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Obama's last chance in Africa

As Obama wraps up his lightening visit to Africa, an assesment of his "achievements" in relation to the strife-torn continent - be it fighting, disease or hunger - by Foreign Policy In Focus in "Obama’s Last Chance in Africa", gives him a poor rating.   Very poor, judged even by what President George Shrub did.

"President Obama needs to unveil a new foreign policy initiative on Africa during his trip to Kenya and Ethiopia or risk going down in history as the worst president for Africa in recent memory.

It would be a shame if the first American president of African descent ranks last in meaningful engagement with Africa when compared to other presidents in the recent past. Although both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came under intense criticism for doing nothing in the face of genocide and war crimes, they were able to recover somewhat by launching signature initiatives during their second terms.

During his first term, Bill Clinton pulled out of Somalia in a spectacular debacle immortalized in the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down and then refused to intervene in Rwanda, standing by as tens of thousands were slain during one of the worst outbursts of fratricidal violence in the 20th century. During his second term, however, Clinton launched a series of health and development initiatives that partially mitigated his failures in Somalia and Rwanda. His Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) helped double U.S. trade with the region and triple U.S. exports estimated at $22 billion in 2012.

George W. Bush was excoriated for ignoring war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur. Yet today he’s remembered on the continent for a health initiative known as PEPFAR, which has been credited with saving thousands of lives and transforming the treatment of AIDS in Africa. The Bush administration also played a significant role in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a brutal 30-year war and led to the relatively peaceful separation of Sudan and South Sudan.

Shrinking Expectations

Africans were elated when Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008. Expectations were understandably high after eight years of the Bush administration’s version of gunboat diplomacy. Obama increased those expectations during his 2009 trip to Ghana and Egypt when he promised to transform U.S. relations with Africa and the Middle East.

The glimmer of hope soon faded into the distance as Obama doubled down on Bush’s policies. Like his predecessor, he saw Africa through a national security prism that focused on terrorism and counterterrorism. He expanded the reach of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and increased the use of drones to assassinate alleged leaders of terrorist organizations. The continued militarization of U.S. foreign policy on the continent is reflected in a 2014 initiative called the Security Governance Initiative for Africa, which proposes combining economic and military policies to create a secure environment for U.S. investors.

This continued emphasis on military solutions was mostly ineffective and counterproductive. The NATO-led invasion of Libya, for instance, destabilized the region, turning Libya and Mali into terrorist havens and strengthening terrorist organizations such as Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In Somalia, drone strikes and support for regional “peacekeeping” forces degraded the capabilities of al-Shabaab within Somalia but has yet to tackle the task of state- and institution-building. The group continues to export terror in East Africa and exacerbate the region’s refugee problem. Meanwhile, Washington has maintained strong bilateral relations with Egypt despite the brutal tactics deployed against pro-democracy activists by the country’s strongman, president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi."




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