Al Mariam’s Commentaries
August 14, 2022
Who is minding the Africa section of the store at the U.S. State Department?
Two months ago, Samantha Power, USAID boss, was threatening to unleash a “revolution of dignity” on the world, with Africa squarely in her crosshairs.
On August 4, 2022, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on a visit to Uganda warned she will be kicking ass and taking down names if Africans don’t do what they are told:
African countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat. If a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions. We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them.
Talk about reading the riot act to African countries!
On August 8, 2022, Blinken soft pedaled it in his “Vital Partners, Shared Priorities: The Biden Administration’s Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy” speech in South Africa as he declared,
The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.
Dictate rhymes with annihilate.
It is bewildering for Africans: Is it going to be revolution, sanctions or partnership?!
Can Africa make the “choice” and buy oil and gas from Russia without being sanctioned?
Well, European countries sure as hell can!
Duh! Africa is not in Europe! (Silly me!)
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor gave Blinken the dress down.
She told him in the proverbial “present-company-excepted” idiom that Africa will not tolerate bullying by the West:
Because when we believe in freedom – as I’m saying, it’s freedom for everybody – you can’t say because Africa is doing this, you will then be punished by the United States…. One thing I definitely dislike is being told `either you choose this or else.’ When a minister speaks to me like that … I definitely will not be bullied in that way, nor would I expect any other African country worth its salt to agree to be [so] treated.
Biden/Blinken administration’s “new Africa strategy/policy” is a travesty of foreign policy, a JOKE!
Donald Trump is a man with many flaws, but he speaks his mind.
In December 2017, Trump made it clear he did not care about Africans and African/black immigrants in the US.
At one point, he complained why 40 thousand Nigerians who have come to the U.S. would never “go back to their huts”.
For Trump, Africa is a collection of “s**t hole” countries, and he never set foot in the continent.
I don’t have a problem with that as Trump only verbalized what the vast majority of bleeding-heart liberal whites feel but dare not articulate.
Africans can deal with a man who means what he says and says what he means.
Truth be told, I have no problems with Republicans “who believe that foreign aid is the equivalent of welfare for nations, and therefore disagree strongly with the concept of providing this money unless there is a direct benefit to the United States.”
But I have a VERY BIG PROBLEM with those in white face wearing black masks.
White face, black mask
First, it is a misnomer to say Blinken articulated a “new Africa strategy.”
The “new strategy” has little to do with Africa and everything with countering perceived expansion of Chinese and Russian influence in Africa.
But for China and Russia in Africa, the Blinken/Biden administration would not give a rat’s ass if Africa went to hell in a handbasket. Admittedly, they may oblige with a bowl of aid handouts on Africa’s way to hell.
The first African American president whose father was African did little to help Africa become self-sufficient and detoxified from African Aid Addiction (AAA).
In 2011, then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on her African tour dismissively observed,
We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa. When people come to Africa to make investments, we want them to do well but also want them to do good. We don’t want them to undermine good governance in Africa.
The Obama administration did nothing to protect Africa from “Chinese colonialism.”
That was black face with white mask.
Blinken’s “new Africa strategy” is about Africa as pawn in the Biden administration’s chess game with China and Russia in Africa.
The Biden administration (a/k/a Obama II) is essentially making the same Clinton argument with one exception.
It is no longer about Chinese colonialism of Africa and exploitation of its resources but protecting American economic and national interests in Africa against ongoing threats by China and Russia.
That is a case of white face, black mask.
So, it is not really a “new Africa strategy” but a “new strategy against China/Russia” in Africa
Over the past three decades, China has made masterful moves in Africa right under the noses of US administrations.
They have played systematic economic and political games to win the hearts and minds of Africans. They are building roads and bridges, railroads and telecommunication towers.
Over the same period, the US has been talking, talking talking. Talking “human rights,” “humanitarian aid,” “counterterrorism”, etc.
Today China exports $100B to Africa and dominates the construction and infrastructure sectors with annual contracts of $40B.
US exports to Africa in 2021 was a paltry $26B!
US exports aid which keeps Africa addicted to handouts, alms and charity keeping Africa a continent of beggars.
Where are the US built roads, bridges, railroads, telecommunication structures in Africa?
All along, US administrations have been moving military “knights” on the African chessboard propping up two-bit African dictators, playing counterterrorism drone games, setting up military bases and mouthing off human rights platitudes and spiels which they don’t believe and apply on a selective double-standard basis.
The “new Africa strategy” is also about countering Russian geopolitical clout across the continent.
