Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon.  He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries.  Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]

Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:

. . . .

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

. . . .  Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month

Expect US Africa policy to be led from Pentagon rather than State Department or White House, in near term if not for the next four years [updated]

(https://flic.kr/p/6fgHxc)

The President himself has never been to Africa and has shown no particular interest or inclination toward engagement on any of the various issues on his plate regarding the United States’ activities in and relationships with African countries.

In some respects this suggests a level of continuity through inertia that is unavailable in those areas to which Trump has some personal connection or exposure through his business organization or personal relationships (Russia on one hand and Mexico on the other, for instance).

Trump seems to be networked into the Safari Club and is politically very much indebted to Franklin Graham (the  American evangelist/missionary who has been especially engaged in Sudan and otherwise in Africa) but I don’t think that this will put much claim on Trump’s attention, as he already ordered a cutoff in U.S. funding to organizations that separately have connections to programs touching on abortion (a significantly broadened approach to the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations’ rules) as an early low cost “deliverable” to “pro-life” supporters on an issue he doesn’t personally have any particular feelings or opinions on. [Graham does not make specific candidate campaign endorsements–my perception of his influence for Trump is subjective from my vantage point as a white Southern American Protestant, who has been involved in congregational mission efforts that include support for one of Graham’s programs.]

Trump did not get where he is by building a reputation for paying his debts (any more than for forgiving his debtors), so I will be surprised, pleasantly, if Graham were to influence Trump on non-abortion related health issues that involved spending rather than cutting, like famine relief or other things that had some political purchase under “compassionate conservatism” in Africa during the G.W. Bush administration.

Trump is pretty clearly anti-conservation domestically and probably disinclined to have anything much to do with things involving wildlife or the environment in Africa other than to reduce funding for any direct or international programming in these areas, Safari Club notwithstanding.  Generally speaking my big game hunter friends are more concerned about wealth accumulation and tax cutting–Trump’s policies will leave them net ahead even with a likely loss of habit and species diversity (and better situated to buy private reserves).  Along with the expected big overall aid cuts, I would speculate that  conservation programs may be especially attractive targets to “zero out” to give Congress political bragging rights for some program “kills”.

So outside the military and Department of Defense we will probably see Trump to be as slow to fill key policy positions on Africa as Obama was, but with more turnover in the next tiers of the bureaucracy.

Because the Defense Department has already been the big repository of funding to maintain policy expertise in the U.S. on Africa (as elsewhere) during the Bush/Obama years, as funds and political bandwidth are reduced in other areas, we will be more dependent on those functions under the portfolio of Secretary Gen. Mattis at the Pentagon.  It is very fortunate that he stands out as unusually well-qualified and genuinely respected.

In the event any of the major players in the hospitality/tourism/”conferencing” business–say the Kenyatta family of Kenya–were to entice the Trump Organization into their market, certainly that would be expected to profoundly change everything I have observed here.

In that regard, perhaps we will see “The Scramble for Trump” as a new frame for engagement in the post-development era.

The value of life; the price of office–genocide and elections in East Africa

Muthoni Wanyeki asks in The East African if anyone cares that genocide is looming in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Kenya is paying an average of about $343,000.00 “severance” to each of the outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundary Commissioners for leaving earlier this fall rather than completing their terms through November 2017.  No signs of accountability for the #Chickengate bribes to the IEBC by Smith & Ouzman that were prosecuted by the UK and no sign of accountability for corruption in the subsequent 2013 election technology procurements.

While the “buyout” has been negotiated, the incumbent IEBC staff without the “servered” Commission has been proceeding to undertake election preparations that will be fait accompli for the new Commission when it is appointed next year.  Accordingly, the chief executive has proceeded to report plans to spend an astounding 30Billion KSh to conduct the 2017 general election, while setting a target of 22 million registered voters. In other words and figures, roughly $13.40US per registered voter if the target is met or $19.60US per currently registered voter. (For comparative data from places like Haiti and Bosnia,see The Ace Project data on cost of registration and elections.)

