Archive for ‘Africa’

12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO ABROAD?

China: In 1971, after the UN voted to recognize the mainland People’s Republic of China in lieu of the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan, Nixon visited Mao Tse Tung in 1972, and agreed to withdraw 8,000 U.S. troops from Taiwan. President Carter then recognized the People’s Republic as sole legitimate government in 1979, and the U.S. severed all official ties to Taiwan. The U.S. then started doing business in China under Reagan in 1980, and in 2001, George W. Bush helped them get into the tariff-free World Trade Organization. After the 2016 election, Trump didn’t realize that by communicating with the Taiwanese leader, he would be setting off a storm. Trump’s lack of knowledge of international law and history is a great concern.

Foreign Trade: The U.S. has had trade deficits with foreign nations since 1981, when Reagan took office. Trump said he couldn’t believe how much they’ve soared. While there is some truth to the need for better balance, Trump has not seriously thought through the issue. He speaks a good nationalist populist line, but he does not demonstrate an understanding of global economics. He talks about imposing 15% to 35% tariffs on goods imported from abroad. Most Republicans oppose such taxes, arguing they’d only be passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices. Cheap clothing from abroad would suddenly cost a lot more. So would TVs, radios, and electronics. Prices for the vast majority of things purchased from abroad would increase. The bottom line is if tariffs are imposed, all American consumers will pay. When people talk about NAFTA, (which only affects 3 countries), it means they don’t understand trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the real player, since almost all nations belong. If the U.S. imposes tariffs, all WTO members will be authorized to punish the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs, and our exports to other nations will be priced out of the market. Bullies don’t get their way in trade—it’s a two-way street Donald.

Mexican Deportations: If Trump commands the army to go door-to-door to round up millions of Mexican workers, who may be in the U.S. illegally, there is a strong likelihood his order will be disobeyed. It would take an extremely long time to carry out, and the costs would be astronomical. We are a nation of laws, not dictators. Detainees would be entitled to due process before deportation. While Trump may stage some “show trials,” he would never rid the country of all illegals. Although he may continue to make verbal broadsides by calling “all” Mexicans rapists, without supporting evidence, the courts are not that abusive. The main reason nothing much will happen to illegal aliens is that the Republican business community needs them now more than ever. Certain segments of our economy would simply collapse without them.

Mexican Wall: Trump made the ridiculous assertion that he was going to build a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,553 miles. He then added the absurd idea that he would make Mexico pay for it. The Great Wall of China stretches more than 1,500 miles and it is about 25 feet high. It took the Chinese literally hundreds of years to complete it. Even with modern equipment, building a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico would take an extremely long time. A baby born today would never see it. The cost of constructing such a wall would be astronomical, bankrupting the U.S. Treasury. Maintaining it with guards posted at every tenth of a mile or so, 24 hours a day, would also be extremely pricey. The smarter members of Congress laughed at Trump’s silly idea, as there is absolutely no chance of it being implemented.

Middle East: Trump has not shown any inclination to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, or the rest of the Muslim world. As a result, he will have a tough time doing anything useful in the Mideast. He talks about defeating ISIS, but how does one defeat an attitude? How does one stop an individual suicidal bomber? One has to first acquire an understanding of the enemy mind. Thus far, Trump has not shown any intellectual capacity to even begin to understand.

Military: Trump said the military could be supported for much less than we spend on it. While he’s certainly correct, the Republican Congress is not going to propose any spending reductions, so nothing will change in that regard. We will continue to waste millions. The bigger problem is Trump’s ability to draw us into a shooting war. Although Congress holds the power to declare war, Presidents with hot heads, like Trump, can force their hand. Though Trump never served in the army, he went to a military academy as a teen. My suspicion is that he was arrested for battery or sexual assault as a teen, and his father kept him out of a juvenile court reformatory by asking a sympathetic judge to send him to a military school. Trump’s background bothers me, since the best predictor of future behavior is past conduct. Have no doubt, Trump will use military force.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was originally set up as a check against a perceived Soviet threat in Western Europe. Their mission has now morphed into areas outside Europe. While all NATO nations need to belly up to the bar to pay for the treaty organization, and efficiencies could be made, Trump was mistaken to threaten a U.S. withdrawal. I doubt the Republican Congress will end our commitment to NATO.

