Saturday, March 1, 2014

Africa:" God bless America, I mean it ...... And Africa too."

Politico Magazine reports

America’s 25 Most Awkward Allies



Last December, National Security Adviser Susan Rice offered a remarkably candid insight into Barack Obama’s foreign policy. “Let’s be honest,” she said, “at times … we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear.”

All governments do. America has sometimes remarkably unpragmatic when it comes to even recognising regimes it doesn't like, look at the time it took America to recognise China preferring to recognise the then corrupt bankrupt regime in Taiwan as the legitimate " ruler " of China. 

American presidents have long wrestled with this dilemma. During the Cold War, whether it was Dwight Eisenhower overthrowing Iran’s duly elected prime minister or Richard Nixon winking at Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, they often made unsavory moral compromises. Even Jimmy Carter, who said America’s “commitment to human rights must be absolute,” cut deals with dictators.

The reality is nation states deal with who is in charge not who they would like to be in charge, by doing so they retain some ability to influence future outcomes. The alternatives are don't do business or bring about regime change. 

But Obama, an idealist at home, has turned out to be more cold-blooded than most recent presidents about the tough choices to be made in the world, downgrading democracy and human rights accordingly. From Syria to Ukraine, Egypt to Venezuela, this president has shied away from the pay-any-price, bear-any-burden global ambitions of his predecessors, preferring quiet diplomacy to the bully pulpit—when he is engaged at all.

Iraq and Afghanistan have hardly been startling successes.

He has his reasons. A decade of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan soured Americans on George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” taking invasion off the table as a policy tool. And there are broader global forces at work too: the meteoric rise of China, new tools for repressing dissent, the malign effect of high oil prices. Freedom in the world has declined for eight straight years, according to Freedom House—not just under Obama.

There is an element of hypocrisy in this, anyone remember this guy and remember as of November 2013 we had apparently only seen 1% of the information he purportedly has.

" Snowden's "sole motive" for leaking the documents was, in his words, "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them." The disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillancegovernment secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. Two court rulings since the initial leaks have split on the constitutionality of the NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata."

But if the president is troubled by these trends, he shows few signs of it. “We live in a world of imperfect choices,” Obama shrugged last year—and his administration has made many, currying favor with a rogue’s gallery of tyrants and autocrats. Here, Politico Magazine has assembled a list of America’s 25 most awkward friends and allies, from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, Honduras to Uzbekistan—and put together a damning, revelatory collection of reports on the following pages about the “imperfect choices” the United States has made in each. “I will not pretend that some short-term trade offs do not exist,” Rice admitted. Neither will we.

The African nations on the list are.

5. Egypt
Coup or no coup, the United States still showers the Arab world’s most populous state with $1.3 billion in military aid each year—a tradition owing to Egypt’s strategic position astride the Suez Canal and next door to Israel. 

Since haranguing Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to step down “now” in February 2011 amid the inspiring protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Obama administration has largely been reduced to hand-wringing as the men in khaki reclaimed power, killing hundreds of Islamist protesters.

It is hard to believe any government could be worse than the Muslim Brotherhood but current leadership seem to have achieved it. I dislike any government that imprisons journalists and whilst Peter Greste might not be a New Zealander he is about as close to being one as you can get without being one. I don't like generals running governments particularly batshit crazy ones.

" On 29 January, it emerged that the Egyptian authorities are to charge 20 Al Jazeera journalists, including Greste, of falsifying news and having a negative impact on overseas perceptions of the country."

"..falsifying news and having a negative impact on overseas perceptions..." is presumably a charge that the Egyptian military have immunity to prosecution from. Pissing off Australians is a bad idea not least because it pisses off a lot of other people. 


6. Equatorial Guinea
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo—who claims, “There is total freedom of expression, there has never been repression” in his country—is in fact a famously corrupt thug; after toppling his own uncle in 1979 to seize power in Equatorial Guinea, he has amassed a fortune estimated at several hundred million dollars, while more than three-quarters of Equatorial Guineans live in abject squalor and outright repression. Washington has also cashed in on the tiny country’s massive if ill-distributed wealth, with American lobbyists, defense contractors and banks variously taking on Obiang as a client during his more than 34 years of strongman rule. 

