A guest post by Habiba Osman
It has been on the agenda of President Obama that the USA should cement its relationship with sub-Saharan Africa. I remember in 2010, hearing Hillary Clinton giving a speech at the State Department that is it is in their plans to strengthen bilateral relationships and promote democracy.
I am therefore not surprised that this African tour has come up now considering the diminishing role that the US is now finding itself in with the Chinese almost taking over as the biggest African donor and trade partner. Sub Saharan Africa, especially, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi in the South have felt the presence of the Chinese greatly with infrastructure being built everywhere in these countries, courtesy of the Chinese government.
Politically, Clinton’s visit is therefore timely as some of most African states have openly declared that they are in favour of the Chinese donations, which seem to have no strings attached. By strings, I mean, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and observance of good governance. Africa’s relationship with China has gained international attention and is a sure factor in destabilising America’s role as the sole super power.
China seems to be usurping that space which in most cases has also seen her giving support to tyrants and disregarding those tenets of democracy that the US has been preaching to us. Mrs. Clinton’s visit is therefore to consolidate the US’s position but also at the same time to strengthen its bilateral relationships. What is also interesting in these tours is the fact that the agenda has been on leadership and the role of democracy especially for those states that are bordering on rebellion and those perceived as good democratic states. The choice of countries she visited are telling; Uganda, Senegal and Malawi are countries that faced notable political unrest in the last 10 months or so. On the one hand, South Africa and Ghana are among the beacons of political stability and stable democracies on the continent.
As always, the visit has also been disguised as the US’s support and funding pledge for their so called African projects. Having said that, it is really in my opinion to bring the attention of the US’s role as a champion of human rights, rule of law and good governance. Additionally, I also think that international politics is also on the agenda of her visit. By this I am referring to the current Middle East (particularly Syria) conflict, as things stand in the Security council now, it may be a way of garnering support for possible Syrian intervention.
This may be an indication that the US will act sooner on Syria as seen from the comments that she had been making on this African tour. What is also interesting is the fact that South Africa is very important country on this considering that it has unpredictable voting patterns (General Assembly – it influences Security Council). The visit is therefore also timed to discuss this issue although it may not have been reported in the media.