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My suspicion is that it means bad news. Howard French has eloquently written of Rice’s unwavering support for the crop of autocratic nationalist African leaders that emerged at the end of the Cold War. Frequent readers of Africa in DC will be familiar with my railings against the administrations in Burkina Faso and Uganda, which are composed of autocrats who came to power through force and continue to enjoy US support more than a quarter century after assuming power.
While I know nothing of Thomas Donilon, the current incumbent in the position, cursory research reveals nothing about his African connections. Conversely, Susan Rice wrote her PhD about Zimbabwe’s transition to majority rule in 1979 and 1980 – not the most original topic, and was engaged in African affairs in several roles during Bill Clinton’s presidency. At the age of just 33, she became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. I suspect her spectacularly meteoric rise has gravely weakened her ability to remain grounded and in touch with the citizenry that a diplomat is meant to support.
With the announcement of financial rewards for the capture of several key west African Islamic militants, the ongoing crisis in Mali, and the rather precipitous collapse of Nigeria, America’s most prominent African ally, the National Security Adviser should be positioned to make prominent contributions to US Africa policy. I suspect that Rice, despite her strong African credentials, will continue with more of the same African policy that has dominated America since the Clinton years: Dictators who manage to manipulate the language of democracy will be embraced, the United Nations will be expected to handle major African conflicts, Francophone Africa will continue to be ignored and we will defer to France on all major security issues in that region, and the US’ hypocritical relationship with the ICC will continue and cause our relations with Kenya to weaken.
What do you think the announcement means?
First (and of little consequence), I think it’s a bit alarmist to suppose the “precipitous” collapse of nigeria. Numerous experts have predicted this since before independence and it simply won’t happen for several reasons.
More to the question: I think what rice’s appt means for the UN reactions to African situations must be left to the new UN ambassador, Samantha Power. I’m not so sure that rice’s appt means much for Africa. The next 3yrs of her stay will be almost entirely focused on Syria and North Korea. Of course she’d be wise to keep a finger (say the pinkie finger) on what’s happening in west and central Africa, but I just don’t see it as a major policy shift of the Obama administration. A part of me hopes I’m wrong though.
All said, I think her appt is a plus for her and for the administration. Her nature and personality better fits the national security advisor role in the cabinet rather than the top diplomat, tho it has been refreshing to see a hawk shake up a lot of the frivolous ways things are done at the UN.
Folu, in regard to the first point, I was referring to my belief that Nigeria has experienced a precipitous collapse in comparison to where it was 5 years ago, which I do think is the case.
In regards to your 2nd paragraph, I think your on point regarding Rice, which is what I was trying to indicate in the post where I suggest that she won’t shake anything up. I do think that the position however is at a crossroads where it would make sense for the US to become more engaged in African security issues and Rice has a background that may further movement in that direction.
In regards to Power, it will be interesting to see what plays out, but my instinct is that the UN post has typically not been used to improve US – Africa relations, which is quite unfortunate as there is so much potential in that regard.
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