Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama Ignores Africa in the State of the Union

I had not intended to come back to the Obama Administration Africa policy so soon, having just discussed it four days ago (January 25). However, the lack of Africa in the President’s State of the Union address is getting increasing coverage and discussion – not for what he said, but rather what he didn’t say.

The only mention of Africa came in passing when Obama presented examples of how the U.S. government supports human rights worldwide. He mentioned briefly “why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea.” That was it for Africa in the entire speech, which was, granted, focusing on domestic policy such as jobs, health care and education. Still, it seemed a bit strange to mention Guinea, a nation in which the coup leader who promised to return the country to democracy sparked demonstration by reneging on his promise not to run for office, presided over a massacre and mass rape of peaceful demonstrators, got shot by a former compatriot and now is in exile without mentioning any of these developments. That jobless young man has more to worry about than a job.

Then there is the political crisis in Nigeria in which President Umaru Yar’Adua has been out of the country and out of sight in Saudi Arabia because of urgent medical treatment. He apparently has been ill for much of his presidency. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who hand-picked Yar’Adua as his successor, was forced by ongoing criticism to deny that he know how sick Yar’Adua was before he took office and now has joined the chorus of prominent Nigerians calling on the president to resign. The legislature is in turmoil over how to force a satisfactory resolution to the constitutional crisis. Nigeria is, mind you, America’s leading African oil supplier.

There are a number of significant elections in store for Africa in this year – from Cote d’Ivoire to Madagascar, but no mention of these electoral events made it into the Obama speech the other day. Even if good news in foreign policy was the order of the day, there is the fiber optic wiring of East and Southern Africa, which provides a stepping stone for African countries into 21st century information technology. But no good or bad news on Africa was heard other than the passing reference to Guinea.

In some corners, the lack of mention of Sudan was particularly galling since a key election also is taking place there this year, and the peace process in Southern Sudan seems to be unraveling. The two previous Administrations and the last few sessions of Congress devoted a lot of time and energy to solving various Sudan crises – from the peace accord that ended the North-South conflict to the genocide in Darfur. To those who raised money for Darfuris, marched to draw attention to the plight of people in Sudan and devoted years to the effort to bring peace and democracy to all people in Sudan, the lack of attention to Darfur must be especially galling.

The President also didn’t mention the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or economic development for Africa generally as his predecessors had done in just about every State of the Union speech dating back more than a decade. At one point, AGOA was the first major piece of trade legislation to pass Congress in years. AGOA is responsible for expanding U.S.-Africa trade and putting the commercial relationship between America and the nations of Africa ahead of the previous preoccupation with foreign aid.

Actually, one would think that given active military operations in an around Somalia (remember the pirates?), security engagement in Africa might get a mention. Keep in mind that we have young men from Minnesota who went to Somalia to join in the fighting on behalf of Islamic extremists. This is no small thing and deserves at least some acknowledgement.
Given his concentration on climate change, it would not have been out of order for President Obama to discuss how our nation, historically the largest emitter of carbon, would help Africa, which is most vulnerable to climate change. Each day in Africa, the deserts expand, the coastlines disappear and water becomes scarcer. Might that not rate a mention?

As I acknowledged in my previous blog post, President Obama has a lot of domestic and international issues on his agenda, and he wants the world to know he is not fixated on the home continent of his father. Nevertheless, Africa, like the jilted lover in the movie Fatal Attraction, will not be ignored. Those of us who work on Africa issues regularly would just appreciate hearing this President acknowledge Africa more as Presidents Clinton and Bush did so regularly. We promise not to pigeon-hole him into the role of “Africa’s President.” Really.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama on Africa: The One-Year Mark

One year after President Barack Obama’s historic election, pundits have begun assessing every aspect of his presidency. Even though Africa policy has not been at the public forefront of Obama foreign policy, there have been assessments of how this Administration has conducted its Africa business, and the results are mixed.

The President’s supporters give him generally high marks on Africa, although some issues do arise even among their ranks. Foremost is the Administration's intransigence on helping Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity. Last March, the Administration extended legislation prohibiting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from providing loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit to Zimbabwe’s government. This restriction was placed on a brutal Zimbabwe government by the Bush Administration, which also pushed the ruling and opposition parties into the Government of National Unity to end turmoil in the aftermath of a disputed election in 2008. Some see the current Administration as being intransigent in failing to support a government the United States helped to create.