Blinken wants to neutralize the “Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which exploits instability to pillage resources and commit abuses with impunity, as we’ve seen in Mali and the Central African Republic.”
There is no question Blinken is stung by the refusal of many African countries to back US sanctions against Russia in the UN.
In a stunning and unprecedented rebuff of the US, 17 African countries abstained from voting against Russia at the UN General Assembly in March 2022.
Abstaining on such an important issue for the US is the equivalent of a polite, “No, thank you.” You can replace “thank” with another word of your choice.
So much for the power of US aid to buy votes in the UN!
On July 12, 2022, the indicted-criminal and US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez told the Biden administration straight up:
For two decades, the United States and our partners have spent billions of dollars to aid stability efforts by supporting military operations against terrorist actors and by strengthening the military capacity of countries in the Sahel to counter the threat of violent extremists. Despite all of our efforts, we have very little positive to show.
Cotton candy Africa policy
Blinken’s “new Africa strategy” is too little, too late catchup game.
Blinken in his “new strategy for the partnership between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States” speech identified four pillars (“priorities”):
1) foster openness;
2) fulfill the promise of democracy in Africa
3) recovery from the COVID-19 devastation, and
4) energy transition for the continent.
Blinken’s speech began with the usual patronizing, condescending and platitudinous litany.
“And, as you’ve heard, by 2050, one in four people on the planet we share will be African. They will shape the destiny not only of this continent but of the world.”
I. Foster openness
By fostering openness, Blinken
means the capacity of individuals, communities, and nations to choose their own path and shape the world we live in… That means Africans will be masters of their own destinies, authors of their own progress and choose their own allies freely… Openness also means creating pathways for the free flow of ideas, information, investment, which in the 21st century requires digital connectivity… The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.
But Blinken speaks in forked tongue.
Blinken expects “African nations to defend the rules of the international system and stand up for the right of every country to have its independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity respected, a principle at stake now in Ukraine.”
In other words, the US is disappointed African countries did not support its misadventures in Ukraine, abide by the terms of US sanctions and failure to vigorously condemn Russia and cutting off relations.
Blinken is willfully ignorant.
Abstaining African countries have made it clear they have no dog in a cesspool fight between two elephants as it is always the grass that gets trampled in such fights.
Africans are tired of beings pawns in the global struggle between the superpowers.
The US can dictate its terms and conditions by sanctioning the hell out of Africa, but Africans are sick and tired of being kicked/sanctioned around. And if kick comes to shove and shove to push, they will kick back.
That is what the South African foreign minister told Blinken. Paraphrasing the lyrics of Grandmaster Flash, “Don’t bully us, we’re close to the edge…”
What Blinken should have said but deliberately omitted is the simple principle Africans have been shouting out loud and clear for the past couple of years: AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS.
Blinken is willfully ignorant of the true meaning of Africa being the “master of its destiny” is the principle: AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS.
Of course, it does not give much confidence to African governments to hear Biden say he will let Ukraine hang out to dry if push comes to shove:
If Mr. Zelensky does not have the weapons with which to evict Russian forces, he will have to give up territory.
When Blinken puts where his money where his mouth is, the price the US is willing to “foster openness” in Africa is $900 million worth of crumbs for “infrastructure that enables that connectivity – an open, reliable, interoperable, secure internet; data centers; cloud computing.”
A drop in the bucket!
II. Fulfill the promise of democracy.
A. Imposing liberal democracy on Africa
Blinken declared, “The overwhelming majority of people across Africa prefer democracy to any other form of government.”
The question he said “is whether African governments can make democracy deliver by improving the lives of their citizens in tangible ways.”
The answer he said is working to “build more effective, accountable African security forces, and diplomacy that’s increasingly being led by African leaders, regional organizations, and citizens.”
Blinken assured Africans,
We won’t treat democracy as an area where Africa has problems and the United States has solutions and we recognize that our democracies face common challenges, which we need to tackle together, as equals, alongside other governments, civil society, and citizens.
Poor governance, exclusion, and corruption inherent in weak (African) democracies makes them more vulnerable to extremist movements as well as to foreign interference. That includes the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which exploits instability to pillage resources and commit abuses with impunity, as we’ve seen in Mali and the Central African Republic.
He said the US will drop $200M to “launch a novel approach to good governance, which will make a decade-long investment in promoting more peaceful and resilient societies in parts of Africa.”
The fact of the matter is that Obama/Biden have already demonstrated their vision of democracy in Africa.
