John Price, a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Seychelles, and Union of the Comoros, says Nigeria’s Boko Haram shows radical Islam is growing in Africa. Price talks with Bloomberg’s Pimm Fox and Carol Massar on Bloomberg Radio’s “Taking Stock” on May 22nd.
Tag Archives | Africa-U.S. Relations
Former U.S. Ambassador John Price, in a wide ranging interview on Fox News, describes in detail the threat posed by the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram. The group is suspected of kidnapping several hundred schoolgirls in Nigeria and is in the process of selling the girls for as little as $12 USD.
Ambassador Price describes how the group has not been a priority for the United States. “Congressional [leaders] don’t know much about what is going on there,” Price said. “We don’t get in there and talk about the real issue which is radical Islam is growing.” Besides the 300 schoolgirls that were kidnapped, the group is responsible for countless killings in Nigeria, and in the region. “There have been thousands of people killed, many attacks mostly against Christian churches and now even Muslim children are being attacked in schools,” Price said.
Foreign Policy in Focus reprinted a piece on 15 April 2014 titled “AFRICOM Goes to War on the Sly” by Nick Turse, managing editor of TomDispatch.com. Although the title of the article in my view overstates the role of the U.S. military in Africa, the piece does pull together wide ranging, if limited, U.S. military activity in Africa.
The author concludes that the U.S. military is “pivoting to Africa.” (As compared to earlier years, yes; as compared to Asia, no.) He notes the the U.S. military averages far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country, while building or building up camps, compounds, and contingency security locations. While the author identifies U.S. military activity in a significant number of African countries, the overwhelming majority of Africa’s 54 countries are not mentioned in the article.
“The negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan.” – John Kerry
Hopefully the recent ceasefire agreement between the warring parties in South Sudan will halt that country’s downward spiral into civil war. But if it does it will have to buck the convergence of two powerful historical streams: a legacy of colonial manipulation dating back more than a hundred years, and the current policies of the U.S. vis-à-vis the African continent. South Sudan became a country in 2011 when its residents voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Sudan, at the time the largest country in Africa.
But a falling out late last year between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, has plunged the country into war. Cities have been sacked, thousands killed, and almost 200,000 people turned into refugees. The birth of continent’s newest nation was largely an American endeavor, brought about by a polyglot coalition of Christian evangelicals, U.S. corporations, the Bush and Obama administrations, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights supporters.
The purpose of this YPIA survey and special report is to get a general feel of the attitudes of the African youth towards America.
This was achieved by surveying students from over 14 African countries, all currently studying in South African universities. The questions were based on Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project to ensure comparable data. The students were also given an opportunity to express their feelings on the topic via an open ended comment section at the end of the YPIA survey. Overall, African youth have a positive attitude towards America and Americans.
More than half of the individuals surveyed expressed a favorable opinion of the U.S. and Americans in general. However, it appears they like Americans more than the country itself. Only 57% of the respondents were in favor of the U.S. compared to 64% in favor of Americans. These marks were significantly lower than Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project 2013 that asked the same question: “Please tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of: a. The United States.”
In 2006, the Islamic Courts controlled Mogadishu and virtually all of south and central Somalia. While they enacted some highly controversial policies, they did reestablish authority in the regions under their control and many Somalis welcomed that stability.
The Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia, operating out of Nairobi, and neighboring Ethiopia, which had troops inside the Somali border and especially in Baidoa, perceived the Islamic Courts as a threat. At the end of 2006, the Islamic Courts’ militia made the mistake of attacking the Ethiopian forces in Baidoa, suffering a major defeat. Ethiopian forces, encouraged by the Somali TNG, then marched to Mogadishu and forced the leaders of the Islamic Courts to flee to the southern end of Somalia.
The presence of Ethiopian forces in Mogadishu was deeply resented by Somalis; their presence gave Somali Islamist elements and especially the new organization known as al-Shabaab a rallying cry for removing the Ethiopians. This posed a dilemma for the TNG, which did not have a security force capable of confronting al-Shabaab, and the Ethiopians, who had a strong force but were disliked by Somalis. Normally, this would be an occasion for establishing a UN peacekeeping operation, but the UN refused to get involved. This left the problem with the African Union, which agreed to send a force that became known as AMISOM to Somalia in support of the TNG.
As most Africans continue to eke-out a living, surviving on $1.25 a day, President Obama and his family are preparing for their August vacation at a $20 million estate on the Massachusetts seashore. This comes on the heels of the first family’s $100 million, eight day visit to the three African countries–Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Africans are now wondering if President Obama is serious about his promises to engage the continent. The trip appeared more as a royal excursion, with Africans feeling Obama may not be able to relate to their poverty situation.
