Monday, August 19, 2013

Clinton Tone-Deaf During Africa Trip

Clinton Tone-Deaf During Africa Trip

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 11-day trip to Africa, which came less than a month after President Barack Obama’s visit to Egypt and Ghana in July, was an attempt to emphasize Africa’s importance to the United States. Clinton was supposed to reassure African leaders that the Obama administration intends to engage with the continent, despite wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perennial problems in Israel and the Korean peninsula.
The trip, however, merely reinforced Africa’s marginal position in U.S. foreign policy. Clinton did not announce any new initiatives or policy directions. Instead, she said the United States would continue to support Bush administration initiatives on “faith-based” HIV prevention and Millennium Development grants. She also pledged to extend military aid to Somalia and $17 million for victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Clinton’s rhetoric during the trip signaled a continuation of the Bush administration’s dualism in its policies toward Africa. This dualism consists of moral condemnation of corruption and human rights abuses while facilitating economic and security ties with mineral-rich and security partners. Oil producers such as Equatorial Guinea, for instance, are exempt from U.S. sanctions. Ethiopia, one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid, also escapes sanctions for its egregious human rights record. This dualist rhetoric reinforced the image of the United States as oblivious to the rapidly changing geopolitics of the region.
During the trip, Secretary of State Clinton appeared as petulant and imperious. Her self-proclaimed “tough love” speeches sounded patronizing. She threatened Eritrea with unspecified action for supporting militants in Somalia. In the DRC, she lost her temper at skeptical questions from students. In response to a question about the motives for her trip, she replied that the United States was not obliged to aid victims of violence.
She also took umbrage at another student’s query about her husband’s views on China’s investments in Africa. In Angola, too, she struck an incongruous figure lecturing on good governance, despite the history of U.S. efforts to subvert the democratic process by financing a terrorist militia (UNITA) to destabilize the government.

Neocolonial Scold

Reading from an outdated script, Clinton insisted on giving unsolicited advice on the connection between democracy and economic growth. She called for an end to corruption and impunity in Kenya, urged South Africa to lead the campaign for political reforms in neighboring Zimbabwe, deplored sexual violence in the DRC, and called for accountability, the rule of law, and an end to corruption in Angola. In Nigeria, she blamed the “failure of leadership,” incompetence, and corruption for widespread poverty in the oil-rich country.
The media in Africa immediately labeled her speeches “lectures.” One day before Clinton arrived in Nairobi, her first stop on the seven-nation tour, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the United States: “We don’t need lectures on how to govern ourselves. Lecturing us on issues that deal with governance and transparency is in bad taste.” The next day, Clinton went ahead and criticized Kenya’s leaders, calling on them to hold those responsible for the postelection violence accountable. In Nigeria, the ruling party and the Senate President strongly condemned Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. In South Africa, the Southern Times argued in an editorial titled “Do we need these lectures from the West?” that her preaching cast her in the role of a “neo-colonial scold.” An editorial in the East African, “Poor Hillary, just good enough for Africa,” pointed out that Clinton has been relegated to the “sort-out-the-Africans role,” while her husband and other White House envoys get the critical foreign policy assignments.

Geopolitical Shift

This outdated dualism policy is a liability in the changed circumstances engendered by Africa’s growing economic ties with emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and China. According to a recent United Nations report, there is growing optimism that Africa will weather the current economic crisis by increasing trade with emerging economies instead of its traditional trading partners in Europe and the United States. The report indicates that China has increased its trade with Africa tenfold in the last decade. It has overtaken the United States to become Africa’s second largest trading partner after the European Union. Its trade with Africa south of the Sahara stands at $107 billion for 2008, compared to $104 billion for the United States. China provides African countries with billions of dollars in loans for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, railway lines, and ports in exchange for access to oil, copper, cobalt and other minerals. It is also interested in markets for its consumer goods.
Both Obama’s one-day visit to Ghana and Clinton’s 11-day tour in August pale beside Chinese president Hu Jintao’s tour of Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, and Mauritius in February. Hu arrived in these countries with a series of aid and loan packages. At a time when Western countries are reducing their investments, China announced a $5 billion China-Africa Development Fund that has already spent $400 million and will add another $2 billion to help promote Chinese investments in Africa. The Chinese strategy is to provide resource-rich countries with loans for infrastructure development in exchange for raw materials like oil and other minerals to fuel its industries. China announced numerous trade and investment deals while in Africa, including a $3.6 billion copper mining agreement with Zambia. China buys 60% of Sudan’s oil and 30% of Angola’s. China recently provided Angola with $5 billion loan to rebuild roads, bridges and housing projects. The DRC also negotiated a $9 billion development loan in exchange for long-term access to copper and cobalt.
Russia’s president Dimitri Medvedev visited Egypt, Namibia, Angola, and Nigeria in June. The Russians, like the Chinese, were interested in trade. The presidents of Brazil and India also visited Africa this year seeking to strengthen their relations with the continent’s big oil and mineral producers.

