COP28: Ruto, Hichilema, Ramaphosa… which African leaders will be in Dubai?

At the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, Sultan al-Jaber, the controversial Emirati president of the conference, aims to put a number of issues on the negotiating table, including solidarity between the countries of the Global North and South. After meeting in Nairobi in September for the African Climate Summit, the continent’s leaders intend to speak with one voice at COP28.

International counterparts

According to our sources, Macky Sall (Senegal), Denis Sassou Nguesso (Congo), Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (Mauritania), Azali Assoumani (Comoros, and the current president of the African Union), Faustin-Archange Touadéra (Central African Republic), Umaro Sissoco Embaló (Guinea-Bissau) and Ismail Omar Guelleh (Djibouti) will all be attending the conference in Dubai. Felix Tshisekedi will take a few days off from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presidential campaign, which opened on 19 November, to travel to Dubai. The Congolese head of state will be accompanied by his minister for the environment, Ève Bazaïba.

The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, who will be accompanied by Samira Bawumia, the wife of vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia, the ruling party’s candidate for the 2024 presidential election. South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa will also be in attendance, as will Nigeria’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Kenya’s President William Ruto, who has made the green agenda a key plank of his foreign policy, will be in attendence.

From coup to Cop

Gabon’s Brice Oligui Nguema, who attended the second Three Basins Summit in Brazzaville on 28 October, is also preparing for a trip to Dubai. Former Gabonese president Ali Bongo had championed green diplomacy, orchestrated in particular by former water and forests minister Lee White. COP28 is an opportunity for coup leader General Nguema to show his determination to continue the work begun by his predecessor. He will be joined by a sizeable entourage, including ministers Maurice Ntossui Allogo (water and forests), Régis Onanga Ndiaye (foreign affairs), Mays Mouissi (economy and participation) and the secretary-general of the presidency, Guy Rossatanga-Rignault.

African leaders in attendance will of course meet with many of their international counterparts, including Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Pope Francis, the UK’s King Charles III and France’s Emmanuel Macron. US President Joe Biden, however, will be sending his special envoy for the climate, John Kerry. China’s Xi Jinping is not expected to be in Dubai either.

Repping it

Other African leaders have chosen to send representatives. Côte d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara and Benin’s Patrice Talon will be sending their respective vice-presidents, Tiemoko Meyliet Koné and Mariam Chabi Talata. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI will be sending his prime minister, Aziz Akhannouch, as well as ministers Leila Benali (energy transition and sustainable development) and Nizar Baraka (public works and water). Tunisia’s President Kais Saied is also expected to be absent, sending his minister of foreign affairs, Nabil Ammar.

Given the poor relations between Algiers and Dubai, Abdelmadjid Tebboune will not be making the trip, nor will any of his government officials. Only a director from the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be taking part in COP28. Finally, Cameroon’s Paul Biya will not be attending either, but at this stage his representative has not yet been appointed.

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