Obama and Africa: where to start?

By Scott A Morgan

The United States peacefully voted for a change in government. After 8 years the Republican administration of George W. Bush will be replaced by that of a Democrat, Senator Barack Obama. Other pundits have been determining what situation in the world will be the focus of the new administration. Very few people have mentioned Africa however.

There are currently five crisis situations ongoing in Africa. Three of them (Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur and Somalia) are mentioned frequently in the international media. The fourth one, Zimbabwe, highlights the divide between Africa and the western powers. The fifth, which is in northern Uganda, has had a peace accord reached but it wasn’t signed by the rebel forces.

At this juncture, the main focus is on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over a period from 1998 to 2002, this was the most brutal conflict in the world. Millions were killed in this conflict which is a direct result of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In recent weeks there has been an upsurge in the fighting in the Kivu provinces. Renegade General Laurent Nkunda has threatened to overthrow the government of President Kabila.

The region is permeated with various rebel forces from, not only the DRC, but also neighboring Uganda and Rwanda as well. The militia that has been responsible for the attacks in northern Uganda is based in the DRC. There currently is a US diplomatic presence in the region as the UN mission is on the edge of disaster. Recently the UN has announced that it would like to have Special Forces augment this mission.

Switching to Zimbabwe, the controversial presidential elections held back in March show no sign of being resolved soon. After a violent campaign led up to the July runoff which saw the incumbent Robert Mugabe win, talks began to see if a Kenya-style government of national unity can be formed. Talks held to resolve the situation are stalled. The US has long been critical of President Mugabe for his prior attempts to remain in power.

Already, those activists who have been active in the campaign to solve the tragic situation in Darfur have called upon President-elect Obama to halt the genocide. During the campaign he did sign a document along with Senators McCain and Clinton criticizing the violence that has plagued the region. It is hoped that this effort can be successful before violence occurs in other parts of Sudan.

Right now the two major issues in Africa appear to be the conflict in the DRC and the inability to restore a functioning government in Zimbabwe. There is considerable concern that the fighting in the Congo could spread and involve regional neighbors in a conflict that could dwarf the war that ended in 2002. The political morass in Zimbabwe will create problems in neighboring states such as Botswana and Zambia if it is not resolved.

There are expectations that Obama will have African issues in a more prominent place in his administration. There were celebrations of joy across Africa when it was revealed that President-elect Obama had won the election. Despite the euphoria, there are indications that an Obama administration will follow precedent from previous administrations when it comes to the various hotspots.

The author publishes Confused Eagle on the internet and comments on US policy towards Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at morganrights.tripod.com

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