US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed African leaders in Nairobi, kicking off an 11-day African tour. She expounded on the importance of "rule of law" and warned that corruption would discourage investment in the continent.
“Africa’s future belongs to Africans,” said US President Barack Obama in a speech he delivered in Accra, Ghana, in July. His Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, currently travelling through Africa on a strategically savvy itinerary, expanded on that message, encouraging the adoption of principles of good governance.
Clinton was in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday, addressing the eighth annual forum on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a US law giving preferential access to the world's biggest market to African states with open markets and democratic governments.
She said before an audience that included Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga: "Progress will depend on good governance and adherence to the rule of law... that is critical to creating positive, predictable investment climates and inclusive economic growth.”
Democracy gone bad
Clinton’s emphasis on the importance of the rule of law comes after incidents of seemingly undemocratic governance that have taken place in several African nations in the few months since Obama’s Acra speech.
FRANCE 24 spoke to Muzong Kodi, research associate in African affairs at the UK-based NGO Chatham House, who said, “In Mauritania, an old military figure [General Ould Abdel Aziz] won contested elections after orchestrating a coup d’etat. In Guinea-Bissau, the elections went forward without too many problems; on the other hand, it was to replace an assassinated president. It is time for the American speech to be followed by action.”
Clinton called upon African governments to "reject corruption, enforce the rule of law, and deliver results for their people… This is not just about good governance -- it's also about good business.”
She admonished, "Investors will not be attracted to states with failed or weak leadership, crime and civil unrest or corruption that taints every transaction and decision.”
Obama did not participate in the conference, but he passed along a videotaped message in which he reassured African leaders that they had the “full support” of the US.
Clinton’s 11-day African tour – her longest foreign visit since taking her current post – is aimed at showing the “dark continent” the implications that the Obama administration could have over previously ignored parts of the world.
Words of hope, or Realpolitik?
Marie-Roger Biloa, editor-in-chief of Africa International, said on FRANCE 24's Debate prgramme that “Obama’s power lies in the fact that he practices what he preaches – success through work and good governance.” She believes that the American exhortations could indeed have an affect on their African partners, though her optimism is not shared by all.
Andre Julien Mbem, a Cameroonian philosopher and writer, told FRANCE 24, “No foreign president comes with a totally impartial agenda. The countries Hillary Clinton is visiting are all strategic – useful to the US. This trip will reveal where her nation’s real interests lie.”
After her visit to Kenya – historically a staunch US ally, despite having been embroiled in post-election violence in 2008 – Clinton is scheduled to go to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Libya, and the Cape Verde.
With the exception of Liberia, which arose more out of a social connection between Clinton and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, all other nations on her itinerary are major producers of raw materials that the US wishes to import with reduced tax duty. The majority of exports mentioned in the Agoa conference are petroleum.
In an effort to strengthen ties with Africa, the Obama administration seems to have begun the delicate balance between words of hope and Realpolitik.
Date created : 2009-08-05