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.


Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate: truth or hoax?

A copy of a Kenyan birth certificate showing US President Barack Obama’s actual birth place as Mombasa, Kenya has been released. However, the authenticity of the birth certificate is yet to be confirmed.

A copy of what is claimed to be a Kenyan birth certificate showing President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

A copy of what is claimed to be a Kenyan birth certificate showing President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

What’s the big deal about Obama’s birth? Well, according to the Constitution of the United States, any person becoming President of the United States must have been born on American soil. This means that naturalized American citizens are not eligible for the presidency.

If it is proved that Obama was not born in the United States, then his legitimacy as President will be cast in doubt. The matter is that serious.

For a full view of the document, please click here >>

President Obama addresses Africa

by Scott A Morgan

When it was announced that President Obama would give a major policy speech towards Sub-Saharan Africa in Ghana, there was considerable interest about what that would entail.

US President Barack Obama addressing the Ghana Parliament.

US President Barack Obama addressing the Ghana Parliament.

Obama’s historic speech which was given to the Parliament of Ghana covered several areas:

1). Africa’s current role on the world stage,
2). The vital role of good governance,
3). The challenges that both conflict and corruption play in African affairs.

    Currently, Africa is seen by several countries as a place to explore new energy sources. It is also a place for new economic development as well. Therefore, the continent does have a role as an emerging market. But the President also stated that economic development depends on good governance. There are several countries in Africa facing economic turmoil due to unrest and other factors.

    In the speech, President Obama stated that the world must support strong democratic governments in Africa. Just what are considered to be the keys to success for a democratic government? Those that he highlighted include a strong parliament, honest police forces, independent media and judiciary, a vibrant private sector and a civil society.

    Health care is going to be a challenge for Africa. HIV and Malaria are serious issues that need to be taken care of. Since the George W. Bush administration, the US has provided billions of dollars not only to fight HIV/Aids but to provide life-saving medicines to those already infected. While In Ghana, Obama addressed an issue that normally doesn’t get reported that much: the recruitment of African doctors and nurses to work overseas. This creates a gap in basic Care.

    One of the areas of contention both in Africa and in the United States is the role of AFRICOM (African Command). The President stated that wherever there are global challenges, a global solution must be implemented. He then stated that AFRICOM would not be used to get a foothold on the African continent but will confront challenges to the security of Africa, America and the rest of the world.

    Just who was this speech intended for? There was ample praise for how the government of Ghana has respected the rule of law. As for security issues, both Darfur and Somalia were mentioned but the Democratic Republic of the Congo was not. Zimbabwe was mentioned twice as well but the Gambia and the Guineas were omitted. Obama mentioned the homeland of his father, Kenya, in less than glowing terms.

    All in all, Obama’s speech was good and on the surface appears to expand on the policies of George Bush.


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

    AFRICOM plans for extremists and drugs trade

    by Scott A Morgan

    Recently General William (Kip) Ward, the Commanding Officer of the highly controversial US African Command (AFRICOM) gave an interview to NPR (National Public Radio). Some of the statements made by General Ward indicate that there is some major concern in Washington over events currently unfolding in Africa.

    General William Ward, AFRICOM Commander

    General William Ward, AFRICOM Commander

    The first major area of concern is Somalia. We have heard of the tragic history of that country in the Horn of Africa. The collapse of a functioning government, hunger, Islamist militias trying to install their belief system and piracy are just some of the ills that plague Somalia. The situation is so dire that the Pentagon sent $10 Million (Kshs759,000,000) in arms to prop up the current government. The group, Al-Shabaab, currently has power over the southern part of the country.

    The US fears situations like Somalia developing throughout Africa.  Clearly there are several locales where such concerns have actually occurred. Most notorious is the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where Ugandan, Congolese and Rwandan militias have set up their own fiefdoms free from the rule of law. Another case is the Niger Delta where there is an abundant supply of oil but no investments in infrastructure. These are two highlights of limited government influence or none what so ever.

    US policy is to support governments in various areas of the continent that seek to establish control over areas that they govern. If the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act is passed, then the US will assist in developing a long term strategy to achieve the goals mentioned in the title of the legislation. This could mean an additional role for AFRICOM in Central Africa. US efforts to rebuild the armed forces in Liberia with the assistance of the State Department have been successful to this point.

    The other area of concern for AFRICOM is the narcotics trade. This primarily is an issue that affects West Africa. It can be argued that the drug trade has had a role in the collapse of two governments in recent years (Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.) The rugged West African coastline has been used by South American cartels as a transit point to ship narcotics to Europe.

