The Herald (Harare)

30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Rhyming and Reasoning With Hillary Clinton

column

Another 2004 Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator John Kerry is taking over. When Barack Obama's second term ends in 2016, it will be interesting to compare and contrast his diplomatic prowess with that of Clinton and the other three women before her - Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice.

We also add Jendayi Fraser, assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Bush administration and Susan Rice who could not succeed Clinton because of the complexities created by Clinton.

Fraser and Rice were on the reigns of power at a critical moment in Zimbabwe's history.

Love or loathe them, it makes no difference.

Like all women movers and shakers across the globe, they have not only shattered the glass ceiling, but they have also stamped their mark of authority and presence in a world that has largely been male-dominated.

They have given hope and inspiration to many girl children who might have thought that it is improper to dream, to acquire status on merit and work for you country. In this post-Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action era, they have been called the Beijing harvest.

On January 20, 2009, I wrote a valedictory piece, "Adios Bush, Zim won't miss you!" But strangely enough, although we did not miss Bush, we did not also forget the fact that with the exception of Albright, the other women's careers took off and blossomed because of Bush's policy on the war on terror.

As the world stage says adios to Clinton, it is an opportunity to review her legacy and what it means to us all. All of us because as United States of America's secretary of State, she represented a country that wants to play the world's policeman.

In fact, Clinton has continually maintained that she came in at a time when the US needed to revive and enforce its waning leadership on the global arena. She also says that it was a mission, which she accomplished very well. But, history is the best judge.

It might sound odd to claim that Africa shaped Clinton's political career, and because of the US's Africa policy she might not get that much of a standing ovation.

That Africa policy has "dented" what some have described as a successful and illustrious career. She descends as that four-year soft diplomacy policy threatens to bring more conflicts to Africa than never experienced before. Maybe, this had always been the original plan.

When she gets back in 2016 as is popularly believed, she has to seriously think of the Africa that she will be dealing with. It will be different. But will it do the United States' bidding at the promise of assistance?

Will militants continue to be used to rule and divide Africa? With this in mind, secretary Clinton should realise that come Monday next week, she will not be unemployed. Africa and its one billion people will be a major pre-occupation for her.

How so you might ask? You might also ask how Africa could shape Clinton's political career considering that before she became First Lady (1992 to 2000), she was a top lawyer and Arkansas governor's wife.

Although she eventually agreed to become secretary of state in president Obama's administration, it is an open secret that in 2008, she campaigned very hard to be the United States' first woman president.

In a changing US the odds were very high for her to clinch that top job, but it was also time to turn the tables, and give Americans their first black president. But, 2016 might be her year.

Despite serving in the Obama administration for four years, there are audible voices claiming that the pair was not as close as the recently projected on CBS's "60 minutes".

But, here is how Africa shaped Clinton's political career -- at the same time, giving her a wake up call. In 1996, a year before her maiden visit to Zimbabwe, she published a book seen by some reviewers as an attempt to boost President Bill Clinton's re-election bid. The book's title, "It takes a village: And other lessons children teach us" is derived from an African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child".

What was it about Africa that inspired her to delve into the innards of its beliefs systems -- those sacrosanct elements about child rearing and building societies, and eventually nations?

During her four-year tenure as secretary of state, did she remember this? Did she live up to the meaning of the proverb in the practical manner of building a global community? When we look at the nature of the globalised world, can Secretary Clinton claim that the global village is working in unison, as a village?

The second aspect of how Africa shaped Clinton's legacy regards her travels.

Analysts have argued that in the absence of a clear-cut policy on Africa by the Obama administration, she became Obama's face of Africa through her frequent visits to continent, and those visits contributed toward the one million-mile journeys around the world that she travelled. A record, which secretaries of state during the Cold War never accomplished.

But, as she leaves the US state department, we ask: travelling more than a million miles and touching down on 112 nations, meeting various leaders, was it a stronger US she was shaping through the soft diplomacy approach, or it was the exact opposite?

The Africa of the past four years is worth analysing through those visits. The last African country Clinton visited in November 2012 was Egypt. Before that, she was in Algeria in October. From July 31 to August 12, it was a whirlwind when she visited Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. Other African states visited in early 2012 were Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Cape Verde.

But, isn't it ironic that more than half these countries are currently in a mess, in terms of peace and security? As she exits how will the conflicts that started while she was at the helm, receiving her full support snowball?

The long and short answer is why is Africa on fire as Secretary Clinton exits the world stage?

The Arab Spring which started in Tunisia at the close of 2010 moved to Egypt and then Libya. While answers are begging on what happened to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and when the people that murdered him will be brought to book, the cumulative effect of what happened in Libya is not only engulfing North and West Africa, but it is also bringing back Nato and its allies, the United States in particular, on the continent. It is also putting back on centre stage a secretary of state who is supposed to be leaving office.

There could be some sigh of relief in Mali as French and "Malian" forces are reported to be recapturing cities and towns under rebel territory. But, didn't the same exuberance greet Mubarak, Gaddafi and Ben Ali's downfalls?

Two years down the line, it was a different ball game altogether. The very people that secretary Clinton "struggled" for are either turning against the United States and/or they are back on the streets demanding the democracy that is not in line with what the West hoped for.

You look at the rubble, the lost lives, the misery and the humanitarian crisis that is so unprecedented in Africa, then you ask yourself --why burn so much fuel when the results are equally incendiary?

The Clinton/Africa factor needs to be well understood. On October 20, 2011 when she got news about Gaddafi's murder while interviewing on one of the TV networks, she responded, "We went, we saw and he died."

Obviously, last week's Senate and congressional hearings could not delve into Gaddafi, but many say that that statement will forever haunt Secretary Clinton.

For someone recuperating from a brain concussion it was tough going to be grilled for more than five hours regarding the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack that resulted in the death of four American citizens, including the ambassador. This is the same Benghazi that had been used by rebels to effect regime change against Gaddafi. And now, it is the same Benghazi that the West is strongly advising its citizens to leave due to the fluid security situation.

Clinton might have skipped Mali on her African tours, but last year alone; she was in Algeria twice. Why is Algeria becoming so fragile, after allowing French troops safe passage into Mali?

Then we have the bizarre that was not a big story for Africa: the attack by bees at the airport in Lilongwe, Malawi after meeting President Joyce Banda. When she got to South Africa, she managed to see former president Nelson Mandela -- a privilege the Clintons have always enjoyed.

But, it was again bizarre that at the end of last year, as former president Nelson Mandela was in hospital, secretary Clinton was also not well, for well over a month.

As we now close this chapter on Hillary Clinton's political life, I touch base on some of the pieces I wrote about her. "Nato's women warmongers" (July 21, 2011) is one of them. The article says in part: "Out of all the Libya Contact Group representatives from 30 states and organisations that met in the Turkish capital Istanbul last Friday, July 15 2011, United States secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed the busiest, with one website describing her itinerary thus: 'Secretary Clinton met with too many dignitaries to name. We see her with several of her counterparts ... and Spain's Trinidad Jimenez ... Dear reader, welcome to the world of elite and influential women who do not need to be in military garb for them to influence global events.

"Welcome also to women whose children are not fighting in brutal wars elsewhere, but who still enjoy the power that comes with directing these wars. These female warmongers are slowly destroying the adage that women are victims of war since they fully back and advocate for the wars currently being fought..."

Clinton personified this crop of the other side of today's woman. As Africa cleans up the mess, we hope that Secretary Clinton's role in all these events is a wake up call for women. Women should be peace builders and peacemakers.

With Egypt, Libya and Mali it is safe to say that her real job is just starting!

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