[dehai-news] Enoughproject.org: OBAMA, AFRICA, AND PEACE

New Message Reply About this list Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Jan 21 2009 - 08:31:47 EST


Reframing the Overall Approach to U.S. Relations with Africa


The Obama administration has an opportunity to fundamentally remake U.S.
relations with Africa during its tenure, and a cornerstone of that effort
needs to be a much greater emphasis on the most cost-effective element of
our foreign policy tools: peacemaking. An investment in ending some of the
world's deadliest, most destructive, and costliest wars would yield great
results in those countries and the positive repercussions from such
engagement would rebound across the continent.

As the first president of the United States with immediate African roots,
President Obama not only has an important reservoir of goodwill on the
continent, he also has the ability to move beyond the tendentious
"North-South" debate between developed and less developed countries that has
made more transformational policies difficult to attain. Efforts by the
dying generation of Africa's strong men who believe they should rule for
life, such as Zimbabwe's President Robert
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/61?Array> Mugabe, to portray
President Obama as a former colonial master will have little resonance in
Africa or elsewhere. President Obama will represent a fresh start, but the
problems facing Africa and how best to address them will be no less acute.

Equally important, an Obama administration can also leave behind the
"for-us-or-against-us" strategies of the Bush administration that tended to
ignore the worst behavior of "allies" while demonizing every action of those
who were deemed "enemies." The Bush approach was in many ways a return to a
Cold War calculus and approach to relations with the continent that did
little to ameliorate the fundamental forces driving conflict on the
continent or to improve the overall capacity of states to address such
tensions. To be fair, the Bush administration did make a considerable
investment in HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa through the President's
Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, or PEPFAR, and also deeply engaged in
pursuit of an eventual peace deal between the Sudanese government and
southern-based rebels. The Obama administration will need a much more
nuanced approach, and it will need to work more closely with both
governments and civil society on the continent to shape a shared agenda.

Given its thinly veiled hostility toward most forms of multilateral
institution building, the Bush administration also placed limited emphasis
on these issues in the context of Africa, despite a glaring need for
Africa's regional institutions to improve their capability and
effectiveness. The Bush administration's low regard for the United Nations
in general also largely precluded the Security Council from playing an
effective role in addressing Africa's multiple crises.

It is essential that the new administration invest significantly in
peacemaking and take a smarter, more comprehensive approach to this
peacemaking. However, it is vital that these investments in peacekeeping are
accompanied by long- term investments in development, crisis prevention, and
in shaping African regional institutions that are built around shared
values. Too often, membership in African regional organizations has simply
been a matter of geography-with democracies and autocracies lumped together.
Yet, it is impossible to imagine effective regional institutions in Africa
that lack a shared commitment to certain essential values, including
democratic government, the responsibility to protect their own populations,
and relatively open trade. Indeed, regional organizations in Europe and
Latin America have only become more effective when certain membership
criteria were added on top of geographic considerations.

The African Union in particular, has a wildly mixed record in this regard.
As an organization, it has been far too willing to practice lowest common
denominator policies, such as its relative tolerance of the Sudan regime's
massive human rights abuses in
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/102?Array> Darfur. Similarly,
both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community have
struggled to come to terms with President Robert Mugabe's ruinous rule in
Zimbabwe. Yet, the recent decision by the African Union to suspend Guinea's
membership unless the military officers who conducted the coup in that
country restore "constitutional rule" is exactly the kind of behavior a
regional organization should be demanding. This also suggests that with the
right kind of long-term support from the United States the mantra of
"African solutions to African problems" could move beyond empty rhetoric.
This will require two important developments:

* African regional institutions need to become increasingly responsive
to the needs of African citizens and not just the prerogatives of African
heads of state.\
* The broader international community must recognize that war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocide are not "African problems." They are
international problems that demand international solutions.

Reshaping the overall approach to Africa will also demand that the Obama
administration face some hard choices. Development resources are
increasingly dominated by spending on HIV/AIDS. While responding to the
HIV/AIDS pandemic is a crucial priority, if U.S. development assistance
becomes skewed too far in this direction, it will become very difficult to
make long- term investments in state-building, the rule of law, basic
education, and economic growth-the elements that are fundamental to changing
Africa's course over the long haul.

