Top U.S Lawmaker Vows To Reverse Trump’s ‘Insulting’ Africa Policy

On Monday February 1st, incoming chair of the U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks announced that he would prioritize sub-Saharan Africa in the United States’ foreign policy. Meeks was elected as head of the influential committee in December and is already planning on redefining America’s foreign policy by advocating for a strengthened Foreign Service during President Joe Biden’s administration. The committee is in charge of investigations related to U.S foreign policy as well as mandating foreign aid, treaties, military deployments, international trade, arms control, and war power. The improvement of  US-Africa relations is including an expansion of diplomatic, humanitarian, and commercial activities in the region, a necessary arrangement that calls for cooperation between multiple parties. 

According to Al Jazeera, Meeks said enhancing connections with Africa is the main ambition, explaining the importance of America pushing for a ceasefire that could grant humanitarian access. He anticipates the U.S to expand its reach beyond urban centers and initiate consulates in Mombasa, Kenya, Cairo, Egypt, and Goma, and is further working to establish U.S Embassy teams for the regional communities. However, in terms of supporting democracy and the will of the citizens in various states, Ugandan activist Rosebell Kagumire told Meeks that the U.S must assure a peaceful transfer of power. Additionally, Ethiopian journalist Tsedale Lemma requested that Meeks use “every leverage available” to end the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, calling for a “UN-mandated, politically insulated and independent investigation into the atrocities that took place.” Political analysts say many questions remain as to how the Biden administration will approach Africa. Some are optimistic the continent would gain benefit from Washington’s re-engagement with international organizations, while others believe she will not be a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Meeks was pushed to lay out his plan on two pressing issues: the Ugandan presidential election, which saw longtime incumbent President Yoweri Museveni win a sixth term in the middle of claims of voter fraud, and a crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The conflict in Tigray is crucial to prioritize, and it is essential to consider the voices of the countries in satisfying their needs. While the U.S is critically considering how it can support the will of the Ugandan citizens for inclusive democracy and good governance, Meek did not elaborate on any concrete steps. In order to find a concrete solution for cooperation, detailed steps towards the goal must be presented, which requires full support from the Biden Administration. Establishing embassies throughout the region is a relevant start to raise awareness and gain information about the situation on sight. In addition, enhancing UN-mandated investigation is a reasonable way to control the violence and move towards conflict resolution. Meeks’ ambitions are vigorous and extensive, which is necessary to restore political relations with African states. 

Congressman Meeks, who is the first Black legislator to head the committee, is considered a longtime supporter of Africa engagement and shaping U.S foreign policy legislation. In contrast, the previous government spent four years solely focusing on the competition with China and Russia. The Trump Administration’s reduction of diplomatic staff across the continent resulted in the top ambassador post to Africa and Assistant Secretary of African Affairs role remaining vacant for nearly two years. Meeks also pointed out how “the previous approach was insulting because it assumed that Africans lacked any agency for how they affected and were affected by, foreign affairs”, Al Jazeera reports. With the previous approach made by the previous government, the U.S took a step back from such collaborations and focused on other issues, which further added stress and danger to the conflicts and unstable environment in some African states. 

Finally, and crucially, the unstable environment must now be carefully investigated in order to find a peaceful resolution. Meeks has clearly announced the significance of prioritizing the needs of the African countries, and we are further looking forward to him presenting a concrete plan. The initiative taken by leaders such as Meeks and Museveni to progress their economic and political connection are crucial and must be supported by the entire US House Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee now has the opportunity to expand and advance American foreign policy and generate peaceful relations where help is critically needed. Increasing diplomatic, humanitarian and commercial activity is a fundamental step towards improved Africa-U.S relations which will benefit conflict resolution efforts in the region. 

Olivia Berntsson