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Africa is a Country (a highly recommended blog) has a very interesting piece (with videos) on Obama’s recent hosting of the Heads of State of Cape Verde, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Senegal (which I wrote about in advance).

Find a transcript of the meeting here.

While I think the author does make a valid critical point about Obama meeting with all of the leaders simultaneously (not a common approach  with leaders perceived as being more important), I do believe that there is some value in putting leaders together in small groups, particularly those from west Africa, who belong to the same sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS.

As for the pictures of Obama and Michelle with some of Africa’s more dictatorial leaders, that reflects , in my opinion, a huge lapse in African policy that has been existent since 1960 and continues, even in this day where the rhetoric of democracy is sung at all turns.

Notable Examples:

In Chad, the former rebel leader, President Idriss Deby, has shown his usefulness to the West in pursuing Mali’s Islamic militants and the putschist Compaore in Burkina Faso is regularly celebrated for his role as a regional mediator (despite strong indications of his role in many of those conflicts).  Washington is still a long way from matching policy with rhetoric.

As Obama asks himself, “number one, how do we continue to build on strong democracies?”