ADDIS ABABA – U.S.–Horn of Africa (HoA) policy must pay particular attention to the role of African institutions at various levels, so said Gabriel Negatu, former East Africa Director-General for Africa Development Bank (AFDB) and a nonresident senior fellow with the Africa Center .
In his article published in Atlantic Council, Gabriel stated that the US–HoA policy must focus on strengthening the capacity of African-led regional bodies such as the AU, IGAD, and the African Continental Free Trade Area. “Such institutions serve to develop and enforce neighborhood consensus and standards of good governance while also collectively repelling assaults on democracy and constitutional orders.”
“A progressive reset of US relations with the continent is long overdue.” A new Africa policy between partners, anchored in a framework of shared principles and a vision centered on economic, social, and environmental justice, as well as the democratic aspirations of citizens, would be a good place to begin,” he further noted.
According to him, there should be relationships in which both parties recognize that each side has something to offer and gain.
He also opined that compelling Africans to choose between the U.S. and new partners is a relic of the Cold War; in the 21stcentury Africans are capable of defining and articulating their interests and partners of choice.
The Prosper Africa trade initiative is an example of a positive pivot away from the traditional donor-recipient model to bilaterally negotiated trade and investment pacts, he said, adding that it allows countries to benefit from their US ties and also uphold their right to cooperate with other partners.
According to Gabriel, the Biden Administration is well-placed to reverse past missteps and set HoA-US relations on the right course. But the fast-changing region will not wait for the U.S. to catch up; the U.S. rhetoric must be backed with action and signal a perceptible change of course, anchored on mutual trust and tilted toward shared values.
He also stated that building loyal allies and gaining influence in the Horn will take time, and the U.S. either not wins all the countries nor solve region’s problems.
But either way, tomorrow’s U.S. foreign policy must sufficiently exploit the HoA-US values convergence, a unique advantage not enjoyed by new entrants, he indicated.“This requires a shift from the transactional brand of yesterday and building on shared values and principles.”
He further explained that Washington was accused of abetting African despots bent on prolonging their power, either through election-rigging or violating term limits, in exchange for their cooperation in the war on terror. This dented U.S. credibility and its ability to inspire popular policymaking and civic-minded diplomacy among the local populations.
For example, the U.S. cozied up to the Meles Zenawi regime in Ethiopia and that of his successor—fully aware of their stained human-rights records and reprehensible governance, he added.
Gabriel also stated that the U.S. hesitancy to vigorously condemn a rebel assault on a democratically installed Ethiopian government and constitutional order was also the oxygen that fueled the conflict there. The muted response by Washington and Brussels to the aggression emboldened the rebels to set their eyes on Addis Ababa, and the forcible ouster of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) became their end game.
On a continent where political leaders and regional institutions have, at least officially, banned all forms of unconstitutional power grabs, the subdued U.S. response to the unfolding rebel attempt was diplomatically unsettling and politically misguided, according to him.
BY ABDUREZAK MOHAMMED
THE ETHIOPIAN SUNDAY EDITION 13 JANUARY 2022