Monday, September 22, 2008

Seven Questions Interview Q&A Nr.6: Africa and the U.S. Presidential Campaign

Note: I felt that I should publish my answer to interview question number 6 out of sequence so that readers would easily notice it. Bearing in mind the the state of world affairs being discussed at the UN General Assembly 2008 meeting in New York this week, the U.S. presidential campaign moving into its final critical weeks, and the recent Wall Street financial crisis that rocked stock markets and economies worldwide, consider this a 'Heads Up' post for the world.

Read Part 1 (Q&A Nrs. 1,2,3) of the Seven Questions interview here
Read Part 2 (Q&A Nrs. 4,5) of the Seven Questions interview here
Koluki is crossposting excerpts from the interview at her blog

Seven Questions for Jewels in the Jungle
(continued from Q&A Nr. 5)

6. How do you think each American Presidential candidate, Barack Obama and John McCain, would impact America's relationship with Africa if elected?

You know, when I first saw this question I thought it would be difficult to answer because I have heard precious little in this campaign from either John McCain or Barack Obama about how they view America’s foreign policy toward Africa. But after taking some time to do a bit of careful research on the subject I’ve come across some very interesting factual information on the subject.

One thing that should be noted is that this U.S. election campaign may be one of the most closely watched political events in human history. As I explained in a previous post about Senator Barack Obama’s July visit to Germany the overseas interest and excitement about this campaign is phenomenal. It is bigger than anything that has come out of American political life for decades and the outcome of this presidential election is important not only for U.S. voters but for citizens around the globe.

It’s hard for Americans living abroad to explain the dirty politics and negative personal attacks that have emerged in this campaign. The level of ‘political attack ads’ are shocking not only for Americans and veteran U.S. political journalists but also for many foreign observers following this election. Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institution describes this aggressive behavior as an all-time low in U.S. political campaign history. If patriotic Americans are truly sincere about improving the country’s standing and image abroad then the Republicans and Democrats need to rein in this toxic behavior at all levels of their respective campaigns. The presidential candidates need to get back to discussing real issues and offering solutions for the mounting problems that we all are facing. The upcoming presidential debate on September 26 would be a good place to start.

The global phenomenon surrounding the Obama campaign for President is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience and I shall not forget it as long as I live. This man’s candidacy has inspired people from all walks of life and has instilled a special feeling of pride and new hope for a better world in many people of every color, ethnicity, and nationality. It is a pity that the Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, an accomplished and distinguished U.S. politician, has not been able to arouse a similar level of excitement and interests in these elections outside of the United States.

I have been approached countless times by people in Germany who want to eagerly discuss the 2008 U.S. election campaign and the historic candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. They want to talk about everything from race relations in the U.S. to how national politics really works in America. This election campaign is especially exciting for my African friends and other people of color in Europe who seem to have adopted Obama’s run for President as if he were the leader of their own respective countries. Obama’s candidacy represents a powerful and symbolic break with these people’s own colonial past and collective dreams for the future. My experiences are something special and I think that we as Americans cannot afford to ignore this important message from so many people from every corner of the world. As reported in several newspapers and TV news networks Europe’s fascination with Senator Obama is unusually high. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine conducted a reader poll that showed an overwhelming amount of support for Barack Obama over John McCain by a whopping margin of 83%. Newsweek’s new sister publication The has a related article on Obama’s global appeal titled ‘The World in His Hands’ that is also worth reading as it echoes what we already know here in Europe.

I try to caution people (especially young African men) not to be overly confident about Senator Obama easily winning this election in America but I get the feeling that many people are simply not listening. I enjoy explaining to them how U.S. politics works and the importance of this historical presidential election. Their interest has remained keen over the many months of campaigning and news coverage by CNN and BBC News and our conversations about politics in America and in Africa are lively and informative. My hope is that my young friends and acquaintances will take something from this experience with them back to their own home countries in Africa. That some of these young Africans will become active in the politics of their country and work hard to bring the benefits of a true democracy to their people. I expect to see their names in Africa’s good news headlines someday.

So as far as the presidential candidate Barack Obama impacting the U.S.A.’s relationship with Africa and Africans, he has already done it and he has done it in a very big way. Just the manner in which he has handled himself so far in this very challenging political campaign has inspired many African people for generations to come. If it were left up to the world to choose the next U.S. president, the 2008 race for the White House would already be over. The November polls in the United States would simply be a formality in keeping with our constitution.