In 2015, when the TPLF declared it had won 100 percent of the seats in parliament, Susan Rice, currently Biden’s Director Domestic Policy Council and Blinken’s brain gigglingly declared that it “was democratic 100 percent.”
When Ethiopia had its first free and fair election certified by the African Union, neither Blinken nor Biden issued a statement congratulating Ethiopians.
That is the true measure of the Biden administration’s commitment to genuine democracy in Africa.
B. Peaceful transitions of power, through free and fair elections.
African leaders must not fiddle with their constitutions to remain in power, admonished Blinken.
African governments are the enemies of the African people. Because they are corrupt and incompetent, they cannot deliver economically for their peoples.
African poverty is a function of the bankruptcy of corrupt African governments.
Liberal democracy is still the way out for Africa even though it is undergoing unprecedented challenges in America.
The anchoring principles of liberal democracy including rule of law, individual rights, free and fair elections, right to vote, right to privacy, constitutionalism, separation of powers, market economy, etc. are under extreme challenge in the US.
In 2021, 14 American states enacted 22 laws that restrict voting access, making it more difficult for Americans to vote.
The House of Representatives is currently investigating the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol by a mob under the direction and approval of former President Donald Trump.
In the US, the citadel of global liberal democracy, we have monumental human rights problems.
Blinken said nothing about Trump’s attempts to scrap the US Constitution with his “stop the steal” campaign and damn near succeeded as his mob stormed the citadel of democracy.
That would have been a powerful object lesson for Africans in how not to change your government or steal elections.
Is the US fulfilling the promise of democracy for itself?
Practice before you preach.
III. Recovery from the devastation wrought by COVID-19
Blinken said COVID-19 “has dealt a devastating blow to Africa… 55 million Africans have been driven into poverty by the pandemic.”
He said Africa’s economy is in shambles mainly because of “Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine.”
The solution: International institutions will offer debt relief. There will be more than $6.6 billion in humanitarian and food assistance to Africa in the pipeline.
The US will “build on African-led initiatives, such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”
The US will “train hundreds of thousands of young African leaders which now has more than 700,000 members. There will be more health clinics and, laboratories and health workers under the PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program).”
Africa is hungry because of Putin who is weaponizing wheat in his struggle with NATO powers. (African saying: In a fight between elephants, it is the grass that get trampled.)
The US will bail out Africa by arranging debt relief and more IMF/World Bank loans but only if Africa abandons Russia and comes to the US/West.
There will be the usual handouts for Africa to keep Africa on the dole permanently; poor and forever dependent.
Africa will always be a source of disease and pandemics and help will be sent to keep disease and pandemics stay put in Africa.
IV. Clean energy transition
Blinken said, “Africa is the most vulnerable region in the world to the effects of climate change.”
He said in Ghana, the US is building we’re working with partners to build West Africa’s first hybrid solar-hydro plant.
In Kenya, “where 90 percent of the energy comes from renewable sources, U.S. firms have invested $570 million into off-grid energy markets, creating 40,000 green jobs.”
Forget about the much-ballyhooed Obama’s Power Africa program.
In 2013, Obama launched his Power Africa program promising to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 600 million people currently lack access.
During the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in 2014, Obama reaffirmed that Power Africa’s reach extends across all of sub-Saharan Africa and tripled Power Africa’s goals to work towards adding 30,000 megawatts (MW) of new, cleaner electricity generation capacity and increasing electricity access by at least 60 million new connections.
How much power does Africa have because of Obama’s Power Africa?
It is so ludicrous, one can read the Power Africa 2021 report and find out.
A June 2022 report from Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) concludes “Africa is getting just 12 per cent of the finance it needs to manage the impact of climate change.”
Clean energy transition? That was what Obama’s Power Africa was supposed to do.
What a joke?!
Cotton candy African policy
On March 3, 2021, Blinken said,
In my first major speech as Secretary – I’m going to walk through – walk you through how American diplomacy will carry out the President’s strategy. If we do our jobs right, you’ll be able to check our work – to see the links between what we’re doing around the world and the goals and values I’ll lay out today.
Blinken said “we’ve set the foreign policy priorities for the Biden administration by asking a few simple questions: What will our foreign policy mean for American workers and their families? What do we need to do around the world to make us stronger here at home? And what do we need to do at home to make us stronger in the world?
Blinken’s “new Africa strategy” is like cotton candy.
At first sight/read, it looks substantial, consequential and meaningful.
But when you sink your critical teeth into it, there is nothing but air, hot diplomatic air.
Blinken is all hat and no cattle.