Russia: Godless Russian communists are seriously our best friends against the fundamentalist religious Islamic fanatics. The old Soviet Union included areas where Islam was practiced and they have people who could easily infiltrate terrorist organizations. Having said that, Putin has suppressed free speech, manipulated elections, and violated international law by invading the Ukraine, conduct an American President cannot condone. Trump and his Exxon Sec of State see nothing but an oil deal with Russia. Sadly, energy alone should not govern our relationship.

Tanzania: There are 52 independent nations in Africa. One would expect a President to have at least a minimal understanding of each. One important country is Tanzania, where our U.S. Embassy was bombed by terrorists in 1998. On April 27, 2016, Trump pronounced Tanzania “Tan-ZAY-nee-uh,” instead of the correct “Tan-zu-KNEE-uh.” This elementary school gaff was troubling, as it indicates Trump has no real working knowledge of even important African states, like Tanzania.

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03/24/2012

Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg

As the nomadic Tuareg of northwest Africa initiated another rebellion, the Mali military started to respond, but soon turned on their own president, and removed him in a coup, claiming he was failing to give them the materiel they needed to succeed.

The important question arising from all this is not about the deposed president, or the military officers who conducted the coup, but rather the Tuareg. Just who are they, and what do they want?

The Tuareg of northern Mali have resisted authority on and off for nearly 100 years. In the colonial era, when France ruled Mali from Dakar, the French quashed an anti-colonial Tuareg uprising in 1916.

As the winds of change swept French colonial rule from Africa, Mali gained independence in 1960, and soon the new nation confronted what became known as the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64). As Tuareg, Berber, and Arab peoples in the Saharan region in the north demanded a separate state, Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita (1960-68), defeated them in a two-year struggle.

Following a 1968 junta, Keita was removed, and replaced by Lt. Moussa Traore, a dictator who kept the Tuareg under control for the next 22 years, until a Second Tuareg Rebellion (1990-95) erupted, triggering a second coup in 1991, that took out Traore.

Upon returning to free and fair elections in 1992, the people chose President Alpha Konare (1992-02), who ended the Second Tuareg uprising in 1995, and gained re-election in 1997 for another five-year term.

The 2002 elections were interesting, because Amadou Toumani Toure was selected, even though he had led the 1990 Tuareg Rebellion. After his re-election in 2007, he proved himself as an able leader of all of Mali, as his forces successfully subdued a Third Tuareg Rebellion (2007-09).

This year, however, as a Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (2012-) arose, the military lacked confidence in Toure, and took him out on the allegation he had denied them the supplies they needed to win.

In the short run, Toure should not be reinstated, even though he was removed by a coup, because he already served two terms over a 10-year period, and term limits should be applied in every democracy. Open elections for a successor should be conducted promptly.

In the long-run, the recurrent problem as to the Tuareg cannot be ignored, and their demand for a separate state must be resolved. Legally, they do not have a right to self-determination, as they would have had under external colonial rule. Their situation is like the attempted secession of South Carolina in 1861, when the U.S. government had every right to preserve the union. Since complete independence may not be granted, perhaps some kind of virtual self-rule may be the answer, through the creation of an autonomous government in the northwest. After roughly 100 years of resistance, it is certainly time to try something new.

02/22/2012

Senegal: Support Term Limit Protests

We should support the protesters in Senegal who are objecting to the decision by President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term, since the Senegalese Constitution limits their leaders to no more than two terms in office.

Senegal’s road to democracy is a long one. For roughly 500 years, the colonial Europeans denied black Africans self-rule. The Portuguese were the first to take Senegalese treasure from the coast, beginning in the 1440s. After the Netherlands built a port at Goree Island in 1588, the French constructed a trading post at St. Louis in 1659, and seized Goree from the Dutch. Following an 1825 conflict, the French moved inland in 1854, and by 1893, had suppressed all resistance. French West Africa ruled this part of the African continent from 1895, through independence in 1960.