The Administration gave Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai tough love when he came to Washington last year, which is consistent with President Obama’s theme of urging African governments to be more accountable. The Administration tied the loosening of restrictions on aid to Zimbabwe to repeal of repressive laws and other reforms that had not been done. In his well reported Ghana speech last July, Obama said Africa’s future is up to Africans. “Development depends on good governance,” he said. “That is 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.”

This position is behind the Administration’s tough stance on corruption in Kenya and its effort to shift the burden for funding and management of HIV-AIDS programming under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to African governments. Unfortunately, Senegal, generally a positive example in Africa, is spoiling the Administration’s record in this regard. After signing a Millennium Challenge Account compact for US$545 million, Senegal’s government is engaging in predatory behavior against foreign investors and questionable administrative tactics to pave the way for President Abdoulaye Wade’s son, Karim, to succeed his father in office. The Administration thus far has taken no action to put a hold on any MCA funds due to questionable Senegalese policies.

Human Rights Watch said Obama “has brought a marked improvement in presidential rhetoric on human rights compared with his predecessor.” According to Human Rights Watch, Obama, unlike President George W. Bush, has pledged to accept the results of free and fair elections – no matter who wins. Bush, the organization said, stopped affirming that pledge once Hamas won elections in the Palestinian territories and the Muslim Brotherhood did better than expected in Egyptian elections.

The human rights agency also said Obama has avoided the error of the Clinton Administration, which lionized “new African leaders” such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, who have become more authoritarian. In contrast to his Democratic predecessor, Obama said in Ghana that Africa does not need strong men.

Africa columnist J. Peter Pham, who spoke for Senator John McCain on Africa policy during the 2008 campaign, gives President Obama a mixed assessment, but overall is rather positive about the Obama Africa policy, especially praising his foreign policy team, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Pham said the President needs to do three things to be successful on Africa policy: 1) continually manage expectations to avoid resentment, 2) work with Republicans on Africa policy and 3) acknowledge the limits on U.S. policy. The first will be difficult to do retroactively since rampant expectations are already out there. The second is more the province of Congress than the White House. The third is already done at least to some extent.

I believe there are two dynamics controlling Obama’s Africa policy. One is his determination to use his status as a “son of Africa” to push for accountability in a way no white President could do. Second is the double bind of not wanting to be seen as the “Africa president” and the limitation on his ability to put Africa policy above all the other foreign policy dynamics he faces. This last point was seen as Obama failed to bring focus on Sudan during his discussion with Chinese leadership last year. America had much more pressing matters to talk with China about than Sudan or other Africa issues in those meetings.

Given the global economic downturn, terrorism, climate change and other matters, President Obama has a full international policy agenda, and his framework for Africa policy depends on African governments accepting the challenge of greater accountability and good governance. So I would give the President an incomplete grade at this point with the possibility of at least limited success on an ambitious, but justified agenda.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Violence in Nigerian City Remains Unresolved

Rioting, burning and killings in the central Nigerian city of Jos has left more than 200 people dead, caused untold damage to property and created hunger among residents unable to buy food, which all-too-often can’t be sold due to violence and a 24-hour curfew imposed to stop it. Incidents of violence have not been limited to Jos, spreading to nearby towns of Pankshi, Bukuru, Apata and Alheri.

Periodic violence is becoming a frighteningly common occurrence in Nigeria. Since the end of military rule in 1999, more than 13,500 people have been killed in religious or ethnic clashes across Nigeria. Nearly 1,500 people have been killed in violence in Jos alone in clashes in 2001 (1,000), 2004 (700) and 2008 (700). In addition to violence largely carried out by youth, Human Rights Watch documented 133 cases of unlawful killings by members of security forces in responses to the 2008 violence in Jos.

This middle belt town is one of the country’s most cosmopolitan cities, home to a mix of dozens of ethnic groups, and Jos separates the Muslim north from the Christian south. The city’s name is an acronym for “Jesus Our Savior,” coined by Christian missionaries. Jos was sometimes called the “home of peace and tourism” because its cooler temperatures brought in Nigerian and European tourists. The city also is a major commercial center and is a center for the mining of tin and columbite. Heavy industry produces cement, crushed stone, rolled steel and tire retreads. Other enterprises include food processing, beer brewing and the production of cosmetics, soap, rope and furniture. Consequently, disruption of commerce in Jos has an impact far beyond the city and its nearby neighbors.

In response to the current crisis, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, declaring the violence “one crisis too many,” deployed security agencies to Jos to calm down the situation, and reports are that they have not been as heavy-handed as in past responses to violence. However, there were reports of shootouts between rioters and security forces, as well as alleged fake military personnel shooting people in the area, leaving some dead or injured.

