Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Top US lawmaker vows to overturn Trump’s ‘insulting’ Africa policy | Joe Biden News

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New Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee has pledged to put sub-Saharan Africa “at the center of the stage” of US foreign policy, including through expansion of diplomatic activities , humanitarian and commercial organizations in the region.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, who was elected as the influential committee head in December, said on Monday that the U.S. foreign service needed to be strengthened under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Former President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House has resulted in a burnout of diplomatic staff across the continent – and perhaps most notably, the post of Senior Ambassador to Africa, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, has remained vacant. for nearly two years under Trump.

“We have the opportunity to redefine American foreign policy and do it in a way that makes it clear that America is back to the table,” Meeks said at an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“This is especially true in Africa, where the previous administration has spent the past four years looking only through the prism of competition with China and Russia.”

Meeks, the first black lawmaker to fill the committee role, is seen as a long-time supporter of Africa’s engagement and will join Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the next chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, to shape US foreign policy law.

Beyond influencing the bills to be passed in both American legislative chambers, the committees oversee investigations and programs related to American foreign policy. Their mandates include foreign aid, treaties, military deployments, international trade, arms control, and war powers.

“The emphasis the previous administration placed on great power competition reduced Africa to a pawn in a big game,” Meeks said. “And frankly, this approach was insulting because it assumed that Africans had no agency as to how they affected and were affected by foreign affairs.

‘Inflection point’

Meeks was pushed on Monday to lay out his plan on two pressing issues: the Ugandan presidential election, which saw Yoweri Museveni win a sixth term amid the complaints of electoral fraud and repression on opposition leader Bobi Wine, and a crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

Museveni has long been a close military ally of the United States in its fight against “terrorism” in the region and receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year. The US State Department recently told the New York Times that it was considering “a range of targeted options, including the imposition of visa restrictions” on Museveni for managing the vote.

But Ugandan activist Rosebell Kagumire told Meeks that the United States must work to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

“I think that by looking [Museveni] as [a US] partner has to come up with this difficult conversation that asks, “Where is your country going? Your people need an election, not a ritual, ”she said at Monday’s event.

Meeks said the United States “is rapidly approaching an inflection point that we need to think critically about how we can support the will of Ugandan citizens for inclusive democracy and a partnership on good governance and responsibility ”, but he did not give concrete details. not.

Ethiopian conflict

Tsedale Lemma, an Ethiopian journalist, urged Meeks to use “all means available” to ensure the end of hostilities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the distribution of humanitarian aid to civilians.

A government crackdown on the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF) has resulted in the displacement of around two million people in the region, the deaths of hundreds of killed civilians and allegations widespread violations of human rights.

In a statement on Monday, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said significant humanitarian operations had still not started in the region. “In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen such a hampered humanitarian response, unable to respond for so long, to so many people with such pressing needs,” said Egeland.

Lemma told Meeks that the United States must push for the withdrawal of the Eritrean army from Tigray. The State Department has called Eritrean soldiers to leave, Eritrea and Ethiopia denying that they are working in coordination in the region.

Lemma also called for an “independent, UN-mandated and politically isolated investigation into the atrocities that took place.”

Meeks said the United States must use its “chair of intimidation” to get countries to push for a ceasefire that would grant humanitarian access, while saying “an independent investigation must take place” . He also pledged to use his committee to “shine a light” on the conflict.

Biden politics

Political analysts said However, many questions remain about how the Biden administration will approach Africa.

Some were optimistic that the continent will benefit from Washington’s re-engagement with international organizations, while others believe Africa will not be a priority among other more pressing issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of Biden’s early presidential actions have included ending Trump’s travel ban in several Muslim-majority countries – including Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya and Tanzania – and lifting of the Global Gag rule , which limited aid to organizations that provide abortion counseling or literature, and which disproportionately affected Africa.

But it will be a break with the Trump administration, which ended a period of heightened engagement between the United States and Africa that began under the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

While U.S. aid has remained relatively stable, trade has fallen dramatically, wrote Francis Owusu, professor at Iowa State University, and Padraig Carmody, professor at Trinity College Dublin, on The Conversation news site. They called Trump’s approach “malicious negligence.”

Instead, Meeks said he hoped the United States would expand its reach beyond urban centers and called for the opening of consulates in Mombasa, Kenya, Cairo, Egypt and Goma. He also said he plans to “create dedicated US Embassy country teams for regional economic communities, separate from bilateral missions.”


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