Critical for Africa to be on the march

24 Jul, 2017 - 00:07 0 Views
Critical for Africa to be on the march Thabo Mbeki

The Herald

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki

Reason Wafawarova On Monday
A lot has been said about Donald Trump’s perceived negative attitude towards Africa, especially after the six months delay in announcing an Under Secretary of State responsible for African affairs.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield was the last person to occupy this position until recently, and she was less dramatic than George W Bush’s choice, Jendayi Frazer, whose superior-to-you interventions in the post-election events of Kenya in 2007 and Zimbabwe in 2008 were quite notable.

Other notable former occupiers of this position include Susan Rice and Chester Crocker.

Crocker played a key role in ending apartheid South Africa’s occupation of Namibia.

He was the architect of the US’ “Constructive Engagement” policy on Southern Africa after the Carter era.

Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

He was not too popular a character with African leaders at a time when the United States was openly sponsoring Renamo bandits in Mozambique and UNITA rebels in Angola — two murderous outfits largely derided as quislings of Washington’s imperialist bidding in Southern Africa.

In early July, Donald Trump walked out of a working session on Africa at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, with his daughter Ivanka Marie temporarily taking his seat.

That has been interpreted by some people as a snub of the continent by the unconventional US leader, and the question many people are grappling with is whether Trump’s indifference is good for Africa or not.

It appears even the Zimbabwean Government was expecting something of a Trump position on our deeply strained relations with Washington since the year 2000, even hankering for some kind of friendship or alliance.

Maybe this is Obama simply inherited and perpetuated George W Bush’s aggressive isolation policy on Zimbabwe, much to the amusement of the Washington-backed opposition; with an equal measure of disdain from the ruling ZANU-PF.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Before leaving office, Obama extended the sanctions regime on Zimbabwe by another year.

Unlike the Israeli Obama policy that saw an incoming Trump vowing to reverse every single unfavourable deed done by the Obama regime on Israel, the man just maintained his reticence on Zimbabwe.

Neither the opposition nor the ruling party had anything to celebrate.

To show how unimportant this African thing is to the Trump administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dramatically backed out of a scheduled meeting with African Union chairperson Moussa Faki at the last minute, a meeting that was supposed to be held at the invitation of Faki by Tillerson himself.

It was expected the meeting would deal with the US March budget, considered by right wing analysts to have a “slash and burn” effect on “development programmes in Africa,” to quote one Gaby Galvin.

Galvin suggests that the US is “losing the battle for influence in Africa”.

Obasanjo has suggested that this is an opportunity for Africa to come together and shape its own future without the traditional undue influence from the West and others.

He heavily backs Thabo Mbeki’s assertion that Western influence has been coming with an illicit outflow of about US$50 billion a year from the continent.

Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo are of course two former presidents of Sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies, and one would tend to think they know what they are talking about.

While some of us have written in strong opposition to post-colonial imperialist influence on the continent, others like Gaby Galvin assert that Africa “has never garnered enough attention from the US and its Western allies.”

One would scoff at the language, wondering how on earth a whole continent can ever endeavour to “garner” its own subjugation disguised as attention from a foreign power and its allies.

But the reality is that we have Africans among us dying to be influenced as minors by the Americans and their allies, among them Zimbabweans.

ZDERA is a sanctions law whose drafting involved bona fide Zimbabweans.

The listing of targeted companies and individuals was homework done hundred percent by willing Zimbabweans. Jacob Mafume knows precisely how and where these lists were compiled.

The EU sanctions list has dropped from hundreds of people to just two names, President Mugabe and his wife.

Most adversely affected by this move have been our opposition political activists who see the whole thing as a massive disarmament to the advantage of their loathed opponents in government.

Imperial analysis says Trump’s indifference means the US no longer prioritises the rapidly growing bloc of countries in Africa, and some are warning that soon it will be too late for the United States to catch up with rivals like China.

Donald Trump’s 2018 budget is supposed to cut humanitarian aid by about 30 percent, shifting the savings to “national security in developing nations”.

In other words, we might be heading back to the Reagan era where the US will be arming us with military weapons so we can fix the challenges in our respective countries.

It is a shame that we Africans view ourselves as a deserving priority in the US annual budget, and that we have a whole multi-billion-dollar aid industry miserably hoping for benefaction from the helping hand of a character like Donald Trump.

So we have these hopeless politicians grieving that we are no longer a priority to the United States under Donald Trump.

Such leaders are frankly as useless as nipples on a breastplate, and they shouldn’t be anywhere near leadership.

When we hail such initiatives as George W Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) we might not be seeing beyond genuine humanitarianism, but the reality is that such humanitarian policies do have a strong political meaning and intention.

