Opinion

An Increase in US Diplomatic Activity in Africa

25 May 2008 at 02:46 | 591 views

By Scott A Morgan

The last few weeks have seen an unheralded increase in US diplomatic activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. And if one follows the international news closely one will notice that there has been more than one instance where US diplomats have done yeoman’s work in attempting to ensure Fair Elections and other activities.

The best example of this so far has been in Zimbabwe. The country simmers on the brink of a potential civil war after a series of delays after the March Presidential contest. Recently a second round of elections for President was announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Staff Members of the US Embassy have been in the field conducting investigations regarding allegations of torture that have occured since the March elections. The US State Department has filed a formal protest letter to Zimbabwe after the US Ambassador was accosted by the police and he was grazed by a police vehicle.

Last month US diplomats lent their support towards Southern African Civic Groups and trade unions in preventing the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese freighter, from docking in Southern Africa. The freighter was carrying tons of weapons and ammuntion that were to be delivered to Zimbabwe just weeks after the elections. It was feared that these weapons could be used in a crackdown against the opposition in Zimbabwe. This is not the only area where US diplomats have been active.

In recent days there has been word that a separatist movement in Tanzania has approached the US seeking aid. Some of the elders on the island of Penda feel as if they are being marginalized by the Tanzanian government. So they drafted a petition and presented it to the US Embassy asking President Bush to intervene in their situation. At this time there has been no information released about whether or not the US will take action in this situation. However, some of the elders have been taken into custody by the Tanzanian authorities recently. A Tanzanian government minister stated that this effort was malicious towards the country.

Another location where US intervention has actively been sought is in the Niger Delta. On two seperate occasions the main rebel Group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) has directly approached the United States for assistance. Once the group faxed an 11 point proposal to President Bush as he was enroute to Africa for his state visit back in Feburary. The second time they have sought out the assistance of former President Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center. In 1999 President Carter tried to broker a peace deal between the group and the Nigerian government.

Recent weeks have seen US diplomats investigate the recent upswing in tensions between Chad and Sudan. In recent weeks both capitals have come under attack from rebel forces that are reportedly backed by the respective governments. The United States has a Special Envoy for Darfur who has been trying to mediate to end the latest wave of fighting in the region.

Other activities that US diplomats have been actively involved in include getting involved in the violent aftermath in the Kenyan elections in January and observing the Ugandan Peace Talks that came up with a peace deal that has yet to be signed. As the year progresses who knows what other areas in Africa the US will take a constructive role in as the UN appears to be mired down in scandal after scandal?

In the past the US has had a waning interest in Africa. It was a Cold War Battlefield to thwart the efforts of the old Soviet Union. But the US put Africa on the back burner after the collapse of Communism and the Somalia debacle. It stood on the sidelines as civil war raged in both Sierra Leone and Rwanda. Now the US has been looking for Al-Qaida whereever it can find them. Some of the actions listed above can result in new respect for the US in Africa. It is badly needed.

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