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In this section we present the official U.S. government statements, public opinion polls and general comments America makes about Africa, with the intent to keep Africa officialdom aware of the Africa temperament in the USA –and to see “What America Sees


DRC

The United States has welcomed the decision by Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to not seek re-election, saying the ruling party's move to name a candidate other than Kabila "represents a significant step forward for Congolese democracy."

"We are encouraged by this sign that he (Kabila) intends to uphold his commitments to the Congolese constitution and the terms of the December 2016 St. Sylvestre agreement by not seeking a third term," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. 

"The Congolese people must be free to express their views and choose from the candidates without fear of violence, threats, or intimidation," Nauert added. "We call on DRC's National Independent Electoral Commission and Congolese authorities to take the necessary steps to guarantee credible elections on December 23, 2018."

Kabila has said he will support former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary in the upcoming presidential election.

Kabila should have stepped down at the end of 2016 when his second term expired, but he invoked a constitutional clause allowing him to remain in office as a caretaker.

The uncertainty fueled political tensions and sparked anti-Kabila protests that were violently suppressed.

The country of 80 million people has never had a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960 from European colonial powers.  


 

Africa and President Trump Administration

To start, it may be of value to know what POTUS means, since many of the “orgs” and pundits, as well as the “ones-who-seemingly-know” in Washington use it frequently, and most if not all, especially in Africa do not know what it means: POTUS is short for President Of The United States

Africa received no, or any attention during the American election process by either of the candidates and thus far the new POTUS office has not discussed Africa at all -- outside of its most recent Executive Order listing three Africa countries on its restricted US entry list.


Egypt's President, Abdel Fatah el Sisi, was the first foreign leader to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the US elections. Authoritarian leaders of Africa, and there are many, such as El Sisi are betting that the Trump presidency will be good for them – many times in very personal ways.  Interestingly, Egypt is not one of the three African countries on the above Executive Order.


There are suggestions that Trump's government will join forces with Egypt and Russia in backing the secular nationalists in Libya, led by General Khalifa Haftar against sundry Islamist factions. A US diplomat in Southern Africa pointed out discreetly that Trump's warmth towards President Vladimir Putin could prove helpful to South Africa's beleaguered President Zuma.


There is a little more clarity on personnel appointments that matter to Africa.


Peter Pham, Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, is strongly tipped as the new Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. An Associate Professor at James Madison University, Virginia, Pham specializes in regional geopolitics and security policy.


A former Marine and National Intelligence agent, Rob Townley, has been confirmed as the new Director for Africa at the National Security Council.  Said to have a 'strong personality',  read: “don’t contradict me.”  Townley served in combat operations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and his last job was Chief Strategy Officer at Doc-to-Dock, which provides medical support and conflict management services across Africa.


Tipped for a senior Africa role at the Department of Defense is Kate Almquist Knopf, Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies since 2014. And Jeffrey R. Krilla, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights at the State Department, might move across to the African Affairs Department. Some Washington-watchers are also suggesting the return of Charles Snyder, the veteran intelligence officer and State Department official who played a key behind-the-scenes role in US policy under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush.


In addition to the government people changes, America’s business and corporate conduit to Africa has an important one as well.  The Corporate Council on Africa and indirectly the Africa Travel Association – has a new CEO / President, her name is Florizelle Liser, who within the Obama Administration headed the AGOA Program, at the U.S. Commerce Department, which many say is in POTUS peril.   


The benefits of AGOA to African countries are well known and documented, however there are minimum incentives for the Trump administration to support it.  Many in Washington believe it will be either scrapped or greatly altered. Although AGOA is or was (?) the centerpiece of US trade policy for Africa and the most significant American initiative in the history of US-Africa relations it seems it will receive a similar consideration as was or is given to the NAFTA agreement and President Trump ‘s Executive Order withdrawing from US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- which would have covered 12 nations and about 40% of global GDP.


Within the arena of foreign affairs, the Trump administration has and is making significant moves which may or could be applied to Africa, the African Union (AU) and individually and collectively to all the AU member states, as well as Morocco, and a close monitoring is essential.


In this aspect, it will be valuable to watch Sudan and how the new relationship between Washington and Khartoum will develop.  Before leaving the office, President Barack Obama lifted the sanctions on US companies investing in and trading with Sudan, calling it 'an acknowledgement of progress by the government' in Khartoum.  The Obama White House cleared that decision with President Trump's team. Since taking office, the Trump White House issued an Executive Order that placed Sudan, as one of the three African countries, on the Moslem passport holders restricted entry to the US – and Sudan remains on the US list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism.


