Vol VII, Issue 2 (Spring 2000): US Foreign Policy and Africa
Peter K. LeMaire
Bernice A. LeMaire
For more information
Editorial- US Foreign Policy and Africa
Excerpts from Robert Mugabe's Speech on the Land Issue, April 2000
Haines Brown-Africa Online
Ancient Mapungubwe (Extract from Land and Rural Digest, South Africa)
In Africa Update, volume v, issue 3,
Summer 1998, Professor Obioma Iheduru of Fort Valley State University
provided a brilliant discussion of US Foreign Policy and Democracy
in the 1990's. In the present issue of the Newsletter, Dr. Joseph
Opala of James Madison University, Virginia explores the foreign policy
initiatives of the Clinton administration.
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali,
A Thousand Triumphs, a Million Dead
By Dr. Joseph Opala
James Madison University, Virginia
(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)
President Clinton recently proclaimed his Africa policy a great success. Speaking to the National Summit on Africa in Washington on February 17, 2000, he said his policy has resulted in "thousands of triumphs." His message to a largely black audience was clear a vote for Al Gore will sustain this successful policy for years to come.
But Clinton's Africa policy is, ironically, not just bad, but the worst ever, and his high profile Africa tour in 1998 was mere window dressing. Using his gift for political spin, Clinton has managed to project an image of sincere concern for Africa, while actually inflicting terrible damage on both Africa and US interests in Africa.
Every president has difficulty crafting a responsible Africa policy. Our traditional stance of America as a force for good in the world runs headlong in that continent into more than fifty nations, many wracked by instability and endemic violence.
The US cannot possibly intervene in every African crisis, and after President Bush's well meaning but disastrous venture in Somalia in 1992, direct US intervention is now more problematic than ever. Sadly, standing by while thousands are murdered is a built-in hazard of US Africa policy, and charges of hypocrisy are never far away.
But President Clinton has gone far beyond the usual hypocrisy. Although he proclaimed a new era of US engagement in Africa, his policy in too many cases has amounted to mere public relations gimmickry designed to create the appearance of responsible action while actually doing nothing of substance.
Worse yet, Clinton's spin-doctoring cost lives. By making public relations his priority goal in two cases of mass murder, he crossed a deadly line the line between standing by while mass murderers do their work, and giving actual aid and support to those very murderers. He took US Africa policy to a terrible place it had never been before.
Clinton Crossed the Line First in Rwanda
In 1994, he deliberately suppressed reports of genocide in that country, not wanting to deal with that volatile issue in an election year. Moreover, his hiding of the facts contributed markedly to the international community's slow response to the crisis and, ultimately, to the deaths of more than 800,000 people. Clinton's strategy in Rwanda was revealed in chilling detail in the PBS documentary, "The Triumph of Evil."
Then, four years later, when a suitably contrite Bill Clinton spoke in Rwanda to the ragged survivors of genocide, he actually claimed not to have grasped the full horror of the situation in their country until it was too late. To children who had only recently seen their parents slaughtered before their very eyes, he apologized, vowing the US would never again stand by while mass murder rages in Africa.
But Clinton was already crossing the line again, this time in Sierra Leone.
The government of that West African nation disintegrated in the early 1990s, and in the resulting political vacuum bandits, calling themselves the "Revolutionary United Front," launched a terror campaign throughout the country. The RUF "rebels," as they are called,
inflicted horrific atrocities on thousands of women, children, and the rural poor. They burned hundreds of towns and villages and destroyed countless schools and clinics.
Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader, is a criminal psychopath with no political agenda, and his cold-blooded strategy for seizing power was worthy of a Steven King novel. Knowing the US is unwilling to back its idealistic words with actions where Africans are concerned, Sankoh deliberately focused western media attention on his own crimes by doing the worst things imaginable to the most defenseless people. With enough murder, rape, and mutilation, he was convinced that the US, embarrassed by its own failure to act, would eventually put the killers in power as the cheapest way to stop the killing.
Fortunately, though, Sierra Leone's neighbors came to the rescue. ECOWAS, the 16-nation West African trade organization, established a multi-national peacekeeping force, called ECOMOG. The African peacekeepers launched an offensive against Sankoh's rebels, but were soon taking heavy casualties and spending an estimated $1 million per day. Developing nations that could ill afford such costs pleaded for trucks, fuel, radios, and medicines, not US troops or weapons. But Clinton gave the African peace keepers only lip-service support and the barest minimum of material assistance a mere $4 million in 1998, one percent of what the Africans, themselves, were spending.
