*By The AfSol Blog Team
Last Week, Kenya, Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) welcomed the visit of the head of State of one of our world’s most powerful nation. Discussing a number of wide issues during his two stop African last round trip, President Obama of the United States of America has reinforced the principle of African Centered Solutions for African problems. He endorsed the principle for the fight of counter-insurgency in Somalia, the resolution of the Crisis in South Sudan, Economic Regional Integration and most importantly the limitations of presidential terms in the continent.
The partnership between the US and Ethiopia as a model in counterterrorism in the Horn
In a joint press statement with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, President Obama affirmed how the jointly executed operations between the two countries should be an aspired for model. Acclaiming, “Ethiopians are one of the toughest fighters”, he acknowledged Ethiopia and the AMISOM (African Mission in Somalia) as equal partners in the region. The capacity of Al-Shabab is diminishing and this is because of the collaborations between the USA and the Horn of Africa. His country works on building the capacity of the regional peacekeeping force while the region offers the required personnel.
Yet, the picture is not as colorful as painted. Al-Shabab is not giving up: its recent bombing of the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu is a testimony to the ongoing decade long battle with the region. The countdown of causalities has ruled that for AMISOM this was one of its toughest years. Finally, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has still to galvanize the support of the nation, so many years after its set up.
Nevertheless, this is a model to pursue: a synergy between Africans equipped with the knowledge of their regional peculiarities and western partners who offer capacity building.
President Obama gave his concern to the deteriorating Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan as well as the stalemate of the negotiations between the Government of South Sudan lead by Salvaa Kiir and the rebel forces lead by Riek Machar. In fact, this is one of the reasons for Obama’s African round trip. Though attesting to the regional interest in the newly independent but most importantly oil rich South Sudan, the President has hailed the engagement of IGAD in mediating a peace agreement. He has also condemned the leaders for being stubborn, and for putting their interest over their nations. He argued in line with other analysts that the crisis in South Sudan is a personal rather than a political conflict.
The surprising factor however is that with the upcoming deadline is August 17.Although PM Hailemariam said that he was “hopeful”, President Obama or the AU for that matter of fact has not stated what will follow the leaders if they didn’t reach an agreement by then. Warnings of sanctions have not been heard, only soft condemnations.
Despite the grim picture of ongoing conflicts here and there, both Dr. Zuma and President Obama did not forget to appreciate that “Africa is on the rise”. They have highlighted the positive economic rise of the continent. Africa has been growing on average of 5% a year since the end of the 20th century still forecasted, to grow annually at a 4.0% for the coming years. The continent is also home to the fastest growing economies in the world with the rise of a middle class expected to hit 1 billion in 2060. It is also home to the world’s youngest population (70% of Africa’s population is under the age of 30) with a growing Entrepreneurs class.
However, the numbers do not match the poverty striken and unemployed large African population. Almost half of Africans are illiterate, and the incidence of their unemployment is close to 20%.
Additionally, Africa’s largest trading partner is not Africa but China with exchanges worth 200 billion US dollars: inter-African Trade only amounts to 12% of the total trade Africa conducts. Despite the launch of the Roadmap of The Continental Free Trade Area, countries have yet to diversify their products, which are dominantly the same primary products.
President Obama did not hesitate to raise his concerns vis a vis Democracy and Human Rights in the Africa.
From the 1990’s onwards, because of the third wave of democratization, more than 75% of African states have included in their constitutions clauses that limit power tenures to two terms for the exception of Seychelles, which sets the limit to three. This falls in line with t AU’s strong commitment to promote “democratic principles and conditions” in the continent.
Yet the recent crisis in the Burundi presidential elections that allowed Pierre Nkurinziza a third term in Office, or the third term campaign advanced by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila’s are sparking controversies with regards to the idea of limits for presidential terms. Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guniea are then coming in with the longest standing heads of states. In fact, it seems to have launched a culture of “third termism and more” in the African Continent. President Obama did not refrain from commenting on the issue. He remarked that he could find other ways to serve his country and that long serving leaders should follow his lead and give way for the coming generation.
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