Scramble for Africa’s Resources

In this context of a new scramble for Africa’s resources, one would have expected a more aggressive response from the United States. On the political front, the United States and EU no longer have the leverage to bully African countries into accepting harmful conditions on credit and trade. They no longer have the upper hand as Africa strengthens its economic ties with China, India, Malaysia, and Brazil. U.S. corporations will have to work harder to maintain their position in Africa. This will be extremely difficult with the current economic downturn meaning that the ties with China and other emerging economies will continue to strengthen. The Chinese argue that they are seeking relations based on equality and mutual respect. There are no lectures on human rights or governance and no political conditions for loans. The UN warns, however, that growing ties with emerging economies in Asia and South America will not necessarily benefit ordinary Africans. Chinese investors have been accused of dumping substandard consumer goods, promulgating corruption, hiring only Chinese workers, and contributing to the decline in African industry.
The recent tour and statements indicate that the Obama administration’s policies toward Africa continue to revolve around anti-terrorism and access to natural resources. This is evident in the inclusion of Kenya, Angola and Nigeria in the Secretary of State’s itinerary. In Kenya, Clinton announced that the United States would double its military aid to Somalia’s fragile government led by President Sharif Ahmed. The United States has clearly thrown its lot in with the moderate Islamist government led by Ahmed. The new government also has the support of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional security association. This is another desperate effort to prevent the chaos in Somalia from further destabilizing the region. U.S. officials consider Somalia one of the “ungoverned” regions of the world that could become a safe haven for terrorists. The U.S. military is engaged in countering that threat through a variety of tactics that reportedly include training Somali troops, and providing logistics and equipment.
This militaristic response resembles the Bush administration’s support first for clan militia, and then, when that policy failed, for Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006. Both these succeeded only in destabilizing the region further and hardening resistance. The current effort to support the fragile government of Sharif Ahmed is a long shot at best. The Islamist al-Shabaab militia controls most of southern Somalia and the capital Mogadishu. Ahmed controls only a few blocks of the capital held by African Union peacekeepers. There is no military solution to the chaos in Somalia. The United States and its allies therefore should focus on the peacemaking process and encourage negotiations with all parties, including the breakaway regions of Puntland and Somaliland.
By continuing to subordinate Africa policy to the “war on terror,” the Obama administration has missed an opportunity to evolve along with the ongoing geopolitical and economic shifts on the continent. Obama missed the opportunity to go beyond dualism to a more equal partnership with African countries.
A more coherent foreign policy would mean applying equal standards and sanctions for both the resource-rich and other, less endowed countries. The countries that receive the most U.S. aid (Egypt and Ethiopia) are undemocratic, mired in corruption, and have horrendous human rights records. It is not surprising, then, that U.S. lectures about democracy are met with cynicism. This does not mean that the United States should abandon the campaign for democratic reforms. Greater coherence, however, would give the campaign more legitimacy.
The United States must also recognize the diversity of political systems on the African continent. Since the 1960s, the U.S. government has tended to focus on countries that are either security threats or sources of raw materials. This perspective is extremely narrow. The United States must develop a nuanced foreign policy that recognizes that African countries are at different stages in the democratization process. They have different resource endowments and have complicated relations with other parts of the world. Building a sustainable long-term relationship with African countries would require a broader human security perspective that takes into account the basic needs of the population in addition to personal security.
The United States can start by supporting the work of multilateral institutions such as the African Union and the United Nations, and initiatives such as the AU’s peer-review mechanism, which requires ongoing evaluation of efforts to improve adherence to the rule of law, governance, development, and human rights. In Somalia, it would make more sense to strengthen the regional and AU initiatives rather than duplicating their efforts. Strengthening the AU’s capacity to organize peacekeeping operations and efforts to build regional economic blocks are worthwhile long-term projects. The United States must also adopt fair trade policies by dropping protectionist barriers and subsidies for its farmers – and thus open U.S. markets to African products and prevent the crowding out of local products by cheap American imports in Africa itself.
Without such serious policy changes, Africa and Africans will continue to look skeptically at U.S. speeches, however high-minded they might sound.
Francis Njubi Nesbitt is a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor and teaches African politics and conflict resolution at San Diego State University. He is the author of Race for Sanctions (Indiana University Press, 2004) and is completing a book on peacemaking in the Horn of Africa.