Vice President Jonathan was handed the power to use presidential authority by a federal court last week while President Umaru Yar’Adua recuperates from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Jonathan’s decisive action in Jos is likely to intensify efforts to replace President Yar’Adua, who has been out of the country and largely out of public view for several weeks, after persistent reports of his ill health almost since his election in 2007. Still, the Vice President will be urged to bring accountability to this year’s outbreak of violence, as well as the previous incidents.

The federal government and the Plateau State government have acted to quell violence, but have not conducted complete investigations leading to the prosecution of the leaders of violence in Jos. Investigations such as the panel of inquiry led by Justice Niki Tobi have produced no reports leading to greater accountability for violence-mongers. Neither the national nor state government nor others can agree on what causes the violence.

Plateau State police claim the most recent violence was caused by Muslim youth attacking worshippers around Saint Michael’s Catholic Church, but Muslim leaders said the violence was initiated by attempt to rebuild a mosque destroyed in 2008 in a Christian area.

Some say the state government is to blame this time for the excessive use of force in 2008 and for the discrimination against Jos residents prevented from competing for government job opportunities and academic scholarships as “non-indigenes” because they cannot prove their ties to the original inhabitants of the area. A group of Christian clerics held a news conference to declare that this violence (and previous incidents) was the result of terrorist activities.

Violence in Jos and elsewhere in Nigeria undoubtedly is caused by multiple instigations. Unfortunately, Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang continues to claim that his government has apparently successfully restored and sustained peace. “Our efforts have been made manifest through communal harmony, religious tolerance and maintaining security personnel on our streets in addition to continuous dialogue with various stakeholders so as to consolidate peace and security in the state.”

No doubt the state government has made moves to achieve these ends, but clearly they aren’t working or at least not working in the long run. Neither has the federal government acted to ease continuing tensions in Jos. Merely rebuilding destroyed areas of Jos will not be enough this time. Someone will have to be held to account for instigating or supporting violence that has cost so many lives and destroyed so much property and halted so much commerce. Any other result will leave the door open for future incidents of violence that makes a mockery of Jos as a city of peace.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Diaspora Reaches Out to Haiti

Watching television, listening to radio or reading the Internet or publications report on Haiti relief, you would undoubtedly get the idea that only non-African people and Haitians are helping meet the needs of Haiti’s suffering people. We’ve seen governments such as the United States, China and even Iceland respond to the post-earthquake emergency in Haiti. Celebrities such as George Clooney are organizing benefit concerts, and actors such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie and Sandra Bullock have announced the donation of a million dollars to Haiti relief. Meanwhile, African Diaspora stars other than Haitian immigrant Wyclef Jean have been slow to announce their pledges. That begs the question: what are non-Haitian members of the African Diaspora doing to help Haiti?

In the midst of all the giving channels for Haiti relief, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation decided to devote its current humanitarian donation texting system for Haiti relief (text “Summit” to 90999) not just to join in the effort to help Haiti, but also to demonstrate that the African Diaspora will help itself. Giving money directly through relief organizations such as the Red Cross is certainly a good thing, but who will know the role played by African descendants? Notice of the efforts of the African Diaspora is not only a demonstration to non-African people, but also to members of the African Diaspora that self-help does happen and that we don’t always look to others for our help. Self-help was the main theme of Reverend Sullivan’s life.

The Foundation’s sister organization – Opportunities Industrializations Centers International – is not only collecting money and goods for Haiti, but is investigating other means of being part of the recovery during is visit to Haiti. Through the African Scientific Institute, a team of companies and experts with years of experience in emergency relief are being brought to Haiti’s service. In fact, the Africa Diaspora is playing a much bigger role in Haiti relief than what is generally reported.

Immediately following news of the earthquake in Haiti, His Excellency Jean Ping, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, sent a message of condolence and solidarity to the Haitian government and people and called on all nations, including AU member states, to provide needed assistance to Haiti. South Africa quickly announced a three-phase assistance plan consisting of doctors to join a search and rescue team led by Rescue South Africa, deployment of forensic pathologists to help identify bodies and provision of unspecified humanitarian aid in partnership with South African civil society organizations. Rwanda announced a US$100,000 donation for Haiti relief, while Liberia pledged US$50,000 to the cause.

Senegal made a distinctly unique offer of help. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, describing Haitians as “sons and daughters” of Africa, offered to provide voluntary repatriation to any Haitian who wanted to return to the land of their origin. Depending on the number of Haitians who take Senegal up on this offer, that could mean housing or small pieces of land for a small number of individuals or as much as a region should there be an en masse response. Senegal promises that a region would be in a fertile part of the country and not in a desert or semi-arid region of the country. Trinidad and Tobago’s Emancipation Support Committee has offered to assist in the development and enabling of a process to allow the movement of people from Haiti to Senegal.

