South Sudan The Endless Conflict

“We cannot turn a blind eye when yesterday’s victims become today’s perpetrators” 


After decades of violent civil war north and south Sudan, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) “ended” the conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudanese government. On 2 July 2011, South Sudan ultimately seceded from Sudan and became an independent state.

 But after two years of independence, South Sudan has been struggling to build its infant state. Corruption, insecurity, inter-communal violence, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and development have made South Sudan one of the poorest countries in the world. The Comprehensive Agreement and South Sudan’s independence left many issues unresolved. For one, it has led to more tensions with Sudan over oil, pipelines and the status of border regions, including the oil-rich region of Abyei. Second, inter-communal conflicts in South Sudan have also continued and grown more violent in the past 6 months. Jonglei state is particularly at risk. In March, the UN United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said grave human rights violations could lead to “a deterioration in the overall human rights situation.” Last week there were new report of clashes and abuses of civilians, including killings, lootings and destruction of property. The UN and several western governments have also warned against the mobilization of armed youth.


 Jonglei pretty much brings together many of South Sudan’s post-independence challenges: underdevelopment, insecurity, poor governance, fractious relationship with Sudan, and between states and the central government in Juba. As the most populated state, South Sudan is home to dozens of ethnic groups, including the Nuer, Dinka, and Murle. Conflict in the region pits the Lou Nuer against the Murle, but several Dinka members are also siding with the Lou Nuer. The roots of the problems already existed before South Sudan’s independence. The Nuer, Dinka and Murle are pastoralists who have long been fighting over cattle ownership, cattle prices, and land. During the civil war between the North and the South, these tribes were united by the SPLA and their common battle for independence from Sudan. But since independence, older rivalries and existing tensions have re-emerged and morphed into violence between ethnically based militias. In December 2011, for example, Lou Nuer fighters united under the White Army, raided Pibor, a Murle area. Civilians were killed, children abducted and cattle looted. The intent to destroy was clear. Prior to the attack, the raiders openly stated that they would “invade Murleland and wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth.”

Numerous factors drive violence between the Murle and Lou Nuer, including competition over resources, land and grazing rights, unemployment, forced disarmament by the SPLA, perception of inequity in development, and unequal political representation at the state and national level. As a minority, the Murle feel particularly politically and economically marginalized, and have a deep distrust of the government. Furthermore, other state and non-state actors, including Sudan, have been manipulating tensions and militias, thereby fuelling conflict. The proliferation of arms resulting from the civil wars has made the conflict all the more violent.

Complicating the crisis in Jonglei is a rebellion headed by David Yau Yau against the SPLA. A member of the Murle ethnic group, Yau Yau has already led two insurgencies – from May 2010 to June 2011, and from April 2012 to the present. In 2010, Yau Yau rebelled against South Sudan’s ruling party, the SPLM, later rejoined the SPLA in 2011 after being granted amnesty but rebelled again in April 2012 as a result of Murle discontent with the central government and the SPLA.  Over the years Yau Yau has been a champion of Murle interests and gained considerable support from the disenfranchised, unemployed Murle youths. He now heavily recruits young people among his community in order to raid Lou Nuer villages and to fight the SPLA. The South Sudanese army has also accused Khartoum of supplying arms and munitions to the Yau Yau rebellion.


Civilians are caught up in the middle of clashes between these fighting factions. Aid workers and human rights groups have accused the SPLA, militia groups and Yau Yau’s rebels of committing abuses against civilians. To make matters worse, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has also accused them of blocking humanitarian assistance to International Displaced People (IDPs).

On the eve of South Sudan’s second anniversary of independence, a group of pro-South Sudan activists in the U.S., the “Friends of the South Sudan”, sent President Salva Kiir Mayardit an inflammatory letter denunciating government corruption and alleged human rights abuses. They accuse armed forces of conducting “a campaign of violence again civilians simply because they belonged to a different ethnic group or they are viewed as opponents of the current government”. The letter describes the atrocities as “deliberate measures taken by soldiers on the instruction of senior commanders and government officials.” Failure to prevent violent raids and clashes between southern tribes are therefore not simply due to the absence of a strong South Sudanese army. Another proof of this is the culture of impunity. Not only is the justice system weak but the Ministry has continually failed to punish soldiers and officers who commit abuses or give orders to do so – despite the President’s pledge.