Or in the lyrics of the late great James Brown, Blinken “is like a dull knife/ Just ain’t cutting/ He’s just talking loud/ And saying nothing.” And doing nothing too.
The fact that Blinken is unfit for the job of Secretary of State was presciently foretold by the late Senator John McCain:
A year ago to the month, I made my legal case for the impeachment and conviction of Antony Blinken.
Mismanagement of US foreign policy over the past year and half under Blinken, with Susan Rice, the Princess of Darkness, in the shadows, is the new norm.
Blinken’s freight train of foreign policy failures are mindboggling:
humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, scamming France on an Indo-Pacific submarine deal:
botching response to Haitian refugees at the southern border;
incompetence in managing the America’s Summit 2022;
exclusion of certain African countries from attending the African Summit 2021;
inability to get African countries to support the US position on Russia at the UN;
suffering humiliation in his first meeting with Chinese diplomats;
lack of effective diplomatic response to Russian military action in Ukraine; inability to bring Iran to the negotiating table;
inability to persuade/push for North Korea to denuclearize and on and on.
Blinken talks in forked tongue.
This is Blinken’s second visit to Africa (first visit November 2021), but he has not learned much.
Blinken visited the Democratic Republic of Congo presumably to discuss concerns over tensions with neighboring Rwanda and prevent broader instability in the region.
The real concern was how to keep the paws of China and Russia from accessing rare earth minerals used in many hi-tech devices.
Blinken traveled to Rwanda and lectured President Paul Kagame on democracy, demanded Kagame withdraw from DRC and release from “wrongful detention U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Paul Rusesabagina.”
Blinken glossed over the complicated situation as the DRC-Rwanda conflict involves not only war refugees, but also the military incursions of many armed génocidaires who fled to the DRC.
On August 11, 2022, while Blinken was talking to the Rwanda foreign minister, Kagame was taking pictures with new Chinese ambassador who pledged to deepen cooperation, friendship with Rwanda.
So much for countering China’s influence in Africa, at least in Rwanda.
Blinken traveled to South Africa and was read the riot act by that country’s foreign minister who told him, “We will not be bullied.”
The South African foreign minister was particularly miffed at HR 7311, “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” sponsored by the African American congressman Gregory Meeks, one of the most corrupt and laziest members of the US Congress.
HR 7311 is a slap on Africa’s continental face. The bill
directs the Secretary of State to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining United States efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa, and for other purposes.
The bill further requires reporting on efforts to
manipulate African governments and their policies, as well as the public opinions and voting preferences of African populations and diaspora groups, including those in the United States.
And Blinken pontificates, “Africans will be masters of their own destinies, authors of their own progress and choose their own allies freely.”
Black face, white mask
I can’t tell if Blinken is doing a con job on Africa or downright ignorant and incapable of getting a firm grasp of the failures of US Africa policy over the past decade.
What Blinken is talking about TODAY is exactly what Barack Obama talked about in 2009 and 2014!
During his Ghana visit, Obama announcing his Africa policy said:
I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.
During that speech, Obama noted:
I will focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Obama identified five U.S. policy priorities in Africa which included 1) strengthening democratic institutions; 2) fostering broad-based and sustainable economic growth; 3) combatting disease and improving public health; 4) preventing, mitigating, and resolving armed conflict; and 5) helping address transnational threats and challenges.
In June 2012, Obama issued his “U.S. STR ATEGY TOWARD SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA”.
Obama repackaged his 2009 speech and declared his strategy toward Africa will be
1) strengthening democratic institutions and boosting broad-based economic growth, including through trade and investment;
2) helping strengthen accountable, and democratic institutions, sustained by a deep commitment to the rule of law;
3) generating greater prosperity and stability, and
4) mitigating conflict and ensure security.
Today, Blinken is pouring old wine in new bottles and handing it over to Africans with cotton candy to sweeten it up.
Blinken’s “new Africa policy” at best is a cut and paste job of Obama’s Africa policy.
It is shockingly unimaginative, visionless, full of clichés and platitudes and demonstrates both depraved indifference and empty-headedness in formulating a realistic policy for Africa that takes into consideration African views and realities.
It ignores and conveniently overlooks inconvenient facts.
One ought not to expect much creativity from a cadre of Obama retreads.
No one should be surprised by Obama/Biden duplicity either when it comes to Africa policy.
Exhibit A: Biden administration’s support for terrorist TPLF in Ethiopia.
There is no better example of Blinken’s lack of imagination and vison than his (Susan Rice’s) policy in Ethiopia.