The administration will also need to take a hard look at continued
agricultural subsidies in the United States. These subsidies continue to
drain federal funds at a time when there are unprecedented budget pressures,
while simultaneously making it harder for many African states to compete in
one of the few areas where they enjoy a comparative advantage. Cutting these
subsidies would benefit Americans in three ways: They would pay fewer tax
dollars to support unneeded subsidies; they would enjoy the fruits of
greater competition as consumers; and, over time, they would need to invest
fewer dollars in development and humanitarian relief as Africa has the
chance to achieve greater prosperity The same can be said for European
agricultural subsidies. While it may sound strange to tie the issue of
agricultural subsidies back to the questions of war and peace on the
continent, it is essential to do so. For too long, U.S. efforts in
development, economic development, trade, humanitarian relief, and diplomacy
on the continent have been poorly connected threads, and all of these
efforts have collectively suffered as a result.

A Focus on peacemaking

Sudan, Somalia, Congo,
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/101?Array> Chad, and northern
Uganda are part of a region of east and central Africa that is battered by
chronic conflict, with millions dead and even more displaced over the last
couple decades. It is the deadliest zone of conflict in the world since
World War II. Congo and Sudan alone account for nearly 8 million deaths due
to the legacy of war in the past two decades.

As part of its fundamental rethink of Africa policy, the Obama
administration will need to shift U.S. policy from simply managing the
symptoms of Africa's biggest wars-in the form of billions of dollars in
humanitarian aid and peace observation missions that are often unable to
effectively protect civilians-to ending these conflicts. The existing model
of conflict resolution in Africa has focused on one conflict at a time,
treating Africa's wars as if they occur in isolation. Extreme examples of
this include dealing with Sudan's north-south war while setting the issue of
Darfur and eastern Sudan to the side; focusing on the situation in Somalia
without effectively addressing the standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea
that fuels the conflict; and negotiating in northern Uganda without
involving or sanctioning Sudan's ruling party, which has long supported the
Lord's Resistance Army as a proxy force. Most of Africa's wars are complex
and regional in nature, and they cannot be addressed by a bureaucratic
process that encourages stove-piping rather than coordination and synthesis.

The new administration needs to make an investment in competent, sustained
conflict resolution, backed by focused leverage that transforms the logic of
regional combatants from war to peace.

Enhancing U.S. capacities for peace

The basic elements of an enhanced peacemaking strategy would include the

a) Diplomatic capacity: Additional diplomatic slots should be assigned
and staffed in embassies throughout East and Central Africa with the primary
emphasis of these positions on support for various peace processes in the
region. Country teams in each embassy would work closely with Washington and
with existing regional efforts to step up support for peace efforts. U.S.
diplomats would meet quarterly in the region to coordinate peacemaking
strategies, strategize, and share information. Country and issue experts
would be hired and shared regionally to support the ongoing and new peace
processes with a focus on making them more effective. In general, the U.S.
embassies on the continent are not only grossly understaffed, but are badly
lacking country and issue experts with specific peace-building experience.

b) Inter-Agency task force: A senior official from the State Department
or National Security Council should oversee and coordinate a Task Force that
helps shape the diplomatic strategy in each of the conflicts of East and
Central Africa: Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Chad, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Central
African Republic, and the Lord's Resistance Army threat. The situation in
Zimbabwe would also likely be included in this group. The Task Force can
ensure the sharing of resources, personnel, and intelligence across the
region to guarantee maximum coordination and provide strategic direction to
multilateral efforts on each of the processes. Additional country and issue
experts should be contracted to support the work of the task force and to
purposefully think outside the box of existing approaches. Staff should also
be placed in New York and Brussels to support enhanced diplomacy within the
U.N. Security Council and European Union.

c) Special envoys: When appropriate, the president should appoint special
envoys to add gravitas to peace efforts for specific conflicts. Envoys would
work closely with the enhanced regional and D.C.-based capacities, and would
be deployed when key messages need to be delivered or support for
negotiations is required. Special envoys are by no means a magic bullet, and
the effectiveness of many envoys in the past has been undercut by simmering
tensions with existing bureaucratic structures and officials. This suggests
that special envoys should only be deployed when they are sufficiently
senior to command respect within the system and actually serve as a focal
point for coordination and effective policymaking. The relationship between
any such special envoy and the task force described above would need to be
clearly articulated before such a person was deployed.

