During George H.W. Bush’s term as President of the United States, I served as his Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. In that capacity, I had the privilege of being in the presence of the First Lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush, usually during visits by African heads of state when Mrs. Bush would host their spouses for coffee or tea.Read More
Secretary Tillerson will be taking his first official visit to Africa starting March 7, meeting with leaders in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad, and Nigeria.
The State Department announced that the Secretary will be addressing issues of counter-terrorism, peace and security, good governance, and trade and investment.
The countries Secretary Tillerson is scheduled to visit, and the key issues to be addressed, reflect clear continuity in U.S. policy priorities in sub-Saharan Africa since the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Here is my advice to the Secretary for each of his planned meetings.Read More
It is not surprising that after three years in office – three years of famine, violence, and serious political and social instability – Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has resigned, effective with the swearing-in of his replacement within a few weeks. The regime has also announced a six-month “state of emergency,” under which political and press freedoms are severely curtailed.
What do these developments mean for the Ethiopian people?Read More
This year's African Union summit, held in Addis Ababa on January 28-29, produced some international agreements worth celebrating.Read More
While President Trump's first annual "State of the Union" speech to Congress was devoted mainly to domestic economic and social issues, several of his statements could have serious implications for Africa.Read More
Corruption is the theme of this month's African Union meeting in Addis Ababa. It is refreshing that African leaders will discuss the subject in public. Some leaders are more committed than others to ending the cycle of graft which has dogged Africa since the colonial era.
Africa is not alone in this problem. Theft through corruption occurs in practically every nation – the early days of American industrialization were rife with graft. But in Africa, it has persisted as a potent force to stymie economic development and prosperity.Read More
To all my friends and colleagues in African governments, African civil society, and African business enterprises:
I recommend that you do not take seriously the insulting remarks about African countries made by President Trump as reported by the American press on Thursday, January 11.
Sadly, he clearly is unaware of the hundreds of thousands of Africans who have come to the United States as immigrants, and who are making valuable contributions as professionals in health sciences, law, business enterprises, education and government. In addition, African immigrants to the United States in all walks of life have outstanding reputations as law abiding citizens with strong families and loyalty to their new nationality.
Rest assured that our foreign service officers representing the U.S. at our embassies in Africa have deep respect for your nations and a commitment to deepening and strengthening our relationships, which benefit us collectively.
Too much is at stake to take this seriously, and I believe more than ever in the potential for strong and productive relations between the nations and peoples of Africa and those of the United States.
I hope that Congressional members and other representatives of the US government will rebuke the President’s insensitive remarks.
Please forgive President Trump.
In my time in the Foreign Service, I worked in nations across Africa whose people welcomed the departure of colonial overseers with hopes for democracy and better governance, only to see those hopes dashed by leaders who became so enamored with power that they never wanted to leave.
On the 17th anniversary of Joseph Kabila’s rise to power, it is clear that he has overstayed his welcome.
It is likely to be a difficult year for President Kabila. There is a growing international consensus that the DRC’s instability owes to the Kabila regime’s deliberate violations of the constitution to delay legally mandated elections. This is likely to result in increased pressure from the U.S. and international community in the coming months for elections to be held no later than December of 2018, and potentially, a rise in state-sponsored violence.
The United Nations Security Council has condemned the violence against protestors perpetrated by the DRC security forces, opening the door to further sanctions by interested foreign governments. Members of the U.S. Congress are preparing legislation which would expand the US sanctions already in place against key individuals in the Kabila regime. These new sanctions are likely to come close to President Kabila and his immediate family.
President Kabila failed to hold elections in 2017, as was agreed in the December 2016 compromise negotiated by the Catholic Church. But he is also in blatant violation of several other important aspects of the agreement. First, the opposition was not given an opportunity to name a new Prime Minister from its own ranks. Instead, the President selected an individual supposedly associated with the opposition to be Prime Minister. Second, the President has refused to make a public commitment that he would not be a candidate in the election.
Despite the foot-dragging, the one positive development was the start of voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in mid-2017. In October 2017, the CENI announced that the election could not be held prior to the first half of 2019; because of international pressure, especially from United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, it rescheduled the election for December 23, 2018.
The DRC political opposition no longer accepts President Kabila’s legitimacy after his failure to hold elections last year. Their political battle cry is “Transition Without Kabila.” They are demanding that a transitional government be put in place for the purpose of preparing for the election. It is quite clear that this will not happen.
The DRC’s Roman Catholic Archbishops, who negotiated the December 2016 agreement for elections in 2017, understandably feel betrayed. They called for mass peaceful demonstrations on December 31, 2017. The Kabila regime has tried to prevent these demonstrations with a brutal show of force. Security forces entered churches during mass, firing tear gas and live ammunition while the faithful were in prayer. This shocked the entire world, but did not weaken the Congolese people’s resolve.
Felix Tshisekedi, head of the “Rassemblement” coalition and the DRC’s main opposition leader still residing in the country, has issued a formal announcement that the opposition does not recognize President Kabila’s authority, and has called upon the international community to join in this declaration. It remains to be seen whether foreign governments will continue to recognize President Kabila as the DRC’s legitimate leader after his numerous violations of the country’s democratic process.
After Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, President Kabila hoped that US policy would change towards the DRC. It has not. The Trump administration has generally continued President Obama’s Africa policy, promoting democracy, an end to violence, and good governance, along with economic development through private sector investment. Kabila’s repeated defiance of his country’s constitution and violations of the agreements he has made to hold legitimate elections continue to be a top international issue for the U.S. under the new administration.
Kabila had a chance to be a new kind of African leader who relinquishes power in a peaceful democratic transition. But he is simply acting as earlier strongmen did. He should not expect an ease in U.S. or international pressure anytime soon.
(Photo: UN Photo / Cia Pak)
Since seizing the government by force of arms in 1991, the TPLF-controlled Ethiopian regime has maintained monopolies over economic and political power ever since, and has therefore dominated all other nationalities and ethnic groups. It is this refusal to share political power and wealth on the part of the TPLF that is causing the violent demonstrations of dissent within the Oromo and Amhara states. Government efforts to divert attention to cross border violence between Oromo and Somali states cannot hide its responsibility for the instability brought on by its refusal to grant the Ethiopian people the self-determination granted by their constitution.Read More
President Trump has issued the annual “National Security Strategy” report, as required by law. Here is my analysis of what it means for African leaders and U.S. Africa relations.
The strategy generally follows President Trump’s emphasis on “America First,” indicating he does not want other countries to take advantage of US generosity in development programs and trade.
Much of the document could have been written by the George H.W. Bush (41) or Obama administrations, and hews closely to their policy positions. But there are several elements which should catch the attention of African governments as they could affect U.S.-Africa trade and security relationships.Read More
What we have just witnessed in Zimbabwe was not a revolution to overthrow a corrupt system. It was a power struggle within that corrupt system. Former President Mugabe wanted to install his much younger wife as his successor. The old guard, who understandably felt threatened, moved to stop him. The correct question from this point has become, “what happens next?”
The new President has heard the ordinary people of Zimbabwe cheering in the streets at the news of Mugabe’s resignation. Consequently, Mnangagwa is telling them what they want to hear.Read More
Robert Mugabe began his tenure as a reasonable head of state after leading Zimbabwe to majority rule in 1980. He understood that Zimbabwe’s relative prosperity, and good economic outlook, were highly dependent on the continued cooperation of white commercial farmers. He did everything possible to reassure farmers who wanted to remain on their farms.
Mugabe accepted a constitution guaranteeing seven white members of parliament. He also named a white farmer’s union head to his Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture. His attitude toward the white commercial farmer was so positive that new white farmers came to Zimbabwe to buy land.
Mugabe was also very strong on education. The number of Africans graduating from high school and university rose significantly during the first fifteen years of his administration.
But underlying Mugabe’s constructive view of power was a deep-seated ideology that would eventually cause him to destroy everything that his administration, and the white Rhodesians before him, had worked so hard to build.Read More
Following are unedited remarks by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa.Read More
Commenter Michael had the following to say about my October 30 blog post on the DRC:
"Greatly disagree with this blog entry from Mr. Cohen. The Congolese have come to understand that the international community (IC) is not on their side. The IC is well aware of the atrocities done in Eastern Congo and backed by both staunch western allies like Rwanda and Uganda and greatly detailed through UN reports. There have not been any sanctions or actions against these states. The IC including the US have been very soft against negative forces affecting the Congolese people.
Even with the sanctions directed toward members of the Kabila's entourage, we see that the Minister of Communications Lambert Mende who s under EU sanctions being granted a visa to visit Belgium for "humanitarian" reasons and yet there are Congolese opposition leaders who are rotting in prison without medical care and yet the IC is willing to give "lee-way" to perpetrators and bad actors in the Congo who are under sanctions.
So with all due respect Mr. Cohen, I think people especially in Congo have a right to be suspicious or at least cynical of the propositions of Ambassador Haley. The opposition in 2016 was under pressure of the IC to cede to a dialogue with Kabila when the population were ready for a revolution. The result is non-respect of the agreement, political prisoners still exile or in prison and non-nomination of a true Prime Minister from the opposition and cabinet positions still under the control of the Presidential Majority.
With all due respect Mr. Cohen, Congolese intellectuals should not relax because that's what they did in 2016 and expecting elections in 2017. Look what it produced."
The formulation of the Trump Administration’s policy toward the DRC is now complete. Although the administration has not yet nominated an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the Africa Bureau is currently in the very experienced and capable hands of Ambassador Don Yamamoto, and his Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan.
From a variety of sources, I have determined that the Trump Administration believes an honorable departure from power on the part of President Joseph Kabila, pursuant to the constitutional limitation of two elected terms, would be in the best interests of the Congolese people, and the Great Lakes sub-region. The Administration, therefore, would like to see the next set of elections held at the earliest possible date.Read More
Immediately after US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s departure from the DRC, the Congolese and international press were reporting great disappointment among that country’s intellectuals and a number of political personalities. They accused Ambassador Haley of assisting President Kabila’s determination to extend his stay in power, as long as possible, well beyond the expiration of his constitutional mandate on December 31, 2016.
This criticism is utterly misguided, and demonstrates a lack of understanding on the part of Congolese critics as to how American diplomacy and international relations are conducted.Read More