Where Angels Fear To Tread by Ryan Lizza
Post date: 07.13.00 Issue date: 07.24.00

Even for the Clinton administration, it was an extraordinary lie. "The United States did not pressure anybody to sign this agreement," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker proclaimed at a press briefing in early June. "We neither brokered the Lomé peace agreement nor leaned on [Sierra Leonean] President Kabbah to open talks with the insurgents.... It was not an agreement of ours." Observers were stunned. The dishonesty, said one Capitol Hill Africa specialist, was "positively Orwellian."
Orwellian because the peace agreement signed in Lomé, Togo--an agreement that forced the democratic president of Sierra Leone to hand over much of his government and most of his country's wealth to one of the greatest monsters of the late twentieth century--was conceived and implemented by the United States. It was Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton's special envoy to Africa, who in late 1998 pressed President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to "reach out" to Foday Sankoh--a man who built his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) by systematically kidnapping children and forcing them to murder their parents. In May 1999, the United States, led by Jackson, brokered and signed a cease-fire agreement between the government and the RUF. In June, U.S. officials drafted entire sections of the accord that gave Sankoh Sierra Leone's vice presidency and control over its diamond mines, the country's major source of wealth. U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Joseph Melrose even shuttled back and forth between Lome and Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, to cajole the reluctant Kabbah. In March 2000, after the accord was signed, American officials hosted repeated meetings at the U.S. embassy to carry it out.
Barely any of this made the American press. And then this May, when the RUF took hostage 500 of the U.N. peacekeepers meant to supervise Lome's implementation--simultaneously detonating the agreement and catapulting it onto the front page--the United States washed its hands of the whole thing. Said Reeker on June 5, "We were not part of that agreement."
The Clinton administration's Africa policy will probably go down as the strangest of the postcolonial age; it may also go down as the most grotesque. In dealing with Africa, previous U.S. administrations were largely unsentimental. Africa was too poor to affect the U.S. economy, too alien to command a powerful domestic lobby, too weak to threaten American security. As a result, past presidents spoke about Africa modestly and not very often.
Not Bill Clinton. He has proclaimed frequently and passionately that Africa matters. He has insisted that black suffering has as great a claim on the American conscience as white suffering. He has vowed that the United States will no longer be indifferent. These words have borne no relation whatsoever to the reality of his administration's policy. Indeed, confronted with several stark moral challenges, the Clinton administration has abandoned Africa every time: it fled from Somalia, it watched American stepchild Liberia descend into chaos, it blocked intervention in Rwanda. But Clinton's soaring rhetoric has posed a problem that his predecessors did not face--the problem of rank hypocrisy. And so, time and again, the imperative guiding his administration's Africa policy has been the imperative to appear to care. Unwilling to commit American blood and treasure to save African lives, and unwilling to admit that they refuse to do so, the Clintonites have developed a policy of coercive dishonesty. In Rwanda, afraid that evidence of the unfolding genocide would expose their inaction, they systematically suppressed it. And in Sierra Leone, unwilling to take on a rebel group that was maiming and slaughtering civilians by the thousands, the Clintonites insisted that all the rebels truly wanted was peace and a seat at the negotiating table.
Abandoning Africans is nothing new. But the Clinton administration has gone further. It has tried to deny them the reality of their own experience, to bludgeon them into pretending that the horrors around them do not truly exist--so that they won't embarrass the American officials who proclaim so eloquently that their fates are inextricably linked to our own.
Sierra Leone, a former British colony whose capital was founded in the late eighteenth century by freed slaves, was a pretty nasty place even before the birth of the Revolutionary United Front. After an initial bout with democracy upon gaining independence in 1961, it slid into dictatorship and kleptocracy and stayed there through the 1970s and '80s--consistently near the bottom in world rankings of infant mortality, per capita income, and life expectancy.
So the outside world barely noticed when, in 1991, a group of about 100 guerrillas launched a campaign to take over the country. But the RUF--backed by Charles Taylor, a warlord in neighboring Liberia--quickly established itself as a rather unusual rebel group. For one thing, it had no discernible political philosophy or agenda. For another, it was almost unimaginably brutal. Typically, RUF troops would enter a village and round up its children. Girls as young as ten would be raped. Boys would be forced to execute village elders and sometimes even their own parents, thus cutting themselves off from their past lives and beginning their absorption into their new rebel "family." Once children were conscripted, their loyalty was maintained through drugs--they were injected with speed, which numbed their sensitivity to violence and rendered them dependent on their adult suppliers--and violence. When conscripts tried to escape, RUF leaders amputated their limbs. Refugees even accused the RUF of cannibalism.
