Grave shortcomings in US Africa operations

by Scott A Morgan

While most advocates of African issues and observers were focused on other things such as the visit to Africa by Secretary Clinton and the Comprehensive Policy Review towards Sudan, an internal investigation of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs had very interesting revelations.

Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson: Current head of the Bureau of African Affairs

Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson: Current head of the Bureau of African Affairs

What did this report reveal about what the Bureau that will shape the next likely test in US foreign policy?

The Bureau of African Affairs is underfunded, facing staffing shortfalls, burdened with demands and has a public diplomacy program that in the words of the report is “failed.” There are questions regarding the priorities of long term planning. Despite these shortcomings the report by the State Department’s Inspector-General praised the work of the Bureau.

The evaluation into the Bureau took place between April 20th and June 9th of this year. It should be noted that Johnnie Carson who was nominated by President Obama to this post assumed this position while review was underway. Before Mr. Carson took over, Philip Carter III was the acting Undersecretary. The review saw that the time under the stewardship of Mr. Carter as a time of “renewal”. The report sees Mr. Carson as a strong leader for this position.

Some of the lowlights revealed in this report were that several US Embassies have significant morale, staffing and leadership issues. There was also a lack of communication from the regional desks to the front office and disinterest in all posts except those that deal with crisis situations. All in all, this does not bode well for the Secretary of State but could adversely affect decisions made by the President as well.

The lack of foresight in planning affects several aspects of US policy in Africa. One glaring example was in food aid. Quoting the report, “The United States feeds Africa, it is not focusing as it should on helping Africans feed themselves.”

Another example was in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The US provides funds to programs that focus more on medication than on preventing the spread of this deadly disease. Little, if any, resources were allocated for education and combating HIV/AIDS.

Another point of controversy is AFRICOM. This newest command of the US military was resented by members of the Bureau. More often than not, the reason was that the military was getting more money allocated to it then their State Department Counterparts. For example, a military information support team dealing with Somalia received $600,000 while the State Department got $30,000. It should be noted that the military has resources that State either dreams about or resents. The Inspector-General also suggested that the Peacekeeping Training and Support Programs be transferred to AFRICOM if the funding does not increase.

The Inspector-General’s report found that AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) has had marginal success due to several factors including poor infrastructure, lack of credit and not meeting the goals imposed by Washington. It also found that within the Bureau, Somalia is the hot button issue but militia activities are a rising concern as well in the US.

This report is both good news and bad news for the Administration. Africa has high hopes and expectations from President Barack Obama. The military Command is better funded for some missions. Morale at the State Department is low but the job is increasingly become more and more crucial on a daily basis.

Nothing improves morale like having some successes. Clearly the State Department needs some when it comes to Africa.

The author comments on US policy towards Africa and publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet.


Hillary’s real agenda in Kenya trip

by Scott A Morgan and our Staff Reporter

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.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with Hillary Clinton in Nairobi.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with Hillary Clinton in Nairobi.

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.

Interestingly, Kenya expelled two Eritrean diplomats soon after Secretary Clinton’s visit but the Eritrean Ambassador to Nairobi has denied the claims.


Scott Morgan publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and comments on US policy in Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at


Special Tribunal the best option, says Human Rights Watch

The Kenyan government has reneged on commitments to deliver justice for the victims of post-election violence, an international human rights body has said.

The High Court of Kenya in Nairobi.

The High Court of Kenya in Nairobi.

According to New York based Human Rights Watch, an independent domestic court with international participation is the best option to start establishing accountability. The Kenyan government should immediately adopt legislation to establish the special tribunal.

On July 30, 2009, the cabinet announced that, contrary to previous agreements, it would not establish a Special Tribunal, but would rely instead on a “reformed” national judicial system to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.

The July 30 announcement is a U-turn from the government’s previous position that the Kenya justice system is deeply flawed and that the regular courts were unlikely ever to bring senior politicians and government officials to face justice.

The recommendation of the Waki Commission on Post-Election Violence, which the government accepted and promised to implement in December 2008, was to establish a Special Tribunal independent of the High Court and with international participation to investigate and prosecute the suspects.

“Bringing justice to these victims is the most urgent test of the coalition government’s willingness to resolve Kenya’s crisis,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The cabinet just resoundingly failed that test.”

Georgette Gagnon

Georgette Gagnon

“The argument for a special tribunal has always been that the Kenyan judiciary lacks independence, and the necessary reforms of the entire justice system will take years,” Gagnon said. “The idea that the existing judicial system can deal with the senior politicians and government officials who allegedly incited and organized the killing is an insult to the memory of those who lost their lives.”

As recently as July 3, the Kenyan government agreed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor at The Hague that by the end of September it would set out clear benchmarks for a “special tribunal or other judicial mechanism adopted by the Kenyan Parliament.” The government had agreed that if there was no parliamentary agreement on such a mechanism, it would refer the case to The Hague.

Parliament rejected the draft legislation establishing the Special Tribunal in February, and since then, there has been no parliamentary debate, let alone agreement on the issue of how to deal with the suspects.

Kofi Annan, the chair of the panel of eminent Africans who negotiated the National Accord that led to the coalition government, repeatedly extended the time for the Kenyan government to take action on a national solution. On July 9, Annan handed over the Waki Commission’s evidence and its sealed list of suspects to the ICC, a step the commission had recommended in the event that a Special Tribunal was not established.

“After months of delay, the cabinet has finally declared that it is unprepared to carry out the principal task for which the coalition government was formed: to end Kenya’s decades of impunity,” Gagnon said. “The only credible option for the government to gain public confidence is to establish the Special Tribunal immediately or to refer the cases to the ICC.”

On July 27, foreign ministers of the European Union called on Kenya to establish the special tribunal, along with carrying out the broader reform agenda provided for in the National Accord.

“Reforms of the national judicial system are badly needed, but they alone will not bring to account perpetrators of the worst crimes committed during the post-election violence,” Gagnon said. “The US and Kenya’s other international partners should insist in no uncertain terms that, until an independent judicial mechanism is established in Kenya, there can be no ‘business as usual’.”

This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supported calls for a Special Tribunal.