United States

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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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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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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Barbara Bush, 1925-2018

Barbara Bush, 1925-2018

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.

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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's Prime Minister Desalegn has resigned. What's next?

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Desalegn has resigned. What's next?

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?

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Special Comment on President Trump's Insulting Remark About African Countries

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.

President Trump's National Security Strategy

President Trump's National Security Strategy

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.

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