Senegal’s generous offer could be the wedge to open up the process of dual citizenship since it acknowledges the heritage of people in the African Diaspora without requiring proof and offers a stake in the country. Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how many other African nations make similar offers to repatriate Haitians.

Meanwhile, some assistance for Haiti from Africa has been on the ground for some time in the form of 16 African countries contributing police or civilian personnel to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti: Benin (32), Burkina Faso (26), Cameroon (8), Central African Republic (7), Chad (3), Côte d’Ivoire (60), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2), Egypt (22), Guinea (55), Madagascar (2), Mali (55), Niger (62), Nigeria (128), Rwanda (14), Senegal (131) and Togo (5). You may notice that some of these countries have their own serious issues with which they are dealing, yet they sent personnel to the stabilization force in Haiti anyway long before this current crisis. Caribbean African Diaspora nations Grenada (3) and Jamaica (5) also have personnel in Haiti as part of that stabilization mission.

So while white celebrities do what they often do to help those in need in Haiti, and Haitians such as Wyclef Jean do what their heart tells them to for their homeland, non-Haitian elements of African Diaspora will do their part to help the people of Haiti now and into the future. It may not all be public, and it may not all have been developed as of yet, but we will eventually see how much members of the African Diaspora care for one another through Haiti’s plight.

Friday, January 15, 2010

African Quakes Go Unnoticed

As rescue and humanitarian aid workers struggle to keep ahead of the rapidly growing need for help because of the earthquake devastation in Haiti, the media has missed coverage of an earthquake that occurred in the southern African nation of Malawi the same day as the one in Haiti. In fact, the January 12th earthquake in Malawi was the third in a series of earthquakes there that began in December of last year. Perhaps the major difference was that in crowded, poverty-stricken Haiti, the destruction was so widespread and the death toll was so high. Fewer than 10 people were killed in Malawi because the earthquake didn’t hit a major population center like the Haitian capital of Port au-Prince.

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake, just like in Haiti, struck Mozambique in February 2006. The damage and number of lives lost was limited because it struck in a rural, lightly-populated area of Mozambique, hundreds of miles away from cities such as Maputo and Beira. Three people were killed and fewer than 30 were injured. Similar low death tolls have been experienced in other African quakes. A 2005 earthquake centered in Lake Tanganyika registered between magnitude 6.3 and 6.8 and affected mostly the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also was felt in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. The death toll was two people.

Actually, there are African countries nearly as poor as Haiti, and the continent generally has the highest growth rate for urbanization in the world. Anyone who has been to Lagos or Luanda can attest to the size of the population and the likely unpreparedness for a disaster like a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Of course, it is Africa’s blessing that the most active zones for earthquakes on the continent do not coincide with major population centers.

The most active areas for seismic activity in Africa are along the Great Rift Valley, running from Ethiopia along the east down through Mozambique. Earthquakes in Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika happen deep below their surface, with less impact on the surrounding land. In addition to the East African Rift Valley area, other sites of intense seismic activity are near the Atlas Mountains in North Africa and in South Africa’s cape region.

African earthquakes may not claim the lives of many people thus far or cause significant property damage, but thousands of people are usually displaced by these quakes. Their plight often goes unnoticed because whatever devastation there is not in a major city where the cameras and reporters are. That could change, however. The seismic hot spot in South Africa is perilously close to Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city and home of its Parliament and 3.5 million residents.

Earthquakes are usually the result of two tectonic plates – sections of the Earth’s surface land mass – that move in relation to one another. The pressure released by the movement of plates not only causes earthquakes, but also volcanic activity and mountain-building. There are several active and dormant volcanoes along the East Africa rift: Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru and Mount Elgon. Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira, part of the chain of eight volcanoes known as the Virunga Mountains on the East Africa rift, are active volcanoes.

In the Rift Valley, the African Plate is believed to be in the process of splitting into new tectonic plates called the Somali Plate and the Nubian Plate. This clashing of tectonic plates likely is related to the series of earthquakes in Malawi in recent weeks and could trigger other seismic activity. There has been study of the tectonic plate activity in the Rift Valley, but the countries along this fault line are no better prepared to deal with disaster now than they were before the study was conducted, probably because the history of earthquakes in Africa does not indicate imminent cause for alarm.

