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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Ethiopia famine: The search for alternative ports

Ethiopia's search for alternative ports for delivery of disaster relief cargoes continues.

Ethiopia is currently exploring the possibility of utilizing the port of Berbera, in the self-declared independent state of Somaliland, as an additional place for the unloading of incoming famine relief cargoes. Logistically, this is a wise option. The United States upgraded both the Berbera port and the Berbera airport prior to the 1990 "Operation Desert Storm." If an appropriate arrangement could be made, this option would help relieve the heavy congestion in the Port of Djibouti. As of very recently, the Government of the Republic of Somalia, that claims sovereignty over Somaliland, is objecting to efforts by Ethiopia to make a separate sovereign arrangement for the use of Berbera with the unrecognized Government of Somaliland. This constitutes another reason for Ethiopia to make an arrangement with Eritrea for the use of the ports of Aseb and Masawa. The longer that Addis delays, the more Ethiopians will succumb to hunger and malnutrition. Addis, wake up!

Wake Up, Addis Abeba!

“Wheat destined for Ethiopia’s Hungry Stuck in Port Logjams.”

This is the headline in the March 24, 2016 edition of Bloomberg Business.

According to the charity organization “Save the Children”, grain ships are taking about 40 days to unload in the port of Djibouti. There are 450,000 tons of wheat on ten ships waiting to unload today.

Most of this delay in the port of Djibouti could be alleviated, and delivery times shortened, if the Ethiopian government would allow some of the delivery to come through the ports of Asab and Masawa in the neighboring State of Eritrea. These ports are much closer to the drought area in northern Ethiopia than Djibouti. After the food is unloaded, there is still a long rail trip between Djibouti and Ethiopia to further lengthen the delivery time. But the delay is due to the Ethiopian government that is stupidly refusing to talk to the Eritrean government because of bitterness remaining since the war of 1998-2000. In that war, the Ethiopians lost tens of thousands of soldiers needlessly. The Ethiopians need to swallow their pride and stubbornness and request the government of Eritrea to open their ports for the unloading of food assistance to relieve the starvation and extreme malnutrition of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian farmers whose crops have failed, and whose animals have died.

Wake up, Addis Abeba!

Red Sea Report Continued

Red Sea Report Continued

There are some intriguing new developments in the Red Sea region.

Eritrea has joined the “Islamic Coalition Against Terrorism.” What is so interesting about that? Well, the list of countries in that coalition are all good friends of the United States. American arms exporters make lots of dinars selling to those friends. 

So what does all this have to do with Eritrea? Well, can one say that the friend of my friend should also be my friend? Unfortunately, Eritrea and the US still do not call themselves friends. So, what is going on?

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Normalization with Eritrea has become more important than ever before.  US national security interests in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula are at stake.

Back in December 2013, I wrote an article for “African Arguments” that called for the international community to “bring the State of Eritrea in from the cold.”  I argued that UN sanctions should be lifted, and that Eritrea and Ethiopia need to be reconciled for the economic benefit of both nations.

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