Mid-level officials at the US State and Defense Departments, though, were sending urgent messages to their superiors calling for stronger US support for ECOMOG. Their concerns were not for Africa, but the US. Sankoh has proven ties to international crime syndicates, and if he came to power, he would use Sierra Leone as a base for money laundering and drug smuggling to the US and Western Europe. A Sankoh government, they warned, would amount to a Noriega-style criminal regime on West Africa's Atlantic coast.
Then, in January 1999, Sankoh's rebels and rogue army units broke through the defenses around Sierra Leone's capital city. ECOMOG peacekeepers repelled them, but not before the rebels killed 6,000 civilians, burning whole families alive in their homes. They kidnapped hundreds of young girls for use as sexual slaves, and amputated the hands and feet of children as young as 18 months. Given the intense media coverage of these events in the capital city, though, Clinton could no longer hide his unconscionably small support for ECOMOG, and something had to be done. The same month he spent billions to save innocent lives in Kosovo, Clinton bought a cheap peace in Sierra Leone. Just as the RUF's lunatic leader predicted, the US put the killers in power to stop the killing.
US Ambassador Joseph Melrose openly pressured President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to accept Sankoh into his cabinet and to grant the RUF killers a blanket amnesty. Jesse Jackson, as Clinton's envoy to Africa, traveled to Sierra Leone, as well, to lend his personal support to the so-called "peace agreement" signed in July. Shocked that Jackson, a hero to most Africans, would support such destructive measures, Sierra Leonean reporters asked him a poignant question: "Would you put the Ku Klux Klan in the US cabinet to prevent it from killing people in America?" Given US prestige and Sierra Leone's total dependence on outside aid, neither the president nor his people felt they had a choice. A local newspaper headline read: "America Kidnaps Kabbah."
America's betrayal shocked Sierra Leoneans all the more as the US had only recently backed their country's transition to democracy. Energized by strong US support for elections in 1996, thousands of citizens battled soldiers in the streets to protect their ballot boxes, and when the elections succeeded, cheering crowds gathered spontaneously around the US Embassy to express their thanks. Then, less than 3 years later, the US demanded that the very democratic government it helped usher into power in the first place accept mass murderers into its cabinet in clear violation of its constitution.
Thus, Bill Clinton took US Africa policy to the lowest level ever. To avoid taking positive action in Sierra Leone, he betrayed America's democratic principles and rewarded mass murderers with political power. By doing so, he also sent a message to terrorist groups all across Africa if you can kill enough people, if you can make it ugly enough, and if you can get it on CNN, the US will put you in power. The implications for a continent wracked by political instability are almost too frightening to consider. Mr. Clinton's Africa policy is a torch tossed casually into a barrel of gasoline.
Not surprisingly, the State Department has made strenuous efforts to hide its disgraceful actions in Sierra Leone. Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and her deputy, Howard Jeter, have made false statements repeatedly to Congress and the media. They claim the US supported ECOMOG "thoroughly," and that far from pressuring President Kabbah, the US merely "facilitated," so that Sierra Leoneans could do what they, themselves, want. These deliberate lies show that the president's advisors know their actions are indefensible. Far from a "thousand triumphs," Clinton's Africa policy is an embarrassment even to those who have helped shape and implement it.
Bill Clinton's disastrous policy came about just as Africa's relations with the outside world were changing dramatically. CNN and other media outlets are now providing unprecedented day-by-day Africa coverage. With shocking images appearing on their TV screens, Americans can no longer ignore atrocities in countries that, until recently, most of us had "never heard of." The images demand action, and if most Americans do not favor direct military intervention, they still expect their government to "do something."
Clinton responded to these new expectations, but failed to grasp the moral implications of a stronger US engagement with Africa. Once the US accepts responsibility for helping in situations of mass murder, its actions must be substantive. You cannot hide genocide to avoid responding to it. You cannot promise to stop genocide next time, and not mean it. You cannot put mass murderers in power to buy their cooperation. Clinton's policy risks far more than just charges of hypocrisy. It encourages the most violent elements in Africa, makes the US complicit in their crimes, and threatens our own national security.
Although Clinton talks of leading America into the 21st century, that is precisely what he failed to do with his Africa policy. A policy of vision would mean helping Africans defend themselves by building regional security structures like those the US has fostered successfully in so many other parts of the world. Security structures would greatly enhance current western efforts to improve security, trade, and economic development in Africa. But without them, any other type of security assistance is, at best, a stopgap measure, and economic assistance is, at the very least, wasteful and unsustainable.