Nevertheless, African countries are as disaster-prone as Haiti, which not only experienced the devastating earthquake this week, but never fully recovered from the series of tropical storms and hurricanes from 2008. Africa does not appear on the lists of the deadliest storms or deadliest earthquakes or deadliest volcanic eruptions. So devoting significant funds to preparing for such disasters does not now seem prudent to African governments, bilateral donors or international lenders. In a poor country, preparing for an unlikely event is far down the list of spending priorities.

Of course, the only known limnic eruptions in the world happened in Cameroon. A limnic eruption, also referred to as a lake overturn, is a rare type of natural disaster in which carbon dioxide (CO2) suddenly erupts from deep lake water, suffocating all life nearby. In 1984, 37 people died of asphyxiation when Lake Manoun experienced a limnic eruption, and in 1986, Lake Nyos erupted, causing the death of more than 1,700 people when more than 80 million cubic meters of CO2 was released.

At this point in time, the world community must focus its attention on providing for the immediate and long-term needs of the suffering people of Haiti. Still, the potential for catastrophe is Africa must not be ignored. The logistics being stretched to the limit in nearby Haiti cannot so easily be replicated for Africa without some prior planning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kenyan Youth Call for Final End to Violence

In the days and weeks following Kenya’s questionable election outcome in December 2007, an estimated 1,300 people were killed in cycles of violence and hundreds of thousand of others were displaced. A peace settlement that produced a Government of National Unity restored a veneer of normalcy to this East African country, but threats and intimidation, rapes and killings have not truly ended.

I spoke with a group of Kenyan youth leaders visiting the United States this week, and they fear a return to mass violence due to unresolved issues from December 2007 and January and February 2008. They echoed the March 2008 report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that identified three “distinct but sometimes concurrent patterns of violence.”

According to the UN report, there was spontaneous violence after the announcement that President Mwai Kibaki had won the election when many observer tallies had challenger Raila Odinga ahead going into the final count in Nairobi. Non-Kikuyu opposition supporters took to the streets in Nairobi slum areas and in the western Kenya town of Kisumu, burning and looting. The next phase was organized attacks on certain ethnic groups, such as the Kikuyu, Kisii and Luhya in central and western Kenya, for their perceived voting patterns. Then Kikuyu gangs retaliated against non-Kikuyus in Naivasha, Nakuru and Mathare.

The concept that the violence was mostly ethnic was disputed in an early 2008 editorial in the Sunday Nation newspaper, which accused the government of practicing “a brutal, inhuman brand of capitalism that encourages a fierce competition for survival, wealth and power.” Moreover, there has been a gender component to the violence that has seen untold numbers of women raped, many of them becoming pregnant against their will. Certainly, rape has been used for ethnic intimidation, but all too much of the violence against Kenyan women has been exacerbated by the election controversy though not initiated by it. Cultural patterns that allow women to be treated violently and without respect are made worse in times of social upheaval when law breaks down.

Still, much of the violence in Kenya was neither spontaneous or retaliatory. It was directed by leaders using violence for their own political ends, who took advantage of unresolved ethnic rifts, economic simmering resentments and the vulnerability of Kenyan women. In October of 2008, the government-sponsored Waki Commission issued a report accusing top-level officials of inciting and funding violence in Kenya. Among those cited as being behind the wave of violence were Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Agriculture Minister William Ruto.

The youth leaders with whom I spoke said there has been an ongoing debate since that report over how to implement accountability for the violence and its impact on Kenya. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, called for an investigation of what he believes to be crimes against humanity in Kenya. The Government of Kenya had promised to deal with the organizers of the violence, but has failed to do so. The Kenya Human Rights Commission has broad public backing for its support of ICC involvement in the investigation and prosecution of those most responsible for organizing the post-election violence in Kenya, but the government refuses to cooperate. It seems as though the leaders of the ruling Party of National Unity and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement have achieved unity in avoiding bringing the violence organizers to justice.

The youth leaders said the refusal to bring the violence organizers to justice could lead to more violence ahead. That also is the position of Ocampo and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, both of whom helped negotiate the February 2008 peace agreement. However, in addition to the six government ministers named in the Waki commission report, there are other powerful Kenyans who have been responsible for helping the political careers of both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga. The two leaders are obviously reluctant to take on the people who helped put them into the positions they now hold.

Nevertheless, the status quo is unacceptable. Witnesses to the violence reportedly have been bribed with money, food or scholarships or intimidated through threats of violence. Some witnesses have been killed. Meanwhile, the government refuses to protect witnesses, and those seen as cooperating with the ICC are considered traitors to their own ethnic and political groups.

