Monday, January 12, 2009

African expectations of Obama's policy

I interviewed with Oromo-language service of the Voice of America today by phone. In the interview, which will be translated into Oromo and run in English and Oromo on February 14, I discussed the Obama administration and African expectations of his policy. I made the following points among others: Africans may have expectations that are two high concerning the new administration. The new president must focus on the economic crisis facing the United States and even more pressing foreign policy issues in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Iran, North Korea, etc. It is unrealistic to expect the president to engage personally on most African issues during his first year in office. He will, of course, delegate this responsibility to others and eventually he will almost certainly engage on the continent. It is also important to remember that the Bush administration trebled the amount of financial resources going to Africa. In view of America's economic problems, it will be difficult to maintain this level, not to mention increase it. The Obama administration will probably give more support to those leaders who are serious about democratization, improving the human rights situation, reducing corruption, and improving governance. I believe there will also be increased attention to the environment whether it be combating global warming or reducing deforestation and soil erosion. When asked to compare Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, I suggested that they both had extraordinary oratorical skills. More important, they both had a vision on how to make the United States a better country. A majority of American voters from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds decided to try this new vision.


  1. Dear Ambassador, Thank You for writin public blog like this. we should not underestimate and overestimate Obama. i look forward to your words on VOA`oromo service.
    by the way, i Remember reading your 2007 interview on the Oromo newspaper Jimma Times. Amazingly, almost everything you said about ethiopia and somalia in that interview has come true. You are the most respected analyst in the Horn of Africa. Thank you for your concern.
    By the way, if you had a magic wand and have a chance to do ONE BIG thing`in the horn of africa, what would it be?

  2. Dr. Shinn,

    You observations and commentary are right on as usual. But I hope that it will not take the incoming Obama Administration officials more than six months at the most to review the Bush Administration policies towards the Horn of Africa, which have been disastrous both for the US and the people of the region.


  3. To anonymous:

    You asked what I would do if I had a magic wand and could do "one big thing" in the Horn of Africa.

    Response: I would require that the leaders (presidents and prime ministers) of all countries in the Horn of Africa (and throughout the world) agree in advance of taking office to a reasonable term limit determined by the people and then step down graciously at the end of that term. This would be followed by a peaceful electoral process to select a new leader. One can be critical about certain aspects of western liberal democracy; in my view, this concept is above criticism.

    To Fikru:

    I believe the Obama administration will review U.S. policy towards Africa within six months. The poor state of the U.S. economy and more pressing issues in other parts of the world may, however, postpone beyond six months high-level attention to some of the most important issues facing Africa.