President Obama playing Africans for fools – praising the Ethiopian despot

The one-and-only thing Africans need help is to rid the corrupt tyrants that rule them. If that is too much to ask, at least, don’t treat them as children — saying tyranny is good for you.

As Benjamin Franklin said:

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

By Teshome Debalke

President Obama planned trip to Ethiopia scheduled for July is rude, unbecoming statesman and downright wrong to say the least.

But, the trip wouldn’t accomplish much except to prop up the outdated regime the President talked about at the beginning of his Administration. African should expect the same old hope and one-fit-all talking-spending rhetoric like the last two trips for public consumption. What is different this time around is there is seven years of the Administration’s record to refer to with nothing much to show for it.

Quite frankly, we can’t blame the President — except for raising empty hope and expectation of Africans that has been battered by dictators of all kinds as far as one can remember. After all, there has never been US policy per say on Africa but proxy policy of the Cold War in the past and War on Terror at present. In between the two wars, there was a policy of spending on ‘friendly despots’ to clean up the mess of the Cold War—security, food aid, disease prevention and primary education leading the expenditure in the name of development.

It started during the Clinton Administration until Al-Quid in Arabia and the chaos in Somalia became a treat to the US and the policy of War on Terror began and expanded by the September 11 Al-Quid attack on the US soil. The focus that quickly shifted into training and equipping friendly despots gave the brutal regimes an open season on their respective people and the opportunity to eliminate their political oppositions in their quest to remain in power indefinitely. As expected, the number of innocent victims increased exponentially ignored by the Administration as collateral damage. After all, African lives don’t matter even for the African American President. Is the President’s moral argument blacks’ lives matter only when whites kill them?

Thus, the Administration policy of no policy illustrates more on the breakdown of US policy-making and the confusion that follows than what many critics of the Administration believe. The President rely on Susan Rise’s expertise that began with her relationships with ethnic insurgency group turn revolutionary democratic despot of Africa as a junior State Department aid during the Clinton Administration that qualified her to become the President’s senior adviser on African affairs and national security. The team she assembled to implement her adventure of Africans was better described by Professor Al Mariam recent article The Axis of Shevil: Does Africa Need Gayle Smith?; exploring ‘what do Gayle Smith, Wendy Sherman and Susan Rice have in common?

In previous write up, the US policy on Africa is written by Melse Zenawi through Susan Rise. Understandably, her whole career depended on a man that groomed her way before she understood what Foreign Policy means as she testified the intelligence of her friend in front of the world every opportunity she got. The rest of her S-team, including the possible new USAID top candidate Gayle Smith worked for Relief Society of Tigray (REST), the clandestine foreign Aid bank of TPLF better known now Tigray Development Association (TDA).

The clueless but, enthusiastic President that drew the line on the ground for African dictators to shape up or else at beginning of his administration turn into a stanch apologist of the same despots as his term approaches to an end. To make matter worse, not only he is going on the trip to congratulate the regime but, the US under his leadership lost the enormous leverage and goodwill of the people of Africa to other nations, particularly China to become spectator, thanks to Susan Rise’s friend brilliance.

Absence of anything tangible to show, the President symbolic trip to Africa, particularly to Ethiopia –where the ruling EPRDF regime cleaned up the May 2015 election by 100% of the vote is not pretty if it isn’t a diplomatic blunder of the worst proportion. Nevertheless, it proven Wendy Sherman, the Administration’s top official endorsing the regime a few months earlier wasn’t a slip of mouth as many thought but, the official policy of the Administration reinforced by the President’s coming trip to congratulate the regime personally, again thanks to Susan Rise’s genius as he mentor thought her.

But, the trip to Ethiopia is a slap on the face to all Africans who are increasingly frustrated why the US, the beacon of liberty and democracy and Obama, the champion of Africans democracy dancing with the devils.

Whoever pushing the President to take the trip to Ethiopia is making sure to destroy his legacy and the little goodwill left for him among Africans. Quite frankly, he has nothing to say on the trip except to tell Africans — keep hoping endlessly but, your democracy must wait until we contain the terrorists’ treat with the help of the regimes that terrorizes you, again thanks to Susan Rise.

How an ironic, the first US African-American Hope President and the author of ‘My Father’s Dreams’ telling Africans to keep hoping and dreaming until hell freezes over?

The Administration officials’ rhetoric taken at face value compared to their actions, there are lots of holes big enough to drive trucks through and explain flawed policy at work.

Grant T. Harris, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs and the Member of Susan Rise’s S-team in June 14, 2012 on the White House page wrote;

“The U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa reflects the core components and strategic priorities outlined in the Presidential Policy Directive. The strategy sets forth four strategic objectives for U.S. engagement in Africa: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade, and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development.

In all cases not one tangible and independently verifiable result came about since President Obama took office.

‘Strengthen democratic institutions’ failed miserably as African regimes are increasingly hostile to democracy with the help of the Administration. The May 2015 Ethiopian election that netted 100% win for the ruling EPRDF regime of Ethiopia that won the last five elections by over 99 plus percent since it came to power 1991 illustrates the Administration version of ‘Strengthen democratic institutions’ to end up rewarding the regime by going on a trip to congratulate the victory personally.

As of today, there is no a single democratic institution in Ethiopia independent of the ruling regime in the 24 years of its rules. In fact, the little hope there was for democratic institution building was shuttered replaced by lookalikes run by the regime itself. Therefore, ‘strengthen democratic institutions’ is the President’s way of saying hope and dream until I leave office, thanks to Susan Rise again.