What was once East Africa’s oasis of stability amid border wars, civil wars and bouts of genocide in the region has now become a tinder box in which the slightest provocation could set off new rounds of mass violence and unrest. The effort to achieve political reform is frustrated by the paralysis surrounding the investigation of those responsible for the post-election violence, even as corruption grows ever more blatant.

The people of Kenya are being pressured on all sides, and their patience is very close to running out. Kenya’s friends in the international community, such as the United States, must do more than scold Kenya’s leaders. Kenya’s friends must work more diligently to find a solution to this crisis, or the next social explosion in Kenya could produce another Rwanda or Liberia.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Africa May Make Climate Change Progress

In the aftermath of the December climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, pundits are picking over the results for signs of what comes next. The Copenhagen conference produced no binding results as the so-called Copenhagen Accord was not an official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change document. Those UNFCCC signatories present couldn’t come to consensus on what a binding document should require. On that basis, one might assume the conference was a complete failure and that developing countries threatened by the impact of climate change gained nothing. That view would be wrong.

One of the most significant developments from Copenhagen went virtually unnoticed, even by many of those who attended. That development was the unity (by and large) of the African delegates, who issued their own declaration on reacting to climate change. The more specific African positions taken in their declaration made the one agreed to by the conference as a whole look skimpy by comparison.

The Africans called for US$400 billion in short-term finance for climate change mitigation, while the conference position was US$30 billion. The Africans called for 5% of developed country gross national product (an estimated US$2 trillion) in long term financing; the conference position was US$100 billion by 2020. The Africans called for assessed contributions from developed countries, and the conference document referred to innovative financing mechanisms. The Africans called for all developing countries to be recipients of climate change mitigation funding, but the conference called for only “vulnerable” countries to receive funding. The Africans called for a limit in the rise of temperatures to 1.5°C, whereas the conference document referred to 2°C as the limit.

Looking at the disparity, it would be true to say that some of the African positions were non-starters for developing countries. One of the bases for the African stand on climate change in their document was their determination “to deal with the root causes of climate change, including the elimination of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production in the developed countries Parties and the dominant global financial and economic system that gives rise to these.”

There is solid ground for this contention, but turning the global economy around to a more sustainable status would be like turning the Titanic in a field of iceberg – you can hit an obstacle that will sink you if you don’t give yourself enough room and time to make massive changes in economic direction. During a global economic meltdown that has not yet come to an end, developed country governments will be reluctant to do anything that keeps unemployment numbers high, especially in the United States during an election year.

Moreover, the United States, considered the largest historic contributor to climate change, sees China and India as equally culpable for carbon emissions at this point, and like other developed nations, refuses to allow China and India to be considered developing country victims of climate change. If the United States is to be held accountable, then so too should the rising Asian giants.

Nevertheless, the unity of most of the African nations, in the face of developed country pressure and intransigence by China on monitoring of compliance and other issues, was admirable. I said most African nations because two in particular went off the reservation, so to speak. South Africa, which considers itself to have a foot in both the developed and developing worlds, signed onto the Copenhagen Accord. That apparently was not as unexpected, though, as the behavior of the putative leader of the African coalition: Ethiopia.
The Africans released a document entitled “Who does Meles Zenawi really represent?” that lays out the variance of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles with the African position on climate. Meles stood with the Europeans in calling for 10 billion euros in short-term financing, 100 billion euros in long-term financing, no assessed contributions, only vulnerable countries as funding recipients and a 2°C limit on temperature rise. Reportedly, Meles spent much of the time in negotiations with France on climate change positions.

Yet most African governments remain determined to fight for strong, binding results from the negotiations mandated by the Copenhagen Accord. That agreement, nebulous though it is generally, represents the first time developed countries agreed to long-term financing for climate change mitigation.

The African determination is spurred by the rising seas encroaching on coastal capitals, the creeping desert turning arable land into sand and sinking water tables across the continent. Words on paper alone will no longer suffice, and implementation has become a greater issue than ever before. It’s not just a matter of justice and equity for African countries; it’s survival.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Counter-Terrorism's Growing African Impact

The Obama Administration’s counter-terrorism campaign is taking a more activist turn following the foiled Christmas Day airplane bombing, and Africans and Muslims in America, as well as the countries from which they or their families are from will increasingly bear the brunt of those actions.

Recent data shows that 139 American-based Muslims have either joined the radical Muslim jihad against America or have been involved in plans to carry out terrorist activities as part of a group or individually. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shocked the military and the nation with his shooting spree at Fort Hood, which resulted in the death of 13 people and the wounding of 30 others. His case is but one recent example of American-born citizens, naturalized citizens or U.S. residents taking up arms against America in the name of jihad.