Since November 2020, Blinken could come up with no more creative idea than to repeat himself like a broken record mindlessly invoking a litany of half-baked proposals:
Immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of outside forces from Tigray, including Amhara regional security forces and Eritrean troops;
Full and unhindered humanitarian access in Tigray;
Independent, international, and credible investigations of human rights abuses and accountability;
Condemn the killings, forced removals and displacements, sexual assaults, and other extremely serious human rights violations by Ethiopian government:
Allow immediate return of UN personnel barred from Ethiopia (for covertly working with the terrorist TPLF);
US will rally its allies in the European Union for more sanctions against Ethiopia…
Blinken speaks in forked tongue when he says the US will not “dictate to Africa” and that “Africans will be masters of their own destinies, authors of their own progress and choose their own allies freely.”
Yet, the Biden administration has dictated to the Ethiopian government to the point of conducting state terrorism on Ethiopia to secure regime change and restoration of terrorist TPLF to power as I have amply documented in my legal case.
Biden Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa spent his first trip taking selfies with terrorist TPLF leaders, individuals for whom arrest warrants have been issued.
On May 27, 2021, Biden demanded Eritrean and Amhara forces withdraw from Tigray region.
In doing so, Biden told the Ethiopian government that it cannot have Ethiopian troops in its own sovereign territory of Tigray and that the US will dictate Ethiopia’s foreign policy by exercising veto power on the Ethiopian government decision to deal with neighboring countries,
Africans understand that such arrogance emanates from the white supremacist impulses of the Biden administration. But no African country will tolerate such neocolonial hegemony.
Blinken also talks in forked tongue when he says the US will “build on African-led initiatives, such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”
Yet, in September 2021, Biden imposed sanctions on Ethiopia on the pretext of “preventing atrocities” when its real motive was to provide diplomatic, propaganda and tactical support to the terrorist TPLF in its military actions to take over power.
For the past year, the Biden administration has waged a relentless hybrid warfare and grey warfare on Ethiopia.
The list of hybrid warfare activities boggles the mind: official sanctions and condemnations, coordinated Western press-titute media disinformation campaigns, blocking access to World Bank and IMF loans, covert operations using terrorist TPLF and providing satellite intelligence.
The “grey war” operations are even more glaring: coordinated psychological warfare (psyops) to undermine public confidence in the Ethiopian government and create a sense of chaos and anxiety throughout the country, disseminating propaganda to scare American citizens to leave Ethiopia by creating a false sense of war emergency. It has coordinated with the Western press-titute media to slander and defame Ethiopian leaders and foment ethnic tensions in Ethiopia.
To add insult to injury, Biden removed Ethiopia from participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) effective January 1, 2022.
Biden thought Ethiopia would be down for the count by being kicked out of AGOA, but Mean Joe’s actions made Ethiopians stronger and more creative. Their attitude now is Biden can take AGOA and shove it.
Time for an African policy towards the Biden administration
What is good sauce for the goose is good sauce for the gander.
It is regrettable Blinken/Biden should underestimate the intelligence of African leaders and peoples.
In his recent visit, Blinken has learned old wine in new bottle and cotton candy ain’t gonna cut it in Africa. Neither will bullying and sanctions.
Another important lesson Blinken should learn is a modification of an old African saying, “Speak softly and don’t carry a big stick.”
The days of big sticks and gunboats are gone. So are the days of sanctions as big sticks.
Once you use your big sticks, the magic is gone and the victims revert into fierce resistance and defiance mode. After that, no amount of soft or hard talking will make things right.
For Blinken to present his “new Africa strategy” as new is not just dishonest but also an insult to the intelligence of African peoples and leaders.
The fact of the matter is that neither Obama nor Biden care much about Africa. Let their records show!
They will do lip service and sing the right songs to make the African natives happy, but fundamentally neither Obama nor Biden (Obama II) has any respect for Africa or Africans.
To them, Africa is a collection of “s**t hole” countries, just like Trump, except Trump has the guts to say it.
Biden will not say it, but he will show it in action– imposing sanctions, trashing the sovereignty of African countries and meddling in their internal affairs.
Be that as it may, Africans are sick and tired of being sick and tired of Biden’s sanctions, threats, harassment and utter disrespect to their sovereignty and dignity.
The writing on the African wall reads defiance, avoidance, hypervigilance, nonacceptance, noncompliance, indifference, independence, perseverance, irreverence and no more deference,
Perhaps it is time to formulate an African policy towards the Biden administration?
Jarring to think outside the box?
To be continued…