The Obama administration did set the tone for an economic engagement of sub-Saharan Africa. However he has to now follow through on programs for Africans to reach their potential of achieving self-reliance. The U.S. Congress also needs to be on board, since decision makers have told me that “Africa is as far from the United States as you can travel–we know little about it–and most of us have never been there”.
“So what can we (Africans) expect from Mr. Obama’s visit”, several people asked. One businessman noted that he works 24/7 in his family business and struggles to meet the payroll, provide for his family, and educate his children. He had hoped Obama would announce programs to infuse capital into small and medium size business enterprises, and to help create new jobs.
Africans anxiously awaited President Obama’s return to sub-Saharan Africa, but they may be disappointed when he leaves Wednesday unless he announces a major initiative to promote trade. Many remember his first trip — a 24-hour visit to Ghana in 2009. During that brief stay he said, “Development depends on good governance — [the] ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential.”
Obama — who visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania on this trip — spoke Sunday to an audience of future African leaders at the University of Cape Town. Obama could have used that opportunity to stress a new vision for Africa, where 50 percent of the population lives in poverty. He could have emphasized that trade is worth five times more than aid.
The Cape Town speech could have been a defining moment for Mr. Obama, with millions of Africans tuned in. He had a chance to set the tone for a new engagement policy for sub-Saharan Africa and to continue the legacy of his predecessors. Instead, Obama pledged more aid — $7 billion for electricity projects in five African nations — and warned the audience not to trust any foreign country or company offering to build projects unless they benefit Africans themselves. Obama also alluded to the U.S. holding a summit with African leaders next year. Obama squandered a chance to announce that he would work to make the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) a permanent program and spread the benefits of free trade throughout the continent.
During my visits to Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia and Somalia over the past 12 months, I was told that U.S. influence is becoming less relevant because of our inconsistent foreign policy.
African countries are depending more on China and other nations for their economic growth. When President Obama visited Ghana in 2009, for fewer than 24 hours, he told parliament: “Development depends on good governance — [the] ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential.”
In May, at the 50th anniversary celebration in Ethiopia of the African Union, Secretary of State John F. Kerry lectured African leaders on the building blocks of democracy, good governance and human rights. A year earlier then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a 10-day visit to nine African countries, scolding their leaders about the lack of democracy, deriding China and leaving the continent with only promises.
African leaders are skeptical about President Obama’s engagement of sub-Saharan Africa, in part, because he has been there only once since becoming president, visiting Ghana in 2009 for less than 24 hours. What’s more, when Mali’s government called out for help to subdue Islamist extremists who had overrun the northern part of the country, the Obama administration demurred.
Mistrust and resentment exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and present a challenge for the administration as Mr. Obama plans to visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania from June 26 to July 3. “The president will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders,” according to a White House statement this month. “The trip will underscore the president’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity.”
Last week, Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the African Union. In his remarks Saturday, Mr. Kerry focused on building democracy and protecting human rights. “As everybody knows, we believe very deeply that where people can exercise their rights, and where there is an ability to have a strong democracy, the economy is stronger, the relationship with the government is stronger, people do better, and it’s an opportunity to be able to grow faster, stronger, by rule of law,” he said. Mr. Kerry also acknowledged that the United States is far behind in investing and taking advantage of the economic opportunities in Africa. The U.S. has shown only a limited interest in sub-Saharan Africa, with most of its attention focusing on the petroleum and minerals sectors.
Adapted from Amb. David H. Shinn’s Speech to the Cosmopolitan Club in Manhattan.
Before making any predictions it is important to begin with a few basic assumptions about China that will also impact its relations with Africa. I believe China’s leadership will remain stable and in full control of the country through at least the Xi Jinping era. China’s focus will remain on ensuring domestic political stability and economic development. But structural challenges such as its aging demography, continued migration to cities, higher population growth rate as a result of loosening restrictions on the one child policy, higher labor costs, dangerous levels of income inequality, lack of a universal social security system, worsening environmental conditions, more severe weather events due to climate change, increasing domestic pressure for input on decision-making by ordinary Chinese, and growing global competition from other emerging nations will take their toll on China’s society and system of governance.
Nevertheless, China’s GDP growth rate will continue to out-perform the world average, but at a less impressive rate than during that past three decades. China will also maintain a high savings rate and contribute disproportionately to global economic growth. While it will try to change elements of the existing international order, it will operate within this system rather than try to replace it.
It was a story that many people missed. United States president Barack Obama met with four African leaders in Washington in late March 2013: President Sall from Senegal, President Banda from Malawi, President Koroma from Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde.