In the positive side of the Washington’s Africa ledger, the US State Department issued a greeting and acknowledgement to the new President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow.  Our front-page editorial has the full text of the message.


 

Historic Victory for Somali-American Muslim Woman in U.S. Legislative Elections

Ilhan Omar, 34, has made history by becoming the first Somali legislator in the United States. A former refugee, the Somali-born activist has been elected to serve as an MP in the US state of Minnesota.

Ilhan, who stood on the ticket of the Democratic Farmer Labour (DFL) – affiliated to the Democratic Party, in Minneapolis District, defeated the nominal Republican opposition.

She will be a lawmaker in the Minnesota House of Representative for District 60B. Her legislative area comprises parts of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, south-east Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.  Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali community - about 50,000 according to the US census.

She is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold an office at this level. She is a policy analyst, coalition builder and community educator. She left Somalia due to the civil was then to Kenya before ending up in the US.

“It’s the beginning of something new. This district has a legacy of making history. I am excited for our progressive values and to be able to be on the ground at the Capitol representing the diverse people of my district and being a champion with them and for them,” the 34-year-old is quoted to have said.

“Most recently, she served as the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowered East African woman to take civic leadership roles in their community. Ilhan lives in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis with her husband and their three children,” her official website stated.


African Immigrants in the United States

This topic overview is based on research by Helina Faris of the Immigration team at the Center for American Progress.

Recent election weeks have seen a greater conversation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  Latinos and Asians are mentioned most prominently, however black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean —who comprise 8 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population—are most often left out.
Here are some key facts about this often-overlooked group.


1. Black immigrants are a significant group in the United States—more than 3 million people comprising 8 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population.  Half come from the Caribbean, with the rest coming from Northern and sub-Saharan Africa. A small number come from Europe and Canada. Black immigrants account for more than one-quarter of the black population in New York, Boston, and Miami.


2. Black immigrants arrive in the United States through multiple pathways. Refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and Eritrea accounted for 30 percent of all black African immigrants in 2009, while around one-fifth of black African immigrants entered the United States through the diversity visa lottery program—which provides 55,000 visas each year to countries underrepresented in immigrant streams to the United States. Around 400,000 black immigrants in the United States are here without legal status.


3. Black immigrants are one of the most-educated immigrant groups. African immigrants have more college education and higher rates of degree attainment than any other immigrant group in the United States.


4. Black immigrants face many challenges in the United States. Even with high levels of education, black immigrants tend to earn low wages compared to other similarly trained immigrant or native workers. Black immigrants have the highest unemployment rate—12.5 percent—of any foreign-born group in the United States.


Presidential Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

President Barack Obama and U.S. government, private sector, and civil society leaders will meet with nearly 1,000 of sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising young leaders from August 1-3 at the Presidential Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.


The summit, held in Washington, D.C., will feature a Town Hall presentation format with President Obama, a Congressional Forum, and an Expo with more than 100 organizations engaged with Africa. USAID Administrator Gayle Smith, Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan, and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will also meet with the participants.


The young African leaders are convening in Washington after six weeks of academic study and leadership training at 36 higher education institutions across the United States as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Alumni of the fellowship are playing a role in strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, President Obama’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.

 


 

In the June 22, 2015 issue The New Yorker Magazine published a “Comment” by Philip Gourevitch. His comment in general reflect the Americans’ view of Africa’s “Big Men Syndrome” and the view they have of either “only I can do the job “or “being a President is too great for me and mine to give up”.

Coming to Terms

By Philip Gourevitch

Back in the summer of 2009, President Barack Obama went to Ghana and gave Africans a lecture about democracy, in which he paid tribute to determined voters across the continent who shared his enthusiasm for choosing their own leaders. “History is on the side of these brave Africans,” Obama said, “not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen. It needs strong institutions.” These were strong slogans, but history’s allegiances are rarely so unmistakable.