But regional security structures would also put the US on the right track in moral terms. If, for instance, a "West African Treaty organization" proposed a peacekeeping mission in a member state, and the US approved, it could provide logistical support at relatively little cost. If the US did not approve, though, it could still negotiate terms with "WATO" under which it could offer American support. The important thing is that something could be done at an acceptable cost. Good policy means not just promising to do the right thing, but having the practical means to do it when the occasion arises.
In recent years, the best opportunity to create that practical means was when ECOWAS, the West African trade group, established its military wing. African governments were trying, with ECOMOG, to build a security structure of their own. But rather than provide it with meaningful assistance so that Africans could succeed at tackling their own problems, Clinton withheld resources until ECOMOG withered for lack of basic logistical support, then branded it a military failure and abandoned it. He refused to help Africans perfect a structure they, them selves, had conceived, a structure in the obvious mutual interest of both Africa and the US. This is foreign policy at its worst.
Clinton's alternative to ECOMOG is a UN peacekeeping force, and troops from as far away as India are now charged with enforcing Sierra Leone's so-called "peace agreement." But Sankoh, now holding the rank of vice president, reneged on his promise to disarm, and his rebels quickly relieved hundreds of UN soldiers of their guns and vehicles, a feat they never achieved against ECOMOG. Whether the UN force ultimately succeeds, or not, it will cost the US much more than it would have to equip ECOMOG in the first place. And unlike ECOMOG, the UN force, even if victorious, will leave no lasting precedent for successful peacekeeping organized by Africans themselves.
Americans are right to be wary of direct US military intervention in Africa, but the US has a stake, nonetheless, in that continent's future. We cannot allow Africa to become a lawless no man's land where criminal regimes hold sway under the camouflage of "national sovereignty." But by helping African governments build their own capacity for regional peacekeeping, we can promote long-term progress on that continent while enhancing our own security at the same time. With its limitless natural resources, a secure and prosperous Africa will inevitably play a vital role in America's future.
Al Gore recently backed away from Clinton's promise never again to stand by while mass murder rages in Africa, arguing in a recent PBS interview that the US must examine each case individually. This is straight talk compared to Clinton. But Mr. Gore is wrong if he thinks the US can sustain a policy of choosing which African children we save, and which we do not, on the basis of "US national interests" narrowly defined. Those days are over, or soon will be, and anyone who doubts that underestimates two things the rising power of global TV news and the moral character of the American people.
But Clinton's public relations gimmickry is also headed for the junk heap. By the end of this decade, Americans will be as well informed about Africa as any other part of the world. US citizens, especially African Americans, are already visiting Africa at an ever-increasing pace. Africans, themselves, including many professionals, are also migrating to the US in large numbers. In these circumstances, the US cannot maintain for very long a strong public commitment to peace and security in Africa, coupled with a private determination to avoid acting on that commitment no matter what the moral cost, no matter what it takes to hide US duplicity. Those days are also numbered.
Sooner or later, a US president will pay a heavy price for his Africa policy. When the American people finally catch on to what their government is doing in Africa in their name, the heaviest blame will not fall on previous leaders, not even on Clinton, but on the president currently in office. Clinton's successor would, therefore, be wise to make reform of US Africa policy a priority issue. Given the many lives at stake, and our own country's reputation abroad, we must hope he does. But to achieve that goal, he will need some virtues all too rare in Washington political vision and moral courage.
Looking back, we can see that Clinton's misuse of Jesse Jackson was among his worst mistakes. A man respected by millions in both the US and Africa was used as a mere prop to conceal a policy of image over substance. Jackson is no Africa expert, as the record shows, but he is an expert at something else moral suasion. Convincing the US public, African leaders, and our Western allies to support regional security structures in Africa would be an enormous task, but if anyone can do it, it is Jesse Jackson.
The next president could find no better partner for crafting a respectable Africa policy a policy he would not have to conceal at all costs from the American people.
Joseph Opala is an American anthropologist who lived in Sierra Leone for 23 years. He lectured at Sierra Leone's Fourah Bay College, and was co-founder of the Campaign for Good Governance, Sierra Leone's most successful pro-democracy civil society group.
US Foreign Policy and Africa
Related site previously published in Africa Update:
Vol. V, issue 3 (Summer 1998). Professor Obioma Iheduru, "U.S. Policy and Democracy in Post-Cold War Africa"
as broadcast on Zimbabwean radio and television
I remind you today that our independence followed over 90 years of oppressive settler colonial rule imposed on us in 1890 when the British occupied our country. Our independence followed years of bitter protracted struggle. Ask yourselves how many had to die for this great day to come...
