U.S. Losing Clout Among Entrenched African Leaders
In his just concluded Africa tour, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was striking few deals with African leaders who are intently pursuing their own agendas on elections, the construction of schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and on curbing rampant corruption in the region.
In fact, Mr. Kerry had barely finished his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo when the local information minister was issuing a press release denying what Mr. Kerry had reportedly sought – the promise that Pres. Joseph Kabila would step down after two terms as called for by the constitution and not run for a third term.
“Mr. Kerry told us a lot of things,” said Minister Lambert Mende. “We are very happy with what he told us, and we agree with the fact that a government must respect the state constitution. It is our constitution; it is the will of our people… We have no problem with that advice,” he said.
But be adamantly denied that Kabila was told not to seek a third term.
Kerry, who met privately with the Congolese president, was said to have put $30 million on the table – twice the amount as the previous year – to ensure that elections were swiftly held. Congo’s total aid package for 2013 was $210 million.
Kerry also sought some security assurances – namely that Mr. Kabila would end his tacit support for rebel groups accused of human rights abuses especially against women. “The top priority is going after the F.D.L.R.” said Russ Feingold, the American special envoy to the region. “This is the group that includes “the genocidaires” – those involved in the genocide. They’re just a few hours from Rwanda, where this horrible crime was committed. They have been involved in very significant crimes and violence, including sexually based violence in eastern Congo.”
A Friday visit to Juba in South Sudan, gave Kerry a chance to restart stalled peace talks. Two sides – that of President Salva Kiir and that of former VP-turned-rebel-leader Riek Machar – have been at war for the past six months and a deadly new uptick in fighting has been reported since Kerry’s departure.
Other disappointments were in Ethiopia with its resistance to press freedom and with Uganda which has troops in South Sudan. At a stop in Angola, Secretary Kerry lavished praise on the President but won few concessions from the government to do more for its less wealthy citizens – most of whom live in informal slums where they are unprotected from eviction and are not guaranteed adequate housing.
The tour tests the waters for the first U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC onAug. 5 and 6. According to the White House, “The Summit will build on the progress made since the President’s trip to Africa last summer, advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. w/pix of Secy of State Kerry and Sudan Pres. S. Kiir