A week ago, I was thinking that I’d have two opportunities to hear from President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone yesterday. However, he injured his ankle playing squash and his speaking engagement as SAIS this afternoon was cancelled. A town hall meeting in Silver Spring with a ministerial delegation went ahead as planned in the evening. Unlike the P-Square show, this was an instance of African time working to my favor as I arrived after work just in time to catch the comments of the delegation. Continue reading
Apparently President Koroma of Sierra Leone, who had a range of public events set for DC this week, will not be traveling to the US after hurting his ankle while playing squash. He will have ministers and other officials representing him at the events he was scheduled to participate in.
Amongst other events in DC, President Koroma was scheduled to give an address at SAIS and hold a town hall meeting in Silver Spring. Just a few days ago, I had commended Koroma for his large array of public events.
Read a bit more about the situation here.
Next week has an array of African heads of state in town in association with the opening of the UN General Assembly. Many will be making the rounds at public events, so many that I’m not going to try to list them all here, but check the public schedules of SAIS, the Wilson Center, and the World Bank for more info. A congratulations to President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone who seems to be making a particularly strong effort to connect with the public.
I welcome guest posts on these events from readers, please just check in with me first.
I’ve previously railed about Washington’s false commitment to its professed agenda of democracy and governance on the continent – with Burkina Faso and Uganda being among the most notable examples (our relations with both the Congo and Rwanda are also likely in the mix).
A particular target of my ire has been Burkina Faso. Thus, it is much to my chagrin that its President, Blaise Compaore, will speak on ‘Consolidating a Culture of Peace in Africa’ next Friday. HOW THE HELL CAN A MAN WHO CAME TO OFFICE BY MURDERING HIS PREDECESSOR BE GIVEN A FORUM TO SPEAK ON THIS TOPIC????? A few years later, this man went on to play a crucial role in the Liberian civil war, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Why is Charles Taylor in prison and Compaore being feted by the Wilson Center?
I won’t be able to attend, but dearly wish that I could. Burkina Faso is ruled by a dictator who has controlled the state since 1987, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet it enjoys great relations with the US. As an American, that relationship makes me feel ever so pathetic.
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.
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?”