The removal of French colonialism was a major step towards democracy. Unfortunately, the initial version of the Senegalese Constitution contained no term-limits, and as a result, their first president, Leopold Senghor, served for 20 years, through 1980, and their second, Abdou Diouf, ruled for 19 years through 2000, despite protests in the 1988 and 1993 campaigns.

The current president, Mr. Wade, was first elected in 1999. Shortly afterward, the Senegalese changed their constitution, by adopting a two-term limit in 2001. Although Wade was re-elected to a second term in 2007, he announced he would run again in 2012, sparking protests, because this would be a third term. Wade, 85, further aggravated pro-democracy protesters, by trying to create a family dynasty, by making his son Vice-President.

Wade took the issue before the Senegalese Supreme Court, where a friendly judiciary ruled his first election did not count, since the term-limit amendment was not implemented until 2001, which was after he had already started serving.

Wade may have won a technical argument in court, but he lost in the eyes of those who seek more, not less, democracy. No one told our first President George Washington to step down after two terms totaling eight years. He did it to set an example of how democratic power should be transferred. President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and the American public should now pressure Wade to do the right thing and simply step down. 12 years in office is long enough.

12/02/2011

Congo: How Long Will Joe Kabila Rule?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kinshasa (DRC), a large country of 69 million in South-Central Africa, which borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, to the east, and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville, to the west, held elections this week, but only time will tell if they are on the road to democracy.

After the Portuguese navigated the mouth of the Congo River in the west (1482), Henry Stanley located its source in the east, and followed it down to the Atlantic (1874-77), where he claimed the entire area for Belgium’s King Leopold II, who exploited rubber and ivory, upon declaring the land his personal property (1885).

Belgium soon defeated Arab traders in the War of the Eastern Congo (1892-94), and gained control of the Katana Province, in the southeast. The country became the Belgian Congo, when the King transferred his personal property to the Nation of Belgium (1908).

Anti-colonial rioting in 1959 led to a Declaration of Independence in 1960. The Crisis in the Congo (1960-66) followed, as the West took out and executed their first leader, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Belgian troops finally vacated the country, as UN Peacekeepers replaced them, and tried to disarm secessionists in Katanga, near Zambia and Tanzania (1961). The UN later turned security over to the Organization of African Unity (1964).

Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup in 1965, and ruled for the next 32 years. He re-named the capital Kinshasa (1966), and the country Zaire (1971). Non-Africans were expelled to erase the colonial past. European coats and ties were banned. Foreign-owned businesses were seized and sold to locals (1974).

Real trouble started in the east, in the 1st Congo War (1996-98), as Mobuto supported the Hutus of Rwanda and Burundi. Tutsi armies, with soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, entered the Congo, attacked the Hutus, and ousted Mobutu, ending his 32 dictatorship (1997). When Laurent Kabila replaced Mobutu, he renamed the country the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (1997).

The 2nd Congo War (1998-2003) was primarily fought in the Nord Kivu Province, in the east. Forces from Uganda and Rwanda advanced into the Congo, as troops from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the DRC to resist. A ceasefire signed by all was monitored by a UN Organization Mission in the DRC (1999), but trouble continued, when Laurent Kabila was assassinated (2001).

Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent, assumed power in 2001. He negotiated a Rwandan troop withdrawal, and signed the Pretoria Accord (2003), in which all countries agreed to stop fighting. The conflict finally ended, under the Gbadolite Agreement (2003).

During the conflict, 2.5 million were estimated to have died from disease, famine, and violence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Ugandan troops violated the ban against unilateral force, and the rules of war, as they killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property. Dem. Rep. of Congo v Uganda (2000). The ICJ also dismissed a Congolese complaint that alleged citizens of the Congo were murdered, raped, and otherwise violated by Burundi and Rwanda soldiers, who occupied the Congo in 1998. DRC v Burundi and Rwanda (2000).