Last week, I was sent a disturbing video that perhaps best exemplifies the current situation.  Dated July 14, 2013, the footage shows thousands of militiamen in Manyabol, Jonglei, thought to be “returning home from the battle field.” UNAMISS peacekeepers and SPLA just stand by. South Sudan army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said two weeks ago that the South Sudanese army has also not been given orders to intervene in these “communal issues” and arguing that ir is the role of civilian authorities to take the decisions.


One of the most disturbing, absurd, and frustrating issue with the Jonglei crisis is that South Sudan fought for independence because southern tribes felt marginalized and were subject to abuses at the hands of the regime in Khartoum. They fought against corruption in Khartoum and government organized violence. Fighting for independence was these groups’ unifying cause. Now not only are the SPLA and the government failing to protect civilians, but the SPLA and ethnic militia groups are deliberately committing atrocities that echo those carried out but the Khartoum regime, including rape, killings, kidnappings, and destruction of property. Hundreds of people have already been killed and wounded, and thousands are fleeing into the bush. The victims are both victim and perpetrator, the former temporary allies have become dangerous opponents.

The Friends of South Sudan were right to warn that South Sudan “may slide toward instability, conflict and a protracted governance crisis.” Just yesterday, President Kirr fired 29 ministers, including crucial ministers, in what appears to be power struggle within the SPLM. Could the infant state slide into a full-blown crisis?


Reading list of the week

Al-Bashir visits Nigeria: all eyes on Nigeria

“Controversy Trails Al-Bashir’s Visit To Nigeria” – The Guardian Nigeria

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir is visiting Nigeria for the AU summit on AIDS. Human rights groups, including the Coalition for the ICC, urged Nigeria to arrest Al-Bashir who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Human Rights Watch Associate Director, Elise Keppler also said that if Bashir is allowed to visit Nigeria, it “would be a new low for Nigeria.” However, the indicted leader arrived in Abuja today

Sudan: is this what Sudan needs for people to care?

“Seven UN peacekeepers killed in Sudan ambush”

Gunmen ambushed a UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Seven of them were killed and another 17 injured. This is the deadliest ever single attack on the international force in the country.

Is this what it takes for the international community to focus on Sudan. How many Sudanese have died in Darfur, the Blue Nile region and South Kordofan without states and international/regional organizations caring?

Burma: more on the Rohingya

“Carr apprehensive about Rohingyas’ future in Myanmar”

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob discussed the plight of the Rohingya in Burma. Here is an interesting quote:

“(…) but I’ve got to say, after spending the day in Yangon talking to our representatives of the Rohingya people and to representatives of a group at odds with them, the Arakan League for Democracy and the Rakhine Nationalities Democratic Party* that I’m pretty apprehensive.”

Has Burma Reached the Extermination Phase of Genocide? By Danny Hirschel-Burns – The Sentinel Project

Minority Rights: new report

Peoples under Threat 2013

This is an important early warning tool in terms of genocide and mass atrocity crimes prevention. Minority Rights Group published its annual index of people under threat, meaning “those countries around the world where the risk of mass killing is greatest.”  This includes Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Burma/Myanmar, the DRC,  Ethiopia and Nigeria.

South Sudan: Independence not it pretty as it may seem

South Sudan: ‘independence is not as beautiful as we thought’

After reaching independence in 2011, South Sudan faces up to a host of many challenges, including in terms of development, security and human rights

“Friends of South Sudan” Letter to President Salva Kiir

The letter issues a warning to President Salva Kiir and senior officials. The group expresses concern over the “increasingly perilous fate” of South Sudan. The signatories also condemn “a campaign of violence again civilians simply because they belonged to a different ethnic group or they are viewed as opponents of the current government”.

Syrian conflict

How We Are Failing Syrian People

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a snapshot that shows the current number of people in need of assistance across Syria and the region. 1.6 million refugees and about 7 million people in need of assistance inside Syria

Getting insurgents right

Insurgents and Identity: Why Nuance is Necessary by Edvin Arnby-Machata

Interesting article on Islamist movements in North Africa and the fact that many observers do not always understand the political and economical root causes of the problem, and focus too much on ideological linkages. They also tend to include Christian terrorists groups.


