Vice President Kamala Harris said she did not broach the subject of the controversial anti-gay bill with Akufo-Addo, but emphasized that the United States firmly opposed it. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris discussed human rights with Ghana's president Monday during the first full day of her week-long visit to Africa as the country's parliament considers legislation that would criminalize being gay.
The high-stakes meeting with President Nana Akufo-Addo was intended to reaffirm relations and help stabilize the region amid ongoing conflicts, with Harris also announcing $100 million from the U.S. to shore up security in Ghana, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Togo as China was growing its footprint across the continent.
During a joint news conference following the meeting, Harris said she did not broach the subject of the controversial anti-gay bill with Akufo-Addo, but emphasized that the United States firmly opposed it.
"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," she said. "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."
The vice president's trip is part of a wider effort by President Joe Biden to re-establish ties with the continent in an effort to counter Chinese influence, however, human rights has become the most serious challenge to diplomacy as anti-LGBTQ laws are being considered in several African nations, including Tanzania and Zambia where Harris plans to make stops later this week.
Ghana's anti-gay proposal, which is called "Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Value," would allow the incarceration of anyone who identifies as LGBTQ.
Pressed on the matter, Akufo-Addo kept mum about whether he would veto the bill if it passed, saying he would wait for the legislature's final action before making a decision.
Akufo-Addo also said concerns over Chinese influence were being wildly overstated in the media.
"It may be an obsession in America. But there is no such obsession here," he said.
Harris praised Ghana for its staunch involvement at the United Nations Security Council, including its firm defense of the U.N. Charter amid Russia's war on Ukraine, the White House said. Harris also thanked Akufo-Addo for his work to "defend and advance democracy in West Africa and to hold anti-democratic governments accountable."
Part of the $100 million investment from the U.S. includes $86 million over the next three years to implement Biden's stability strategy in the region, which calls for Ghana to play a key role in maintaining peace and security -- with backing from Washington -- over the next decade.
When asked about the sincerity of U.S. pledges in Africa, Harris reaffirmed "the enduring and important direct relationship that the United States has with Ghana and with African nations."
"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," she said. "We must work together as an international community to ease the debt burden that is facing far too many countries."
The two leaders also discussed security in the neighboring Sahel, including the threat extremist groups pose to Coastal West Africa, the White House said.
Harris also praised Ghana's efforts to reform its economy as the administration was calling on the international community to provide critical debt relief.
Harris and Akufo-Addo previously met in December 2022 during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where the leaders spoke on a number of global and regional issues.