In October, I wrote about the young Somali men from Minnesota who joined or tried to join al-Shabaab in Somalia, and several weeks ago, five young Muslims men living in Virginia (some of them of African descent) were arrested in Pakistan for trying to join al-Qaeda in its fight against Western forces in Afghanistan. Adam Gadahn, born in America of Jewish-Catholic parents, became a dedicated jihadist making terror videos for al-Qaeda.

One of President Obama’s first actions after the Christmas Day incident was to list 14 countries whose citizens would undergo enhanced scrutiny in order to enter the United States. Not only their nationals, but anyone flying through these countries, will receive more intense security screening. Five of these countries were in Africa: Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.

Only Nigeria has raised serious objections to being listed thus far, as well they might. Many of us dealing with inviting Nigerians to events in America can attest to the long-standing difficulty with getting visas for our Nigerian invitees. The Foundation for Democracy in Africa had a mother-to-child-transmission HIV-AIDS program turned down by USAID several years ago due to concerns about bringing Nigerian medical personnel into the United States – even for a short period. Any heightened scrutiny on Nigerian visas will make it all but impossible for Nigerians to enter the country no matter what the purpose or how long the duration of their stay.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe protested the U.S. Administration’s listing of Nigeria with countries accused of supporting terrorism. He called it a double standard, comparing what so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to do with what Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” tried to do in 2001. Of course, American Administrations have long believed Nigeria could be treated dismissively whereas the United Kingdom (Reid’s country of origin) could not.
One can expect hundreds of Africans on the continent and Africans and Muslims in America to be added to travel watch lists and no-fly lists. Moreover, 14 African countries are now included on the State Department’s travel warning list: Algeria, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.

Given the presence of jihadists in some of these countries, how long before they are added to the enhanced scrutiny list? For example, Somali pirates have been reported to be buying property in northeastern Kenya lately. In addition to the internal upheaval Kenya is experiencing and the terrorist incidents in Nairobi and Mombasa several years ago, Kenyans (and those who fly through Kenya) could well be considered increased security risks by a U.S. security apparatus fearful of missing the next underwear or shoe bomber.

Conflict countries such as Somalia and Sudan obviously deserve travel warnings, but
Nigeria and Kenya are major trading partners who have been the target of terrorism or have had individuals or groups not supported by the federal government involved in terrorist activities. Further limitations on travel will inhibit commercial enterprises and social relations of the millions of people who travel back and forth between the United States and Nigeria and Kenya regularly. Cote d’Ivoire, despite its recent civil war, remains a major U.S. trading partner in Africa, and inclusion on the extra scrutiny list will make their full recovery more difficult.

If you thought the African Growth and Opportunity Act wasn’t broadly enhancing U.S.-Africa trade within non-extractive industries, wait until you see what more stringent travel limitations will do to what trade exists today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top Africa Stories in 2009

I was asked recently what I thought were the top Africa stories last year. The Somali pirates obviously was the most reported story involving Africa last year, but I thought the most significant stories included a couple that were not well-reported here in America. Here are my top five Africa stories in 2009:

• The land grab in Africa went largely unnoticed in the United States, but agriculture-poor countries such as Libya, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Kuwait and Qatar made deals with African countries (as well as other developing nations) to lease land on which to grow food for their people. The lease of hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in countries such as Madagascar, Mali and Cameroon not only threatened to limit the land on which African farmers could cultivate crops, but also threatened to send tons of food from Africa during a time of food shortages on the continent. This was a factor in Madagascar’s president being forced out last year.

• Although the International Criminal Court attempted to convince African leaders that Africans were not being singled out for prosecution, the current ICC indictments and trials all deal with Africans in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan and Central African Republic. More investigations reportedly will involve Ethiopia, Chad, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Thirty of the court’s 108 member states are African, and whereas the United States, Russia and China refuse to join, African government have been cooperative. That cooperation may wane, however, if they don’t see non-Africans prosecuted by the ICC.

• The September massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Guinea posed a challenge to the international community to take meaningful action. There have been condemnations and arms embargoes against the military junta there, but the situation seems to have been overtaken by events. Guinea’s dwindling stability is unraveling with the attempted assassination of the junta leader by a dissident military leader who may have feared being made the scapegoat for the killings. The election scheduled for this year probably won’t take place on schedule due to internal chaos.