Kenya: Too Little Action on Hate Speech?

Observers accuse government body tasked with prosecuting offenders of not doing enough regarding the wave of online hate speech during the pre-and post-electoral period last March.


Mugabe hunts for internet mole ‘Baba Jukwa’ revealing his secrets

President Mugabe has allegedly offered a $300,000 reward to anyone who will reveal the name of anonymous whistleblower “Baba Jukwa” who has been giving information about the Zimbabwean’s government election rigging strategies, assassination plots and corruption.


Genocide Count Reinstated in Case Against Karadzic

The first count of genocide in the indictment against wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic was reinstated as appellate Judges overturned a decision to acquit him of one of the two charges. Karadzic again faces two genocide charges plus 9 other accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Karadzic is accused of wanting to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Croats from parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. Thursday also marked the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.


Good for Canada

Secretary-General appoints Jennifer Welsh of Canada Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect

Welsh is a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. Her research projects include Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect, in particular the evolution of the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’ and a critique of conditional notions of sovereignty; the ethics of post-conflict reconstruction; and the UN Security Council. She will “work under the overall guidance of Mr. Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, to further the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the responsibility to protect concept, as set out by the General Assembly in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome document.”


Elections in Zimbabwe – Setting the stage for chaos and violence?

ImagePresident Mugabe

Zimbabwe will hold national elections on 31 July, putting an end to the Transitional Inclusive Government (TIG). In 2008, Mugabe lost the presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) but Zanu-PF’s violent and murderous acts forced Tsvangirai to give up. Instead, he became Prime Minister and formed a malfunctioning “unity government” with Mugabe in 2009. Several questions can be asked. Although very unlikely, should we expect the end of the Mugabe era? Will there be violence again? Do Zimbabweans even have faith in these elections?

It is very unlikely that authoritarian President Mugabe and his party will give up power, even if they loose. The party has long developed a series of strategies to remain in power. Setting an election date in one example of this. Since 2010 Zanu-PF, Mugabe’s party, has been announcing elections every few months, trying to find a date that would work in its favor. A few weeks ago, Mugabe issued a presidential decree confirming 31 July election, leading opposition parties such as the MDC to accuse the president of violating constitution. Despite reservations and complaints from the opposition as well as civil society groups, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court overturned appeals to delay the elections. 

The current situation is well explained by Baba Jukwa, a disgruntled blogger and insider from Zanu-PF party, who spreads gossip about the party on his Facebook page. He explains the party’s rigging strategy in this way: “An early and rapid election will play in Zanu-PF’s favour in that it is easy to rig where preparations are done rapidly” and there is “no time to implement key electoral reforms, my party is in full control of the current system.” Baba Jukwa issued warnings of violence. For example, the Economist reported that Baba Jukwa predicted the death of Zanu-PF MP Edward Chindori-Chininga after he made revelations about the party’s involvement in embezzlement. He also described Jonathan Moyo, Zanu-PF’s strategist, as being “inspired by Joseph Stalin, Aldolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.” According to Baba Jukwa, Moyo strategy rests on nine tactics:

1) Early elections

2) Repressive laws such as Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)

3) Intimidation of voters by the Zimbabwe National Army and other security services, who openly side with Mugabe

4) Stage managed defections

5) Repression of the media

6) Fouling opposition candidates

7) Arrest and detention of opposition supporters

8) Playing “divide and rule” on opposition parties to avoid a grand coalition

9) Vote buying using revenues from the country’s diamond mines.

These tactics would be nothing new – the party has long been using them. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch showed how the Zimbabwe National Army and other security services continue to interfere in political affairs, especially during elections. In 2008, the military and the police committed widespread violence against Mugabe’s perceived opponents and, according to the report, the army is again intimidating voters, civil society groups and human rights acticists, and abusing perceived supporters of the MDC. Tiseke Kasambala, the Africa advocacy director at HRW, describes the upcoming elections as “an important step in ending the country’s longstanding human rights crisis.” However, with only three weeks to go, the hasty elections have made it impossible to make these reforms on time.

