Secretary Tillerson’s Visit to Africa: Advice and Predictions

Secretary Tillerson’s Visit to Africa: Advice and Predictions

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.

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Hissène Habré’s Conviction for Crimes Against Humanity

Hissène Habré, the President of the Republic of Chad from 1982 to 1990, has been convicted of crimes against humanity by a special tribunal in the Republic of Senegal. He has been sentenced to life in prison. The punishment is well deserved. He could have been a hero to his fellow Africans for standing up to the bullying of dictator Moamar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya. But he was totally blood thirsty, murdering as many as 40,000 political opposition and ordinary citizens merely because they belonged to ethnic groups that he considered treasonous or dangerous. 

The trial and conviction in an African court of a former African head of state for crimes against humanity, may have set an interesting precedent for the international criminal courts system. African leaders and intellectuals have complained that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague appears to be concentrating almost exclusively on African suspects. They appear to be ignoring criminal perpetrators who are hiding in plain sight in Latin America and Asia. The current President of Sudan is under indictment by the ICC, but he travels freely in African countries that refuse to do their international duty and extradite him to The Hague. The Hissène Habré convinction in Senegal may mark the beginning of the end of the ICC’s jurisdiction in Africa. 

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Nigeria Election



Most Nigerians are euphoric over the results of the presidential election that took place on Saturday, March 28, 2015.  The election was conducted honestly.  The state-by-state count was free and fair.  And most surprising of all, the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat even before the final count was completed.  In a country where every election since 1999 was rigged, the May 28 event constituted nothing short of a revolution.

Civilian rule returned in 1999 after two decades of military dictatorship. It is impossible to say that the return of civilian rule, within democratic institutions, resulted in good governance.  On the contrary, Nigerian politicians in power reached new heights of corruption and dysfunctional government between 1999 and 2015.  The new President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, is facing an overwhelming challenge to clean things up and reform the entire governmental and military management system.

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