do the presidential candidates know anything about africa?

Since my last visit to the White House webpage on the current “Africa Policy” not much has changed. Our current administration still lumps all African countries together and creates one broad policy to deal with all African governments. On the site there is a list of President Bush’s “Africa Accomplishments and Initiatives.” They include meeting with 25 African Heads of State, visiting Africa in his first term, providing the greatest level of monetary assistance, and promoting health, development, and peace & stability. Possibly a great list, but it all has to put into context. We need to look at what was discussed with African Heads of State, where he visited in Africa, what restrictions there are on his ‘development’ funding, and what constitutes peace and stability promotion?

As can be imagined, the administration has special agreements with certain strategic African governments. For example on my State Department search for the US policy on Africa, I came across a report titled: Foreign Military Training: Joint Report to Congress, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007. This report, released by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, highlights the amount of training and funds spent on the “State Foreign Policy Objectives – African Region.” Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Dijbouti, Equatorial Guniea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Seychells, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia all have recieved military training from the US government and all have a short brief on their strategic importance to US interests in the report. This is all not to mention the increase in US military presence in Djibouti during the Somali-Ethiopian conflict and the increase of ‘trainings’ in the oil-rich Sahel countries.

What will a future president bring to the table when working with African countries? Will he/she have a policy that deals with Africa as a whole, or will there be separate policies for separate countries? Do the current presidential candidates have what it takes to keep Africa at the forefront? The Council on Foreign Relations has just come out with a compilation of where the current candidates stand on issues in Africa. The issues that top the list are: the genocide in Darfur, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and focusing development aid. I have to say that these candidates probably have the best stances on African issues and are more aware of the issues, but that could be more that they need to be, rather than the fact that they are concerned about Africa and the US’s role on the continent. As CFR notes, Africa is seen now as more of a humanitarian issue, but I would argue that African countries are more than just humanitarian issues. They hold economic potential, diplomatic alliances, and deposits of natural resources for which the entire world is searching.

The responses to policy questions on African issues have no party divide and there is no clear party position on Africa. This is a positive I feel as people are taking stances on what they truly believe as opposed to what they are supposed to think because of party affiliation. Most of the candidates can only say that they have signed or supported a piece of paper, called a bill, to do something in or for Africa. Not many can say they have actually experienced or taken real steps to assist African countries or governments. A few highlights of candidates’ views. Joe Biden supports a 2,500 US force to end the genocide in Darfur – somehow 2,500 troops is going to solve everything. Hillary Clinton is all about education and has a bill before the Senate, she also wants a peacekeeping force for Darfur, supported by either the US or NATO. John Edwards is following Clinton’s lead. Barak Obama has traveled to Africa with Senator Brownback. He supports a no-fly zone in Darfur and is all about divestment from companies operating in Sudan. Bill Richardson has, in my opinion, the best appraoch to African issues. He has personally met with the Sudanese President to push for a peacekeeping force, he calls for a multi-lateral ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa including health, education, and economic assistance. Sam Brownback follows Obama’s lead and also supports US aid going to health initiatives. Rudy Giuliani – don’t even count him as having an approach to Africa – he wants to continue Bush’s skewed programs and has a significant amount invested in companies operating in Sudan. McCain only has broad statements to make and no real ideas. Ron Paul ‘attributes widespread African poverty to “corruption that actually is fostered by Western aid.”’ He’s a keeper (sarcasm). Mitt Romney has praised Bono’s work in Africa, but holds investments in an oil company operating in Sudan. Tom Tancredo co-sponsored a bill on Darfur and sits on the House Sudan Caucus.

If I were a one-issue voter, which I am not, and this were the issue I would be voting (in order): Richardson, Obama, Clinton. Each of these candidates hasn’t said too much in the way of ‘African policy,’ but at least some of them have an idea of what is happening on the continent and plans that have potential to work well. There is so much going on, so much potential, and the US seems to be taking steps backward each day. We need a candidate that recognizes the importance of the world stage beyond the stereotypes and myths of the past. Africa is not a continent without importance, it is not a single entity to deal with, it is not just a humanitarian issue that we can all look away from when it becomes too complicated. We need a candidate that is willing to stare conflict, democracy, disease, corruption, success, and failure directly in the eyes. African countries, governments, peoples we have not forgotten you – let us now elect a leader who will also not forget.

