US-Africa Engagement Remains Strong (Response to Howard French)

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I am a longtime admirer of Howard French’s reporting from, and commentary about, Africa. Nevertheless, I must take issue with his op-ed of July 17, in which he describes US policy toward Africa as “absentee diplomacy.” His statement that since the end of the Cold War, “the US has become more and more disengaged from Africa” does not conform to reality. Each U.S. President since that time has created new, signature Africa programs of their own, with transformative results for African people.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, George H.W. Bush’s administration was heavily engaged in conflict resolution in Africa. Between 1989 and 1993, the US played the principal role in negotiations, in which I participated, leading to the end of major long-running civil wars in Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. 

President Bill Clinton signed into law the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which today remains the major trade and investment vehicle linking Africa and the U.S.

President George W. Bush inaugurated several major programs in Africa. His PEPFAR program has saved tens of millions of African lives threatened by HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. His establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation has resulted in major infrastructure improvements across Africa. President Bush also persuaded the World Bank to stop charging African countries interest when borrowing from their IDA soft loan window.

President Obama started two very innovative programs in Africa: “Power Africa,” designed to attract private investment to the continent’s woefully deficient electricity infrastructure; and his “Feed the Future” program, helping to modernize African agriculture in order to lower the continent’s very large food import bill, and end hunger among Africans.

President Obama also hosted a 2016 summit of African heads of state in Washington, where they were introduced to the leading CEOs of American industry. Significant networking took place at that meeting. Obama’s ground-breaking frank talk about ending corruption and bad governance was also highly significant. 

Despite the leak of President Trump’s insulting private remark about African countries, and despite his tendency to reverse President Obama’s policies in other areas, Trump's policy toward Africa has also been positive. President Trump has continued his predecessors' programs on the continent – the Obama programs remain in place and are funded.

President Trump should also be credited with a significant diplomatic achievement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unable to change the constitution so that he could run for a third term, President Joseph Kabila conveniently failed to hold the presidential elections scheduled for November 2016. President Trump sent UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to the Congo, where she was able to persuade all parties to hold an election in December of 2018. This election resulted in the first democratic transfer of power in the Congo since its independence in 1960.

In the economic arena, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced in December 2018 the establishment of President Trump’s “Prosper Africa” program, designed to attract and assist American companies looking to invest in Africa. The Trump administration correctly sees a growing private sector as Africa’s best path to economic growth and poverty reduction.

Among his personnel selections, President Trump’s appointment of Ambassador Tibor Nagy as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa could not have been better. Nagy is a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, with ambassadorships in Ethiopia and Guinea. His first year in office has been marked by a frank and fruitful dialogue with African leaders. 

All of the above is a far cry from the accusation of US disengagement from Africa.

An Update on Cameroon: Time for a Peace Process

An Update on Cameroon: Time for a Peace Process

(Read my October piece on Cameroon for background on the historical roots of the country's crisis.

There is no military solution to the conflict between Paul Biya's regime in Cameroon, and the Anglophone separatists at war with it since 2017. The overwhelming, brutal, and repressive response of Biya's security forces has resulted in countless killings, hundreds of thousands displaced, and a total denial of basic services in the Anglophone regions. 

Despite the dark state of affairs, Cameroon's situation is ripe for external mediation.

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The Roots of Sudan's Upheaval

The Roots of Sudan's Upheaval

For John Campbell’s “Africa in Transition” blog on the Council on Foreign Relations website, I authored a piece on the historical background of the Sudan posts and al-Bashir’s ouster. It is reproduced below.

While the Sudanese military expelled President Omar al-Bashir from office, the people of Sudan are ultimately responsible for toppling his regime, and the leaders of the protest movement have promised not to let up until civilian rule is secured. They well know that any persistence of military control represents a continuation of the Bashir regime, and in particular, the Arabic-speaking population’s monopoly of power. For three decades they have endured the suppression of civil society, labor unions, freedom of press and religion, and any real measure of democratic expression or development. The Sudanese people have enough experience with the security apparatus Bashir created to know that exchanging one general with another does not represent improvement.

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Sudan Crisis May Be Approaching a Climax

Sudan's major cities have been rocked by anti-government demonstrations for the past several months. This type of political protest has been rare in the Sudan since the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir took power in an “Islamic” military coup in August 1989. The Sudanese military has never hesitated to use lethal force against protesters – indeed, several hundred have been reported killed since the beginning of the 2019 movement.

These events reflect a substantial decline in living standards for a majority of Sudanese since the independence of South Sudan in 2011 – the South is the main source of oil. The northern Khartoum government saw oil revenue decline to only fourteen U.S. dollars per barrel transported from the south to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, via a Sudanese government-owned pipeline.

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Ambassador Michelle Gavin Is Unhappy with United States Policy Toward the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Recent Presidential Election. I Disagree.

In the daily “Africa in Transition” blog, on February 6, 2019, Ambassador Michelle Gavin, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program, harshly criticized the United States government’s policy toward the December 2018 presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The title of the article summarizes Ambassador Gavin’s point of view quite succinctly:

“The Truth About United States’ Complicity in DRC’s Fraudulent Election”

The word “complicity” in my view, is both unfair and unjustified. Here is why.

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How Minority Rule Withered Cameroon's Prospects

How Minority Rule Withered Cameroon's Prospects

Among the many French and British African colonies which achieved independence in the early 1960s, Cameroon seemed destined for greatness.  A diverse reflection of peoples from across Africa, Cameroon has both Christians and Muslims, and French and English-speakers. The country enjoys substantial natural resources, as well as excellent agricultural potential. 