It has been eight years since the war ended, and the question now is whether Congo-Kinshasa will become a stable democracy. Joseph Kabila, who replaced his father in 2001, and was re-elected in 2006, should have stepped down in 2011, after 10 years in office. Instead, he ran for a third term, and it appears he will win. The Congo should have instead elected a new leader, and moved towards a more democratic system, by limiting the terms of their leaders to no more than 10 years. Now, only time will tell if a third term for Joseph Kabila will be the correct path for the Congo, or a road to a lifetime of unchallenged rule.

11/17/2011

Cape Verde: A Good African Destination

During my recent visit to Cape Verde, an Atlantic Island-Nation, 400 miles off the cost of West Africa, things were looking up, as the people appeared fed and healthy. If hunger exists, it was not visible. Fresh fish was abundant in the market. Despite a lack of rain most months, many fruits, such as bananas, and vegetables, were on display. There was an ample supply of bread. The local grocery carried all the basic staples. Getting a cup of coffee in the morning was no problem. Meals included rice and tomatoes.

Education is on the rise, as hundreds of children wearing uniforms walked to and from school each day. While they could benefit from learning English, (the global language of business), Portuguese and the local Creole tongue are preparing them for life.

There was a courthouse in the municipality where I stayed, but no obvious need for it, since everyone appeared to be law-abiding and respectful of the rights of others. As a white visitor, I was never once harassed, while out on the streets.

Four modern international airports connect the nine inhabited islands. On Santiago, the largest, transportation between the cities was by mini-bus, a relatively inexpensive and efficient method. Windy but paved roads connect the principal communities.

There was a good amount of new building construction, but some projects appeared stalled. Refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves were available, along with furniture and beds. Since washing machines are not used, cloths were cleaned the old-fashioned way.

Some public utilities need improvement. While communities have water and sewer systems, water pressure is low, and water often arrives in dribbles. Some waste water systems are so overloaded, flushing is limited. Electrical blackouts are common.

Communications were good, as cell phone and Internet use was available. I however saw no newspapers for sale on the streets.

Three islands, Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio have flat sandy beaches, where hotels and resorts have been erected, mainly for German, Italian, and British visitors. Great potential exists to develop Cape Verde further as a first port of call for those wishing to see Africa.

11/15/2011

Peace Corps: Real Home of the Brave

We often see government TV ads promoting the Marines, as the place for strong men and women, but not often enough do we hear about the Peace Corps, that overlooked army of mentally tough young Americans, who physically survive each and every day in cultural settings totally foreign to the comforts of American life.

While the military is sometimes sent abroad to engage in armed combat, the Peace Corps is always overseas on the front lines in challenging foreign environments that present risks of the sort most Americans would not endure for very long, if at all.

Unlike the Armed Services, where individuals serve with Bands of Brothers, who vigilantly guard their backsides, Peace Corps volunteers go it alone, (think about that for a moment), and they go unarmed, in a world where they win over hearts and minds with nothing more than words and deeds.

The 8,655 volunteers of the Peace Corps, now living in 76 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, are brave people, often assigned to villages where no one looks like them, or where no one speaks their language. Their single greatest hardship is the disconnection from the people back home.

But every day they also go without many conveniences we in the U.S. take for granted. A simple drink from the kitchen sink in the U.S. can for a volunteer require a trip to buy bottled water. A warm shower for most volunteers is a dream of something they once experienced back in the states, as water heaters are a luxury. If running water exists, poor pressure often reduces it to nothing more than a cold dribble. While they may have a toilet, toilet paper cannot be used as it only plugs up their outdated systems. The volunteers deal with these hardships, and a multitude of others. They adjust to conditions on the ground, and they survive.

If you ever thought service in the Peace Corps was a piece of cake, try it for a two-year hitch, or at least visit a volunteer, as I did these past 10 days in West Africa, where my son is serving. You will quickly realize how tough these young people are. All Americans should tip their hats to the Peace Corps volunteers, the finest group of unpaid Ambassadors the U.S. has ever had.