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2 Comments

  1. I once worked on a documentary for an anniversary of the African Development Bank and although never was in Darfur, I was close enough to the Sudan border in Ethiopian and Kenya and have a spot in my heart for the magnificent people of this region. I just knocked out this article when I remembered, (I’m well into my 70s) of U.S. backing the rebels was never being factored in.By the way, I wonder and ask you as someone more conversant on the Sudan than I, whether or not the U.S. is still actively supporting the rebellion{s}, either materially or diplomatically, either openly or secretly. sentimentally, morally and/or spiritually.?Appreciativly in advance should you have time to read my article below and comment,Jay JansonWhile there is great sorrow and indignation over the suffering and loss of life in the Sudan, early U.S. involvement in the war goes unmentioned. Instead, the U.S. leads an effort to condemn China for buying Sudan’s oil. For years the U.S. had paid for war in hopes to arrange for some eventual control of the oil discovered in Darfur, (all well once well reported in the New York Times). The human crises receives modest financial aid from a U.S. government, silently protected from any embarrassment of acknowledging a prime complicity in fomenting war in Darfur.HistoryNewNetwork, George Mason University republished the folloing from:http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_jay_jans_070121_darfur___hand_ringin.htm“Early CIA Involvement in Darfur Has Gone Unreported”http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/34473.html HNN Darfurrepublished as well by Global Research, Operation Sudan of SaveDafur, UK IndyMedia, Ethiopian News, FreeThoughtManifesto, Islamic Forum, Countercurrents, Nicholas D. Kristof, Schema-Root news, jcturner23’s reviews, NewsTrust,News Search Tracker, alfatomega, Newsvine, Digg, Netscape, Boreal Access, Newswire, Tailrank, Congo Music News, Zaire, mideastyouth.com, Darfur News from Google, ibrattleboro.com and sundry other sites from the original in OpEdNews, January 23, 2007 http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_jay_jans_070121_darfur___hand_ringin.htmThere has been a glaring omission in the U.S. media presentation of the Darfur tragedy. The compassion demonstrated, mostly in words, until recently, has not been accompanied by a recognition of U.S. complicity, or at least involvement, in the war which has led to the enormous suffering and loss of life that has been taking place in Darfur for many years.In 1978 oil was discovered in Southern Sudan. Rebellious war began five years later and was led by John Garang, who had taken military training at infamous Fort Benning, Georgia. “The US government decided, in 1996, to send nearly $20 million of military equipment through the ‘front-line’ states of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda to help the Sudanese opposition overthrow the Khartoum regime.” [Federation of American Scientists fas.org]Between 1983 and the peace agreement signed in January 2005, Sudan’s civil war took nearly two million lives and left millions more displaced. Garang became a First Vice President of Sudan as part of the peace agreement in 2005. From 1983, “war and famine-related effects resulted in more than 4 million people displaced and, according to rebel estimates, more than 2 million deaths over a period of two decades.”[CIA Fact Book -entry Sudan]The BBC obituary of John Garang, who died in a plane crash shortly afterward, describes him as having “varied from Marxism to drawing support from Christian fundamentalists in the US.” “There was always confusion on central issues such as whether the Sudan People’s Liberation Army was fighting for independence for southern Sudan or merely more autonomy. Friends and foes alike found the SPLA’s human rights record in southern Sudan and Mr Garang’s style of governance disturbing.” Gill Lusk – deputy editor of Africa Confidential and a Sudan specialist who interviewed the ex-guerrilla leader several times over the years was quoted by BBC, “John Garang did not tolerate dissent and anyone who disagreed with him was either imprisoned or killed.” CIA use of tough guys like Garang in Sudan, Savimbi in Angola, Mobutu in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), had been reported, even in mass media, though certainly not featured or criticized, but presently, this is of course buried away from public awareness and meant to be forgotten, as commercial media focuses on presenting the U.S. wars of today in a heroic light. It has traditionally been the chore of progressive, alternate and independent journalism to see that their deathly deeds supported by U.S. citizens tax dollars are not forgotten, ultimately not accepted and past Congresses and Presidents held responsible, even in retrospect, when not in real time.Oil and business interests remain paramount and although Sudan is on the U.S. Government’s state sponsors of terrorism list, the United States alternately praises its cooperation in tracking suspect individuals or scolds about the Janjaweed in Darfur. National Public Radio on May 2, 2005 had Los Angeles Times writer Ken Silverstein talk about his article “highlighting strong ties between the U.S. and Sudanese