Sadly, greatness has eluded the Cameroonian people. The country's governance over the past six decades has been deficient in practically every respect. Weak democratic institutions are largely to blame; there is no doubt that Paul Biya will be the winner of the just-completed elections. Like every election in Cameroon since 1982, the 2018 polls were most certainly rigged.

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Will Mrs. Trump’s Trip to Africa Influence Relations?

Will Mrs. Trump’s Trip to Africa Influence Relations?

First Lady of the United States Melania Trump made a goodwill visit to Africa, October 1-7.  Her itinerary included the nations of Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt. The trip was planned in tandem with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Mrs. Trump emphasized support for African youth during her visit, continuing her “Be Best” initiative which she has been promoting in the United States. 

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First Lady Melania Trump’s Visit to Africa

First Lady Melania Trump’s Visit to Africa

First Lady Melania Trump’s trip to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt beginning October 1 is a welcome signal of the Trump administration’s interest in African development, and its relationship with security and prosperity in the United States.

Mrs. Trump’s expressed interest in the welfare of African children, in tandem with her “Be Best” initiative for American youth, is a wise approach, since people under 30 represent a majority of Africans. These African youth will make or break the success of its nations. 

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Président Kabila A Sélectionné Son Héritier

Président Kabila A Sélectionné Son Héritier

Après une longue période d’incertitude, Président Kabila a décidé de ne pas essayer de réviser la constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo (RDC), dont la limite est de deux mandats à la Présidence, en se mettant d’accord de quitter le pouvoir après les élections du 23 décembre 2018 et cela deux ans après. En même temps, Président Kabila a présenté son successeur préféré, et qui sera alors le candidat de la Majorité Présidentielle, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

La sélection de Kabila pour Shadary était en quelque sorte une surprise. Son nom n’était pas sur la liste de personne comme héritier possible. Cependant selon la perspective de Kabila, Shadary est le choix logique.

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DRC: President Kabila has Selected his Heir

DRC: President Kabila has Selected his Heir

After a long period of suspense, President Joseph Kabila has decided not to try to revise the DRC’s constitutional two-term limit on his office, agreeing to leave power after the election scheduled for December 23, 2018, two years late. At the same time, President Kabila presented his preferred successor, and who will therefore be the candidate of the “Presidential Majority,” Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. 

Kabila’s selection of Shadary was something of a surprise. His name was not on anyone’s list as a possible heir. However, from Kabila’s perspective, Shadary is the logical choice.

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Presidential Election in the DRC: A Prognosis

Presidential Election in the DRC: A Prognosis

There are now six months until the DRC’s presidential election, scheduled for December 23. Candidates will file papers starting July 24. It is a good moment to review who is likely to run, and who has the best chances against Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).

There is a crowded field of opposition candidates. Concerns are running high that they will split the general vote, enabling Kabila’s party to win with a plurality as small as 25%. Many observers are urging the opposition to unify behind a single presidential candidate who stands a good chance of defeating the PPRD.

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The African Union at 55

The African Union at 55

2018 could be seen as the 55th “birthday” of the African Union, since its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, was established in 1963. The group’s objectives and influence have changed dramatically over those decades.

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Clarification

J'ai récemment rendu publique une lettre que j'ai écrite à la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI) pour demander la libération de Jean-Pierre Bemba. Je pense que le temps qu'il a passé en prison constitue jusqu'à présent une peine suffisante pour le crime pour lequel il a été condamné.

Certains observateurs congolais ont interprété ma déclaration comme un signal que le gouvernement américain ne considère pas les candidats de l'opposition Felix Tshisekedi et Moïse Katumbi comme suffisamment qualifiés pour être candidats à la présidence, et que je demande la libération de M. Bemba comme étant le plus qualifié.

Il n'y a pas de vérité dans cette interprétation. Ni le gouvernement américain, ni moi, n'avons aucune préférence quant aux candidats aux élections en RDC. Nous travaillons tous pour encourager une élection libre et juste. Au sein du Département d'Etat américain, Felix Tshisekedi et Moïse Katumbi sont considérés comme de bons candidats avec de bonnes opportunités d'être élus. Il y a d'autres candidats forts dans différents partis.

Notre objectif principal est que les élections libres et équitables soient organisées conformément à l’ACCORD DE LA SYLVESTRE. Ni plus, ni moins.

Clarifying Letter to the ICC

I have recently made public a letter that I wrote to the International Criminal Court pleading for the release of Jean-Pierre Bemba. I feel that the time he has spent in prison so far constitutes sufficient punishment for the crime for which he was convicted.

Some Congolese observers have interpreted my statement as a signal that the American Government does not consider opposition candidates Felix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi as being sufficiently qualified to be presidential candidates, and that I am seeking Mr. Bemba's liberation as suggesting that he would be more qualified.

There is no truth to this interpretation. Neither the US Government, nor I, have preferred candidates in the DRC election. We both are working to encourage a free and fair election. In the US State Department, Felix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi are considered strong candidates with good opportunities to be elected. There are other strong candidates in different parties.

Our main objective is that free and fair elections be held in accordance with the Saint-Sylvestre Agreement. Nothing more, nothing less.

Une semaine difficile du président Kabila à Washington

La crise politique en cours en République démocratique du Congo a été une des principaux sujets du jour dans les cercles des affaires étrangères de Washington pendant la semaine du 21 au 25 mai 2018. Les représentants de la société civile congolaise et de l'administration Kabila avaient assisté à un déjeuner d’un forum du Congrès américain et avait été accueilli différemment.

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