Old KANU Office

Solo 7–Kibera

Uganda: “bursting at the seams” says State OIG inspection

The State Department Office of the Inspector General released this afternoon its latest regular inspection report for the U.S. Embassy in Uganda. The Kampala mission, the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, gets good marks, but is facing critical physical space problems from ongoing and expected growth–“bursting at the seams”. More of general interest, how does the IG summarize the context of the mission of the United States in Uganda? Here you are:

Uganda has experienced nearly three decades of domestic stability, except in northern areas. President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement took power in 1986. Irregularities marred his reelection in 2011, and he is expected to run again in 2016. Uganda has never experienced a peaceful transition of political power, and civil society does not effectively hold government accountable. Uganda’s record on democracy, human rights, and anticorruption is poor, but it has become an important force for regional stability in East Africa. It contributes to the African Union Mission in Somalia, leads regional efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army, and has mediated talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebels.
The passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in early 2014 prompted Washington to reassess the bilateral relationship, including U.S. foreign assistance, which was taking place during the inspection. Bilateral security cooperation has included peacekeeping training for Ugandan forces in Somalia and Ugandan support for the 2013 evacuation of U.S. diplomats from South Sudan.
Economic growth over the past decade has averaged 6 to 7 percent, with inflation in the single digits, and the percentage of the population in poverty dropped by half. Uganda’s population is projected to grow from 35 million to more than 60 million over the next 20 years, threatening to erode and even reverse development progress. The economy provides one job for every 40 new entrants to the job market. By the end of this decade, Uganda may be an oil- producing country, which would significantly raise government revenue but could also exacerbate corruption. U.S. exports to Uganda in 2012 totaled $100 million, half of which consisted of aircraft and machinery.
HIV/AIDS prevalence rates declined in the early 1990s to less than 7 percent, one of the lowest rates in Africa, but has begun to rise again. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) FY 2013 assistance budget for Uganda was $67.5 million for development, $11 million for Food for Peace, and $84.95 million for the Global Health Initiative. The Department of State (Department) also provided $316.14 million for the Global Health Initiative, $190,000 in foreign military financing, and $522,000 in international military engagement and training. International narcotics control and law enforcement funding of $600,000 went directly to Uganda.
With 712 employees, the embassy is the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and includes 147 U.S. direct hires compared to 91 in 2007. Other departments and agencies represented in the embassy include USAID, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Peace Corps. The embassy chancery accommodates all employees and has annexes in Gulu (CDC) and Entebbe (CDC and DOD), which are 7 hours away and 90 minutes away, respectively, by vehicle. In addition, the general services office and warehouse facility is located 6 kilometers from the embassy compound, and it has more desks than some smaller embassies in Africa.

New Congressional Research Service report on the U.S. response to the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response was submitted by CRS on May 15 and has been published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The LRA is assessed to remain in much diminished capacity in a territory covering parts of Northern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and the Central African Republic, but still resilient in these remote areas.

The most recent concerns are the deterioration of the overall stability and governance of the Central African Republic and South Sudan–with related questions of U.S. and regional priorities.  Likewise there are questions regarding the relationship of continued U.S. support for the Ugandan military to the intention to “review” overall U.S. relations in the wake of Uganda’s new laws targeting homosexuals and more broadly to U.S. support for democracy and human rights within Uganda. In early 2013 AFRICOM’s commander identified the anti-LRA operations, known as “Observant Compass”, as the command’s third highest operational priority after the anti-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Northwest Africa, but obviously a lot of things have been happening since then.

Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with South Sudanese President Kiir

Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with South Sudanese President Kiir

Press Statement

Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 26, 2014

Secretary Kerry spoke today with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to express grave concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups on both sides of the conflict. Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December. He urged President Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and noted U.S. demands that anti-government forces do the same. Both Secretary Kerry and President Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process. Secretary Kerry noted the important role played by the UN Mission in South Sudan, denounced recent attacks on UNMISS bases and personnel, and encouraged President Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry, and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.

In other regional news on national unity this weekend, see “Tanzania marks 50th anniversary with mid-life crisis” from Africa Review.