10/20/2011

Libya Liberated: Obama Gets A Grade

(Editor’s Note: I wrote this story when Tripoli was taken 8-24-11, and reprinted it today, upon the capture and execution of Col. Gaddafi)

After seven months of fighting, the 42-year regime of Col. Gaddafi has been overthrown, and the Libyan people are now free to establish a democratic form of government. While the rebels obviously deserve the lion’s share of the credit, as they risked their lives, others are also entitled to recognition, including the UN, NATO, France, Britain, the U.S. and President Obama, as the fall of Qaddafi would not have happened without their support.

President Obama, for his part, earned excellent grades throughout, as he made correct decisions at every critical stage of the uprising.

When the rebellion started in March, 2011, Obama correctly recognized the rebels as the authentic voice of the Libyan people, and viewed Gaddafi as lacking legitimacy, as he took office in 1969 via a military junta, and not through a free and fair election.

Obama’s next decision was to intervene in an internal uprising. Since Libya had not invaded another country, Obama could have said it would be wrong under international law to meddle in their internal affairs, but he did not. For humanitarian reasons, he got involved. If he had done nothing, Gaddafi certainly would have annihilated the rebels.

Obama correctly ruled out U.S. ground forces. Although weapons would have to be used to remove Gaddafi, for a variety of reasons, the President correctly realized the rebels themselves would have to wage the fight. U.S. troops would have only allowed Gaddafi to rally Libyan people against the great infidel.

Obama also refused to act like a crazy Texas cowboy and go it alone. As an early policy decision, Obama set up a coalition of willing NATO partners, before taking any military action.

Obama’s imposition of a No-Fly Zone with our European allies was a smart move, as it saved the rebellious populations in the east from air attacks by Gaddafi and his henchmen. Taking control of the sky was an essential early step towards victory.

Obama’s next policy move was to secure legal authorization from the UN Security Council. A UN Resolution gave NATO the right to use military force to protect the civilian people and authorized the bombings that followed. If the U.S. had not taken the lead in this regard, Europeans would not have followed, or acted at all.

The subsequent decision to covertly arm the rebels with rifles, trucks and other weapons, even though there was an uncertainly as to what they stood for, was also a correct move, as it allowed them to advance from Benghazi in the east, to Tripoli in the west.

Although Obama did not request or obtain a formal Declaration of War from Congress, and arguably violated the War Powers Act by using American air power for over 60 days, (since the U.S. had not been attacked), the Republican-controlled House did not object, or defund the operation, and tacitly approved of it.

No American lives were lost in the operation to remove the regime of Col. Gaddafi, and Obama deserves credit for standing with the rebels, intervening against a 42-year dictator, wisely holding back on the use of U.S. ground troops, refusing to go it alone, using NATO, obtaining UN authorizations, pushing the Europeans to stand up and fight, imposing a No-Fly Zone, and covertly aiding the rebels with arms and technical assistance.

Hopefully, the Libyans will now take it from there, and will create a political system that limits their leaders to relatively short terms in office. Obama did his part. The rest is up to the Libyans.

10/17/2011

Uganda: Obama Fights the Lord’s Army

Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, that borders the Congo-Kinshasa (west), Southern Sudan (north), Kenya (east), and Rwanda and Tanzania (south), has just witnessed the arrival of special U.S. military forces sent by President Obama to execute Arrest Warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been fighting for decades near the Ugandan-South Sudan border.

Historically, Obama’s men are not the first Westerners to enter Uganda, as England sent explorers in 1862, Christian missionaries in 1875, and soldiers in 1894 to establish a British Protectorate. Afterward, more Englishmen arrived, as a 1,081-mile railroad was built through Kenya to the port at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.

Following independence in 1962, Uganda’s first president (1962-66) maintained relations with Britain and did business with them.