For several years after its initial invasion, the group terrorized the Sierra Leonean countryside, periodically closing in on Freetown and being pushed back by a succession of military dictators. And then, in 1996, something remarkable happened--a burgeoning civil-society movement, backed by the United States and led largely by women's groups, rose up against Sierra Leone's military overlords and cleared the way for the country's first presidential elections since 1967. The RUF did its best to keep people from the polls--chopping off the hands of would-be voters--but almost two-thirds of the electorate cast ballots nonetheless, electing as president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a longtime U.N. official. After the election, hundreds of Sierra Leoneans danced outside the U.S. embassy in Freetown in gratitude for America's support.
The euphoria did not last long. In May 1997, 14 months after Kabbah's election, disgruntled government soldiers--known as "sobels" because of their collaboration with the rebels--staged a coup, forcing Kabbah into exile in Guinea. The coup leaders invited the RUF into their junta, suspended Sierra Leone's constitution, emptied Freetown's prison of its worst criminals, and literally held the city's residents hostage, placing artillery in the hills around the capital and threatening to bombard the civilians below if removed from power.
No one expected the United States to send troops to restore democracy; this was, after all, Africa. But it didn't need to. Nigeria, a country that long fancied itself the region's hegemon, already had its own intervention force in Sierra Leone under the auspices of an organization called ECOMOG, the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group.
While Nigeria, a country in perpetual economic crisis, spent some $1 million per day battling the criminal regime in Freetown, several mid-level State Department Africa hands began lobbying their superiors to request funds from Congress to bolster ECOMOG's work. But the administration refused, saying such a request was pointless because Congress would say no. And, while the Clintonites were right that the Republican Congress wasn't usually enamored of foreign aid, the struggle for Sierra Leone might have offered the administration an opportunity to put its vaunted commitment to Africa into action. Indeed, several sympathetic members of Congress--Republicans and Democrats--even urged the State Department to challenge Congress to rise to the occasion. But the challenge never came. "It was totally bizarre," says one person with knowledge of the internal squabbling. "A decision was made that the State Department was just not going to ask for it."
In fact, not only did the Bureau of African Affairs not request additional money from Congress, it didn't even spend the money Congress had already given it. For months, $3.9 million sat unspent in the bureau's budget for voluntary peacekeeping operations. In February 1998, ECOMOG liberated Freetown and restored Kabbah to power--proving that the RUF's child soldiers were no match for a bona fide adult military. As the rebels streamed back into the countryside, the Nigerians saw an opportunity to finish them off
for good. But ECOMOG lacked the resources to take the war into the Sierra Leonean hinterland, and still no money came from the Clinton administration. "The only way they [ECOMOG soldiers] could eat is because the people of Sierra Leone gave them food and places to sleep," says one U.S. official. By spring, the window of opportunity had closed. The RUF, freshly resupplied by Liberia, was back on the offensive with a campaign of systematic killing, mutilating, and raping called Operation No Living Thing. In late May, long after it could have made a real difference, the administration finally allocated the $3.9 million to ECOMOG.
Nigeria, visibly tiring of its proxy war, began to look for a way out, and the United States faced an even starker version of the same dilemma it had confronted all along. It could make a major financial and political commitment, in conjunction with the Nigerians or others, to save a fledgling democratic government too weak to save itself. Or it could abandon that government, leaving Sierra Leone to Sankoh and his child butchers--because, after all, Sierra Leone did not remotely affect America's vital national interest. The Clintonites, typically, did neither. Against all the evidence that Sierra Leone could be saved from the RUF only through war, the Clinton administration set out to make peace. In early spring 1998, a group of U.S. policymakers gathered on the sixth floor of the State Department to plot strategy. One senior official summarized their goal: "We need to appear to be doing something."
To make peace with Foday Sankoh and the RUF, the Clintonites had to go through Sankoh's political godfather, Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Taylor and Sankoh attended the same school--a Libyan secret-service camp known as al-Mathabh al-Thauriya al-Alamiya (World Revolutionary Headquarters), a sort of university for revolutionary guerrillas from all over Africa. When they met, Taylor had recently returned from the United States, where he had escaped from a prison in Plymouth, Massachusetts, while awaiting extradition back to Liberia on charges of embezzlement. Sankoh, imprisoned in the '70s for his role in plotting a coup, had been working as an itinerant photographer in the Sierra Leonean countryside. Each man dreamed of overthrowing his native government, and they pledged to help each other do so.
