One victory and two defeats for Africa in Washington

By Scott A Morgan

The last two weeks were interesting for those who follow US policy towards Africa, especially when two countries which have been thorny issues for previous administrations are at the focal point of discussions.

First, let’s discuss the situation in Zimbabwe. Since the controversial elections in the year 2000, the country has gone from being the bread basket for southern Africa to being a basket case. Attacks on civil society, independent media outlets and the judiciary as well as poor economic conditions led the US and several other countries to levy targeted economic sanctions against President Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front).

The election of March 2008 which President Mugabe lost was both a defining moment and the last straw. After a controversial runoff in July 2008, a GNU (Government of National Unity) was negotiated. Currently, Morgan Tsviangari, the leader of the main opposition party is Prime Minister and it is he who delivered the victory in Washington this week.

President Obama broke with the policy of the Bush administration of isolating Zimbabwe by holding talks with the Prime Minister. This along with the fact that the US is going to allocate $73 Million in aid to Zimbabwe – with certain caveats – is a huge victory for the tarnished PR that Zimbabwe has become. However the US will still maintain its programme of sanctions currently in place. Also, in what can be construed as a defeat for Zimbabwe and its need for capital, the head of the CCA (Corporate Council for Africa) stated that there will be no US investment until the rule of law is restored and human rights are protected.

The second defeat, which has the potential for direct impact on US policy, had to be the defeat of the Royce Amendment to the 2010-11 Foreign Relations Bill. This Amendment, if successful, would have declared the support that Eritrea is believed to be giving to insurgents in Somalia a threat to the national security of the United States. It would also declare Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism.

The question is: who was handed defeat by the failure of the Royce Amendment? If  reports that the Ethiopian government spent thousands of dollars lobbying to have Eritrea labelled a state sponsor of terrorism are true, then defeat can be laid upon Addis Ababa. To take it even further, this can be seen as a defeat for the Transitional Government in Somalia as well.

The score is split for Zimbabwe. Having the US interact with the government and providing any form of aid will be a victory as long as the security situation is resolved. But the unwillingness of US business to invest in Zimbabwe is a plain defeat.

The failure of the Royce Amendment to deal with Eritrea has the potential to open the doors for another disaster in the Horn of Africa policy for the United States.

The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and comments on US policy towards Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at

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