I think that good people around the world are desperately trying to send a strong message to Americans, pleading with us to make informed and intelligent decisions about our leaders in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. They are trying to tell us that the person who sits in the Oval Office of the White House come January 21, 2009 is damn important for their lives and future too. These are voices that we must not ignore as American voters, no matter which political party we adhere to, we dare not ignore the pleas and hopes and dreams of our friends and allies around the world. So for the remaining few weeks leading up to the U.S. general election on November 4, 2008 I hope that my fellow Americans behave in a manner that is becoming of a great nation and a great people. It would go a long way in helping to restore the world’s confidence in America and it might help many of us to restore confidence in ourselves.

Now to get back to your question, what was your question?
Oh yes, how do I think that each U.S. presidential candidate would impact America’s relationship with Africa?

I think that both U.S. presidential candidates, no matter who wins in November, will have little opportunity to devote a great deal of attention and energy toward Africa during their first year in office. It is not that John McCain and Barack Obama does not care about what happens in Africa or does not want better US-Africa relations. All of the U.S. presidential candidates have expressed their views and ideas about U.S. foreign policy and you can read what they have said at the Council of Foreign Relations Campaign 2008 website: The Candidates on U.S. Policy toward Africa.

In my opinion the problem is that the next U.S. president will be immediately faced by a mountain of problems as soon as he opens the door to the Oval Office on January 21, 2009. Like a swarm of locusts the world’s problems and crises will be all over the incoming president, things that need his immediate and special attention and his most valuable asset, his time. The urgent needs of African countries may be in danger of being shuffled toward the bottom of the President’s ‘TO DO list’ yet again as has been the case in previous administrations. It is not only the incoming U.S. president who will be confronted with these mounting problems as we shall witness at the UN General Assembly 2008 meeting in New York this week. Africa’s needs and challenges are at great risk in the face of a global financial crises, climate change, food shortages, and conflict.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, this is exactly what will happen in the first 100 days of next U.S. administration until the President can assemble his new cabinet and get a handle on what needs to be done immediately and what can wait until later. Once the President’s foreign policy team has been selected and assembled, African leaders and advocates and activists will concentrate on building a working relationship with the administration, including meeting with the next U.S. Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. This will be the first order of business in Washington DC for Africa’s diplomats and political and business leaders.

The new president as with administrations past will be listening very closely to the advice and recommendations of his national security and foreign policy advisors before he makes any decisions about steering a new U.S. policy course toward Africa or anywhere else in the world. The 2008 Democratic presidential campaign team has assembled about three hundred advisors to assist their candidate Senator Barack Obama with foreign policy issues. I’d say with that large number of policy experts and seasoned U.S. diplomats the Democrats are taking U.S. foreign policy seriously. I don’t know if the 2008 Republican campaign team has an equal number of foreign policy advisors to help Senator John McCain but perhaps he doesn’t need them. After all Senator McCain has been around for a long time in Washington DC and he is also well known by many diplomats and world leaders. John McCain does get his world leaders and their countries a bit mixed up every now and then like he did with Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. Heck, a slipup like that could happen to anybody at that age. Whatever the number of foreign policy advisors and experts that are holed up in each party’s camp we shall see how well versed each candidate is on U.S. foreign policy issues in the opening Presidential Debate to be televised on September 26th.

CNN aired a special program this past weekend titled ‘The Next President: A World of Challenges’. Veteran news correspondents Christiane Amanpour and Frank Sesno played host to five (5) former U.S. secretaries of state. The program was taped on September 15 at George Washington University in a roundtable discussion titled “The Next President and U.S. Foreign Policy: Guiding Principles and Global Challenges”. Unfortunately for those of us who live outside of North America the CNN special aired at 03:00 CET on Sunday September 21st. I don’t know about you but I am asleep at 0300 hours unless there is an emergency or something. During the roundtable discussion at GWU former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked what he thought about an Obama victory in November. He made it clear that he had not yet made up his mind on who he would vote for but Colin Powell did say that an Obama victory “would be electrifying”. I agree with Powell, an Obama victory would stun the world. The Election Center 2008 website has more on the roundtable event: Ex-secretaries of state share advice for next president and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° program blog has published two posts about the event as well:

Excerpt from Frank Sesno’s post at CNN’s AC360°

There we were, sitting alongside five people who had made history and shaped American foreign policy for nearly four decades. Vietnam and d├ętente. Hot war with Iraq and Cold War with the Soviet Union. Mideast peace conferences and arms control. Kosovo and Iran. Rwanda and Iraq. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the scourge of drought, poverty and AIDS in the developing world. Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell. Five former American Secretaries of State. The conversation was remarkable for its candor, depth and realism.