Taylor got his chance first, on Christmas Eve 1989, when he launched a civil war that would become a model for Sankoh's a year and a half later. One of Taylor's first military innovations was his creation of the Small Boys Unit, a battalion of intensely loyal child soldiers who were fed crack cocaine and referred to Taylor as "our father." Soon, refugees from the Liberian countryside began recounting stories of horrific cruelty. Taylor's soldiers were seeking out pregnant women and placing bets on the sex of their unborn children. Then they would rip open the women's wombs and tear out the babies to see who was right. Evidence of cannibalism also began to trickle out. One soldier told Reuters, "We rip the hearts from their living bodies and put them on the fire, then eat them." A Liberian human rights organization claimed cannibalism in Taylor-controlled territory was so widespread that "there is fear of persecution based on one's fitness for consumption." Taylor's own defense minister accused him of taking part in the practice himself.
By 1991, Liberia looked a lot like Sierra Leone would look seven years later. Troops from ECOMOG defended a weak government in the capital, Monrovia, while Taylor controlled the other 90 percent of the country. Taylor developed a vast warlord economy, selling off Liberia's minerals and raw materials, trafficking in hashish, and reportedly reaping an annual income of about $250 million. But he wanted to expand his lucrative empire even further--to include the diamond mines just across the border in Sierra Leone. What's more, he wanted revenge against Sierra Leone, which had served as a base for the ECOMOG troops that were preventing his total victory in Liberia.
So he kept his deal with Sankoh. In March 1991, a number of Taylor's fiercest fighters accompanied Sankoh and the fledgling RUF into Sierra Leone, where they headed straight for the diamond mines. Taylor appointed Sankoh "governor of Sierra Leone," and his soldiers jokingly referred to Sierra Leone as their Kuwait. Sankoh frequently visited Taylor at his headquarters in the Liberian town of Gbarnga.
And then in 1996, with Liberia in ashes and 13 failed peace agreements--"[Taylor] reneged on all of them," says a former senior State Department official--Taylor offered his Sierra Leonean protege the ultimate lesson in the politics of terror: he took power. Taylor agreed to stand for election. He had the largest army and the most money, and he made it clear that if he did not win, he would resume the killing. A country exhausted by war elected him president. During the run-up to the vote, Taylor's child soldiers took to the streets, chanting what became his unofficial campaign slogan: "He killed my pa. He killed my ma. I'll vote for him."
To bring "peace" to Sierra Leone, the Clinton administration first had to show that Sankoh and Taylor were men with whom one could legitimately do business. "Their whole policy was to `mainstream' them--that was the word used by someone at State," explains an aide to the House International Relations Committee. "`If you treat Sankoh like a statesman, he'll be one.' ... [A State Department official] used the term to explain what they had done with Taylor and what they were trying to do with Foday Sankoh." In Jesse Jackson, appointed "Special Envoy for the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa" in October 1997, Washington had the ideal man for the job.
Jackson first met the Liberian dictator on an official trip to West Africa in February 1998. Taylor, worried that Jackson, like prior American diplomats, would hector him about human rights, invited an old Liberian friend of Jackson's named Romeo Horton to brief him on America's new envoy. Horton says Jackson and Taylor's meeting went extremely well. "Instead of meeting an adversary," says Horton, Taylor "met a friend." The following month, when Clinton toured Africa, Jackson arranged a 30-minute phone call between the two leaders from Air Force One. Upon returning home, Jackson organized a conference on "reconciliation" for Liberians at his push headquarters in Chicago.
According to Harry Greaves Jr., co-founder of a Liberian opposition party, who attended the Chicago conference, "The message was, `[Taylor's] been elected, and let's give him a chance.' It's all about p.r., and Jackson is part of that campaign." As Leslie Cole, an old friend of Taylor's, wrote to the new president soon after Jackson's conference, "Getting Jesse on the bandwagon was a good and smart idea."
So it's not surprising that by the time Jackson began the diplomatic push that would lead to Lomé, he and Taylor were giving the same advice to the democratic government of Sierra Leone: Cut a deal with the RUF. In November 1998, Jackson traveled to West Africa again, meeting with Taylor and Kabbah in Guinea and then, in Freetown, with Kabbah alone. During his five-hour stop in Sierra Leone, Jackson, who arrived just days after fresh reports that the RUF was beheading children and disemboweling pregnant women, urged Kabbah to make concessions to the rebels. "The government must reach out to these RUF in the bush battlefield," Jackson told Sierra Leonean leaders. Much of Freetown believed otherwise. "Think again, Jackson, the RUF is not a civilised body to be trusted," implored one prominent newspaper. A local journalist asked Jackson why he was telling Sierra Leoneans to negotiate with the RUF when the public was against it. "I remember very clearly what he said," says Zainab Bangura, a prominent member of Freetown's democracy movement. "`That is what leadership is about: to mold public opinion, not to follow public opinion.'" Sierra Leone's current ambassador to the United States, John Leigh, remembers Jackson's trip well. "When he went to Sierra Leone in 1998," Leigh says, "what he was doing was pushing Charles Taylor's position."
Seven weeks after Jackson departed, as Bangura put it recently, "All hell broke loose." The "hell" was the January 1999 RUF assault on Freetown, which, hard as it is to believe, set a new standard for rebel atrocities. Capitalizing on ECOMOG's weariness, the RUF marched into the capital surrounded by a human shield of civilians that prevented the Nigerians from launching an effective counterattack. Divided into squads with names like "Burn House Unit," "Cut Hands Commandos," and "Kill Man No Blood Unit" (the last group specialized in beating people to death without spilling blood), the RUF burned down houses with their occupants still inside, hacked off limbs, gouged out eyes with knives, raped children, and gunned down scores of people in the streets. In three weeks, the RUF killed some 6,000 people, mostly civilians. When the rebels were finally forced from the city by an ECOMOG counterattack, they burned down whole blocks as they left and abducted thousands of children, boys and girls who would become either soldiers or sex slaves.
