Ambassador Frazer Reflects on U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Africa

Lafayette A. Barnes | 1/17/2009, 11:10 a.m.

Ambassador Dr. Jendayi E. Frazer, assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, reflected on past accomplishments and challenges of the George W. Bush Administration and offered sage advice for the incoming Barack Obama Administration during a recent briefing on U.S. foreign policy towards Africa. The Constituency for Africa and the African American Unity Caucus organized the briefing.

Frazer€s long, diplomatic history with the Bush Administration includes appointments to the following positions: Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, 2005; U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, 2004; and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, 2001.

Frazer named the enactment of the President€s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as one of the many highlights in her tenure because it provided unprecedented amounts of U.S. foreign aid to African nations to reduce the threat of HIV/AIDS. She also talked about the defeat of the brutal dictator Charles Taylor by Dr. Ellen Sirleaf, the first female president of an African country, as well as the Liberian people and their installation of Africa€s first female president by a fair and free democratic election process.
The cancellation of billions of dollars of debt owed by African governments to international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and also many of the G-7 developed countries is also high on her list of major accomplishments.

The Bush Administration confronted some of Africa€s tough human rights and foreign policy challenges that the Obama Administration is sure to face as well, Frazer said. Accordingly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe continue to be hot spots in Africa.

Although Frazer acknowledged Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria and the current United Nations€ Special Envoy to Africa and the current lead negotiator in the DRC conflict, she pointed out that the continent€s northeast region remains very troublesome. Somalia€s longtime political instability, Frazer said, continues to be problematic for the Horn of Africa. Frazer also emphasized that the northeast region needs a new comprehensive, more progressive policy than the one used by the United States in the 1990s, which resulted in the unsuccessful €Black Hawk Down€ military campaign.

Frazer said the Obama Administration will be faced with the challenge of finding a solution to Sudan€s north-south conflict, including Darfur, which continues to be influenced by the African Union. In Zimbabwe, despite the ongoing setbacks, the momentum appears to be shifting towards a resolution, according to Frazer. She indicated, however, that President Robert Mugabe continues to be a very strong player and a skilled manipulator in this process. She urged South Africa and Tanzania to continue to demonstrate their regional influence to resolve this issue.

Frazer also shared some sound advice to members of the CFA and AAUC. She recommended that African Americans and Africanists get inside the daily foreign policy and decision making process to have a positive impact on U.S. foreign policy towards Africa. This can be achieved by developing stronger relations with members of Congress and their key African policy and committee staffers, as well as those directly involved in the budgetary formulation and resource allocation of programs affecting Africa.

Frazer also challenged Congressional members of the African Diaspora to develop better communication with like-minded constituencies to raise the importance of Africa as a foreign policy priority for the United States.

Frazer believes that getting African issues placed on the African issues placed on the President€s foreign policy agenda continues to be a struggle with other competing geopolitical interests in Europe and the Middle East.

The challenge moving forward, she concluded, is to keep President-elect Obama focused on building stronger relationships with African nations not simply because he is African American but because of Africa€s economic and strategic significance in the world.

Frazer recommended that the Obama Administration acknowledge Africa as a serious foreign policy matter for the United States and it should adopt an ideology that is inclusive of African nations as a national priority interest.

Frazer said she is very impressed with Dr. Susan Rice€s nomination as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Mark Lippert as the incoming Chief of Staff at the National Security Council. Both come with outstanding credentials in African Affairs, she said.

Jeannine B. Scott, AAUC coordinator and Senior Vice President of Africare, applauded the Ambassador for remarks on the legacy of the Bush Administration with regard to Africa.