Ethiopia, Somalia & Eritrea. I've never been able to figure out what has been going on there. I mean once upon a time there was Haile Selassie and the next thing I knew it was Blackhawk Down. What has been going on in the Horn of Africa and what has the US to do with it. Moreover, how is it that one of the most powerful black women in America, Jendayi Frazer, is such an unknown?
I mean everybody I knew back in the anti-apartheid days used to rail and complain about Chester Crocker being the White Man whose opinion could not be swayed by American blacks and he set the tone of our relationship with Africa, and Southern Africa in particular. Man if I had a nickel for every time I heard folks who followed TransAfrica complain about that situation, I'd be a rich as Robert Johnson. But when I reported on Condi's Black Ops, you could hear a pin drop. Now we have Jendayi Frazer. What's she up to?
So I asked my Africa expert, Tim and this is what he had to say.
She's been a pretty low-profile figure in that job when I compare her to some previous Assistant Secretaries/Undersecretaries. I don't have much sense of where she's coming from--I think she must be a Condi Rice protege, because she was at Stanford and she's got some military & NSC connections. If I had to guess, her attention since 2005 has probably been as much on the Horn of Africa and on Nigeria (oil) as Zimbabwe. Though on the other hand, she was the ambassador to South Africa, and she spoke out pretty clearly on the Zimbabwean election this last week. (I gather the ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGhee, has been pretty forceful both behind closed doors and in public.)
I think probably Frazer and anyone else in the Administration interested in Zimbabwe are trying to calculate whether we have any leverage at all in the situation. Over Mugabe or the Zimbabwean military, nil: they don't need the US for anything besides one more name on the list of running-dog neoimperialists out to sabotage the glorious ZANU-PF revolution, etc.
Over South Africa, some, but that's the hub of the matter. I think Mbeki is motivated by two different calculations in opposing tough talk on Zimbabwe. The first is that like many African heads of state, he doesn't want to set a standard for illegitimate behavior that includes actions that he or his party might conceivably take themselves at some point. For example, I think the ANC wants the option of clearing out slum or squatter communities if they decide to--so they couldn't oppose Mugabe's violent slum-clearing. I think frankly a few ANC leaders want the option to lock in a single-party domination of the political system if they ever feel genuinely threatened by oppositon. The second reason Mbeki is dragging his heels is that he thinks it's more important to establish that African governments act independently of the West than it is to act against Mugabe. So a lot of this is "let's piss off whitey by not doing what whitey wants". On that second point, Mbeki becomes more determined than ever not to condemn Mugabe in inverse proportion to how much the US and UK publically condemn him for refusing to do so.
But I don't know how much of this informs Frazer's attention to Zimbabwe. I'm sure Zimbabwe is something of a low priority for the current Administration in terms of dedicated resources, though it's a great subject for talking about the spread of democracy, etc.--from a more realpolitik standpoint, we don't have any major interests at stake in Zimbabwe, unlike in the resource-rich areas of the continent or in areas where there is a strong Islamist presence.
Then I watched this Al Jazeera footage this morning to aid in my understanding of Somalia specifically. So basically Somalia is breaking up into four autonomous regions. It is a failed state and has been in the state of failure for about 16 years. The US supports the efforts of the transitional federal government to establish a political process of political integration amongst the clans. Frazer speaks of helping them establish a national congress of reconciliation. We have no problem with local organic Islamist courts. The transitional federal government has asked for military support from Ethiopia. The US say hold off, but we understand if you do. The al-Shabah militia is trying to be a political and military spoiler and has has carried out political assassinations as well as terrorizing one of the local tribes. The Eritreans are also, to spite the Ethiopians, adding chaos to the mix, not only in Somalia but in the Sudan.
From the Economist:
The African Union promised to send 8,000 peacekeepers and then hand authority to a UN mission later this year. But several AU countries failed to honour their pledges. Uganda is still the only African one to have sent troops; with just 1,600 of them there, the UN is unlikely to come in and take over.
All in all, I am satisfied that the US is doing the right thing.
See Also: Subrealism.