There are also several reports of voter registration problems. For example, foreign nationals identified as “aliens” have been denied the right to register as voters, even though the new constitution guarantees this right. According to commentator Tawanda Mukurunge “the information blackout by the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) is a deliberate ploy meant to keep unsuspecting citizens in the dark. The possibility of a free and fair election will remain a pipe dream unless these issues are addressed.” Meanwhile, civil society group Youth Agenda described the processing of ‘aliens’ as “a direct violation of the rights of the people of Zimbabwe and a breach of the constitutional right to vote as stipulated in the new constitution.”

Image Image taken in 2008

So what it the hope for opposition parties and for Zimbabweans in general? Five opposition parties are apparently trying to form a coalition. The MDC-T, MDC, ZAPU, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) and ZANU Ndonga held secret talks and attempted to devise a strategy to work together in order to defeat Mugabe’s party. This grand coalition could truly pose a great challenge to Zanu-PF since it would combine votes and resources. However, creating and holding the coalition together may be difficult if the leaders of parties are unable to set their differences aside, especially between Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Welshman Ncube (MDC). There are already reports that the coalition has faltered.

What may work in the opposition’s favor are important fissures within Zanu-PF, including over succession and policies. Furthermore, Mugabe himself has lost support because his policies have failed to lead to concrete results. There were few people at the launch of Zanu-PF’s election manifesto on Friday, despite the party’s attempt to attract supporters. According to sources, Mugabe’s did not present a political program. The main information given was that the campaign would run under the theme: “Indigenize, empower, develop and create employment.” Instead of presenting a clear plan for the nation’s future, the dictator urged his supporters to prevent another unity government from being formed. Furthermore, although he told his followers to avoid violence, urging them to “kick our opponents with votes.” However some of his rhetoric also said otherwise: “You are our soldiers. You have a battle to fight. Go into the battle well-armed. It’s a fight for our lives. It’s a battle for survival (…) Go into the battle with the full knowledge that there is a political enemy. This is a do or die struggle.” This kind of double-language is worrying.

Mugabe and his party continue to fiercely hold on to power. Whether it will again lead to “disputed” elections and post-electoral violence is hard to say but based on Zanu-PF’s violent record and current rigging tactics it would be unsurprising. In 2008, 200 people were killed and thousands injured. In the end, Zimbabweans continue to suffer from Mugabe’s corrupt and despotic regime, as well as from the opposition’s inability to unite over common goals. Is another coalition government to be expected and will Mugabe accept this option despite his aversion to it? More worryingly, what will be the scope of intimidation and violence if the parties do not accept the results? Harassment of political and human rights activists, crackdown on civil society groups and the media, and suppression of the opposition, seek to maintain an unbalanced political arena. It is more than political strategy for Zanu-PF – it’s a routine meant to prevent a status-quo. It also a recipe the type of electoral violence we have seen in Zimbabwe past elections.

Reading List

Some of this week’s interesting reads


‘You Can’t Eat Sharia’ – by Mohamed Elbaradei

Nobel Peace Price winner Mohamed Elbaradei expresses anger over the state of his country and the incompetence of Islamist leaders

“Who Won the Coup?” – by Aaron David Miller

“Twitter translates tweets from leading Egyptians”: New Twitter services translated Tweets from leading Egyptians

“Militant group forms in Egypt vowing violence”–  Sami Zaatari

New militant group in Sinai region vows violence following overthrow of Muhammad Morsi. Ansar al-Sharia says a war against Islam has been declared in Egypt

– Burma

“U Wirathu’s Million-dollar Soapbox” – by Jonathan Hulland

Human rights consultant Jonathan Hulland warns against media coverage of Islamphobic U Wirathu and argues that the inter-ethnic conflict should not be limited to him. The media should investigate the complex conflict and anti-Muslim movement, especially the political interests behind the Burmese monk.

“And reporting on one man is so much easier than reporting on the military’s continuing involvement in politics, rampant land confiscation, the ongoing very deadly fighting between Burma’s army and ethnic armed movements.”

– Mali

“Analysis: UN plays with fire in Mali” – by Simon Allison

The UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, MINUSMA, will be one of the most difficult, according to Simon Allison.