45 years of trouble started in 1966 when Milton Obote (1966-71), overthrew the government, abolished tribal kingdoms, and nationalized businesses. Relations with the outside were severed completely, as Uganda slipped into darkness, when a coup led by the infamous Idi Amin Dada (1971-79), seized control, dissolved parliament, outlawed political parties, and murdered troops loyal to Obote. Amin expelled British businessmen, and 70,000 Asians, who controlled most professions and industries. 300,000 disappeared during his reign of terror, which continued, until the Uganda-Tanzania War (1978-79) forced him into exile.

Outsiders stayed away when Obote returned in 1980, because he reinstated tribal favors, and triggered a civil war (1981-86), which sacrificed another 100,000. Political unrest continued, as a coup headed by Yoweri Museveni ousted Obote in 1985, and imposed one-party rule, fearing many parties would reignite tribal tension.

Although electoral stability returned in 1995, when a multi-party system was implemented, enabling Museveni to win elections in 1996, 2001, and 2006, the country became involved in external conflicts. As the Tutsi Tribe fled from neighboring Rwanda, they were permitted to set up bases in Uganda, from which they later launched the Rwandan Civil War (1990-93), prompting the UN to station observers along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

Uganda then intervened in the 1st Congo War (1996-98) and 2nd Congo War (1998-03) on the side of the Tutsi Tribe, because the Congolese leader was supporting the Rwandan Hutu Tribe. In the Democratic Rep of Congo v Uganda (2000), the International Court of Justice found Uganda violated the ban against unilateral force and the laws of war, when they entered the Congo, killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property.

Museveni’s Ugandan government remains engaged in a fight with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Christian group, based in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, whose leader, Joe Kony, has evaded an Arrest Warrant, issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, and has rejected a peace plan, because his opponents are not willing to dismiss the warrant.

Now, President Obama has intervened in Uganda with 100 Special Forces troops to assist in a kill or capture mission against Kony, an action authorized by the LRA Disarmament Act passed by Congress in 2009. If Obama succeeds in defeating the Lord’s Army, perhaps Uganda will finally move away from their 45-year history of tribal war, anti-Western feelings, civil war, military dictatorship, border area conflicts, adverse court rulings, and other problems, and may finally become a stable political democracy of the sort envisioned when independence was granted in 1962.

10/11/2011

Liberian Elections: Will Democracy Hold?

Liberia, with a population of 3.4 million, is raising hopes for the future, as it is once again about to conduct democratic presidential elections, in a tough West African neighborhood, located next to Sierra Leone (northwest), Guinea (north), and Ivory Coast (east).

Liberia is an interesting nation, as it was created by U.S. President Monroe in 1822, as a place for freed American slaves. It became the second oldest black republic in the world, behind Haiti, when Joe Roberts, a native of Virginia, became their first President.

During the 28-year reign of President Tubman (1943-71), Liberia enjoyed some economic development, as the WWII allies built an airport and broke ground on a new seaport. Upon completion of the new harbor in 1948, many international ships commenced flying the Liberian flag. Tubman also succeeded in the 1960s in opening a power plant, an oil refinery, and an iron-ore facility.

Political instability began in 1980, when President Tolbert (1971-80) was overthrown by Sam Doe, with the support of the Krahan Tribe. Doe had promised equal treatment for native blacks, who had been mistreated historically by descendants of U.S. Slaves.

When Doe was overthrown in 1989, and executed in 1990, by Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, and the National Patriotic Front, a civil war broke out. A framework for peace, known as the Yamoussoukro Accord (1991), failed to stop the fighting, and military units from the Organization of African Unity were also unable to end the conflict, when they intervened in 1992.

Following a UN imposed arms embargo in 1993, an Observer Mission (1993-97) was sent to monitor elections, which in 1997 resulted in a win for Taylor, who was later implicated in the violence in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where there was a struggle over the gold and diamond mines, located near the border.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Civil War continued, until Taylor finally fled to Nigeria in 2003, allowing for a peace agreement, monitored by a 2nd UN Mission in Liberia. An estimated 200,000 died in the civil war, while thousands became refugees.

