Please join us virtually for the African Human Rights Leaders Summit, an event that aims to bolster civic voices from the region ahead of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The event will provide an independent platform to raise and integrate the voices and views of African human rights and civil society leaders, as well as members of African civic groups and the diaspora, ahead of the Summit. It will consider ways to prioritize human rights and democratic governance in U.S. partnerships across the continent, and will aim to feed into the implementation of the broader U.S.-Africa strategy.


Welcome & Keynote

9:00 – 9:15 AM

  • Nicole Widdersheim
    Deputy Washington Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Honorable Graca Machel
    Founder, Graça Machel Trust

Civil Society as a Democracy Safeguard

9:20 – 10:15 AM

Civil society and human rights leaders discuss the vital importance of addressing democratic backsliding, as well as attacks on basic human rights such as freedom of expression, rising detention, torture and violence on journalists and human rights defenders.


  • Maya Sahli-Fadel
    Vice Chair, Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa
  • Hassan Shire
    Executive Director, Defend Defenders
  • Donald Deya
    Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Lawyers Union


  • Carine Kaneza Nantulya
    Deputy Director for Africa, Human Rights Watch

Weighing in on the U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa

10:25 – 11:20 AM

Civil society and human rights leaders discuss the human rights challenges they are facing and how the new US-Africa strategy can proactively support marginalized populations as well as those on the frontlines working to hold their governments accountable.


  • Kamissa Camara
    Senior Advisor for Africa at USIP (Sahel); Former Foreign Minister of Mali
  • Achaleke Christian Leke
    AU-Africa Youth Ambassador for Peace; Central Africa and Executive Director, Local Youth Corner Cameroon


  • Professor Peter Lewis
    Chair of African Studies, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

Human Rights Promotion & Protection: What Works and What is Needed

11:25 AM – 12:20 PM

Human rights defenders will highlight effective tools and tactics in promoting and protecting human rights and how the US government and US civil society can better support them. They will discuss practical examples of collaborations and successful projects.


  • Adama Dempster
    Secretary General, Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia; Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia
  • Irene Petras
    Human rights lawyer (Zimbabwe)
  • Yasmin Omar
    International human rights lawyer; UN and Regional Advocacy Manager, Committee for Justice; Member, Steering Committee of the U.S. Committee to End Political Repression in Egypt
  • Hagir Elsheikh
    Human rights activist (Sudan)


  • Kehinde Togun
    Managing Director – Public Engagement, Humanity United