The bitterness of our colonial experience could have so easily driven us into a pogrom against the white community, most of whom diligently served an sustained UDI [Universal Declaration of Independence the period of white rule].
Yet our high level of political conscious ness soared above bitterness and has long made us see the Rhodesian problem as inhering in a system of racial injustice and not in the colour of the skin of those who manned that system.
Except of course for those who did not know our politics, it came as no surprise that humanism and magnanimity prevailed by way of the policy of national reconciliation which I declared in 1980. That policy proved a wand of peace at home and a priceless export in the region as it found a replay in Namibia and South Africa.
While all within the white community welcomed and benefited from the policy, not all felt the compulsion to reciprocate this gesture of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace across the colour bar. All the same that policy gave our society the multi-racial character for which Zimbabwe has been applauded.
What we reject is the persistence of vestigial attitudes from the Rhodesian yesteryears, attitudes of a master race, master colour, master owner and master employer. Our whole struggle was a rejection of such imperious attitudes and claims to privilege...
'Vexed' Issue of Land
The issue of land remains both emotive and vexed. It has always been so and many will recall that negotiations for independence almost got bogged down over this matter.
Between 1980 and 1995 we were able
to resettle 71,000 families on about 3.3m hectares excised from the
commercial sector. This was a far cry from the 162,000 families we
had hoped to settle on 8 million hectares of land.
We had hoped that this would start with nearly 1,000 farms which we had designated for acquisition. Sadly this was not to be as the commercial farmers contested the matter in the courts, forcing government to abandon the acquisition process.
UK, US Aid "reduced to a trickle"
The process of land delivery has been both slow and frustrating. Between 1980 and 1990 we were slowed down by the 'willing seller, willing buyer' clause in the Lancaster House constitution.
Equally, the resources which the British and the American governments had pledged to make available at Lancaster House either stopped or were reduced to a trickle. Even after removing the constitutional barriers we were still faced with the issue of diminishing resources against ever-rising prices. Britain's 'reluctance to honour commitments' After 1997, we also had to contend with the reluctance of the new Labour government which did not want to honour commitments made by previous British governments on the land issue. We also faced farmer resistance, whose manifestations included not just the legal challenges I have already referred to but also resistance to the land clause we had introduced in the rejected draft constitution. Naturally, this has created frustration leading to the current spate of farm occupations by the war veterans and sporadic clashes in which two lives have regrettably been lost.
We can understand the frustrations of the war veterans, just as we appreciate the pressures faced by the commercial farmers. Need for way forward Yesterday and today, I have been meeting with the leadership of the farmers and the war veterans so we can reach some understanding. Two weeks ago, I met with the British foreign secretary who suggested Zimbabwe sends a delegation to the United Kingdom to reopen negotiations on land reform.
We should be able to find a way forward but one that recognises the urgent need for land reform. It is the last colonial question, heavily qualifying our sovereignty. We are determined to resolve it, once and for all.
Let us continue to cherish our independence as well as uphold the principles of our sovereignty. Let us defend our freedom and deliver the benefits of independence to our people.
By Haines Brown, CCSU History Department, Emeritus
On July 17, 2000, there took place an inauguration ceremony for the African Virtual University (AVU), at its headquarters in Nairobi. The aim of the university to provide quality education via satellite technology. Not only are lectures, education materials, and talks transmitted and received via the satellite, but the AVU also uses the Internet to transport data.
The ceremony also marked the inaugural meeting of the university's board. The AVU chairman will be Prof. George Eshiwani, who is the vice chancellor of Kenyatta University, host of the AVU headquarters.
Dr. Eshiwani said that while the focus of AVU is on sub-Saharan Africa, because it is home to many indigent people, the board is trying to encompass other regions. Currently there are twenty-five learning centers spread across fifteen African nations, eight Anglophone and seven Francophone.
At the meeting, the AVU board approved a work plan that included institutional development, networking to encourage investments, the broadening of a network, upgrading technology, and the establishment of an academic channel.
The World Bank played the central role in this development and took a leading part at the ceremony, which followed the WB board meeting in Nairobi.
The director of World Bank Human Development, Ramphele Maphele, made clear what the function of the AVU would be. She observed that Africa lacks an adequate telecommunication network, but the new university should serve as a catalyst toward that goal. To fulfill this function, the AVU would need to attract forty-three million $US investment to lay the basis of a net work for the whole of Africa.
Presumably control of the university would be in the hands of the foreign investors, and policies would respond to their need to obtain financial return. The plan said nothing of development of society at large, but apparently assumed that a benefit for the more affluent urban minority would somehow automatically reach the less fortunate majority.