Another Policy Directive is ‘Spurring economic growth, trade, and investment’. That turned out to be recycling the same foreign Aid expenditure propping up the ruling regime’s crony business in violation of US laws. How the Administration ignores when the ruling party owned business like Alameda Textile PLC and Guna Trading House, the largest exporter of textile and agriculture commodities including coffee to US market along hundreds of business importing under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) preferential treatment is a mystery. It appears; the Administration ignoring corruption of a friendly regime as it does with human right violation is a good policy regardless of the cost to legitimate US business or the tax payers of the United State. And, no one knows how a corrupt regime that operates its own business can be an agent of economic growth, trade and investments.

The next Policy Directive is to ‘Advance peace and security’. The Administration doesn’t explicitly say whose peace and security. But, looking at the record of the regime, peace and security of Ethiopians and the region hasn’t been at the worst point ever. The problem is, the record keeper is the same regime with the Administration helping in the name of fighting terrorism.

When young Ethiopian bloggers become terrorists under the regime; no one knows what the Obama Administration’s strategy may be partnering with a regime bent to drag the US into an endless war and insecurity to maintain its despotic and corrupt rule. It is another indication the Administration’s policy dilemma, again thanks to the Senior Security adviser Susan Rise.

The last policy directive is to ‘Promote opportunity and development’. That turned out to be spending sprees on projects that proven to fail over-and-over again for lack good governance, ownership and rampant corruption. .
Listening to the latest talking point out of the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s interview with BBC Hard Talk dodging the reporter’s point blank questions illustrates; Africa is a lost cause as far as the US is concerned — left to China and others.

One remarkable statement from the Assistant Secretory sums up the gist of the policy-of-no policy. BBC reporter asked ‘what is different about American Policy than China and others traditional European partners?’

The secretory answered; “we are focused on the people of Africa…we have strong partnership…promoting good governance … strong democracy…support free and fair election…”

There is no a single and tangible evidence on the truthfulness of her statements. Case in point is Ethiopia. The ruling regime is a stanch partner of the US and the largest Aid recipient. In 24 years since it came to power with the support of the US not a single independent democratic institutions established, not a single fair and free election was held nor did an independent institution allowed to evaluate good governance and corruption. But yet, the same talking point is repeated over-and-over again by the Administration’s officials, again thanks to Susan Rise’s leadership.

In reality, the US has dual policy; one for home front with sufficient check-and-balance and the other for the world– left for appointed career politicians led by Susan Rise to do what they see fit. Such unchecked power by unelected political appointees with very little or no oversight and often inexperienced damaged US interest in Africa more than any single foreign entity, including foreign governments.

Africa is lost because of the failure of unaccountable officials and the Administration’s incoherent policy or no policy — coupled with misunderstanding of most African despotic regimes that are often corrupt with no concept of representative democracy or good governance.

Take the Assistance secretory Thomas-Greenfield’s answer for BBC reporter question ‘why China operates 150 commercial centers in Africa established in a span of a decade and US has only eight’? The nonresponse answer cries out for investigation by congressional committees what the Administration officials on African Affairs have been doing all these years under Susan Rise leadership. At one point, during the interview she sounded apologist of the Chinese government and African’s representative than a US official with the responsibility of advancing US interest.

The estimated 1.5 million Africa Diaspora in the USA are seating ideal while China with no African immigrants to speak of dominate trade and investment says more about the incoherent policy and the lack of accountability of the Administration’s officials responsible . The data for over two decade on US return on development Aid and trade support says more what is wrong with the US policy on Africa than what we are being told.

The officials of the Administration; starting Susan Rise would be a good investigative report waiting for journalist to dive-in and show incompetency or conspiracy at its best. But, for a causal observe; listening to the officials’ rhetoric against the data shows they are either confused in articulating the official policy or there is no policy to articulate.

Therefore, Obama’s trip to Ethiopia should be seen as a failure of the Administration to do the heavy lifting bringing Africa and US closer a photo-op trip wouldn’t cure. The failure to see beyond what corrupt and brutal regimes offer on the expenses of the people they rule contributed to the lack of coherent policy in order to develop long-term trade and investment relationships with independent business and civic society. Thus, the Obama Administration gave up the American interests in Africa for competitors as the record show.

Africans should remind the Administration in every turn; the continent is neither safari outing nor political adventure for appointed officials with no accountability whatsoever. It requires bold leadership to institute accountability and reverse the failed policy by making the responsible parties accountable on both sides of the continent.

But, what we see is politics as the usual at the expenses of the people and more spending as a cure for lack of good governance and accountability and rhetoric than substance as a diversion.

The trip not only send the wrong message to the ruling despots and the people of Africa and God sent for US competitors that see the US not serious in what it says and does –further eroding the credibility of the US.

Africans, particularly Ethiopians shouldn’t agonize over the President trip. It appears a desperate move by Susan Rise to save the desperate regime of her mentor and friend with close relationship with his family.

Susan Rise can pick-and-choose her friends all she want but, why she wanted to drag Obama’s presidency and legacy to fulfill her late smalltime Ethiopian tyrant-friend and mentor is the million dollar question.

At times, it feels the Administration officials don’t sound they represent the United State of America but a tyrant of their choice. They surly don’t do what they supposed to do for the interest of the country and the people of America that pays their salary. Many times over, they feel Africa is a no man’s land and the people under their mercy with a despot of their choice.

What is it the Obama Administration did to Africa that took him twice and planning to go the third time to celebrate?

Power Africa, food security, Strengthen democratic institutions, Spurring economic growth, trade, and investment, advance peace and security and promote opportunity and development are all slogans that don’t worth the paper they are written on.

The one-and-only thing Africans need help is to rid the corrupt tyrants that rule them. If that is too much to ask, at least, don’t treat them as children — saying tyranny is good for you.

As Benjamin Franklin said;

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.