Human rights and emerging powers

“Encouraging stronger engagement by emerging powers on human rights” – by Kenneth Roth and Peggy Hicks

“New powers won’t play by old rules” – by David Petrasek

David Petrasek responds to article by Kenneth Roth and Peggy Hicks: “Expecting new global powers to promote human rights abroad via the United Nations assumes that they will play by the old rules and – if such pressure is to be effective – that human rights factors will condition their bilateral relationships; neither is likely”

Genocide Prevention and R2P

“Case Study for GenPrev” – by Anthony DiRosa

Does the Kenyan case study represent an example of successful R2P application? Can be used as a model?

“Assessment: Low risk of genocide in Kyrgyzstan” – by Scott Dempsey and the Sentinel Project

The Sentinel Project assessed the risk of genocide in Kyrgyzstan and found it to be unlikely within the next five years. The project based their research on 30 risk factors.

Middle East: Syria and Lybia

“In Libya and beyond, intervention’s just the start” – by Bob Rae

Bob Rae says international community must deal with the consequences of military intervention: “We can’t leave the job less than half done.” The end of oppressive regimes is just the beginning of the struggle.

“Helping Libya, Helping Syria” –  by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Carpenter argues that the Obama admisnitration shoud look at the conseuaences of the intervention in Libya before increasing aid to Syrian rebels and thereby becoming a participants in the civil war. “That would be a sobering exercise, for post-Qaddafi Libya is hardly a model that any sensible policy maker should wish to repeat.”

– Chad

 “U.S.-Backed Chadian Dictator Hissène Habré Faces War Crimes Trial in Historic Win for His Victims”

Hissène Habré, the former Chadian dictator, was arrested in Senegal and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for systematic torture and killings. The trial is likely to take place in Senegal, not at the ICC. Chadian accusers and an international legal team led by Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody worked on this case for almost fifteen years. Brody discusses the case of the man who is known as “Africa’s Pinochet.”

“Former Chad leader Hissène Habré charged with crimes against humanity“ – by Michael Bronner

Bronner looks at U.S. connection with the Chadian dictator and sees situation as a cautionary tale for American intervention

– Zimbabwe

“Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe predicts ‘90% poll victory’”

The general elections are taking place on 31 July. President Robert Mugabe launched his party’s campaign and predicts a 90% victory for the Zanu-PF. While Mugabe urged voters and supporters to avoid violence, he described the elections as a “do-or-die struggle” and “battle for survival”.  The elections are taking place on July 31.

– Mapping Think Tanks

“Insight: Thinking about Tanking” An interesting map of Think Tanks around the world


Obama visits Africa: the return of the prodigal son?


When President Obama was elected in 2008, many people across had great hopes, including people in Africa, who saw the election of the first black president of the U.S. as a symbol. When Obama visited the continent shortly after his inauguration in 2009, the president and his wife were welcomed by ecstatic crowds. I personally experienced this when I travelled to Ghana in 2009. There were pictures of the U.S. president on the streets, his face had been painted on buses and walls, and many people I met spoke about him and their believe in change. For them, it was like a dream come true.

Fast-forward to 2013 and you get a different image. This week President Obama started his second visit to the African continent in four years. Even though thousands of people awaited him in Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, the welcome was much cooler and, like in the US and Europe, Obama seems to have lost his star-power appeal. One of the main reasons for this is probably the president’s absence from the continent, both physically and politically. People in Africa feel neglected. Not only did Obama only spent less than a day on the African continent during his first terms but many analysts think that his predecessor President Bush for whom I have very little sympathy, was more involved in Africa than Obama. I personally did not think that Obama would have a “special” agenda for the African continent simply because he is African-American and of Kenyan origin. We are talking about politics here. However, Washington has realized that the U.S. is slowly falling behind and is now ready invest time and money.

But let’s start with the positive aspect of U.S. policy in Africa in terms of conflict and peace-building. When South Sudan became independent in 2011, the President recognized the new nation as a sovereign and independent state. One must acknowledge the efforts played by the Bush administration, which brokered the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but Obama nonetheless exerted pressure and pushed for the referendum to take place despite poor preparation and manipulations by the Khartoum regime. Though the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan continues to look bleak today, the agreement and the South Sudan’s independence nonetheless put an end to the twenty-year long conflict.