d) Washington Meetings: When appropriate, the Obama administration should
host ministerial or working-level meetings in Washington with key actors,
including key diplomatic allies, to help jump-start stalled peace processes
or launch new ones. The ability of the United States to bring warring
parties to the negotiating table has been sadly underutilized in recent

e) Clear top-level leadership: Senior-level officials in the
administration should run point for their departments and agencies to ensure
maximal coordination and rapid response. Cabinet officials should clearly
assign responsibility for leading on African conflict resolution issues to a
senior official within his or her department or agency, thus minimizing
confusion over responsibility. At times, these assigned officials could take
a more direct role in support of negotiations if appropriate, and in close
coordination with the Task Force described above.

The three deadliest conflicts in Africa

Sudan, eastern Congo, and Somalia are the three deadliest conflicts on the
continent and deserve immediate attention and a new strategy. At the same
time, the administration will also need to develop new plans and a new
approach to dealing with the Lord's Resistance Army, relations between
Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the general situation in Zimbabwe. Forthcoming
Enough papers will address the Lord's Resistance Army and Zimbabwe.

With regard to the three biggest conflicts on the African continent, we
offer the following recommendations:

1. Sudan

Nowhere else is a new approach to making peace more needed than in Darfur
and <http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/109?Array> southern Sudan,
where Enough has called for a concerted "peace surge." There remains no
comprehensive, internationally supported initiative for making peace in
Darfur, and no effective and high-level strategy for implementing the
existing peace deal for southern Sudan. The Obama administration should
focus on helping build an effective peace process, maximally coordinating
with China as the biggest investor in Sudan, with Qatar and its fledgling
efforts, and other key Arab states that have economic leverage with the
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/107?Array> Khartoum regime and
who do not want to see their investments put at risk by a widening conflict
in Sudan.

The timing is auspicious. The International Criminal Court will likely issue
an indictment of Sudanese President
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/41?Array> Omar al-Bashir early
in 2009, and the United States will have an opportunity to quietly build an
effective coalition of countries that demands peace and justice for Sudan in
the form of a peace deal that addresses the root causes in Darfur, the
implementation of the north-south peace deal, steps to ensure
accountability, and a practical strategy to remove Bashir as president.

Beyond support for the
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/144?Array> ICC indictments of
Bashir and some of the rebel leaders, leverage should be built through
intensive work in the U.N. Security Council to go after the assets of
Sudan's ruling party (particularly President Bashir, his family, and
associates) and rebel leaders who are undermining peace in Darfur. Other
leverage-building initiatives could include the initiation of NATO planning
for a credible <http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/126?Array>
no-fly zone with muscular follow-up actions in the event that the Sudanese
regime cuts off humanitarian aid access in response to the imposition of the
U.N. ban on offensive military flights. The effort to fully staff the U.N.
force in Darfur at 26,000 should be accompanied by a shift in the U.N.
forces mandate that would allow it to protect civilians who want to go home
to their villages of origin, which should be the ultimate goal of our Darfur
policy. In addition, the administration should take a hard look at steps to
increase pressure on Port Sudan, a vital transportation link for Sudanese
oil exports, recognizing that this would require intensive diplomacy with
China given its impact on oil shipments.
Lastly, the administration will need to take a much more integrated look at
the problems spilling over the borders in Chad, the Central African
Republic, and western Sudan, recognizing that state weakness and internal
conflicts in both Chad and the CAR continue to make the Darfur conflict more
difficult to resolve.

2. Eastern Congo

Local, national, regional, and international factors continue to fuel the
deadly war in eastern Congo. At the local level, disputes over land and
citizenship contribute to considerable tensions. At the national level, poor
governance and fundamental insecurity have created a vacuum in which
numerous spoilers have considerable room to operate. At the regional level,
militias such as the Rwandan
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/139?Array> FDLR, the Ugandan
Lord's Resistance Army, and very bad relations between Kinshasa and Kigali
have created an environment of permanent instability and hostility. Lastly,
the international trade in minerals has created a self-financing mechanism
for militias and others hoping to continue to exploit violence to their own
gain. The Obama administration should focus on more robustly supporting
existing conflict resolution efforts led by former Nigerian President
Olusegun Obasanjo and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, and taking
action to help end the atrocities being committed against civilian
populations. Priorities would include:

* High-level support for a negotiated deal with the main rebel groups
and a practical road map for implementing this deal
* Leadership in fostering and provision of technical support for a
multilateral military and sanctions strategy to deal with the FDLR and
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/137?Array> CNDP
* Political and intelligence support for the International Criminal
Court's investigations into war crimes in the Kivus
* Real support for
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/152?Array> security sector
reform and DDR strategies
* An investigation into what must be done to end the predatory
extraction of "conflict minerals" in the East, the insatiable demand for
which traces back to the electronics industry in the United States, Asia,
and Europe.

