up press conference today, President Obama spoke in generalities about fighting corruption and protecting civil liberties in Africa, but he declined to single anyone out. Here are a few of the worst offenders who enjoyed the President’s hospitality—and little direct criticism:

Joseph Kabila, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kabila greeted at the White House during the US-Africa summit. Amanda Lucidon/Flickr
 

Kabila, the DRC president, owns one of the poorest human rights records in the world. His called out by the United Nations for making the DRC home to a shockingly widespread rape epidemic. Adding insult to injury, Kabila’s government has mastered the art of re-purposing President Obama’s rhetoric on democratization in Africa to justify its shoddy record, as evidenced by this statement submitted to the White House before the conference.
 

Paul Kagame, Rwanda

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Russell Watkins/Flickr
 

Kagame, Rwanda’s president, gets a lot of praise for orchestrating the social and economic turnaround of his tiny country in the wake of its devastating genocide. But Africa’s “success story” isn’t perfect: a New York Times profile named him as one of the continent’s most repressive leaders. He has crushed dissent in Rwanda, making it a de facto one-party state, and has allegedly threatened critics. He’s also been accused of ordering his army to fight alongside Congolese rebel groups along the Rwanda-DRC border, prompting the US to withdraw some aid.
 

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Mauritania

Aziz addresses reporters at the US-Africa summit alongside John Kerry. US State Department/Flickr

Aziz came to power in 2009 (after leading coups in 2005 and 2008) in the West African nation, and has amassed a poor human rights record. Amnesty International maintains a rap sheet on his government, which includes arresting and imprisoning political opponents, forced disappearances, and torture. Mauritania is also one of the few countries with an enduring, serious practice of slavery; protesters have recently criticized Aziz’s government for denying the problem.
 

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda

Museveni is greeted at the White House. Amanda Lucidon/Flickr

There are laws on the books in 37 African countries punishing homosexuality, but Uganda’s have galvanized attention as perhaps the continent’s harshest. In February, President Museveni signed a law that punished same-sex sexual activity with life in prison—a law Obama condemned and countered with sanctions. Apparently, it didn’t warrant revoking Museveni’s invitation, even though he appears determined to make life unbearable for his country’s LGBT community. Activists called on Obama to address LGBT persecution in Africa at the summit. He didn’t.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea

Obiang and his wife arrive at the White House for the US-Africa summit dinner. Susan Walsh/AP Images

Obiang, president of tiny Equatorial Guinea, came to power in a coup in 1979 and has remained there since. During his long reign (he’s been in power longer than any non-royal world leader), he’s supported the lavish lifestyles of his family and allies with Equatorial Guinea’s considerable oil wealth. Meanwhile, his people remain dirt-poor and live to, on average, the age of 53. Obiang has been singled out by Human Rights Watch for particularly bad human rights abuses: his country has virtually no freedom of the press, no political opposition, and allegations of detainment and torture of political prisoners are widespread.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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