Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on Obama’s Africa Trip

(Photograph by © Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – President Barack Obama’s just-concluded Africa trip has brought positive international media attention to the continent, particularly to the success stories of Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania — countries that administration officials say were chosen for their “exemplary progress” in economic development, transparency in governance, independent press, respect for human rights and rule of law.

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine David H. Shinn, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said President Obama’s trip to Africa is an effort to underscore the importance of US-Africa relations after a period of relative non-engagement at the presidential level during his first term in office.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did make frequent visits to Africa over the last four years, which partially made up for the absence of President Obama except for a brief visit in 2009 to Ghana and trip to Egypt in connection with Middle East issues,” Ambassador Shinn pointed out.

At lower levels of the government, Shinn noted, the United States remained “thoroughly engaged” with the continent, but he said this is not the same as presidential involvement. “I think this trip by President Obama will go a long way in strengthening the ties between the United States and African countries,” he said.

Why such a short list? we asked. “Whenever a U.S. president visits Africa, it is difficult to visit more than three countries because of the vastness of the continent,” Shinn replied. “In choosing countries to visit, there are always geographic, language, regional and political considerations.” He added: “Once the decision is made to visit three countries, the next step is to identify countries in three different regions of sub-Saharan Africa that also include both French and English [speaking nations].”

Senegal was picked as the West African and francophone country. South Africa, the economic powerhouse in Africa, was selected as the southern African choice. Tanzania represents East Africa.

“All three countries have good records on governance and democratization, a consideration which placed these three countries above several other possibilities,” Ambassador Shinn said. “Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father, would have been an obvious choice but was not selected because both the newly elected president and vice president face charges from the International Criminal Court.”

And why did the White House not choose to address African leaders from the AU headquarters in Addis? “Ethiopia, which hosts the African Union, was another possibility but was recently visited by Secretary of State John Kerry and does not have as good a record as Tanzania on the pace of democratization,” he stated.

Related:
The Official Blog of Ambassador David H. Shinn
Obama Receives Huge Welcome in Tanzania (Video)
Ethiopia: Children TV Host Speaks at African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania (TADIAS)
Obama Africa Trip Highlights Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania (TADIAS)

Watch: President Obama delivers the central speech of his three nation Africa tour (VOA News)


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