Nigeria extradited Taylor to the Special Court of Sierra Leone, sitting in the Hague, Netherlands in 2006, where he faced 5 counts of war crimes, 5 counts of crimes against humanity, and another count of using child soldiers. He is said to be responsible, among other things, for murder, mutilations, sex offenses, and forcing children to fight as soldiers. Proceedings against him began in 2007 and ended in 2010. A guilty verdict was returned in 2012.

After years of unrest, a fragile democracy returned in 2005, when Ellen Sirleaf became Liberian President. She reopened the diamond and timber export trade in 2007, and is today up for re-election. Only time will tell if Liberia’s new democracy will hold.

08/29/2011

Sub-Saharan African Dictators Must Go

Following the demise of North African dictators in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, President Obama should now focus on greater democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many have held office for more than 10 years, and well beyond the growing international standard of no more than two 5-year terms.

CAMEROON: Paul Biya has been in public office in Cameroon since the early 1960s. He became Prime Minister in 1975 and President in 1982. He seized control of his political party in 1983, drove his rival into exile, convicted him of plotting a coup, and sentenced him to death. Biya won 99% of the vote in 1984, because he had no opponent. He survived a coup, before being re-elected in 1988. In a multi-party contest in 1992, Biya claimed a plurality, despite cries of fraud. After a two-term constitutional limit was imposed in 1996, Biya won 92% of the vote in 1997, because his opponents boycotted the election. He won another 7-year term in 2004, again under a cloud of suspicion. Biya called term-limits undemocratic in 2008, and simply removed them. It’s now time for the people of Cameroon to remove Biya.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo seized power in 1979 in a bloody coup, sentenced the previous leader to death, and became president. After winning a full 7-year term in 1982, he was re-elected in 1989, as the only candidate on the ballot. He claimed nearly 100% of the vote in 1996, 2002 and 2009, in contests marred by fraud. He keeps control by denying a free press and an opposition party. Obiang considers himself a god. It is time for the Equatorial Guineas to end his 32-year rule.

ANGOLA: Jose Eduardo dos Santos, became Angola’s second president in 1979. He won a plurality in the 1992 election, under allegations of fraud, and caused the civil war to continue. He said in 2001 he would step down before the next presidential election, but remained by amending the constitution to allow his ruling party to pick the leader. After 32 years, Santos has to go.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe, age 87, has been president of Zimbabwe since 1980, when the white government collapsed. Media controls were created in 2002, to ensure ongoing election victories. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in 2003, as Mugabe was accused of running a dictatorship. When Tsvangirai claimed victory in 2008, Mugabe managed to stay in office by creating a power-sharing arrangement in 2009. After 31 years in power, it’s time for Mugabe to step aside.

UGANDA: Yoweri Museveni has been Ugandan President since the prior government was overthrown in 1986. He promised a return to democracy, but held no election for 10 years, and then claimed 75% of the vote in 1996. In 2001, he accumulated 69%, in a race that was not free or fair, according to the Ugandan Supreme Court. Afterward, he said he would not run again, but he then abolished term limits and took 59% of the vote in 2006. He was re-elected again in 2011, with 68%, a tally disputed by outsiders. After 25 years, it’s time for Museveni to leave.

BURKINA FASO: Blasise Compaore of Burkina Faso came to power in 1987 in a bloody coup, during which the incumbent was executed. His opponents boycotted the 1991 election. After he was “re-elected” in 1998, the constitution was amended in 2000 to reduce presidential terms from 7 to 5 years, and to limit presidents to a total of two terms. Compaore argued the changes did not applied retroactively, so he ran and won again in 2005, and was re-elected in 2010. After 24 years, it’s time Compaore left.

Three more Africans have ruled since the 1990s, including: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (1994-); Denis Sassau Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (1997-); and Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (1998-).

President Obama is uniquely qualified to speak directly to the African people regarding the virtues of term limits. He should encourage the U.S. Congress and the EU to suspend all aid to any country ruled by leaders who have been in power more than 10 years, until they choose new leaders, and adopt term limits.