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Human Rights Activists Prepare for US-Africa Leaders Summit

Eighteen human rights activists from 13 African countries are in Washington for a three-day meeting to develop policy recommendations to be presented to the United States government and African Heads of States at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit scheduled for August in Washington DC.

The recommendations will be presented to high level representatives from the White House, Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development as well as African Heads of States.

The forum which ended Thursday night was organised by Washington-based human rights groups which include Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Front Line Defenders, Open Society Foundations, and Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Although President Robert Mugabe was not formally invited to the US-Africa Leaders' Summit by the Obama Administration citing gross democracy and human rights abuses, one of the organisers of the forum, Jeff Smith of the Robert F Kennendy Center for Justice and Human Rights said this did not hinder the work being done by Zimbabwe's civil society representatives at the three-day forum.

Smith said recommendations made at the Forum will be forwarded to relevant US government officials and Africa Heads of States for actioning.

One of the participants at the US Africa Civil Society Forum representing Zimbabwe, Arthur Gwagwa of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said civil society needs to have a voice and will use some of the recommendations from this forum to help address democracy and human rights abuses faced by most African states including Zimbabwe.

Gwagwa said despite the absence of President Mugabe and his government at the August Summit it is imperative for civil society to ensure that underpinning governance and human rights concerns in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa are not neglected.