Updated: Burgeoning South Sudan crisis will increase Kenya’s leverage over donors, NGOs, international media

The news from South Sudan seems quite serious and disturbing. This is an area of special responsibility for the United States, and needless to say, I hope we are able to help.

Nairobi’s role for many years as the “back office” for international assistance to South Sudan has always given the Government of Kenya extra leverage through control of visas and work permits. My twitter feed indicates that the U.S. is recommending that Americans evacuate South Sudan as the current crisis swells with reports indicating 400-500 people may have been killed.

This brings to bear what I have called “the Nairobi curse” for Kenyans seeking political space, democracy and civil liberties of their own and hope for support from the international community. The thing you always hear, but never read, from internationals working in Kenya is “what if I can’t renew my work permit” because of some offense taken by someone in the Kenyan government.

Back in 2007-08 when I was East Africa director for IRI in Nairobi, we shared space with our separate Sudan program, which was much, much bigger than our Kenya program (and was IRI’s second largest program worldwide I was told, after Iraq). Under my East Africa office, our Somaliland program also got more funding than Kenya. Obviously there would have been repercussions from soured relations with the Kenyan administration. The same situation would pertain for NDI or other international organizations with large permanent regional operations based in Nairobi.

In my case, I arrived in Nairobi on the job in June 2007 expecting my work permit to come through within perhaps a few weeks of ordinary bureaucracy. With no explanation, it was not forthcoming until February 2008 during the late stages of the post election violence period. Thus, I did not have my permit issued yet when I was dealing with our controversial election observation and the issues about whether or not to release the exit poll that showed the opposition ODM winning the presidential race rather than the ECK’s official choice of Kibaki.
At some point that month I was summoned to an Immigration office at Nyayo House (where political prisoners where tortured in the basement during the Moi era) for no readily apparent reason and received the permit shortly thereafter. Of course Nairobi was a much more easy going place before the 2007 election than it is now. Nothing was ever said to connect any of this delay to anything to do with politics or the election and it may have been strictly a coincidence.

Fortunately for me, I was on leave from my job as a lawyer back in the United States, so being denied a permit and thus losing my job in Kenya and having to move my family back precipitously would not have been consequential for me in the way that it would have been for the typical young NGO worker. Everyone has their own story I am sure.

Earlier this year the Kenyan government announced, for instance, that it would start enforcing work permit rules for academic researchers on short assignments. Lots of room to maneuver for creatively repressive politicians.

By the way, Uhuru did end up signing that Media Bill.

Update: See the editorial in today’s Star: Work Permit Crackdown Is Counter-Productive. And the news story, “Rules on Work Permits Tighten“.

Secretary Clinton visiting South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya (including TFG meetings) on six nation Africa mission

Here is the official State Department language describing the diplomacy:

Secretary Clinton travels to South Sudan where she meets with President Kiir to reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship.

In Uganda, the Secretary meets with President Museveni to encourage strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights, while also reinforcing Uganda as a key U.S. partner in promoting regional security, particularly in regard to Somalia and in regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army. She will also highlight U.S. support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary will then travel to Kenya where she plans to meet President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga, and other government officials to emphasize her support for transparent, credible, nonviolent national elections in 2013. To underscore U.S. support for completing the political transition in Somalia by August 20th, Secretary Clinton will also meet with President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the Roadmap to End the Transition.

 

 

Should the U.S. do more about corruption in South Sudan? Are there historical lessons from Kenya?

 

Alan Boswell of the McClatchy papers has an interesting story today, “U.S. not probing allegations of massive South Sudanese corruption”, highlighting a difference of opinion between Senator Leahy and the Administration about how to apply U.S. law on foreign corruption.

Travel bans are one of the few tools available to American officials to fight corruption, and U.S. law requires that they be imposed if the State Department has credible evidence that foreign officials are profiting corruptly from a country’s natural resources. The law allows for exemptions only for travel to the United Nations in New York, though an individual ban can be lifted if the reason for the banning has been corrected.

In June, the South Sudanese government admitted that it’s missing $4 billion in stolen funds, or roughly double its annual revenue since the mostly autonomous administration was established in 2005 as part of a U.S-brokered peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence last year from Sudan. . . .

