12 August 2009

Africa-U.S. Relations - Retrospects and Prospects


Abuja — In the past one week, the United States of America's Secretary of State, (Foreign Minister), Mrs. Hillary Clinton has been on African tour, which would bring her to Nigeria today.

Earlier in July, President Barack Obama, had visited Ghana and made an important speech that resonated in most of Africa as a defining moment for US-African relations. Besides, the preeminence in foreign policy priority, the administration has given to Africa by the President visit and a follow up by the Secretary of State, it was generally considered in Africa, a home-coming.

President Obama earlier nomination as a presidential candidate and subsequent convincing victory have actually electrified Africa to a point of frenzy given that United States was some few decades ago, a thoroughly segregated society with blacks or even half whites viewed with condescending contempt.

Breaking the race ceiling and mounting the peak of America's formal institutional power was for most African, both in diasporas and in the continent, a critical turning point and was celebrated as so.

Not minding that President Obama is inhibited by several institutional constraints to follow his own political instincts, most of Africa continues to view Obama presidency as a particularly benevolent intervention in US/African relation.

The popular hysteria about the prospects of U.S/African relation in the context of Mr. Obama's presidency has induced a continent-wide amnesia on the historic role of Washington in orchestrating many African travails, whose patent and remarkable consequences register clearly in the trajectory of most Africa's contemporary travails.

In the context of cold war rivalry and super power competition, Washington took leading roles in undermining African democratic project.

Defining any African independent policy as soviet influenced or rather Moscow-directed, United States helped set the stage for the fratricidal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, former Zaire.

Classified document has since revealed the CIA station officer in the Central African region was complicit, in the kidnap of the first prime minister of independent Congo, Patrice Lumumba and his delivery to the secessionist leader of the Katanga province, Mr. Moise Tsombe, who ordered the brutal murder of Lumumba, with the CIA operatives helping to dissolve Lumumba's body in a raw acid, to ensure the body was never discovered.

The United States went ahead to patronize the former colonel, Mr. Mobutu Sese Seko, whom it has installed in profound contempt to the democratic choice of the Congolese. Congo, renamed Zaire by Mobutu was to endure the most ruthless and kleptocratic dictatorship for more than four decades, before the rebellion that oust the dictator in the early 90s.

Mrs. Clinton was in the Congo yesterday, without any remorse or even contrite on the role of Washington in bringing Congo to its fate of unending wars and conflicts, rather lectured them on human rights.

It may not be forward looking to call the current occupiers of Washington in a different historical context to atone for the tragic excesses of their predecessors in Africa but to gloss over or pretend that it never happen, is not how to build a new relation based in respect.

Before the visit to Congo, Mrs. Clinton went to Angola, Africa's most recent oil bride. Not also minding that for more than three decades, the United States kept funneling money and weapons to Mr. Jonas Savimbi's UNITA army used both to destabilize the region, and a conduit for the apartheid South Africa army, the secretary of state urged consolidation of the electoral process.

South Africa where Mrs. Clinton also called at the weekend was the grand theater of America's duplicitous diplomacy. While Washington made a stance of 'constructive engagement' to the universally abhorred apartheid regime, it generously provided the money and bullets, with which the racist regime pummeled the African nationalist movements in the country and destabilize the entire sub-region. Washington even maintained the profile of the South Africa's nationalist icon, Mr. Nelson Mandela, as a terrorist until recently.

However, while the U.S involvement in Africa for the most of the past fifty years have been unsavoury, having been implicated in coup detats, assassinations, destabilization, Washington has even a more ample opportunity to redeem its record and advance a mutually beneficial relation with Africa.

For a start, U.S subtle or tacit demonization of China's involvement in Africa especially in the area, of the desperately needed infrastructure is unnecessary and self-serving. It appears Washington believes that whatever she and her allies cannot give to Africa seriously, no one should dare give it. This is plainly cold war mentality and should Washington takes its new engagement in Africa, must repudiate it. It makes no sense to put pressure on African states to repudiate their sensitivities to ethnic politics and separatist threats, it portend, by recognizing the independence of Kosovo from the sovereign state of Serbia, proclaimed by ethnic Albanian separatists.

Even as United States pushes for critical democratic benchmarks in Africa, like a transparent electoral process, vibrant civil society, it does not seem to appreciate that a mechanical approach to political participation has profound implication for social exclusion and accounts, for the durable conflicts and crises in Africa.

However, as Africa opens her arms to the United States of America in a new historic era of western triumphant liberalism, would the new rhetoric of Washington, about partnership make any sense, while it defines most compelling issues only in terms of its values and national interests.

From terrorism, political and economic reforms, to terms as international community, would the United States and its allies accept the critical inputs of all stakeholders in the redefining of these issues, to accommodate the component of values, reflecting multilateral engagements and concerns.

The economic issues in Africa reaches down than American engagement can resolve.

Two decades of neo-liberal economic reform encouraged by the United States has brought enormous pressure on the majority of the African people, leaving in its wake a considerable social exclusion that rendered any meaningful political participation impossible or at best a hollow ritual as seen in most Africa.

For any meaningful engagement in Africa that would give substance to U.S concern for political stability, less arm-twisting in economic policy, derived from the ideology of liberalism and market fundamentalism must be embraced by Washington.

As Mrs. Clinton, talks with the Nigeria's authorities today, she would found them unconvincing on most policy issues and even very incompetent on rudimentary matters of state affairs. They, as most of their contemporaries on the continent are products of misused and abused state power.

The state in Nigeria as in most of Africa does not express itself in the service or security of the people, but in its raw fangs, with which it threaten violence to the people, the affluence derived from corruption of its managers, incompetence of its bureaucracy and the indifference and timid fear, with which the masses view the state.

A state like these, have served the imperialist interest of United States in the past, and with US imperialism still cascading globally to feed its domestic affluence, it is doubtful if Washington is bringing any new message to Africa, inspite of Obama's grand standing.

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