    Previous testimony on Capitol Hill in June indicated that AFRICOM is working with the Southern Command Joint Interagency Task Force South, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other bodies to monitor the flow of narcotics and support projects with the goal of interdicting the flow. It is felt that this is the best time to curtail the drugs trade before it undermines US strategic interests in Africa.

    These are two laudable goals that AFRICOM has. And they should succeed at them.

    The author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at

    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

    Kenya has no choice over Al-Shabaab

    With fighting raging in Somalia, pirates running amok in the Indian Ocean and the internationally recognized government about to fall, it would appear that the Al Shabaab Islamic movement will soon be having the last laugh.

    Mogadishu residents converge around the body of a government soldier who caught fire during intense fighting.

    Mogadishu residents converge around the body of a government soldier who caught fire during intense fighting.

    Though Kenya is a key backer of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, there is nothing that can be done to save his position. Al-Shabaab is growing from strength to strength capturing territory and key towns in central and southern Somalia. Recently, the Islamic youth group gained significant potency when it joined forces with fighters from the Hizbul al-Islam party. Meanwhile, Somali government soldiers are reportedly suffering from poor morale in the face of inevitable defeat.

    Kenya has increased military patrols along its porous border with Somalia. However, with the Somali ethnic group straddling both sides of the border, movement has continued unhindered despite the fact that the border is officially closed. The Somali people move freely as they have family on both sides of the long, desert border. As a measure of how difficult it is for the Kenyan government to secure its borders, one of just a dozen of its Hughes 500 military helicopters crashed last month in unexplained circumstances.

    As Kenya joins the United States and Ethiopia in supporting President Sheikh Sharif, the question arises as to how to deal with Al-Shabaab. That is, if anything can be done about the powerful movement.

    Al-Shabaab is an offspring of the Union of Islamic Courts, the Islamist organization that created Somali’s first home-grown government in 2006. The United States and Ethiopia accused the Islamists of harbouring Al-Qaeda. In December 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with US backing and drove the Islamists out of Mogadishu. At the time, Sheikh Sharif was among the Islamists who included Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.

    Kenya contributed to the invasion by sealing its border to prevent Islamist fighters from fleeing. Hundreds of Islamist fighters were massacred by Ethiopian and American aircraft as they were stranded at the border points.

    Sharif and Aweys fled to Eritrea while the internationally recognized Transitional National Government took over the capital, Mogadishu. However, January 2007 marked the beginning of the worst phase of fighting since Somalia’s collapse in 1991. An Iraq-style insurgency erupted as Al-Shabaab made itself felt for the first time in Somalia. By December 2008, fighting was so bad that the Ethiopians fled the country.

    The Transitional government fell into political chaos and somehow, Sheikh Sharif ended up as President. However, by accepting to work in the US-backed Transitional government Sheikh Sharif fell out with Sheikh Aweys, his former ally. Indeed, it is Aweys who is now openly leading Al-Shabaab and Hizbul al Islam in fierce insurgency against the Somali government.

    What can Kenya do to stop Al-Shabaab from taking over power in Somalia and declaring the Islamic Republic of Somalia?

    The answer is: NOTHING.

    Kenya lacks the military capability to engage Al-Shabaab in a long-drawn engagement inside Somalia. Stronger armies including the United States and Ethiopia have not succeeded. Kenya, with 20,000 troops led by a wobbly coalition government, cannot stomach an engagement that could last years. The fact that the Kenya Navy is yet to capture a single Somali pirate just goes to prove our military capabilities.

    The safest option is to keep the border closed but this does not work. The border is hundreds of kilometres long across harsh, semi-desert terrain. The local Somali people are very familiar with the territory and are crossing in and out of Kenya despite the “closure.” Though the border was officially closed in December 2006, smuggling of consumer goods, foodstuffs and firearms continues with impunity. Human trafficking has taken root in the area.

    By any interpretation, it appears that an Islamic Republic of Somalia is going to become a reality. Somalia will have some measure of Shariah administration, something that the US-backed Transitional government has accepted. The tendency for Somali’s neighbours to sponsor so-called secular movements is the reason why chaos reigns in Somalia.

    An Islamic government in Somalia does not necessarily mean that Kenya is under threat. Though Al-Shabaab has threatened to annexe the Somali-dominated North Eastern Province of Kenya, this is unlikely to happen in practice. Somalis have extensive business and family interests in Kenya that they would not wish to disrupt. During the 20 years of chaos that Somalia has experienced, Kenya has provided investment opportunities for Somali business, money that is later ploughed back into Somalia.

