The Imperial Vultures to Gather for the U.S.-Africa Summit*
The summit, together with Obama’s trip to Africa last year, and a promised future visit before he leaves office, might go some way to assuaging disappointment that he did not pay the continent more attention in his first term.
The president did visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania last year, unveiling a series of agricultural, power generation and development initiatives.
He also held a summit of young African leaders, designed to groom the next generation of the continent’s politicians in 2010.
The president also paid a short visit to Ghana in 2009, which marked the only visit to sub-Saharan Africa of his first term.
Obama pledged during his trip to the continent last year to help build “Africa for Africans” and argued that the region’s growing economic potential could help it shake off its reputation as simply a recipient of foreign aid.
Amid much talk of a US against China power grab in Africa, following billions of dollars of trade and investment by Beijing in the continent, Obama cautioned against the idea that a new proxy Cold War could play out in Africa.
“This is not a zero-sum game. This is not the Cold War. You’ve got one global market, and if countries that are now entering into middle-income status see Africa as a big opportunity for them, that can potentially help Africa,” the president told reporters.
At the same time, however, he cautioned that nations that simply saw Africa as a source of raw materials would not serve Africans well.
The Obama administration has also been increasing its indirect engagement in regional conflicts in Africa.
The US military last week started transporting the first elements of a Rwandan battalion to the Central African Republic, where they will join an African Union mission.
International forces are trying to restore order after the country plunged into sectarian warfare following a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president Francois Bozize.
US forces also last month rescued Americans fleeing violence in the new nation of South Sudan. Washington was a key mediating player in the country’s independence from Sudan.
In 2011, Obama deployed a small detachment of military trainers to Uganda to aid forces hunting down the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony.
Washington is also increasingly concerned about Al-Qaeda franchises in the continent. In October, US Navy SEALs raided a hideout of a Shebab leader on the Somali coast but withdrew after a firefight.