We gathered at the George Washington University, where I teach, to talk about the challenges facing the next American president. Christiane Amanpour brought her experience and hard edge to the questioning. The list of challenges we asked about was daunting– from big global issues like climate change and poverty to decisions about how to deal with the new, more assertive Russia, how to handle Iraq and Afghanistan, whether to reach out to Iran, how to fight terrorism and fix America’s tattered image in the world.

Here’s what the secretaries’ bottom line was: get over it. Get real. Be smart. The world is a complicated place. America has to lead. Play down the ideology, they seemed to say, and approach the world rationally and with perspective. Imagine that.

Read more at AC360°
Former Secretaries of State to Next President: Get over it. Be real. Be smart.

Excerpt from Christiane Amanpour’s post at CNN’s AC360°

One of the most interesting areas where they differed was Darfur and the question of Genocide. These hardened diplomats were torn – but they agreed that U.S. intervention was not in the cards. Even Secretary Powell who told us he had first called it genocide on behalf of the US government:

Colin Powell: “You look at something like Darfur, and it just breaks your heart. But the ultimate solution to the crisis in Darfur is a political solution between the rebels and the government in Khartoum.”

Madeline Albright:” Well, I think it’s in the U.S. national interests, in fact, to do something about humanitarian situations that lead to or are genocidal. And the question is how you get the will of the American people behind it. It is not easy. But I’ll say this is, if you’re the United States, you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t. We intervened in Somalia, and people thought that was a mistake. We didn’t intervene in Rwanda, and people thought that was a mistake.”

James A. Baker III: “When you formulate and implement foreign policy — and I bet you everybody here would agree with this — you have got to take America’s principles and values into consideration. And we’re talking here now about principles and values. But you also have to have a healthy dose of national interest involved, because otherwise you lose the support of the American people. Your foreign policy can only be sustained as long as you bring the American people along with it. They are the final arbiter of foreign policy in our democracy. We cannot be the policemen for the world“.

Yes, but Darfur is a big topic on US campuses, with a serious grass roots movement to stop the genocide there. When the Secretaries started laying this on “bringing the American people along”, I was sorely tempted to turn to the audience for a show of hands. I am sure there would have been an overwhelming call for action from the floor. I’m sorry I didn’t ask.

Read more at AC360°
Five Former Secretaries of State: Cracking diplomacy, and jokes

Here are more reasons why I think that Africa’s issues and concerns will not be a very high priority in the first 12 months of the incoming U.S. administration:

1. Just this week Wall Street and major financial markets around the globe are facing yet another economic meltdown. Financial mismanagement and very reckless behavior by top managers at key multinational investment banks and mammoth insurance companies will be costing U.S. taxpayers dearly if and when the dust ever settles over this mess. I’ve read news analysis that say that the bill to American taxpayers for the failures on Wall Street this year alone could reach US$ 1 trillion___ that’s right, 1 trillion dollars with a t!

Fingers of blame are pointing in every which direction while it is clear that there has been poor government oversight and regulation of the U.S. banking and insurance industries. And it is also evident that the Barons of Wall Street have gone completely mad with a lot of other people’s money. People are deeply pissed off at America about this financial crisis from Peoria to Persia and if it were not for massive financial help from the central banks in Europe and Asia the U.S. economy would be near collapse.

One of the first things that the new U.S. president must do immediately after taking office in January is to come up with a solid plan and expert team to address this massive problem. “It’s the economy, stupid!” happening all over again just like on the eve of President Clinton’s first administration but this time even the world’s smartest economists are dumbfounded about what to do next and how global markets can dig themselves out of this deep hole. So if you have any good ideas about how to fix this mess send them to the expert panel of economists assembled by the New York Times.

2. The War in Iraq is looking as if there may be some light at the end of the tunnel after all with the handover of command of coalition forces by General David Patraeus to General Ray Odierno. Although the terrible sectarian violence and number of suicide bombings and wanton killings are down in most parts of the country, Iraq is still a nation desperately seeking peace and stability and resolution to its many problems and challenges.

