The US Secretary of State is making her first official visit to Africa and initial observations are that Mrs. Hillary Clinton is doing remarkably well in this capacity.
Her first stop was in Kenya and this was where two major concerns of the Obama Administration were being addressed. We all remember back in January 2008 when the country convulsed in an orgy of violence after a controversial presidential election. The country has a coalition government but has yet to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.
The other point of interest is Somalia. The US has had an interesting history in Somalia since the Cold War. First, the US and Somalia were allies after the Ogaden War of the late 1970s. US troops were in Somalia during the early 1990s which led to 18 elite US soldiers killed in a firefight. Now, piracy and Islamic extremism are the highlights of US concern over Somalia.
Kenya is at a critical point in its short post-independence history. The US government has intelligence reports indicating that Kenya’s future stability is in danger. Corruption, incompetent leadership and ethnic politics are to blame. This has resulted in shortages of food, water and electricity, which undermine the economy resulting in massive unemployment and discontent among millions of people.
Secretary Clinton had tough messages for President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga:
1). The US leadership supports radical reforms in Kenya’s institutions to end corruption and impunity.
2). US President Barack Obama’s administration wants a Special Tribunal to prosecute the masterminds of post election violence.
3). Action must be taken against individuals accused of extra judicial killings. The United Nations has linked Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali to the abduction and disappearances of thousands of people in the “War against Mungiki.”
4). If Kibaki and Raila fail to act, the US will impose travel bans against those implicated in post election violence. This means that certain cabinet ministers and high ranking government officials will be unable to travel to the US and its allies.
The US does not want Kenya to collapse, as this could complicate American geo-political strategies in the region. Currently, Kenya has a crucial role to play in the Horn of Africa. The port of Mombasa is the location where Somali pirates are brought after they are captured on the high seas. Kenya’s proximity to Somalia makes it a key point of interest to counter terrorism specialists in the US. There are some people who believe that Somalia could become to Kenya what Afghanistan is to Pakistan.
The US Secretary of State made two crucial statements regarding US interests in Somalia. First of all is the fact that the US will again be providing an arms shipment to Mogadishu. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration provided 40 tons of ammunition to the Transitional National Government as it attempts to keep the Al-Shabaab Islamist militia from gaining power.
And once again, the US had strong criticism for Eritrea and its reported involvement in Somalia. For several years the US, has accused Eritrea of supporting Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The situation in Somalia is not the only reason why relations between Asmara and Washington have become sour. Tensions between Eritrea and both Djibouti and Ethiopia are still simmering at this time. However the US has threatened to retaliate against Eritrea for its policies in Somalia.
Before some people get giddy over the idea of air strikes, there has to be time for economic sanctions to work. There are ample areas of concern regarding human rights in Eritrea as well, so there could be some action taken in the near future in the Horn of Africa. But some people may not think the action taken is tough enough.
Scott Morgan publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and comments on US policy in Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at morganrights.tripod.com