The Dawn of a New Era in U.S. Human Rights Policy in Africa: Is Ethiopia Next?

Almariam
August 28,2017

U.S. Human Rights Policy in Africa - Ethiopia
Source : Almariam

“… We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people. We represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over, and that message has never changed… I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American Government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values…. I’ve made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week…. The President speaks for himself [regarding] his values.” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, August 27, 2017.

“… Nowhere is [hate speech] an American value. We do honor, protect, and defend freedom of speech, First Amendment rights. It’s what sets us apart from every other government regime in the world, in allowing people a right to expression. These are good things. But we do not honor, nor do we promote or accept hate speech in any form. And those who embrace it poison our public discourse and they damage the very country that they claim to love. So we condemn racism, bigotry in all its forms. Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values. It’s antithetical to the American idea.” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, August 18, 2017.

Author’s Note: “Just Say No to U.S. Aid to African Dictators!”

In my February 2017 commentary, “Join Me in My Letter to President Trump”, I urged the Trump administration to “just say no U.S. aid to African dictators.”

Lo and behold, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week just did that!

Tillerson notified Egypt that the U.S. will withhold $95.7 million in military and economic aid, and would only release $195 million in additional military aid after it makes progress in its human rights record.”

These words are music to my ears.

But Tillerson did much more than that. He stood up for real American values such as free speech and against hate speech calculated to incite violence. He unreservedly condemned “racism [and] bigotry in all its forms. Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values. It’s antithetical to the American idea.”

I have been a voice in the wilderness preaching every Monday for over a decade that U.S. aid must be linked to human rights improvements in Africa, particularly Ethiopia.

Obama turned a deaf ear to my pleas to align American aid with American values. He lip-synced my song of human rights to his empty lyrics of the “right side of history” while wining and dining those African dictators on the wrong side of history at the White House.

President Donald Trump likes to talk about “fake news” propagated in the U.S. by the “establishment” media. Is there such a thing as “fake diplomacy”?

Since 9/11, the U.S. has conducted fake diplomacy in Africa in the name of counterterrorism and national security.
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The Obama and Bush administrations embraced and coddled the most ruthless African dictators who not only massacred, jailed and tortured their citizens but also engaged in widespread waste, fraud and abuse of U.S. aid. Barack Obama displayed shameless pandering to African dictators when he declared the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) “democratically elected” even though the T-TPLF “won” one hundred percent of the seats in “parliament”.

By his statement, Obama effectively gave a green light to all of Africa’s dictators to steal elections in broad daylight by 100 percent and guaranteed them full support of the U.S.

Is Trump pulling the curtain on Obama’s fake diplomacy of coddling African dictators and thugtators in the name of counterterrorism and national security?

The scaremongering foreign policy experts, professionals, consultants drinking at the U.S. aid trough along with the has-been diplomats have been predicting the sky will fall on Africa under the Trump Administration. They condemned Trump for his ignorance and for ignoring Africa. They said Trump will flip-flop in his Africa policy and cut back on aid causing millions of Africans to die.

I was one of the doubting Thomases who made audacious claims that Trump will continue in Obama’s footsteps and ignore human rights in Africa. I was simply resigned to the fact that there will be no policy change under Trump. I even said half-jokingly that I would “eat crow” if the Trump administration made any changes to Obama’s “see no evil, say no evil and hear no evil” about African dictators policy.

I began seriously thinking about eating crow (vegan style, of course) with a side of humble pie after I pondered over the questionnaire the Trump’s transition team presented to the State Department. Truth be told, I was stunned by the four questions because those were the same exact questions I have been asking week after week for 11 years.

I could not get over the irony of the twist of fate. The man I opposed so vigorously as a presidential candidate was asking the same questions I have been asking about Africa for over a decade.

I believe asking the right questions almost always yields the right answers. It is clear now the Trump administration has the right human rights answer: “No human rights improvements in Egypt (by implication in all of Africa), no U.S. aid.”

I must confess that some have complained to me privately that I stick out like a sore thumb writing approvingly of Trump’s Africa policy. Truth be told, some privately wondered if I had lost my marbles in suggesting that human rights issues will likely figure prominently in the Trump administration. Others snickered.

As I have previously noted, I do not care about the motives of those in power when they do the right thing. I rarely question when the right thing is done for the wrong reason. It is never too late to do the right thing; but there is never a right time to do the wrong thing. The Trump administration is doing the right thing by insisting on human rights improvements as a condition for receiving U.S. aid. What could possibly be wrong with that?

But I remained steadfast in my claim of a likely new day for human rights in Africa in the Trump administration.

No human rights, no U.S. aid?: Should “America First” mean “human rights first” in Africa?

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