The next U.S. president will be saddled with the responsibility of managing continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, including the drawdown of U.S. forces in the country and helping the Iraqi government with reconstruction. Iraq and Afghanistan will be as great a burden on the next U.S. president as it was on President George W. Bush, and the emerging tensions between the U.S. and the nuclear-armed unstable government in Pakistan may prove to be the nightmare that nobody dared dream. These conflicts and crises will continue to weigh heavily on America’s human and financial resources and God forbid that all Hell breaks loose somewhere else on the planet. If it does, we are all doomed for sure.

3. The elusive search for peace in the Middle East, the nuclear negotiations with North Korea and Iran, combating the resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan and fighting extremism and terrorists worldwide (including in Africa), dealing with a wide assortment of problems that impact U.S. relations with our many neighbors south of the border (Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti…) __ all of these foreign policy challenges will be stacked high upon the next U.S. president’s desk in January 2009.

And right next to this stack of red hot foreign affairs issues will be another pile of problems and challenges labeled “U.S. Domestic Crises and Issues”. This stack has absolute top priority in the lives of U.S. citizens and voters. Addressing these issues expediently and successfully in the eyes of the American people will determine if the new U.S. president and his administration can keep their jobs. These U.S. domestic issues include the following but is not limited to this short list:

a) The U.S. economy and the huge mess in the investment banking industry
b) National security and public safety
c) U.S. job security and reducing unemployment to negligible levels
d) Addressing America’s business needs and stimulating economic growth
e) Providing healthcare insurance for all U.S. citizens (100%)
f) Improving access to higher education and better education for all Americans
g) Energy issues ranging from sourcing and securing America’s energy supplies to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and gas
h) Developing new and renewable energy technologies for new energy sources
i) Straightening out the legal/illegal immigration mess that affect millions and millions of Latino families in a way that works best for everybody

I think that you get the idea, that the list of problems and challenges facing the incoming president is unending___ always has been for U.S. presidents since the birth of the republic. And it shall always be this way so as long as the United States of America stands and attempts to maintain its position as a leader among democratic nations in the world.

  • So where does Africa fit into this picture, into the strategic foreign policies of the United States of America?

  • Where are African issues in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign?

  • What do Africans need to know about the U.S. presidential candidates?

  • How will the outcomes of the U.S. elections affect the everyday lives of Africans and will they help improve the prospects for Africa’s future?

  • The Africa Focus Bulletin team at the University of Illinois and in Washington DC has just published a feature article that addresses some of these questions. The collection of editorials from the editors and distinguished scholars is titled “U.S.A./Africa: New Policy Prospects?” Here is an excerpt from that fine Africa Focus feature:

    Wanted: A New U. S. Africa Policy
    by Merle Bowen and William Minter

    [Merle Bowen directs the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. William Minter, in Washington, DC, edits the on-line publication AfricaFocus Bulletin.

    …Almost 15 years after Nelson Mandela took office in South Africa, the United States still lacks a coherent Africa policy. There are pieces of such a policy - support for the war against AIDS is now a bipartisan consensus, and both presidential candidates have pledged to focus on Darfur. Neither candidate, however, has laid out a policy framework that can serve both African and American interests.

    …In recent years some other African issues have attracted attention, and activists have pressured Washington to act.

    On AIDS the results have been significant, even if still inadequate. President Clinton, whose administration was missing in action on AIDS in Africa, became an effective campaigner on the issue after leaving office. President Bush, whose USAID administrator initially dismissed antiretroviral treatment for Africans as impractical because "Africans can't tell time," now finds that the presidential AIDS program is one of the few accomplishments he can claim for history.

    On other issues - conflict, human rights, debt, trade, and development - the record is less inspiring. The Clinton administration shared the international failure to act against genocide in Rwanda. On Darfur, the Bush administration has offered heady rhetoric but little effective action. More generally, neither the Clinton nor Bush years provide a good model. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush raised the U.S. profile in Africa, but neither followed up the hopes they raised with consistent action.

    This record looms large today given the absence of new proposals from the candidates and the projected makeup of their foreign policy teams. McCain's Africa policy may well resemble the disastrous Reagan years, noted for U.S. collaboration with the apartheid South African regime and African dictators. One of McCain's top strategists, Charles Black, was a lobbyist for Angola's Jonas Savimbi and other U.S.-backed African warlords. Obama's most prominent advisors, veterans of the Clinton administration, include Anthony Lake, who presided over the failure to respond to Rwanda, and Susan Rice, who has proposed direct U.S. troop intervention in Darfur a step which would almost certainly escalate the killing.