intelligence services, despite the Bush administration’s criticism of human-rights violation in the Sudan.” Title was “Sudan, CIA Forge Close Ties, Despite Rights Abuses.” Nicholas Kristof, of The New York Times, won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for “his having alerted this nation and the world to these massive crimes against humanity. He made six dangerous trips to Darfur to report names and faces of victims of the genocide for which President Bush had long before indicted the government of Sudan to the world’s indifference.” [Reuters] But last November saw the opening of a new U.S. consulate in Juba the capital of the Southern region. (Maybe consider this an example of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” especially where oil is involved.)The point is there is human suffering at mammoth level proportions. Humanitarian activists are trying to pry open the purse strings of an administration and congress willing to spend billions upon billions to get people killed and keep them in their place, namely, at our feet. Reminding Congress of what needs to be atoned for because of past policies of supporting war and human destruction could eventually make present policies of war intolerable. Americans are presently not exactly conscious stricken about dead and maimed Iraqis and Afghans, for commercial media always keeps of most of the human particulars of war crimes modestly out of sight, dramatizing much lesser losses and suffering of American military personal abroad. Darfur made the headlines again because a governor of presidential timber was building up his foreign policy credentials. Meanwhile we are going to continue to see newsreels of our mass media depressing us with scenes of starving children, basically as testimony of how evil another Islamic nation’s government is, so we can feel good – and want to purchase the products needing the advertising – which pays for the entertainment/news programs – which keep viewers in the dark about THEIR contribution to the suffering brought upon those people all the way over there in Africa.Just try to put 4 and 2 million of anything into perspective. We are talking about an equivalent to the sets of eyes of half the population of Manhattan. Imagine one of us, whether a precious child ,a handsome man, a beautiful women, – to the tune of, (dirge of), one times four million, half of us dead. Sorry! It has no impact right? We realize that, remembering the words of Joseph Stalin (of all people), “One man’s death is a tragedy, a thousand, is a statistic.” There is absolutely no way we can whip up enough anguish to match a total of four million displaced and two million dead Sudanese, unless we could be of a mind and heart with Martin Luther King dealing with three million dead Vietnamese, also as in this case, over on the other side of the world, far from our living rooms – “So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.” (MLK, 1967, “Beyond Vietnam”) This writer remembers reading newspapers articles about the U.S. backing the Southern Sudan rebellion way back then. If we had supported a side that wound up winning, we would be bragging about our having supported ‘freedom fighters’. But we just threw a lot of money and outdated weapons at a John Garang in the Sudan, as we did with Jonas Savimbi in Angola, to the ultimate destruction of millions of people, and they LOST! Like we did in Vietnam, and half-way lost in Korea, and now are mid-way losing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jesus! Calculating the chances of an investment in human life and money coming to a fruition of sorts – that is certainly the job of any intelligence gathering agency! What we have had is an Agency using its gathered intelligence to do unintelligent things because, as our Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote more than a hundred and twenty-five years ago, “Things are in the saddle and ride herd over men” (trampling others under foot, we might add)The European Union is under pressure from inside to assure that a United Nations force of 20,000 men will be sent to Darfur as required by Security Council resolution 1706, and to threaten sanctions in order to halt a war the U.S. was originally interested to see begun. The U.N. Security Council will receive a list from the International Criminal Court of those Sudanese officials who could be charged with war crimes. The list is expected include some members of rebel organizations among Sudanese government officials and Janjaweed militias. There assuredly will be no names on the list of non-Sudanese officials of nations which were known to have involved themselves in this Sudanese civil war contrary to accepted provisions and obligations of U.N. membership. But we can know that the responsibility for war, slaughter, rape and theft in Sudan extends beyond the leaders of those murderously wielding guns and swords. It will be good if outside influence will now be focused on peace, but citizens best be vigilant of their nation’s foreign policy intentions. The world has heard many protestations that oil is not a reason for war, but blood and oil has been known to mix.————————– end of article——————-That now the U.S. use its economic power humanely, to promote peace in the Sudan and give generously to help war victims.