Incredibly, the Clintonites didn't abandon their efforts to "mainstream" the RUF in the weeks following the attack; they intensified them. In February, just weeks after the assault, the State Department hosted the RUF's "legal representative," Omrie Golley, for talks in Washington. While Golley was at the State Department, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Howard Jeter organized a phone call between him and Kabbah, establishing the first formal contact between the government and the rebels. Golley remembers the experience fondly. In contrast to the British, who he says treated his group with disdain, Golley gushes that he "was always very impressed with the American approach to the whole conflict."
Golley also met with New Jersey Representative Donald Payne, probably the most important member of Congress on Africa policy. Within the Congressional Black Caucus, it is common knowledge that members take their cues on Africa from Payne. And, given the overriding importance of domestic politics--particularly domestic racial politics--on the Clinton administration's Africa policy, Payne wields substantial influence.
Among Capitol Hill Africa specialists, Payne's sympathy for Taylor and Sankoh is the stuff of legend. In February 1999, for instance, after his meeting with Golley, Payne wrote to Kabbah imploring him to pursue negotiations with Sankoh, who had been temporarily captured by the government and was actually awaiting execution for treason, even while the RUF continued the war. "[S]uccessful negotiations must be without precondition and include the permanent release of Mr. Foday Sankoh," Payne wrote. "That letter is exactly what Charles Taylor was saying at the same time in Liberia. He was saying Sankoh should be freed," says Ambassador Leigh. "That letter that Payne wrote to President Kabbah is exactly the type of agreement that the State Department pressed Kabbah to accept." And, indeed, Sankoh was released as part of the run-up to Lomé.
On the House Africa Subcommittee, where Payne is the ranking Democrat, both Republican and Democratic staff members say he has bashed ECOMOG and questioned whether Taylor was really aiding the RUF. In May of last year, Payne fought to remove from a resolution language accusing Liberia and other countries of supporting the rebels, even after the State Department formally acknowledged that Taylor "continues to actively support the rebels in Sierra Leone, including the provision of arms and ammunition." Says one Democratic aide, "Whenever there is talk of sanctioning Taylor or of threatening Liberia ... Mr. Payne is always the first one to jump to their defense." Former Liberian Ambassador to the United States Rachel Diggs says Taylor "had free access to Don Payne and Jesse Jackson ... whenever there was a problem, these were the people whose ear Taylor had in the U.S. and who had his ear in Liberia."
Indeed, Payne's relationship with Taylor goes back to the early '80s, when Taylor was in jail in Massachusetts and Payne, then a member of the Newark municipal council, spoke out against his extradition to Liberia. Payne says he was simply helping Taylor at the behest of a friend and didn't actually meet the Liberian until 1997, when he attended Taylor's presidential inauguration in Monrovia. But since then the two men have clearly become friends. One visitor to Payne's office tells of watching the congressman hang up the phone with Taylor and remark that the Liberian president had just told him he was tired of dealing with Jeter, the U.S. envoy for Liberia. (Taylor is known to dislike Jeter, once referring to him as a "burnt-out" diplomat.) Taylor suggested that Payne become the U.S. envoy instead. "What surprised me was that Payne didn't say anything," says the visitor. "He seemed flattered." Payne says he does not remember any such conversation. At one point, according to an associate of Payne's, the New Jersey congressman jokingly complained that he was getting so many calls from Taylor that he was tired of talking to him. Payne insists he has talked on the phone to Taylor no more than half a dozen times.
Within three months of Golley's February 1999 visit to the State Department and the congressional offices of Donald Payne, the phone call initiated by Howard Jeter had led to a government/RUF cease-fire. With striking unanimity, Sierra Leonean intellectuals believe that Kabbah, a rather weak president, agreed to the cease-fire under pressure from Jackson and against the advice of some of his ministers and prominent members of civil society. Days before the cease-fire, Jackson and Kabbah met up in Ghana, where both were attending a conference. From Ghana, Jackson abruptly flew Kabbah to the talks in Lomé, Togo, where the cease-fire agreement was signed. One Freetown newspaper even reported that Kabbah was "kidnapped" by Jackson. "The story was," explains Zainab Bangura, "that he was kidnapped, because [Kabbah] went [to the conference in Ghana] with his finance minister and information minister"--at the time both men were thought to be against signing the agreement--"and they all went to the airport to go to fly to Lomé, and Jesse Jackson said there were no seats for them. So they didn't go."
