A tale of three U. S. sanctions, one in Africa, the others in the Americas
A tale of three U. S. sanctions, one in Africa, the others in the Americas*
A cursory view of the responses of the continental organizations to
three U.S. sanctions, one in Africa and the other two in the Americas,
shows in a stark way the abysmal lack of independence among the African
nations in setting their foreign policies.
The nations in question are Eritrea, Cuba and Venezuela. However, this
is not about the targeted nations, and the purpose here is not to focus
on the sanctions themselves. The focus here is on the responses of the
nations and organizations of the two continents the targeted nations
represent to the imposition of the sanctions by the United States ---
directly or through the United Nations.
When the United States decided to impose sanctions against the very
young nation of Eritrea in 2009 and again in 2011, the African nations
and their organizations, from the African Union on down, didn't seem to
have second thoughts about participating in the Washington-driven
victimization of this member nation being "punished" for having an
independent mind in making its foreign policy. The Obama administration
saw Eritrea as being less "directable" --- compared to Ethiopia---an
African nation that "couldn't be relied upon to do certain things that
Washington might want it to do." So, when these African nations,
individually and collectively, were told to jump, all they wanted to
know was "how high!"
This shameful chapter in the sad history of the African Union (AU) and
its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), opens in 2009
when the Addis Ababa-headquartered organization asked the UN Security
Council to impose sanctions on a member nation, Eritrea, without any
basis in fact. In addition to undue influence of external powers, this
also shows the extent of the influence and political grip of the host
country, Ethiopia, Eritrea's archenemy, over this continental
organization. This was also reflected in the clamor for sanctions by the
regional organization, IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development), leading up to the AU action. We don't put a whole lot of
stock in this because, as a senior Kenyan parliamentarian put it, "there
is no IGAD; IGAD is Ethiopia" with the other nations in the region
playing cheerleading roles. But, we didn't expect the AU to sink to the
level of IGAD.
Now compare this to the role South and Central American nations have
been playing individually and collectively to protect themselves and
their member nations from undue pressure and actions from their more
powerful neighbor to the north. The current thawing in U.S.-Cuba
relations, for example, is the result of decades of opposition from the
nations in the region. For example, the last two summits of the Americas
were not able to issue joint declarations because of issues relating to
Cuba. The South and Central American nations continually put the U.S.,
which tried to isolate and destabilize Havana, on the defensive on Cuba.
We see this even clearer in Washington's recent sanctions against
another South American nation: Venezuela. Last month, all of the 33
members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
came out against the sanctions. The only nations of the Americas not
represented in this 33-member continental organization are Canada and
the United States. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has also
expressed its strong opposition to the sanctions imposed on Caracas.
Even the Organization of American States (OAS), the oldest of the
Americans' organizations and traditionally heavily influenced by the
U.S., has not been fully supportive of President Obama's Executive Order
declaring Venezuela "an unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S.
This shows the region is in near total opposition to the U.S. sanctions
imposed on Venezuela and Venezuelan officials in March of this year.
Furthermore, many of the South American nations issued individual
messages rejecting the sanctions against Caracas.
Some see this as a clear reflection of America's declining ability to
influence the situation in its backyard. As the New York Times put it,
"Washington is finding that its leverage in Latin America is limited
just when it needs it most, a reflection of how a region that was once a
broad zone of American power has become increasingly confident in its
ability to act independently."
Compare all these responses by the nations in the Americas to the
shameful role African nations played, except for Libya, when Washington
went step-by-step "to teach Eritrea a lesson." Susan Rice, the then U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, had no problem lining up African
nations to play parts in this diplomatic drama to camouflage it as an
African initiative. First, she got two African member nations of the
U.N. Security Council at the time (Uganda and Burkina Faso), to
spearhead the process to reinforce the charade that the whole thing was
an Africa-driven action. However, secret diplomatic cables released by
Wikileaks indicate otherwise. The cables reveal that "[Susan] Rice
reminded [Uganda's] Museveni that past experience suggested that the
UNSC would not block a resolution led by African members and supported
by the African Union. If Burkina Faso and Uganda co-sponsor this
resolution, the British will support, the French will 'keep their heads
down and will not block."
Then two years later, Kenya was one of the nations that were happy to
play the part in imposing another politically-motivated sanctions based
on even more outrageous lies concocted in Addis Ababa by Ethiopia's
propaganda operatives and their Washington lobbyists. The Kenyan
accusations were so outrageous that even the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring
Group --- known for being a factory of fabrications itself---dismissed
them as groundless. The group "found no evidence to substantiate
allegations that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab with arms and ammunition by
air in October and November 2011. No evidence to substantiate the
allegations that one or more aircraft landed at Baidoa International
Airport between 29 October and 3 November 2011, or that Eritrea supplied
Al-Shabaab in Baidoa by air with arms and ammunition during the same
As we said before, these two resolutions were politically motivated and
they were based on naked lies and fabricated stories that came out of
Ethiopia. A year ago, former Assistant Secretary of State for African
Affairs and veteran Ambassador Herman Cohen, with years of experience
and intimate knowledge of the region, said it well: "Those of us who
know Eritrea well, understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic
militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region."
There was no, and there is no "intelligence, real or fabricated", that
links Eritrea to Al Shabaab or any form of extremism in the region other
than that what the Ethiopians and their Western enablers told us.
For the final word, we will leave it to history that usually judges
harshly those who bend the truth and sacrifice those who trusted them to
appease the powerful and for some diplomatic crumbs.
Received on Sat Apr 25 2015 - 11:49:17 EDT