In 1995, the United States shuttered its embassy in Malabo after threats to the life of the U.S. ambassador, an outspoken human rights defender. A 1999 State Department report found that Obiang’s sadistic security forces had, among other horrors, rubbed prisoners’ bodies with grease to attract stinging ants. But no matter: In 2003, the United States agreed to reopen the embassy, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later warmly welcomed Obiang to Washington as a “good friend.” Even President Obama has posed for a photo op with the dictator, who once won reelection with 103 percent of the vote in some precincts. Why all the love? Equatorial Guinea’s $9 billion oil and gas bonanza, almost all of it produced by U.S. companies, has made it one of the largest destinations for U.S. investment in Africa, and much of that oil, naturally, finds its way across the Atlantic.

Actually per capita Equatorial Guinea is the wealthiest African nation with a tiny population, it should be a huge success. If I was Obiang I would be more than a little concerned about his good friends across the Atlantic: 

" Equatorial Guinea hit the headlines in 2004 when a plane load of suspected mercenaries was intercepted in Zimbabwe while allegedly on the way to overthrow Obiang. A November 2004 report named Mark Thatcher as a financial backer of the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt organized by Simon Mann. Various accounts also named the United Kingdom's MI6, the United States' CIA, and Spain as having been tacit supporters of the coup attempt. "

I suspect the moment America gets the opportunity to dump a bucket of shit on Obiang they will take it.


11. Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a democracy at least in name and has had Western (and Chinese) companies salivating at its recent double-digit GDP growth. But longtime strongman Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, and his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, have leaned on a sweeping anti-terrorism law to stamp out opposition, imprisoning journalists, activists and politicians who dare speak out against the government. Ethiopia has made itself useful to the United States, though, invading Somalia in 2006 at Washington’s behest and disastrously fueling a rise in terrorism that prompted another intervention in late 2011. Rights groups accused the U.S.-trained and -equipped Ethiopian military of war crimes in stomping out an ethnic rebellion in 2008, but Washington has only hugged Addis Ababa tighter: In 2012, Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest states, was the top sub-Saharan African recipient of U.S. aid—and the seventh country overall—raking in some $707 million.

Ethiopia is definitely a nation to watch and I don't. Fortunately Lesley Warner does watch it.  

14. Rwanda
Gaunt, bespectacled Rwandan President Paul Kagame—a data nerd and ardent tweeter—has long been among the West’s favorite African rulers, hailed for having aggressively attacked poverty since taking power in 2000 and, in the years after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, for having “freed the heart and the mind of his people,” as Bill Clinton once put it. But when he’s not hobnobbing with the Davos set, Kagame is cracking skulls at home, with his regime reportedly responsible for several assassinations of political opponents, journalists and other enemies. The United States, which sends some $200 million to Rwanda annually, cut off military aid to the country last year over its support for the militant M23 rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, but Washington is considering lifting the freeze. Meanwhile, Kagame isn’t going anywhere. Asked last year if he would step down when his term ends in 2017, he said, “Don’t worry about that.” Pressed to explain, he said simply, “No. It is a broad answer to say you don’t need to worry about anything.”


The reason Rwanda according to Politico is of vital importance to America is minerals. Unfortunately Rwanda doesn't have any whilst the DR Congo next door has lots. America has as suggested above cut off aid to Rwanda for aiding its proxy M23 ( now defeated ) which was the principal conduit for the DR Congo minerals to get to Rwanda. In other words the Politico argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny or America has abandoned it perceived interest in Congolese minerals via Rwanda. As for Kagame and his 2017 ambitions who knows. He has said he will only do two terms, Bill Clinton has expressed confidence that, that is the case. There is of course the Russian Tandemocracy model that would provide a solution to his ongoing aspirations.

" Kagame has become delusional, his inability separate his administration from the the nation state that is Rwanda. He assures all that he will not alter the constitution to extend his tenure as Rwanda's President but the reality is that he has created a situation where he will be forced to remain in office. Expect an African version of the Putin / Medvedev tandemocracy . There is very little available in the way of attractive retirement options available for autocratic dictators after they lose power. Ask Gaddafi."


17. Uganda
Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986, and not because of his winning personality: He has brilliantly manipulated the election system to perpetuate his power. Still, Museveni gets a lot of credit in Washington for his anti-poverty work and his fight against HIV/AIDS, not to mention his willingness to back U.S. counterterrorism goals in Somalia. (As for personal probity, not so much: One particularly vivid State Department cable published by WikiLeaks is titled “Uganda’s All-You-Can-Eat Corruption Buffet.”) And just this month Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay law, prompting the White House to undertake a review of its Uganda relations. Museveni is now widely seen as plotting to turn over power to his son, and the United States has kept mum. But hey, at least he’s not Idi Amin.