    An entire generation of young Somalis got their education in Kenya and have come to appreciate Kenyans. In a sense, Kenya has provided Somalis with a place of refuge where they can recuperate from the fighting back home. It has even been reported that Somali fighters and pirates have been seen in Nairobi suburbs taking a much-needed physical and psychological retreat.

    From the 2006 experience, it is obvious that only an Islamic leadership will have the capacity to rescue Somalia from anarchy. The world should engage with them in a dialog that will result in an Islamic Somalia at peace with its neighbours. Otherwise, it is futile to continue sponsoring warlords in fighting a losing battle with Islamic militants who are getting bolder by the day.

    Migingo: Museveni supported by world powers

    Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has long been a darling of the West, specifically the United States and United Kingdom, as a bulwark against Arab, Chinese and French influence in Central Africa.

    Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) troops in action. Picture by Africom.

    Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) troops in training. Picture by Africom.

    It is worth noting that none of the world powers have condemned President Museveni’s moves at Migingo Island. Meanwhile, the actions of Ugandan soldiers in Kenya’s Pokot district have elicited absolutely no reaction from the international community.

    If anything, rather than criticize the actions of its favourite African leader, the United Kingdom has offered its colonial archives back in London to help determine the correct border between Kenya and Uganda. This is in sharp contrast to the situation back in the 1960s and 70s when Britain made it clear to Kenya’s neighbours that any sign of military action would be met with the full might of Her Majesty’s forces.

    Could this mean that Museveni’s actions have the backing of the West? If so, the implication is that Kenya has fallen out of favor of the major world powers. Even China is maintaining a loud silence over the matter. In any case, China is unlikely to risk antagonizing its relationship with the West by coming out strongly in Kenya’s defence.

    Thanks to tribal politics, Kenya is about to turn into a failed state. For this reason, the West has decided to act in preventing another Somalia-like situation in East Africa. Ordinarily, the usual strategy is to locate an alternative leadership within the country then support it in taking over the government. This strategy has been implemented across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America to install pro-Western governments.

    However, Western political analysts are of the view that all of Kenya’s current breed of leaders are beyond redemption. They are severely afflicted with corruption and insensitivity to the needs of the suffering masses. There is none among Kenya’s politicians who can provide a way out of Kenya’s mess. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi are all blamed for driving Kenya into the snake pit of tribal hatred.

    The United States is extremely worried about the possibilities of a Rwanda-style scenario in Kenya. A few days ago, President Barack Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete held two-party talks where Kenya was discussed. Former US President George W. Bush also regularly consulted Kikwete over Kenya’s impending implosion and this was long before the 2007 elections.

    The US came under heavy criticism back in 1994 for failing to stop the Rwanda genocide. Since then, Washington is determined to pre-empt a repeat of the same in order to avoid placing American soldiers on African soil. With ongoing engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US does not wish to have an implosion in Kenya. The growth of militant Islam in the Horn of Africa is already presenting nightmares to US strategists who fear that the failure of the Kenyan state would be a bonanza to Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda.

    The British also want to see a stable and peaceful Kenya due to their economic and strategic interests in the region. The UK government fears an influx of Kenyan Asians, many of whom already hold British citizenship.

    Faced with an impending crisis in Kenya, but fearful of committing themselves too deeply, what is the solution for the United States and Britain? That is where Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni steps into the equation.

    Museveni has for long been the West’s point man in the East and Central African region. He has made numerous interventions on behalf of the West in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and even Iraq. Museveni is an African partner that the US and Britain can rely upon to promote Western interests. US Presidents and British Prime Ministers make it a matter of routine to visit Uganda during their terms of office. Even the Queen of England has visited Uganda on more than one occasion.

    Since the 1980s, Kenya’s ratings in the West have been on a steady decline. No serving US President has ever visited independent Kenya. Hardly anybody remembers the last time Queen Elizabeth visited Kenya. For that matter, even British Prime Ministers have been giving Kenya a wide berth, only dropping by once they are out of office.

    It is obvious that the West has given Museveni a role to play in Kenya’s politics. There is more to Museveni’s intervention than meets the eye, hence his confidence over the Migingo and Pokot affairs. The question is: what does the West hope to accomplish in Kenya through Museveni? Is it possible that Museveni will in the near future decide who will be Kenya’s next leader, just like he changed the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo?

    For sure, Museveni is fully aware that Kenya’s leaders are so divided that little action will be taken against him. President Kibaki sees the Migingo saga as a Luo issue that does not need military involvement. The fact that Prime Minister Raila Odinga is from the Luo tribe certainly plays into Museveni’s game plan, and will be used to show Raila’s impotence in spite of being the supervisor of government.