Boswell reports that the U.S. is not considering such visa bans and that Presidential Envoy Princeton Lyman has indicated that the U.S. is looking to the South Sudanese to investigate the situation themselves.

“You have to know exactly who you are going to target. It’s not exactly clear who did it,” Lyman said. “We are looking to the Sudanese to do the investigations. President Kiir has promised a vigorous anti-corruption policy and we encourage him in this direction.”

Under American law, foreign officials and their immediate family members who steal from the public treasury or display other significant corruption are ineligible to enter the United States. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the state and foreign operations subcommittee and the author of the “anti-kleptocracy” law, said he didn’t think the State Department was doing enough to find out who stole the money.

“If the State Department has such information, we expect the U.S. Embassy to determine if it is credible and to apply the law rigorously,” Leahy said.

The U.S. has known about the scale of South Sudanese corruption for some time. “From early on, I had people who knew the SPLM well citing this problem and very worried about it,” Lyman said.

Lyman said corruption wasn’t unusual in young developing countries. He pointed to the example of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who was well-known for welcoming gifts and kickbacks as part of official business.”You don’t like to see it happen, but it happens. That doesn’t excuse it,” Lyman said.

Obviously this puts the U.S. in a difficult position because of our “special relationship” with South Sudan, the tremendous other challenges the new country faces, and the ongoing brutality from Khartoum.  At the same time, it can also be argued that we have unique responsibility to address the problem because of our role in facilitating South Sudanese independence and our place on the inside through our support for the new government.

Ambassador Lyman cites Kenyatta, so what are the lessons from Kenya?  Kenyatta’s corruption begat Moi’s, which begat that within the Kibaki administrations.  In the course of fifty years after independence the U.S. and the international community as a whole never found the will to consistently stick to a strong, clear anti-corruption effort in Kenya–there have always been other priorities to intervene.  Yet Kenyatta’s heirs and cronies, and Moi and his partially overlapping set of cronies still literally own an awful lot of Kenya, and have done very well through Kibaki (who was part of the Kenyatta and Moi circles himself for many, many years).  While the press is now free enough to report scandal after scandal after scandal, and write more of the history, the deals are not undone and no one is prosecuted in almost all significant cases old and new.  While there may be some hope for the future from movement toward a more independent judiciary, the track record so far is just plain bad.  The precedent seems risky.

 

Some good reading on South Sudan’s first anniversary–Updated

From bloggers I follow:

“To mark South Sudan’s first anniversary read this” from Jina Moore is a great linked digest covering a range of perspectives.

“South Sudan’s Unhappy Anniversary” from Terah Edun

“Is a little balance too much to ask?”  and “99 problems, but Bashir ain’t one” from Roving Bandit (Lee Crawford)

. . . the core of impact evaluation; the counterfactual. Imagine what would have happened if the event we are examining had not happened. So let’s imagine for a second what would be happening in South Sudan if there had not been independence. Peace and prosperity? New schools, roads, and hospitals? There are a couple of approaches we might use to think about what would have happened. We could look at the history of South Sudan pre-independence. We could look at all of the sterling development initiatives led by indicted war criminal Bashir in the South between 1989 and 2005. All of the schools and hospitals that he built. Or we could look at some of the people still living in the North. Perhaps those who have fled their homes to hide in caves from Bashir’s bombers. Or the 100,000 who have fled to the South from Blue Nile. The counterfactual for South Sudan is not flowers and kittens, it is rule by a man wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity; murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. Happy Birthday South Sudan.

WALKING TO COLLECT WATER IN JAMAN REFUGEE CAMP–“SOUTH SUDAN, ONE YEAR AFTER . . . ”
A young women walking to collect water, Jamam refugee camp
Photo by John Ferguson/Oxfam; some rights reserved by Oxfam International under Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives generic 2.0 license.

UPDATE 11 JULY–A new “must read” from Reuters:  “Special Report: the wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan” from Rebecca Hamilton.

•  Some thoughts on “Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide” (africommons.com)