President Obama Stop Wining and Dining with African Dictators

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Obama’s presidency raised great excitement, hope and pride for the people of Africa. Unfortunately, his invitation of one of Africa’s worst dictator, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia to Camp David on May 18, 2012 dashed any hopes for Obama’s redemption as a friend of Africa or pro human rights stand in the continent. As a Nobel Prize for Peace recipient, he was supposed to stand with the oppressed, not with a dictator like Meles.

Knowing that the root cause of Africa’s problem is lack of good governance and democratic rule, President continues the tradition of wining and dining with African dictators.

Most African dictators are zapping and retarding  political and economic development with their excessive abuse of power and misallocation of resources.

If nothing else, Obama was expected to  stand with the people of Africa unlike many past U.S. presidents who backed bloody dictators in the pretence of fighting  Communism or terrorism.  Although Africa has never been a hot bed of terrorism like the Middle East, but it was used as strategic base to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In the past, variousU.S.leaders stood in collusion with dictators and racist forces like the one inSouth Africaallegedly in promotingU.S.interest.  In some occasions African dictators got ears ofWashingtonby hiring high powered lobbyists to alignU.S.policy with theirs. Such bidding is done by lobbyists such as DLA Piper using  well known political figures  such as Dick Armey, Richard Gephardt and others.

The 2000U.S.presidential election fiasco in Florida gave many dictators inAfricaa cover to steal an election.  This has encouraged many regimes to extend their terms by dubious means or completely defying election results, as was the case inEthiopia,ZimbabweandUganda. In some other African countries election is merely a charade to keep their western friends quiet; some don’t even bother to hold an election.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the world was more hopeful about the spread of democracy. That hope started taking roots under President Bush Sr. and under Bill Clinton, unfortunately, since then it took the turn for the worst, giving rise to dictators for life in Eritrea, Sudan, Chad,  Ethiopia, and other African countries. While some are more egregious than others, in general they have crushed future hope for democracy, as well economic development.

Economic results also have been a disaster for the continent where unelected and unaccountable dictators prevailed.  Many of these countries face starvation, rampant inflation, unemployment, and massive dislocation of human and material capital. Some will end up as failed states imploding with economic woes and public rebellion like inSomalia.

According to the recent published U.S. Dept of Human rights report, a number of African countries have been accused of politically motivated killings and disappearances, but for Obama and previously for the Bush Administration it was just business as usual as far as some of  these countries pretend to support U.S. interest in the region.

Such blind support of dictators in the long run will damageU.S.standing and the fight against terrorism. The invasion ofSomaliaby Meles Zenawi ofEthiopiawas another scheme for a notorious dictator to ingratiate himself with theU.S.and to divert attention from his  own precarious standing at home and poor human rights record. This unnecessary and unjustified invasion has encouraged the rise of  a more radical group.

Meles’  primary reason for the invasion was not to fight terrorism but to distract domestic and international pressure arising from its rigged election and massacre of  hundreds of peaceful protestors. Like Ahmed Chalabi ofIraq, Meles of Ethiopia through its PR machine inWashingtonconvinced theU.S.administration to back its invasion that ended up creating a more radical group, Al Shabab.

According to Jeffrey Gentleman of the New York Times, what goes on inEthiopiaseems starkly different from the carefully-constructed image thatEthiopia-a country thatAmericaincreasingly relies on to fight militant Islam in the Horn.  According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, paramilitary units continue to use random searches, beatings, mass arrests and lethal force against peaceful protesters. The current Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Africa, Chris Smith, and R- New Jersey referred the current ruler ofEthiopiaas “vicious dictator”. Genocide watch and other human rights organizations have accused Meles for crimes against humanity for atrocities committed  against the  Annuak’s in Gambela and the people of Ogaden.

As long as the U.S.continues to forsake democracy in Africaand elsewhere for the sake of dubious American foreign policy guided by self-serving dictators, like Meles of Ethiopia, it is bound to fail.

The new Obama administration needs to divorce itself from the past and embrace the people of Africa regardless of the powerful lobbyist representing African dictators in the walls of congress or sharing the Lincoln bedroom if President Obama wants to change America’s image and the plight of the people of Africa. Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African Union and seat of many African and international organizations could be a place to flex his muscle for human rights and project new American leadership to bring change to decades of economic malaise and  oppression of the people of Africa by African dictators.  To this end, he needs to stop winning and dinning with the worst African dictator, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia at Camp David or anywhere.

Abdu, originally from Africa, is a Houston-based writer on foreign policy.

Post Title: President Obama Stop Wining and Dining with African Dictators
Author: dula
Posted: 13th May 2012
Filed As: Events
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