The election of President Obama to a second term will be very gratifying to most of the leadership in Africa and among the people of the continent. However, this relief has been coupled with the increasing fear that the position of Secretary of State being vacated by Hillary Clinton might lead to her replacement by Susan Rice, the current UN representative and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Her role in that position was a continuing disaster as far as Africans were concerned and her legacy there is a tribute to just how wrong U.S. policy can be in dealing with African affairs.
Rice is quite bright and has a solid academic record, starting when she was part of Condoleeza Rice’s entourage at Stanford. Later, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford she turned her attention to Africa and completed her dissertation on post-independence Zimbabwe, with an analysis which was founded on pursuing Cold War values in dealing with African problems and a deep-seated antipathy towards ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe. She has always shown the value of her academic training but her actual experiences and participation in events have never impinged on her consciousness or ideology in any meaningful way. Her reliance on her academic training has always revealed itself in her inflexible manner, inexperience with non-academic political interactions and in an unwarranted arrogance that pervades most of her interactions.
Susan Rice is best remembered in Africa as a genocide denier in the Rwandan Genocide where she refused to admit that the genocide was taking place even though she knew better. She refused to act or bring the facts to Congress and the public for action because she was concerned about Congressional elections in the US. When the armed forces of Rwanda and Uganda attacked Zaire she supported and abetted the invasion of the country. She grew close to Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda. When these two leaders continued their struggle in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) under its new leader, Kabila, even after Mobutu had been driven from office, Susan Rice was their major cheerleader.
As the Ugandan and Rwandan armies occupied Eastern Congo and engaged in open warfare with the new DRC Government Rice continued to support their efforts and offered US diplomatic and barely-cloaked military support. Her arrogance was unbounded. She was sent on a mission in 1999 to visit Kinshasa to discuss the US position on the war with Kabila. On her way to Kinshasa she stopped first at Kigali to meet Kagame and then in Entebbe to meet Museveni. She then cabled to Kabila that she was ready to be received in the DRC
I was in Kinshasa at the time with my partner and colleague, Pierre-Victor Mpoyo, an important minister and leader in the DRC. I went with him and Kabila to N’Djili Airport to meet Susan Rice. Kabila, to everyone’s amusement greeted Rice as she descended from the plane saying “I greet you Madame Rice, as the Ambassador from Uganda”; for that was in effect what she was. Rice spent her time lecturing Kabila about how awkward it made US foreign policy when Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe troops assisted the DRC in repelling the Ugandan and Rwandan invasion of the DRC and the rape and plunder they were causing in the Kivus and Kasai. Rice was happy to see the war against the DRC as US African policy had always shunned Angola and Zimbabwe because they were not allied inflexibly to the US in their Cold War struggle with Russia and China.
This predilection for Uganda and Rwanda and contempt and hostility toward Zimbabwe continues to this day. The fact that both Uganda and Rwanda still occupy parts of the DRC and pillage its resources and massacre its citizens doesn’t seem to bother her. These two nations now are part of the US proxy army in Africa and receive her full support at the United Nations.
In 1996 key elements in the Sudan Government had told the US that they were willing to give up Osama Bin Laden. Madeleine Albright and US Ambassador Tim Carney agreed to the suggestion that they intervene to curb Bin Laden’s training camps in Sudan. Susan Rice and Richard Clarke (the counter-terrorism chief) lobbied against conducting any action against Bin Laden. Bin Laden was allowed to leave Sudan unimpeded. Her only other claim to fame was her ill-fated visit to Nigeria in July 1998 when she visited the imprisoned Mashood Abiola in jail where he suffered a fatal heart attack during her visit. She has always denied that she had any role in Abiola’s demise despite the rumours and gossip.
Beyond her disastrous role in Africa, Susan Rice has an almost equivalent role in opposition to Israel. Rice has shown a consistent anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. She absented herself from the UN Security Council in 2011 when the U.S. opposed Palestinian efforts to declare statehood at the United Nations in order to tape a session on Jon Stewart’s television show. She sent a deputy to do the hard work of standing up for Israel. Rice's only defence is that she is frequently absent from debates; among others the critically important first UN Security Council meeting on Libya in February 2011.
She has a long history of dishonest spin on important events. During the 2008 elections, she denied that Obama had agreed to meet the leaders of hostile nations, including Iran, without preconditions despite Obama’s evidence to the contrary. Her contribution to the debate over the recent Benghazi murder of the Ambassador added to Obama’s problems by fuelling the Republican claims that the US was unprepared.
She is not held in high regard in Africa. She is distrusted in Israel. She remains as aloof and arrogant as the first day she started in government and remains an irritant to many who work or worked with her at the UN, the State Department and the Congress. This includes the Congressional Black Caucus who view her as antipathetic to their core values. Surely this is preventable disaster. Obama must know that appointing Susan Rice to Hillary’s job will only bring grief, contempt and confusion from those with whom she will interact.