A positive step in the right direction for America in Africa, but it is time for Obama to return the favor and once again set foot on the continent. It was announced late last year that Obama was planning a long overdue African tour sometime in 2013. As a specialist in US-Africa relations and an American living in Africa, I remember thinking simply “Amen!” There are dozens of reasons why Obama needs to be “here,” but to only mention a few. Firstly, there has been a large amount of key personnel changes when it comes to American foreign policy and its African “leadership.” It would prove beneficial for these individuals to accompany Obama on Air Force One for the ride across of the Atlantic, which in turn would help smooth the transition.
The individuals I speak of are John Kerry who replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. The trip should also include the head of the State Department’s Africa Bureau, which until recently was held by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who formally retired on 29 March. Although no formal nomination has been announced, it is likely the new Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs will have the surname “Smith.” Top guesses for Carson’s replacement include either Gayle Smith, a special assistant to Obama and senior director at the National Security Council, or Shannon Smith, the top staff member for Africa at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who worked closely with Secretary Kerry.
Despite upcoming deep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the United States has embarked on a military campaign in Africa.
Confidential sources inside AFRICOM (the United States military’s Africa Command) spoke of a large increase of materials and manpower making its way to Africa in early 2011. The past year saw a very quiet and concerted effort on the part of the administration to continue the U.S. military and intelligence build up on the continent. The latest announcement of an additional three to five thousand troops was accompanied by several conditions and caveats meant to ease any doubt that the troops are there to assist in counterterrorism operations. This is remarkable noting the impending budget crunch the military will endure, the constant down-play by the administration of the condition of Al Qaeda and the overall resistance to venture into another armed conflict.
Nick Turse’s piece “Obama’s Struggle for Africa” was first to highlight the new American build up in Africa in mid-2012. The American public has heard little of this and understandably so. With millions of dollars of military and non-military supplies being shipped to the continent, and the establishment of seemingly permanent bases and airfields, the entire venture has the taste and smell of another American crusade: the Vietnam War. A variety of different sources openly state that there are American Special Forces operating in Africa. This new venture abroad has begun with little reporting from the media or statements from the government.
African countries have massive health care needs. A few basic facts as of 2009 provided by the World Bank about Sub-Saharan Africa illustrate the point.
In 2009, life expectancy at birth for Sub-Saharan Africa was 52.5 years; for Ethiopia it was 55.7 years. The under-five mortality rate in Sub-Saharan Africa per 1,000 children was 130; for Ethiopia it was 104. The prevalence of HIV in the 15-49 age group in Sub-Saharan Africa was 5.4 percent; for Ethiopia it was about 2 percent. The incidence of TB per 100,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa was 344 cases; for Ethiopia it was 359 cases. The total number of clinical cases of malaria reported in 2009 for all of Sub-Saharan Africa was 72 million; Ethiopia accounted for 3 million of these cases. The number of reported deaths from malaria for all of Sub-Saharan Africa was 113,000; Ethiopia reported 1,100 of these deaths.
The share of GDP devoted to health care in Sub-Saharan Africa averaged 6.6 percent; in Ethiopia it accounted for 4.3 percent. The countries in Sub-Saharan Africa generally, including Ethiopia, have a long way to go before they can be satisfied with their health care systems. Ethiopia does better than average on a number of these indicators, but poorer on several others even after allowing for its large population.
Over the next four years the U.S. will face a number of foreign policy issues, most of them regional, some of them global. It is important to analyze some of the key issues for Africa as this continent is proving to be vital for U.S. foreign policy.
Africa is probably the single most complex region of the world and arguably its most troubled. While the world concerns itself with the Syrian civil war and the dangers it poses for the Middle East, little notice is taken of the war in the Congo, a tragedy that has taken five million lives and next to which the crisis in Syria pales. Africa represents 15 percent of the world’s population, yet only 2.7 percent of its GDP, which is largely concentrated in only five of 49 sub-Saharan countries. Just two countries—South Africa and Nigeria—account for over 33 percent of the continent’s economic output. Life expectancy is 50 years, and considerably less in those countries ravaged by AIDS. Hunger and malnutrition are worse than they were a decade ago.
At the same time, Africa is wealthy in oil, gas, iron, aluminum and rare metals. By 2015, countries in the Gulf of Guinea will provide the US with 25 percent of its energy needs, and Africa has at least 10 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. South Africa alone has 40 percent of the earth’s gold supply. The continent contains over one-third of the earth’s cobalt and supplies China—the world’s second largest economy—with 50 percent of that country’s copper, aluminum and iron ore.