Washington’s Post-Election Gridlock And Africa

Updated on

After the bizarre 2016 election, Washington faces a slate of legal investigations, a massive political gridlock, the threat of new Cold Wars and possibly a contested election. What does it mean to Africa?

Last July, FBI Director James Comey closed the probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails and decided not to pursue charges, which resulted in broad criticism. Recently, Comey re-opened the case following a discovery of new emails. In addition to the Benghazi and FBI debacles, these efforts are likely to include some 50,000 emails from Wikileaks, particularly those of John Podesta, Clinton campaign manager and chair of the Center of American Progress (CAP).

2016 Election

The questions will center on Clinton’s private email server; her special assistant Huma Abedin and her ex-spouse; the pay-for-play allegations about her office and Bill Clintons’ speeches; the controversial Clinton Foundation and the alleged coordination between the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and various big money lobby groups (super PACs), including mega financiers, such as George Soros – and recruited groups to incite violence and chaos in Trump rallies.

These events were then recorded by mainstream media – from CNN to Google – which is now in trouble as well for alleged collusion with the Clinton campaign.

Washington’s gridlock

Republicans want investigations about the role of the State Department, the DOJ and the FBI, even President Obama, due to a “cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton,” as the Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus says. Speaker Paul Ryan has promised “aggressive oversight work” of a “quid pro quo” deal between the FBI and the State Department over emails.

As chair of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz is pushing for a slate of “new hearings.” House Republicans are demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation for possible conflicts of interest. There is enough evidence, says former New York City mayor and Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani, for a RICO case against the Foundation as a “racketeering enterprise.”

Currently, the Senate and the House are under Republican control. The Democrats have a good chance of taking over the Senate. If Congress remains divided after the election, Clinton must rely on limited legislation and executive action.

During her campaign, Hillary Clinton often said that she would block the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): “I oppose the TPP now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.” However, Washington expected her to flip-flop after the elections and argue that the TPP is in the national interest because America could not alienate its TPP allies in Asia, particularly Japan and Vietnam.

In contrast, Trump would not only oppose the TPP but its US-EU counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – and he would re-negotiate US relationships with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Asia.

What about Africa?

Meltdown of US-Africa trade and power initiatives

In May 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) into law. Its stated purpose was to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve economic relations between the US and the region. During her nine-country trip in Africa in 2012, Hillary Clinton said that AGOA showed “how America is working with our African partners-governments, the private sector and civil society.”

While Trump could well scrape the AGOA, along with a number of other US international agreements, others have criticized it as a one-sided agreement in which there was little African involvement in the preparation, despite the participation of some 40 African countries. Also, it has been “dominated by oil and raw materials.”

Moreover, during the two Bush terms, the AGOA trading volume rose from $28 billion in 2000 to a peak of $100 billion in 2008. As the Obama administration took over, that volume plunged to $36 billion in 2015. In 2008, African exports to the US still accounted for more than 80% of the total; today, barely 50%.

The story of “Power Africa” is even more instructive. In 2013, President Obama’s five-year US presidential initiative was designed as a multi-stakeholder partnership among the US, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia, and the African private sector. The initiative was certainly needed. More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity. Over 85% of those living in rural areas lack access. Yet, Obama’s $9.7 billion plan to double electricity access in the region has produced less than 5% of the new power generation it promised.

Even as the Power Africa plan dissolved, Hillary Clinton’s associates profited handsomely from the US Export-Import Bank’s financing of the world’s largest coal plans in South Africa. The debacle features a series of names – Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her daughter, Howard Topaz (Clintons’ ‘tax advisor’), State Department official Richard Haass and so on – which are also featured in the current debacles and investigations, or both. Despite official stress on sustainability, Clinton’s State Department exported oil and gas fracking technologies to the rest of the world, while supporting coal in Africa.

There is a great gap between Senator Hillary Clinton’s statements against corruption and Secretary of State Clinton’s de facto policies in Africa. “Changes in policies conformed with the interests of Clinton Foundation large donors,” concludes Peter Schweizer in Clinton Cash (2015), which FBI reportedly has used as a road map to investigate the Foundation’s controversial money flows.

Yesterday’s neoconservatives, today’s liberal internationalists

Historically, when the White House has failed to united America through economic policy, defense has been the second-best option.

Clinton supports hawkish security policies advocated by both the Democratic ‘liberal internationalists’ and the Republican ‘neoconservatives.’ Last summer, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) , a bipartisan successor of the neoconservatives’ New Project for the American Century a decade ago, published its report on “Extending American Power,” as a kind of a transition memo for Clinton.

Essentially, it advocates increasing use and threat of military force, which could result in an increase in Pentagon spending of up to $1 trillion over the next decade. The major CNAS donors feature the leading Pentagon contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing, which also support Clinton’s campaign.

In contrast to Obama, Hillary Clinton has called for stepped-up military action to deter President al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in Syria, whereas Obama’s advisers warn that “you can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not to go war against the Russians.” Yet, Clinton wants new sanctions against Russia, despite increasing nuclear threats.

It was this aggressive policy stance that also led Clinton to support a series of military interventions in the Middle East and Africa, as Secretary of State. Indeed, economist Jeffrey Sachs attributes destabilization in the Middle East and Africa in part to Clinton’s policies a. To Sachs, Clinton “is the candidate of the war machine.” She backed the regime change act in 1998 that paved way for the Iraq War in 2003, which she also supported. Her record extends from Libya to Syria, Ukraine and Georgia and to sub-Saharan Africa’s civil wars and famines.

What next?

For weeks,both Trump and Clinton have been building legal cases and armies of lawyers for the possibility of a contested election.

Whatever happens after the US 2016 election, America is about to move into a new era.

Internationally, the new United States will virtually ensure greater economic uncertainty and market volatility, political division and fragmentation, and growing strategic risks.

This commentary was originally released by BusinessDay Nigeria on Nov 7, 2016

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