• The election of Barack Obama gave hope to Africans and Africanists that the continent would climb higher on America’s policy agenda. However, the U.S. president has emphasized the accountability of African leaders, snubbing his own father’s Kenyan homeland for their corruption and poor governance. Meanwhile, there is a perception of an overall drift in Africa policy beyond crisis management. The Administration’s decision to cut back on HIV-AIDS funding through PEPFAR is one of the Administration’s decisions that causes worry about U.S. policy for Africa not living up to that of the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

• The wrangle over the role of Africom in U.S. policy grew louder in 2009. What has gone unnoticed is the pushback within the Administration over the Defense Department’s presumption of a lead role on Africa policy. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson made plain that State will play the lead role on Africa policy, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development carrying the load on development work. Military crises in Somalia and Sudan have focused Africom’s activities for the time being. In the long run, though, the Defense Department is far more well-funded than State, which provides the military with great leverage on Africa policy.

These stories will carry over to 2010, of course, but I will have a prediction in a subsequent blog entry on the top five stories going into 2010 beyond these five.

Monday, January 4, 2010

African Elections in the New Decade

As the new decade begins, 15 African countries have elections scheduled for sometime in 2010. All have importance to their citizens as an expression of their right to select their government. However, some of these elections have greater international interest because of past problems or the impact of they may have on ongoing conflicts.

o Ethiopia has general elections scheduled for May, but even though there has been a code of conduct signed among the political parties, there is concern over violence similar to what happened in 2005. After the 2005 elections, the government delayed the release of election results for months, leading to demonstrations in which authorities killed peaceful demonstrators in June and November of that year. A second questionable election will no doubt undermine the acceptance of the regime led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a Western favorite among African leaders.

o The January presidential election in Guinea is as questionable as the fate of the military government led by Moussa Dadis Camara, who was shot in the head by a dissident military faction leader last month. The ruling junta is under investigation by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, and Camara is under pressure from the international community not to run for the presidency whenever the election is held. An acceptable election will be required to prevent Guinea from becoming a truly failed state.

o The presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire has been postponed several times since its original date in 2005. Reasons have ranged from the impact of the civil war to lack of logistical preparation for the election. Most recently, the election was expected to take place in December 2009, but it is now expected in February or early March of this new year. The current government’s mandate ran out long ago, and further delays could undo the March 2007 peace agreement between the government and the rebels, which would endanger the restoration of what has been one of Africa’s economic powerhouses.

o Andry Rajoelina was handed the presidency last March when the military took power after Madagascar President Marc Ravelomanana resigned under pressure. Following the failure of negotiations to prevent all former Malagasy presidents from running in the next elections, Rajoelina is expected to compete in election that had been postponed from the end of 2009 to October 2010. Voters will want assurances that the land grab issues that contributed to Ravelomanana’s fall have been definitively resolved so that Malagasy farmers won’t be replaced by foreign farm workers.

o Somaliland has seen its effort to become internationally recognized as a country apart from the rest of Somalia undermined by political wrangling. Elections originally were slated for August 2008, but instability in the Sanaag and Sool regions caused their version of a Senate (the Guurti) to postpone the election to March 2009 and then April 2009 as the result of a compromise with the political opposition. Another postponement pushed elections to the end of May 2009, and still another postponement led to the extension of the president’s mandate until 27 September 2009, which President Dahir Riyale Kahin declared as the new date for elections. A political crisis was averted with a compromise, but the September 2009 date was postponed anyway. No date was originally set, but then first January 2010 and then April 2010 were floated as possible time periods for the elections. All the chaos seems much like that in the other part of greater Somalia, although without the warfare.

o In Sudan, there are actually two critical elections. Five years after the north-south civil war ended with a peace agreement, Sudanese voters are scheduled to select a president and legislature in April of this year. Despite several postponements of the census, a count estimating 5 million people in Khartoum, 7.5 million in the Darfur region and 8.2 million in south Sudan was announced last February. Although South Sudan leaders had threatened to boycott the election if their population showed up as less than the 11-13 million inhabitants they claim, no such boycott is evident at this point. Elections, therefore, are expected to take place in all areas in which security allows them. In Darfur, a referendum is being held to decide whether West Darfur, North Darfur and South Darfur should be merged into a single autonomous region with its own constitution and government or remain under the control of the federal government as three administrative units. Areas in which elections may be postponed surely will include parts of these three provinces, which would delay the final result of the referendum.

Elections in many parts of Africa this year have great international importance, but the resolution of conflict so hoped for may not take place. Whatever happens – for good or ill – continuing the status quo in these countries is not likely.