What side is history on, for instance, in a country that has no sustained experience of democracy, if the only choice is between those who use coups and others who use coups? And what if one of those coup-using sides opposes the other because the other is trying to change the constitution to stay in power? That’s what happened last October in Burkina Faso, a former French colony next door to Ghana, where each of the first five heads of government after independence was overthrown, and the sixth, Blaise Compaoré, having bumped off his predecessor, had clung to power for twenty-seven years, and didn’t want to let go of it. The law said that Compaoré’s time was up in 2015, so he moved to change the law, but the people weren’t having it. For four days, the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital, filled with protesters, and on the fourth day—after some of them torched the parliament building and others occupied the national TV station, and the airport was declared closed—Compaoré drove into exile, and the military seized power, dissolving his government and promising national elections before long.

The alignment of the military with “people power” in Ouagadougou was generally hailed across Africa, and abroad, as good news: sure, it was yet another coup in Burkina Faso, but it was, just maybe, a coup for democracy. And seeing Compaoré fall inspired citizens elsewhere on the continent to defy other Presidents who were maneuvering to outstay their constitutional welcomes. In January, there were scenes of mayhem in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after President Joseph Kabila proposed a law that would require a complete census before the next national election, a scheme that could keep him in power for years. Kabila is famously indifferent to popular sentiment—his men do crowd control with live ammunition—and at least forty people were killed, in four days, before the protesters withdrew. Kabila finally pulled back, too. He scrapped his proposed census law—as if, at least for the moment, he weren’t sure whose side history was on.

Then, there is Burundi, a country haunted by decades of coups, assassinations, massacres, genocides, and civil war. Twelve years ago, an elaborate peace deal put the country back together, with a new President, the former rebel commander Pierre Nkurunziza. The constitution allowed him two terms, and he liked them so much, apparently, that at the end of April he announced he would run for a third, plunging the country once more into violent political crisis. Some generals attempted a coup, in the Ouagadougou spirit, but loyalist troops defeated them and, with them, any prospect of restoring the hijacked constitutional order. Now Burundi’s economy is in tatters, its independent press has been silenced, dozens of people have been killed by police, and many more have been beaten and terrorized by the youth wing of the President’s party. More than a hundred thousand have fled the country. Nkurunziza doesn’t seem to mind: he says that he is in touch with God, and does as God wishes.

Burkina Faso, Congo, and Burundi are among the world’s poorest, least developed, worst governed countries. Compaoré, Kabila, and Nkurunziza are corrupt and unaccountable men, more like Mafia godfathers than like public servants, and they hardly bother to pretend otherwise. When they say that they must remain in office, they make no case for what good they’ll do, no connection between their interest in power and the public interest.

In Rwanda, meanwhile, baskets and bundles have been arriving at parliament, stuffed with petitions calling on the deputies to amend the constitution so that President Paul Kagame can run for a third term when his current mandate is up, in 2017. More than two million Rwandans (in a country of twelve million) have reportedly signed these petitions, which are the culmination of several years of a relentlessly intensifying campaign by Kagame supporters. They argue that Rwanda owes its many extraordinary transformations since the genocide to his leadership, and that he must stay on if those gains are to be solidified. Kagame maintains that he and his apparatus have nothing to do with this effort, but he has dominated Rwandan political life since 1994, and Rwanda is far from an open society. If he didn’t want this third-term campaign, it wouldn’t exist.

Still, the only person in Rwanda who regularly and publicly professes not to have made up his mind about a third term for Kagame is Kagame. He says—in a way that recalls Shakespeare’s Caesar, repeatedly refusing the crown, but each time more gently—that he needs to be persuaded of the argument. Yet for many years he insisted that he would step down in 2017. To hold on to power, he said, “would be a failure.” Why is that no longer true? “By design or by default, nothing else has been prepared,” one of his advisers said recently. That’s the problem. It’s not about term limits—it’s a question of mortality. Without a firm idea of succession, the man who is the symbol of stability becomes the symbol of instability.

In Ghana, Obama spoke of the benefits of “peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections,” and said, “This progress may lack the drama of the twentieth century’s liberation struggles, but make no mistake: it will ultimately be more significant.” There was plenty of drama in Nigeria recently, when, for the first time in its history, a sitting President, Goodluck Jonathan, was defeated by the leader of the opposition, Muhammadu Buhari, then congratulated him and relinquished power. It’s hard to imagine how Jonathan could have better served his country, or shown how far it has come from its desolate decades of military dictatorships and coups. Kagame was right when he used to say that it would be like a mark of success to step down. It is the ultimate act of leadership.



 

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