The cease-fire paved the way for the Lome peace talks themselves. And, once again, the United States took the lead. U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Joseph Melrose was a constant presence at the negotiating table. "They oversaw the whole peace talks," says Abu Brima, who attended as the leader of a delegation representing Sierra Leonean civil society. "Melrose was very, very active and literally kind of led it, I would say." Bangura adds: "Every time the talks were about to fall apart, Melrose would fly over to Freetown to pressure the president." According to Leigh, Melrose's "job was to soften the Sierra Leonean delegation to accept the agreement." The Clinton administration even sent a technical team, led by a usaid official named Sylvia Fletcher, that actually drafted parts of the accord.
The final agreement at Lomé, signed on July 7, 1999, awarded the RUF four ministerial posts, made Sankoh vice president, placed him in charge of a new commission to oversee Sierra Leone's diamonds, and granted the RUF blanket amnesty for all crimes. After the agreement was signed, Fletcher and Melrose held meetings establishing the diamond commission--which included Sankoh, members of Kabbah's government, and representatives from De Beers and other diamond companies--at the U.S. embassy. As one U.S. government official put it, "The message we sent with Lome is that you can terrorize your way to power."
For close to a year, the Lomé agreement did what the Clinton administration hoped it would do. With articles on pages A17 and A6, respectively, The Washington Post and The New York Times announced the accord and ushered Sierra Leone off their pages--another peace process successfully brokered by an administration committed to the well-being of Africa. As Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice bragged last September, "the U.S. role in Sierra Leone ... has been instrumental. With hands-on efforts by the president's special envoy Jesse Jackson, Ambassador Joe Melrose, and many others, the United States brokered the cease-fire and helped steer Sierra Leone's rebels, the Kabbah government, and regional leaders to the negotiating table."
It probably wouldn't even have mattered that Sankoh refused to disarm--of the estimated 10,000 children fighting for the RUF, only about 1,700 were turned over to demobilization camps, as required--or that he continued the illicit diamond-trading that Lomé was meant to stop. If Lomé had simply unraveled quietly--even if Sankoh had followed his mentor in Liberia and grabbed complete power himself--it is unlikely that Sierra Leone would have made the American front pages. The Clinton administration would still have accomplished much of what it set out to do at that meeting on the sixth floor of the State Department in spring 1998.
But this May, in an ironic twist of fate, Sierra Leone leapt from the shadows into the world spotlight. Lomé had achieved one of the RUF's central goals--the exit of the stubborn Nigerians. The U.N. peacekeepers who took their place--sent from countries like India, Jordan, Kenya, and Ghana--were ill-equipped and bound by the timid U.N. rules of engagement. And, as soon as they ventured into the RUF's diamond heartland, the rebels stole their weapons and vehicles and held them hostage for several weeks. The humiliating standoff brought Lome crashing down in full public view. And U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's desperate appeals for Western countries to send troops to reinforce his peacekeepers called global attention to the very point the Clinton administration had worked so hard to conceal: its unwillingness to sacrifice anything real on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. Instead of soldiers, the United States once again sent Jesse Jackson. But, by this time, Jackson was so bitterly despised in Freetown that the Sierra Leonean government told him it could not guarantee his safety. One group of prominent Sierra Leonean democracy activists warned Jackson, "Our people will greet your presence in the country with contempt, and we'll encourage them to mount massive demonstrations in protest." During a conference call with Freetown leaders in which he tried to explain himself, Jackson was openly attacked as a RUF "collaborator." His trip to Sierra Leone was canceled.
Today, a year after Lomé, the U.N. hostages have finally been freed. Foday Sankoh has even been captured and will likely be tried as a war criminal. President Kabbah's government is defended by a shaky coalition of citizen militias, government soldiers, former RUF collaborators, U.N. troops, and, most importantly, military advisers from Great Britain--the only Western power to heed Annan's call. Sankoh's apparent replacement has been given sanctuary in Liberia by Taylor, who continues to arm the RUF. The rebels still control much of the Sierra Leonean countryside, and there are widespread rumors of an imminent RUF attack on Freetown. If the British leave, an attack is all but certain.
At the National Summit on Africa in February, President Clinton said, "We can no longer choose not to know. We can only choose not to act, or to act. In this world, we can be indifferent, or we can make a difference. America must choose, when it comes to Africa, to make a difference." Sophisticated people understand what this kind of talk, coming from this administration, means. And the people of Sierra Leone, who now count prostheses as one of their country's chief imports, have become sophisticated. In fact, in
recent months Sierra Leonean exiles in Washington have increasingly allied themselves with Republicans like New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg. It's a remarkable turn of events, given that Gregg and his ilk are isolationists--men who say forthrightly that America has no important interests in Africa, can't successfully export its method of government there, and shouldn't waste blood or money trying. After eight years of the Clinton administration, it seems, the people of Sierra Leone no longer expect very much from the United States. They're willing to settle for truth.
RYAN LIZZA is an associate editor at TNR.