    Neither candidate has criticized the disastrous Bush policy on Somalia, where it encouraged Ethiopian military intervention and worsened one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Both have endorsed AFRICOM, a new military command that risks reinforcing an already over-militarized U.S. response to Africa. Opportunistic support for dictators continues, while crises and conflicts - some, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, surpassing Darfur in casualties - are ignored.

    With his openness to multilateral cooperation and his personal connections, Senator Obama has the potential for crafting a constructive Africa policy. But without an alternative framework, and active public pressure, the path of least resistance will likely follow narrow conceptions of U.S. national interests, as in the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. Anti-terrorism, Africa's oil, and competition with China are all real concerns. But pursuing those goals without attending to Africa's own needs would be self-defeating.

    A new policy must encompass the diversity of African countries and of U.S. interests. There are no magic formulas. Nevertheless, there are principles that should apply:

  • Build on the example of the response to AIDS, both multilateral and bilateral to address African needs in health, education, food, economic infrastructure, and the environment, with all countries paying their fair share.

  • Open a genuine dialogue about trade and development policy, instead of imposing rigid free-market policies that are systematically biased in favor of rich countries.

  • Minimize bilateral military involvement in Africa, which risks sucking the U.S. into local conflicts, in favor of multilateral diplomacy and peacekeeping, including paying U.S. peacekeeping arrears at the UN.

  • Stop aiding repressive regimes, and support democratic African solutions, as in the aftermath of the election in Kenya. This crisis, which threatened to turn into a civil war earlier this year, was peacefully resolved through African mediation led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The U.S. played a supportive rather than an ostentatious role.

  • Rely on skilled African diplomats, who include many distinguished former presidents, for dealing with other crises, as was done in Kenya. Despite the negative example of Thabo Mbeki's ineffective mediation in Zimbabwe, the fact remains that no initiative is likely to succeed unless African civil society and political leaders are in the forefront.

  • Support the large community of recent African immigrants to the U. S., many of whom are engaged in family and community projects to help their countries.

  • In short, if the United States takes a narrow view of Africa, as a recipient of "charity," a place to pump oil, and an arena for fighting terrorists, then African hopes being evoked by the Obama candidacy will almost certainly be disappointed. If, however, the United States takes a long view, understanding that its security depends on the human security of Africans, then there are real prospects for a new era of collaboration and good will.

    Read more of “U.S.A./Africa: New Policy Prospects?” at

    The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation in Washington DC planned to hold a special Presidential Town Hall meeting on U.S.-Africa policy back in October 2007. Working together with fourteen organizations that advocate constructive U.S. policy toward Africa the Sullivan Foundation sent out questionnaires to all of the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Only four (4) candidates, all Democrats, bothered to return completed questionnaires to this influential group of NGO’s and the event had to be cancelled due to a lack of interest and participation.

    This prompted the Sullivan Foundation’s President and CEO Howard F. Jeter to write the editorial which appears below. Howard F. Jeter, a career foreign service officer, was a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana and among other State Department posts served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. This man knows Africa and he knows it well but he wasn’t able to convince many of the former 2008 U.S. presidential candidates that Africa’s needs and wants are also important for America.

    Presidential Hopefuls Must Match Bush Legacy
    by Howard F. Jeter – October 18, 2007

    The 2008 presidential campaign started earlier than ever, with a multitude of debates this past spring and summer before union officials, conservative caucuses, African-American activists at historically black colleges and even users of the web site phenomenon YouTube. But it appears that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Africa continues to be an afterthought among the issues American presidential candidates deal with despite the growing importance of Africa to the well-being and security of the United States.

    Africa is a continent that matters increasingly to the United States and the rest of the international community. African countries are reservoirs of the world’s vital natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, gold, titanium, cobalt and the newly-important coltan (used in computers, personal digital assistants, etc.). Meanwhile, transnational diseases such as HIV-AIDS and West Nile Fever now plague the developed world, and for global health reasons, the control of potential epidemics in Africa is increasingly of interest to the United States and all countries throughout the world. African poverty and preventable disasters draw American development and humanitarian assistance and charitable contributions that could be devoted to sustainable development and a rising African standard of living. Due to a lack of transparency and accountability in too many African countries, billions of dollars in national revenue have been diverted from their originally intended purposes. Poor governance in Africa provides havens for international criminal syndicates and terrorism that threatens us all.

