(ACCRA, Ghana) — During her first full day in Accra, Ghana on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris met with the nation’s president, raising human rights issues and growing competition from China in the region during their bilateral meeting.
Currently being discussed in Ghana’s parliament is the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Value” — a bill that would imprison those that identify as LGBTQ and criminalizes advocacy for LGBTQ rights.
Harris said on Monday that she discussed human rights with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo but did not specifically comment on the anti-LGBTQ bill before parliament.
During a joint news conference, Harris was asked about the Biden administration’s commitment to calling out any foreign government that advanced anti-gay legislation or violates human rights.
While Harris did not directly address the bill, she said “I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting the freedom and supporting the fighting for equality among all people, and that all people be treated equally. I will also say that this is an issue that we consider, and I consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo repeatedly refused to say what he would do if the bill passed — saying he would wait to see what his parliament does.
In addition to Ghana, Harris will visit Tanzania and Zambia this week — two countries that have anti-LGBTQ laws.
Harris, whose trip is seen as a U.S. effort to counter growing Chinese influence on the continent, also announced the U.S. will provide $100 million to support stabilization in the region.
Additionally, Harris was asked what guarantee she could make to Ghanaians that the U.S. is more committed to their future with China, and what it says about U.S.-Ghana relations.
“The president and I had a conversation on this very topic,” Harris said. “But the conversation was not about China as much as it is about the enduring and important direct relationship that the United States has with Ghana and with African nations.”
President Akufo-Addo brushed off the attention given to China’s presence in Africa.
“It may be an obsession in America. But there is no such obsession here,” Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo called out former President Donald Trump for never visiting the continent and said that he hopes President Joe Biden would make it.
The $100 million to support stabilization will go to Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo.
On the economy, Harris said “I recognize the challenges that Ghana is facing, especially in the wake of a global pandemic and the disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“We must work together as an international community to ease the debt burden that is facing far too many countries,” Harris said.
Later on Monday, Harris visited Vibrate Space, a community recording studio, with actors Idris Elba and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
“Your reputation collectively, all of the artists, everything that you have done, is an international reputation,” Harris told a group of Ghanaian artists, including Baaba J and Ansah Live.
Elba said he said he thinks this trip is going to be “significant” to Black Americans in the United States.
“When we think about Africa and we think about African Americans, and we think about Ghana, Ghana has been for the last four or five years a sort of a meeting point for African Americans and the Diaspora to come around Christmas time, the holiday time, and reconnect with whatever roots they think they have in Africa,” Elba said.
He was optimistic that the vice president was also here to bridge gaps between Ghana and investments in the country — calling it an “active step in the right direction.”
Harris travels to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Wednesday afternoon, and then departs Tanzania for Lusaka, the Zambian capital, on Friday. She is scheduled to meet with the presidents of both countries.
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