Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama's Africa Appointments

From Foreign Policy:
Sources tell The Cable that retired ambassador Johnnie Carson, a long time Africa hand and foreign service officer who has recently served as the national intelligence officer for Africa, is going to be named assistant secretary of state for Africa. Michelle Gavin, a former Senate foreign policy advisor to Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and the successor to Obama foreign policy advisor Denis McDonough as legislative director to Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), will be named to an NSC slot on Africa.

Neither of these folks appears to have much background on the Congo. I will be delighted to be proven wrong, but I think it's safe at this point to assume that the US will continue to play only a marginal role in the DRC. We won't raise the Congo's profile; We won't threaten Rwanda or Uganda with sanctions or a loss of aid; We won't provide Congolese civil society or its sprinkling of professionals and good government types with enough funding to challenge the Kabila government or meaningfully advance the democracy or development agendas. The vague hope I had that Obama's Africa agenda might be as significant an advance over Bush's as the latter's was over Clinton's seems increasingly implausible.

To be sure, there will always be some buttinskies ready to prescribe a whole pharmacy's worth of elixers and liniments to cure what ails the Congo (and by extension, Africa in general). Who knows? The Obama people might even appoint a Special Envoy to the region. And eventually they will issue some rousing rhetoric and flourish some novel policy formulations, just as the Clinton people did. Who can forget the brassy stir of trumpets announcing the "African Renaissance"; the ceremonial unveiling of the "Trade not Aid" policy; the breathless discovery of that diplomatic penicillin, "African solutions for African problems"; or the solemn christening in the State Department and the pages of the New Yorker of "Africa's New Leaders," who, alas, all went to war with each other within six months of being named the hope of the continent.

In the end, it was all a distraction. Under Clinton, the US had neither the will nor the resources to attempt a meaningful engagement with Africa, and its policies consisted of a series of gestures meant to suggest a command of events over which it had little control. Under Bush, a vestige of the family's noblesse oblige and a timely push from the Christian Right produced a surprising spurt of charity, but little in the way of diplomatic energy. The best thing Obama could do for Africans is to tell them the truth: They are on their own, and will have to see things through as best they can.

1 comment:

  1. The biggest impediment to peace and development in the Congo specifically is the Western darling, Ugandan dictator and life-President Yoweri Museveni.

    Unless President Obama reverses US policy towards Africa, to strictly insist on democracy and respect for the rule of law, expect more meddlesome, externally aggressive military dictatorships eyeing resources in neighbouring countries.

    Expect more corruption, fraudulent elections, hoodwinking ties with the West, poverty and suffering if the Obama administration insists on the Bush policy of cordial propping of oppressive regimes such as Museveni's or Meles Zenawi's (Ethiopia).

    Africa has seen enough of these machinations.
    The 23 year-long Ugandan warlord Museveni has perpetuated instability in Eastern Congo for more than a decade, a region where he freely exploits Congolese minerals with the West turning a blind eye if not being complicit.

    Now that the whole world knows the truth why not change these policies?

    The West which buys the illegally sought minerals is complicit in this tragedy that has contributed to the death of more than 5 million Congolese and untoward suffering.

    Other neighbouring dictators following the footprints of Museveni into Congo include Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe alonside the Angolans. Western multinational corporations funding militias and illegal mining activities need to be sanctioned.