Improving the situation in eastern Congo will demand some very tough
diplomacy, and a firm message from Washington that the administration will
not tolerate either the Government of Congo or Rwanda offering direct
support to militia groups on the ground. The use of these proxy militias
continues to be a cancer in the region.

3. Somalia

As Ethiopia withdraws from Somalia, there will be an opportunity to create a
more rational diplomatic and security strategy aimed at isolating the
hardline Islamist elements in the
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/82?Array> Shabaab militia. The
Obama administration should focus on buttressing and upgrading the existing
U.N.-led peace process (the Djibouti Process), while resisting efforts to
put in place a poorly thought out, poorly resourced, and poorly staffed U.N.
peacekeeping mission with a murky mandate.

Much more work will need to be done to build a genuine
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/114?Array> government of
national unity from the bottom up, with the objective of creating a real
power-sharing formula that includes key clan-based leaders, businessmen, and
moderate Islamists. A wider security strategy focused on building an
alliance of clan-based networks and functioning local governing authorities
from Somaliland, Puntland, and throughout the South would further isolate
hard-line elements within the Shabaab if it feeds into the transitional
governing authority and supports the provision of security and social
services, the two things Somalis most crave. Targeted sanctions should be
aimed at hard-line Islamists and reactionary warlords who continue to
undermine peace and the construction of a legitimate government and the
external actors that support them.

Furthermore, a parallel diplomatic effort should be launched to deal with
the simmering Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, including conclusive border
demarcation followed by internationally backed bilateral talks on issues of
mutual concern. The standoff between these two countries has helped fuel
conflict in Somalia over the past decade. The latest chapter in their proxy
competition has been particularly deadly and dangerous, further
destabilizing Somalia and bringing the two states closer to the possibility
of renewed interstate war, an outcome that would be devastating for the
<http://www.enoughproject.org/glossary/term/80?Array> Horn of Africa.

Changing the tone

The Obama administration could also do a great deal to change the tone in
how the U.S. government talks about Africa in public statements, at the
United Nations, and in its policy documents. Major opportunities exist in
East and Central Africa, and because expectations are so high throughout
Africa, President-elect Obama will have more space than usual to help take
the lead in forging a global commitment to end these crises rather than to
continue managing their symptoms.

The good news is that we know how to resolve complex conflicts. Working
closely with African peacemakers and peace advocates on the ground in war
zones throughout the continent, sustained and competent international
diplomacy contributed to the end of wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone,
Mozambique, Burundi, and southern Sudan. It helped dismantle apartheid in
South Africa and helped guide the birth of the nation of Namibia.

Africa's remaining wars require outside-the-box thinking in this new era of
diminishing resources. The cheapest and most effective instrument we have is
vast American experience in peacemaking. The cost-effectiveness of ending
wars rather than continuing to manage their symptoms is undeniable. It
requires a decision by the incoming president that containing the damage
from the status quo is an untenable goal, which must be replaced by a
full-scale multilateral effort to resolve Africa's multiple, interlocking
wars. The costs of reassigning diplomats to these war zones (real
transformational diplomacy) and appointing a handful of senior officials and
envoys where appropriate are relatively negligible when compared with the
billions we will continue to spend on clean-up, conflict containment, and
counterterrorism in the context of the present "conflict management"

The Obama administration begins it work facing a host of deadly conflicts in
Africa and few easy solutions. Yet President Obama also has a historic
opportunity to fundamentally reshape relations between the United States and
the African continent in a way that will be truly transformational. Many
forces and voices within America's foreign policy bureaucracy will suggest
Africa is a problem and an opportunity better left for another day; it will
take genuine leadership from the top to make clear that the future is now.



John Prendergast and John Norris


         ----[This List to be used for Eritrea Related News Only]----

New Message Reply About this list Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2009
All rights reserved