Thursday, February 26, 2009

West Africa Critical to U.S.

Africa in general is important to America's future, and the U.S. government over the past two Administrations have realized this fact. There is no reason to think that the current Administration does not see this as well, and not only because of the ethnic background of the President. However, West Africa is particularly critical in U.S. policy formulations.

Eight of the top 20 American trading partners in Africa are in West Africa. The countries with the largest expatriate populations in America are mostly in West Africa, including Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana. West Africa peacekeepers are among the most proficient and sought-after, not only in Africa, but globally. ECOWAS is the African regional economic community that appears to be closest to meeting its goals of economic integration and can and should play a major role in facilitating progress among its fellow RECs.

U.S. policy will surely always take into account Nigeria - the continent's most populous nation and American top African trading partner. But we must not slight other West African countries, such as Ghana, Senegal, Cote 'dIvoire, Mali, Liberia and their neighbors. U.S.-Africa trade will be built from West Africa outward because of its proximity to Africa and the viability of enhanced transportation links.

In building an American Africa policy, West Africa is the logical building block. On this platform can be constructed an ever more vibrant relationship with the nations of Africa.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rwanda-Congo Detente

The Republic of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been at odds since the end of the 1994 genocide, when Hutu extremists from Rwanda fled into Congo. Since that time, they have used Congo as a base from which to attack Rwanda. When I visited Goma in 1997, my Congressional staff colleagues and I were told that even the United Nations refugee camp on the Rwanda border was being used as a base of operation for the Rwandan rebels.

My colleagues and I were in Goma just two weeks before the war started, and we saw first-hand the tension between the two governments because of rebel activity. Shortly after we left, the conflict known to some as "Africa World War I" began. Even after the war ended, both governments have supported rebel movements as proxy armies against one another.

The war was as much about resources as it was about the cross-border raids. For that reason, the joint military operation by Rwandan and Congolese troops aimed at rooting out rebel groups they have respectively supported will be only part of the solution to their conflict. They will need to share in the use of resources to cement a lasting partnership.

For this reason, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation is exploring the possibility of of a project that will involve joint use of natural gas from Lake Kivu, which the two countries share, as a basis for partnership between them that may provide a level of cooperation that makes conflict contrary to their mutual interests. It is our hope that such a partnership can be highlighted at the ninth Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2010.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Africa Can't Wait

While it is undoubtedly a fact that President Barack Obama is forced to concentrate immediately on the global financial crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are numerous issues in Africa that also are pressing and need immediate attention. The Sullivan Foundation has presented a white paper on U.S. policy toward Africa to the incoming Administration and the new Congress that listed numerous pressing challenges in Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, as well as potential serious problems even in nations such as Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. See the complete white paper at:

There is a strong possibility that the new Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs may not be selected and sworn in for months. The challenges facing Africa cannot wait for a prolonged confirmation process. We think this process must be accelerated. What do you think?