The brighter side of this policy is that it is credited with saving 12 million lives, according to the statistics of its implementers.

However, there may never be a statistician interested in giving us the magnitude of political gain on the part of these benevolent aid givers.

When Obama took over from Bush many African leaders were of the expectation that American aid would flow from the White House gracefully like oil on Aaron’s beard.

Although Obama largely continued Bush’s aid measures in Africa he only added a few of his own, like the Power of Africa initiative.

He broke many hearts.

Former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle has accused Trump of being “asleep at the wheel.”

Daschle was addressing the think tank Centre for American Progress (CAP) whose mandate is to keep America ahead of everyone else on this planet.

The concern at CAP is not that Africa will lose millions of lives because of Donald Trump’s lack of interest in the affairs of the continent.

That alone cannot be a problem. The real problem is that America will lose its position as the chief nation from whence cometh Africa’s hope.

Reuben Brigety is a former U.S representative to the African Union. He was at the CAP summit and he sorrowfully complained: “The most disturbing thing is they (Africans) are looking beyond us at this point. As they are getting their act together . . . they are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.” Sad isn’t it?

This is what we have become as a continent. We have always appeared in the eyes of the West as a people whose only hope is what the West maybe doing about our own situation.

That is the pathetic position of post-colonial Africa. Perhaps Donald Trump will do the very best for Africa if he simply continues to ignore us completely for the next eight years, or is it four years?

But it looks unlikely he will do so. Indications are that Trump will militarise civic duties of the State Department, particularly the duties of the United States Agency for International Development (US AID), which reportedly provided $8 billion in aid to Africa in 2015.

We are likely to see an approach where countries will be funded from a security approach as opposed to fronting famines and poverty as the enemy to humanity. This looks like the Trump approach, and it carries with it the danger of reviving the era of murderous civil wars that bedevilled the continent during the Cold War era.

Richard Downie is the acting director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ Africa Programme, and he had this to say:

“You cannot have a foreign policy in the most diverse continent on earth that is entirely a security-driven policy. If you do so, it will just become a reactive, expensive and ultimately pointless exercise where you’re just fire-fighting from one crisis to another.”

What we Africans must leverage on is the fact that we are a massive continent with 1.2 billion people. We cannot be overlooked. We must understand that how we develop as a continent has a huge bearing on the future of global events.

The United Nations says we will account for more than half the world’s population over the next 35 years, and that Nigeria will probably be the world’s most populous country. Our vulnerability emanates from the fact that over 40 percent of our people in Sub Saharan Africa still live in poverty, yet we believe people like Donald Trump are responsible for the fixing of this problem.

Now some of our leaders want the Chinese to carry the burden of fighting Africa’s poverty. Frankly this mentality is treasonous and extremely dangerous.

We must shun demagogues who rise to power by appealing to our emotions through the primitive politics of song and dance. We must give a chance to policy-oriented politicians who have solid plans for economic growth, not for the growth of their political parties and power tentacles.

Africa’s exports to the US have been on the decrease lately as alternative markets have been emerging. Crude oil exports have been falling since 2011 and this has driven the decline in US influence.

Of course China has been expanding its trade and infrastructure projects, giving comfort to our thinkers in leadership. Instead of looking forward to our own development initiatives, it now appears everyone is eagerly waiting for China’s next economic move on the continent.

Clearly China is beginning to assert its military and ideological influence. It is already in the process of establishing a naval base in Djibouti, where the US already has one.

Pew Research Centre in its poll asserts that China is viewed more favourably in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else, and increasingly the confidence in the US being the economic super power is fast waning among Africans.

For Zimbabwe, China is a strategic partner in the wake of Western hostility, and relations of pre-independency solidarity have been revived.

For as long as we have not developed our economies, we are going to continue to be junior partners of whoever is available, and that is the sad reality of our continent.

Naturally, Western countries have criticised China’s dealings with Africa, accusing the Asians of failing to promote democracy and human rights in countries like our own, or in Sudan, Guinea and so on.

That is expected from the West. It is not like there has ever been a genuine concern about the democracy or human rights of an African, but about reaching out to control the resources in the hands of the African using principles of democracy and human rights.

We are heading for election in 2018 and there hasn’t been the traditional loudmouthing from the West, especially from the United States. This is an opportunity for us Zimbabweans to prove that we can run our own political affairs without the handholding of foreigners.

This is an election we must run with honesty and integrity, an election whose conduct and end result we must all embrace and respect.

It will take a lot of tolerance and selflessness to achieve that. The fact is that we as a country must be on the onward march. Indeed Africa must be on the march.

Africa we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia

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