On the whole Museveni has done a fairly good job at bring back stability to Uganda. There is little in the way of evidence at this point that he is planning to turn over power to anyone his son included. From the man himself in 1986: 
“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.”

The anti-gay law might come back to haunt him after breaking, but as far as I can see unconfirmed at this stage news, regarding his daughter.

" In a startling revelation, the daughter of Ugandan President Yoweri ­Museveni admitted today during a radio talk show in Mbarara, in Western Uganda that she is homosexual, and that she is revealing this fact as a protest to the anti-gay law her father signed only a few days ago."

Whilst I completely support equality, including same sex marriage the American position on equal human rights for gay members of the community is hardly inspiring. Throwing stones on this issue is hypocritical.      

21. Kenya
When Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s independence leader, was elected president in March 2013, the United States faced an exquisite dilemma: how to deal with a popular figure accused of crimes against humanity for his role in whipping up the ethnic violence that rocked Kenya in 2007 and 2008. Obama chose to split the difference, keeping up counterterrorism cooperation but pointedly skipping his father’s homeland on his trip to Africa later that year. The United States, while maintaining its diplomatic presence in Nairobi, the largest in Africa, and making Kenya one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid, has nonetheless backed the International Criminal Court’s case, despite Kenyatta’s complaint that it’s a “toy of declining imperial powers.”




The " Kenya Crisis " of 2007 may yet come back to haunt Kenyatta, effectively the result of fraudulent electoral practices that both the Government and the opposition indulged in.

Keeping things in context it might be worth recalling the Bush V. Gore 2000 result, and what about Texas. 

Texas has been the center of the fight over voting laws after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress must update how it enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is the only state in the last three years where a federal judge has ruled the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities."
22. Djibouti
A one-party state that ranks among the world’s poorest countries, Djibouti is essentially a French satrapy with a drone base, leased to the United States. The country has little to offer other than its strategic location on the Horn of Africa, north of war-torn Somalia and west of al Qaeda-infested Yemen. But for a United States more concerned with its security than with Djiboutian freedoms—and there aren’t many to speak of—that turns out to be good enough.


Not much to add other than I noticed this at All Africa yesterday. 

" Djibouti's Defense Minister Hassan Darar Houffaneh has appealed for more military cooperation between his country and China to reinforce the operational capacity of the Djibouti Armed Forces and contribute to the consolidation of peace and security in the sub-region.

Houffaneh was speaking during a visit of China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan who was visiting Djibouti between Monday and Tuesday."
23. Morocco
When uprisings spread across Arab countries in 2011, Morocco worked hard to convince the world that it was a stable exception. To appease protesters in dozens of cities and towns across the country, King Mohammed VI quickly reworked his constitution—winning much praise from a Washington desperate for an Arab Spring success story, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called Morocco “a model” for the region. As it turned out, the king retained much of his power, which he duly exercises through a Potemkin parliament, police abuses against dissidents, press constraints and his own investment holding company, which has stakes in virtually every sector of the country’s economy. The king’s ardor for reform may have cooled, but the United States has upgraded ties anyway, holding a “strategic dialogue” with Morocco in September 2012 and, a little over a year later, rewarding “King Mo” with a prized White House visit for the first time in nine years.


Not all hold the view that Politico does.

" In the 2011–12 Moroccan protests, thousands of people rallied in Rabat and other cities calling for political reform and a new constitution curbing the powers of the king. In July 2011 the King won a landslide victory in a referendum on a reformed constitution he had proposed to placate the Arab Spring protests.

Despite the deep and understanding reforms made by Mohamed 6, that answered most of the concerns raised by the international community, demonstrators continued to call for deeper reforms. Hundreds took part in a trade union rally in Casablanca in May 2012. Participants accused the government of failing to deliver on reforms."

On the whole I agree with many of the criticisms that Politico makes against America's African allies but there is another question here that it is equally valid, that being how many of America's friends and allies find America to be awkward ?

Hat tip:  Rosebell Kagumire 


Update: There is no truth to the reported interview with President Museveni's daughter. I apologise without reserve to her, her father and her family for repeating it. I am sorry. Hamish.

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