The AWU web page (www.awu.org) lists the courses currently being offered. An emphasis on the English and French languages is significant. Noteworthy also is that computer training is primarily for Windows 95, even though there is a less expensive, more secure and reliable alternative in Linux (P.R. China just committed itself to Linux, fearing domination by US capital should they stick with Microsoft). Such an emphasis suggests that the aim is to integrate graduates into the Western global system rather than to promote indigenous development.
So, as a result, criticism of the AVU
has been very sharp. See for example, the paper, "Virtual University/Segregated
A two-part interview held on April 5, 2000 with the famous Nigerian Actress Golda John, actress in films such as Ti-Oluwa-ni-ile, Ward 15, Mirror in the Sun and currently the stage play Westway of the BBC World Service. We interviewed also Mr. Mike Abiola, Chief Executive of the London-based organisation Afro-Hollywood and Director-General of Pace Television, London. The interview took place at the headquarters of Afro-Hollywood, London.
Interviewed by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali, CCSU
How big is the Nigeria Film Industry?
Extremely large. There is a turn out of as many as 7 videos per day.
Wow. That means over two thousand videos a year!
Yes. There is a call for video producers to slow down to avoid an oversupply of videos.
What accounts for the boom in video production?
There are two main things to note. The Yoruba are pioneers in theater as well as in the technical aspects of production.
Yes but why the boom?
There is a great deal of competition plus the fact that the the demand for this kind of entertainment and for home viewing of videos increased with the economic and political crises in Nigeria.
There was also an increased demand to view videos at home for security and safety.
What of the tremendous Nigerian creativity.
Yes, certainly. In fact not only creativity but also the manpower is there although there is room for improvement at the technical level and in terms of equipment.
Interviewer: Any other problems?
There is also the problem of piracy. As soon as a new video is out there is someone hoping to make pirate copies since there is no state control. People collect the videos and use one video to make multiple copies.
How are the videos produced and marketed?
In the early 1990's, an investor would approach a director and request the production of a film in video format. The investor gave guidance as to the theme of the video as to whether this would be about campus life, history, religion, colonial conquest , history and so on.
The investor often did this on trust although there were in some cases a written contract.
Sometimes halfway in the project the director ran out of money and this in fact led to some new developments where the investors decided to go directly into the business of video production improvising along the way.
Such productions were sometimes without a written script.
Interviewer: Have there been any new developments?
Well the formation of new associations of investors and producers have emerged. The present trend is in fact for an umbrella organisation involving all aspects and phases of video production. The Conference of Motion Picture Practioners (CMPP) brings together units of actors, producers and experts in makeup, lighting and sound.
This development has also led to a positive attitude on the part of financial organizations such as the banks.
Are banks now assessing scripts?
Yes. They consult professionals.
Who are these professionals? From the campuses?
Have many links developed between Nigeria's university campuses and film-making?
Not quite. Not in terms of institutional linkages.
At this point we took a brief break and prepared to interview the CEO of Afro- Holly wood, Mr. Mike Abiola
At the start of the previous millennium around the year 1000 an African kingdom on the Limpopo River was trading with Egypt, China, the Arab world and other areas. It controlled an area as large as present-day Swaziland. Its influence protected traders on the East Coast of present-day Mozambique. Its political and cultural system was a precursor to that of Great Zimbabwe. In the 13th century trade patterns moved North, and Mapungubwe's in habitants probably moved North to follow them and enhance the empires of Mwene Mutapa and Great Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the site of Mapungubwe was until the 1990's a military training ground to launch raids on the liberation movement in the neighbouring countries and a rehabilitation camp for drug addicts.
Extract from Victor Munnik,
Shady Past of Archeology, The Land and Rural Digest, The Environmental and Development Agency, South Africa
Links for Mapungubwe
Southern Africa. The rise of more complex
Mapungubwe; Secrets of the Sacred Hill
http://www.djuma.com/mapungubwe.htm An illustrated promotion for a video.
The Iron Age Sites of Greefswald; Cultural heritage of the Central Limpopo Valley
http://mapungubwe.up.ac.za/index2.html Illustrated description of the archaeological site.
Ben Ngubane opens Cultural Heritage of Mapungubwe exhibit. Speech by Ben Ngubane, Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology http://www.jol.co.za/june00/benngu20.htm
Importance of the exhibit for southern African education.
Mapungubwe treasures of the past
http://www.up.ac.za/publications/tukkie/mpungubwe.htm Description of the Mapungubwe exhibition.