———————————————————————————–Published on 5 Jul 2004 by Zaman Daily. Archived on 5 Jul 2004.Oil Underlies Darfur Tragedyby Cumali OnalThe fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region, which is being reported in the world press as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and a ‘humanitarian crisis’, reportedly stems from attempts to gain control over the oil resources in the region, claim Arab sources.These Arab sources find it interesting that such skirmishes occurred when a peace agreement that would have brought an end to 21 years of north-south conflict was about to be signed. The sources point out that oil fields have recently been discovered in Darfur.So far at least 10,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the fighting between Arab residents and locals in Darfur, while over a million have fled their homes.The Sudanese government claims that there is a serious humanitarian crisis in the region. However, the Khartoum administration adds that some countries and groups, primarily Western humanitarian aid foundations and media institutions, are playing up the incidents in an attempt to make Sudan appear unstable and in need of foreign intervention.The Sudanese government announced yesterday that the African Union would meet in Ethiopia at the end of the month to find a peaceful resolution to the Darfur crisis. Sudan agreed to send more military forces to the region after the visits of US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Khartoum also declared that it would attempt to disarm the Janjaweed since they are believed to be behind the attacks.In Sudan, Africa’s largest country with more than 2.5 million square meters of land, more than 30 armed groups fight against the central administration.Khartoum reached an agreement with one of these groups, Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA), to end the 21-year long conflict that has caused the deaths of over 2 million people. Issues such as how the authority will be shared and the region’s autonomy are being discussed in the peace negotiations taking place in Kenya.Nearly all of the groups fighting against the Sudanese government are supported by neighboring countries; however, there are reports that some of the groups are supported by Israel, European countries, and the US.It is claimed that the American administration has given at least 20 million dollars worth of aid to the SPLA and other armed groups allied with this organization. Arab sources point to the involvement of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) in the Darfur incidents as the primary piece of evidence that the struggle is based on oil. SLA has close relations with SPLA, led by John Garang, and it is demanding oil form the government. Arab sources indicate that an oil agreement between the Sudanese government and SPLA could make the armed militias stronger.According to the agreement, the SPLA has a stake in a large portion of the oil income from the south. It is claimed that significant amount of that money is probably dispersed to the other armed groups. Experts state that a 3 billion dollar project sponsored by Western countries to open the oil in the region to the world markets through the Mombassa Port of Kenya would speed Sudan’s disintegration.Another group involved in the Darfur clashes, the Justice and Equality Movement, is known for its closeness to Hasan Turabi, who is the ideologist of the regime in Sudan.According to the agreement reached between the SPLA and the government last year, the southern part of the country will be ruled by an autonomous structure and a referendum will be held for independence. These tribes, most of them believing in local religions, will most likely clash with each other if the region were to become independent. However, since some of these tribes are Christians, Western countries -primarily the US- might intervene in the region in order to provide stability.It is stated that all of the neighboring countries except Egypt have direct relations with the armed groups in Sudan.Chad, which has close relations with the armed groups in Darfur, favors Sudan’s territorial integrity. This is an abrupt shift from the Chad’s previous policy.It is known that Ethiopia is one of the most active countries in the 21-year long north-south war. Reportedly, it had role in conveying the aid from Israel and the US to SPLA. It also reportedly provided logistical support to these groups.Eritrea is suspected of having supported the Beja separatist movements in the northeastern part of Sudan.Uganda, which claims that Khartoum supports the God’s Resistance Army that fights against the Ugandan administration, is reportedly among the countries that help the opposition groups in Sudan.Darfur Constitutes Backbone of Sudanese ArmyThere are more than 80 ethnic/religious groups among the 7 million inhabitants of Darfur. Some groups have kin relationships with neighboring country, Chad.Chad President Idris Deby is a member of the Zaghawa tribe in Darfur. It is stated that three presidents, who held power in Chad, directed their fights from Darfur.People in Darfur, many of whom are Muslim, also constitute 50 percent of Sudanese army. However, these people are generally prevented from promoting to higher ranks.

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