    In what may come as a surprise to some, President George W. Bush clearly understands the importance of Africa, more than any other contemporary President – Democrat or Republican. President Bush was the first Republican President to visit Africa (although his father visited Africa as Vice President), a dramatic departure from past Republican Administrations. Moreover, he is only the second President of any party to visit Africa in his first term. The Bush Administration has devoted considerable time, energy and resources to resolve some of Africa’s most intractable problems, including internal conflicts in Sudan and Liberia.

    According to a study by the Center for Global Development, President Bush has increased the amount of money spent on assistance to Africa more than fourfold, and his annual bilateral aid to Africa is more than twice the level of any previous Administration. The Bush Administration created major new aid programs that benefited African nations, such as the Millennium Challenge Account, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Africa Education Initiative, the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership and the Initiative to End Hunger in Africa. President Bush also extended and enhanced the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

    The current Administration has created new partnerships with Africans, such as the Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism Initiative to fight a common threat. For the first time in U.S. history, the United States has appointed an Ambassador to the African Union. And also for the first time, all Africa military operations are being consolidated into one unified command so that African issues can be a focus and not an afterthought when the U.S. military must become involved on the continent of Africa in support of African peacekeeping operations, humanitarian relief and security assistance.

    A significant portion of our country’s population is directly descended from Africa. However, interest in Africa goes far beyond the African-American community. A growing number of Americans owe their jobs to trade with Africa. Many churches fund humanitarian operations in Africa. American oil companies have discovered Africa as a new frontier in our quest to guarantee our national energy security. Why then does the current crop of U.S. presidential candidates ignore the rising importance of the world’s second largest continent?

    The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation leads a coalition of 15 national organizations interested in how the next Administration plans to address major issues involving Africa. A 10-point questionnaire was sent to all Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in June. As of this writing, only Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Governor Bill Richardson and former Senator John Edwards thought it was important enough to respond to that questionnaire. None of the candidates had time to attend a planned October forum on Africa, and only a few of the candidates even bothered to offer a representative for that forum to answer questions about significant issues facing Africa and their importance to the United States. It is surprising and disappointing that other candidates did not respond to at least the questionnaire since most have experience on Africa and presumably know that African issues will demand their attention if they are elected President. Consequently, one wonders why it was considered more important to answer a question from a guy in a snowman suit on YouTube than organizations representing millions of stakeholders and voters on issues of critical concern.

    The next Administration will still have to deal with the genocide that occurred in Darfur and the continued suffering of people in that country and its neighbors. Sometime during the next decade, Africa’s supply of oil to America will rival the Middle East as a source of petroleum. Concerns about what role the U.S. military will play in humanitarian and security operations through AFRICOM will largely fall to the next President. Whether African countries become full economic partners or continue as recipients of American and Western largesse will depend on what the next President does. It is important to America that our next President understands the vital role Africa plays in America’s future. Fortunately, our current President does seem to understand, and we applaud him for that.

    We need to know the intentions of those who would be President Bush’s successor before we vote and not after they are elected. We need them to tell us more than vague generalities so we can make an informed choice in the polling booth. The days when Africa only mattered to a few activists are over. Africa matters to all Americans, and candidates who do not recognize that fact may lose the support of important constituencies throughout the country.

    Ambassador (ret.) Howard F. Jeter is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. He was a career foreign service officer who served as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana, Special Presidential Envoy for Liberia, State Department Director for West Africa and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

    In regards to what a President Obama or a President McCain would do to improve U.S.-Africa relations is something that would be hard to predict. We can read their statements and listen to their speeches for clues about what they want to do, but in the end we just have to wait and see. A lot can happen between now and January 20th (U.S. Presidential Inauguration) that may influence their plans and ideas and hopes regarding U.S. relations with African countries. I do believe based upon what I have read, seen, and heard from the two U.S. presidential candidates and their policy advisors that U.S. foreign policy toward Africa will continue to improve and mature for another 50 years.

    Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nr. 7 (coming soon)
    Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nr. 5 (previous)
    Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nr. 4
    Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nrs. 1,2,3

    References, related articles, and additional resources
    Coming this week.

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