Obama has also been tougher with Rwandan President Paul Kagame than his predecessors. President Clinton, ridden by “genocide-guilt”, and President Bush were not inclined to criticize his undemocratic tendencies and only saw the “economic miracle” that is Rwanda. This year, when a UN group of experts accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels in the DRC, the US suspended its military aid to Rwanda.

The Obama administration also tried to tackle the long-existing problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which continues to operate in the Great Lakes Region. The LRA has been accused of committing widespread human rights violations, including murder, rape, and recruitment of child soldiers. In 2010, the Congress and President Obama passed a legislation called the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act”, which led to the deployment of 100 American soldiers to serve in an advisory role to remove LRA leader Joseph Kony. The US also offers a $5m reward for information on the Ugandan warlord. While Kony is still at large and Ugandan army faces challenges, the legislation was nonetheless widely supported.

Finally, it should be noted that for this second Africa trip Obama has chosen countries that have a rather positive record in terms of human rights and democratic progress: Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa. Last year, Senegal held violence-free elections (the political turnover was surprisingly peaceful as well), Tanzania has a lot of economic potential and is quickly developing, and South Africa, as the leading country in Sub-Saharan Africa, cannot be ignored despite continued problems there. Because America’s economic investment in Africa has been rather poor, it is looking at these three countries to have a stronger economic foothold on the continent.

Now to the negative aspects. The Obama administration has been too silent on several human rights issues. First in Sudan. Like many Western countries there is almost complete silence from Washington regarding human rights violations committed by the government in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile region. This could very well be the next Darfur – if it isn’t already. While the international community concentrates on Syria (though with little success), there is little policy on Sudan and South Sudan. In March the White House invited Nafie Ali Nafie, the Advisor and Assistant of Al-Bashir, to the US and only suspended the visit when Khartoum decided to halt its cooperation with South Sudan, not because human rights violations are being committed in Sudanese regions. His visit would have violated President Obama’s Proclamation suspending entry into the U.S. to individuals who “planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so.” Washington’s should not only be focused on South Sudan-Sudan relations but also on what is happening within Sudan’s borders. One must be careful not to repeat the failure to prevent genocide in Darfur when the international community focused on North-South peace accords, intentionally ignoring what was happening in Darfur.

The US also maintains strong ties with controversial authoritarian regimes, including in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni has been increasingly tough on human rights activists, journalists and the opposition. Like his predecessors, the Obama administration has backed Ugandan institutions, including security services and the army, who are responsible for the crack down. Of course, this is a difficult situation since Washington provides aid to the military in order to get rid of the LRA. But it should be contingent on democracy-building, good governance and respect for human rights, especially freedom of speech. This a promise Obama made in Ghana in 2009. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. would stand up for human rights “even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.” Yet it was not always the case. 

The White House’s relationship with Kenya is a difficult one as well, as Obama himself explained. The US has strategic interests in Kenya, who has long been a strong ally. Kenya plays a key role in counterterrorism efforts, especially in the fight against Al-Shabab, an Islamist militant group linked to Al-Qaeda in Somalia. Despite fears of violence, the Kenyan elections were rather peaceful. But elected President Uhuru Kenyatta was indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity after the 2007 election that caused the death of 1,300. Vice president William Ruto faces similar charges. The U.S. should perhaps have pushed for more accountability and justice in Kenya and Obama now faces a dilemma, especially since prior to the elections the US State Department made it somewhat clear Kenyatta’s elections would have consequences. Obama decision not to visit Kenya this time around sends, I think, a message to Kenyatta but considering the U.S.’ strategic interest in Kenya, I have little hope that his election will actually carry great consequences on the Nairobi-Washington relationship.

If the US is now trying to have more influence on the African, it is likely to do so economically in order to prevent China from making more inroads into the continent. But while China does not set any political conditions to its investments, the U.S. should do so. While in Johannesburg, While in South Africa, President Obama described Nelson Mandela “an inspiration to the world”, and praised his “moral courage” as well as South Africa’s transition to “a free and democratic nations.” The president should honour Mandela’s struggle by keep these principles alive.