CLINTON IN AFRICA: THE BLOOD BATH; Critics Say U.S. Ignored C.I.A. Warnings of Genocide in Rwanda

Published: March 26, 1998

When President Clinton confessed today that ''people like me'' failed to see the storm of mass killings that swept Rwanda in 1994, he acknowledged a bitter truth for the first time.
The Clinton Administration ignored powerful warnings of impending genocide, including a Central Intelligence Agency study saying half a million people could die if Rwanda exploded, former Administration officials and human rights experts said today.
''Never again must we be shy in the face of the evidence,'' Mr. Clinton said.
But even when it was clear that hundreds of thousands of Rwandan civilians were in mortal danger, the United States stopped the United Nations from taking action that might have saved those lives, the critics of the Administration's policy said.
''By definition, when a human catastrophe like that takes place, the whole international community, including the United States as a leader in it, has failed,'' Anthony Lake, the national security adviser to President Clinton at the time, said today.
A 2,500-member United Nations force sought authorization under the United Nations charter to stop the killing. The United Nations commander in Rwanda at the time, Canadian Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, said last month that if he had had the mandate, the massacres would have ceased.
Giving General Dallaire the authority and the troops that he requested ''could have stopped the whole thing,'' said Morton H. Halperin, a National Security Council staff member in 1994.
But the Clinton Administration opposed the move. The United Nations had to learn ''when to say no,'' President Clinton said at the time.
Alison DesForges, author of ''The Killing Campaign: The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,'' a Human Rights Watch report to be published next month by Yale University Press, said ''the U.S. was the primary stumbling block'' to international action to stop the massacres.
Lionel Rosenblatt, president of Refugees International, said: ''The ball was not only dropped by the U.S., it was blocked by the U.S.''
Mr. Halperin, now senior vice president of the Twentieth Century Fund, a public policy foundation, recalled: ''Nobody was really focused on how serious the situation was until things were out of control. People were saying, 'We're not willing to make the kind of commitment that would really stop this.' People concluded, 'We can't do anything.' ''
After the disastrous 1993 mission in Somalia, the United States was reluctant to become involved in an African nation it did not know well, whose geopolitical importance was small, and whose sufferings were at the time unobserved by television, Mr. Halperin said.
''We didn't really know the nature of the conflict'' immediately before it exploded into one of the great man-made disasters of the century, he said. ''There weren't any visuals and there wasn't a lot of information. The data weren't on anybody's screen.''
But the data were there, said Ms. DesForges. She said that Administration officials ignored clear warnings before before the massacres began on April 6, 1994. Those massacres were mostly committed by Hutu militia against minority Tutsi civilians and the moderate Hutu opposition.
''They ignored a letter of warning from high military officers in the Rwandan Army in December 1993 about plans for widespread violence,'' she said. ''They ignored a very explicit telegram of Jan. 11, 1994, sent to the U.N. and the U.S. Ambassador from an informant, detailing the preparations of the militias to kill Tutsi. And they ignored a C.I.A. study at the end of January 1994 which suggested that if combat were to begin in Rwanda, that it would include violence against civilians -- with a worst-case scenario of the deaths of half a million people.''
On May 3, 1994, while the massacres were raging, President Clinton signed a major foreign policy order, Presidential Decision Directive 25. It narrowly defined the national interest in the fate of a small, faraway, unimportant place like Rwanda, whose collapse would not directly affect the United States or breach international security. The policy blocked the United States from acting to stop the killing.
That month, Administration spokesmen were instructed not to use the word ''genocide'' in referring to Rwanda. The word made it harder for the United States to explain doing nothing.
Mr. Clinton acknowledged for the first time today that ''we did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide.'' He used the word 11 times.

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