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2011 - African Migration, Global Inequalities, and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots.
Current African Issues Paper for Nordic Africa Institute.

August 1, 2010 - Oped in Providence Journal U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs
President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world. Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an obstacle as well as a partner.

Spring, 2010 - Foreword to issue of Articulate - End "Aid," Invest in Global Public Goods
Let us agree that the "aid paradigm" is fundamentally flawed, in that it is based on a model of the rich "helping" the poor. But the paradigm advanced by free-market fundamentalism, that poor countries and poor people can and should lift themselves up by their bootstraps, without benefit of support from the wider society, is also fallacious.

April, 2010 - Zimbabwe: Demystifying Sanctions and Strengthening Solidarity, by Briggs Bomba and William Minter
In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community, both global and regional, has other tools as well.

October, 2009 - Africa: Climate Change and Natural Resources, by William Minter and Anita Wheeler
Africa will suffer consequences out of all proportion to its contribution to global warming, which is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy countries. But Africa can also make significant contributions to mitigating (i.e. limiting) climate change, by stopping tropical deforestation and ending gas flaring from oil production.

March, 2009 - Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa, by Daniel Volman and William Minter, for Foreign Policy in Focus html | pdf (283K)
Will de facto U.S. security policy toward the continent focus on anti-terrorism and access to natural resources and prioritize bilateral military relations with African countries? Or will the United States give priority to enhancing multilateral capacity to respond to Africa's own urgent security needs? If the first option is taken, it will undermine rather than advance both U.S. and African security.

February, 2009 - Inclusive Human Security: U. S. National Security Policy, Africa, and the African Diaspora, edited for TransAfrica Forum html (150K) | pdf (2.8M)
Fundamentally, it is necessary not only to present a new foreign policy face to the world, but to shape an international agenda that shows more and more Americans how our own security depends on that of others. The old civil rights adage that "none of us are free until all of us are free" has its corollary in an inclusive human security framework: "None of us can be secure until all of us are secure. "

April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice, pamphlet written for American Friends Service Committee html | pdf (379K)
"As the global economy drives global inequality, movement across borders inevitably increases. If legal ways are closed, people trying to survive and to support their families will cross fences or set sail on dangerous seas regardless of the risks. "

December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's Warriors," pp. 147-152 in African Studies Review html | pdf (70K)
"The books reviewed in this essay are a small sample of one genre of war literature: detailed accounts of battle from the perspective of those among South Africa's military veterans who have no question that they were fighting a just cause in defense of their country. "

Jan 31, 2007 - Oped in Providence Journal "Don't replay Iraq in Horn of Africa"
"Somalia is not Iraq, of course. ... But the similarities are nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation ... They disregarded Somali and wider African opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems."

Jul 8, 2005 - "Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order" (pdf)
"The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa."
In Science & Society, July, 2005

Jul 8, 2002 - "Aid—Let's Get Real"
"There is an urgent need to pay for such global public needs as the battles against AIDS and poverty by increasing the flow of real resources from rich to poor. But the old rationales and the old aid system will not do. ... For a real partnership, the concept of "aid" should be replaced by a common obligation to finance international public investment for common needs."
In The Nation, with Salih Booker.

Jun 21, 2001 - "Global Apartheid" (pdf)
"The concept captures fundamental characteristics of today's world order."
In The Nation, with Salih Booker.

Nov 3, 1992 - Oped in Christian Science Monitor "Savimbi Should Accept That Democracy Worked in Angola"
"Just one month after Angolans peacefully thronged polling stations in their first multiparty election ever, the conflict-battered Southern African country is on the brink of all-out war. ... The international community, including the US, has been unanimous, in urging Savimbi to accept the election results, but Savimbi and his close-knit group of top officers remain both unpredictable and militarily potent. The new conflict, which appears to the starting, will be hard to contain."

April, 1988 - "When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reconsidered", with Elizabeth Schimdt, in African Affairs html (97K) | pdf (3.4M)
"Sanctions, while not the only factor in bringing majority rule to Rhodesia, made a significant long-term contribution to that result. ... Moreover, more strongly enforced sanctions could have been even more effective. If Rhodesia's petroleum lifeline had been severed and if South Africa had not served as a back door to international trade, ... the country could not have survived for more than a matter of months."

1968 - "Action against Apartheid," in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in Political Conflict
"But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target [for anti-apartheid protests]. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally important.

Editor's Commentary

U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs

August 1, 2010

William Minter

For additional background, see

William Minter is editor of the Washington-based AfricaFocus Bulletin This commentary originally appeared in the Providence Journal ( in Providence, Rhode Island.

Washington - To celebrate 50 years of African independence, President Barack Obama will hold a town hall meeting this week with 120 African youth leaders. The president will probably revisit themes from his visit to Ghana last year: that Africa's future is up to Africans, and that neither colonial exploitation nor Cold War interventions are valid excuses to evade African responsibilities.

He's undoubtedly correct about that, as African activists agree. But there are also lessons from the past that should not be ignored. Over the last five decades, decisions made in Washington and other global capitals have profoundly influenced what happens in Africa. Fresh evidence confirms U.S. responsibility in one of the most notorious cases of Cold War intrigue: the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of 17 African countries celebrating a half century of independence this year. Today, it is the most fragile of Africa's large regional powers and it remains the one most exposed to external influences that fuel conflict.

In July 1960, newly elected Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba visited Washington. His quest: to ask the United States to urge Belgium, the Congo's former colonial ruler and a U.S. ally, to withdraw its troops from the Congo, where it had intervened only a month after independence. Instead of helping, U.S. policymakers quickly decided that Lumumba "threatens our vital interests in Congo and Africa generally," in the words of the U.S. ambassador to Belgium.

U.S. policy, the ambassador continued in an internal cable, "must be to destroy Lumumba government as now constituted."

As documented by the Senate's Church Committee in 1975, the National Security Council then decided to authorize "any particular activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba." The CIA instigated a coup by Col. Joseph Mobutu, who would rule over the Congo with an iron fist until his death in 1997. Mobutu's troops captured Lumumba and handed him over to a Belgian-backed secessionist regime in Congo's Katanga province. Lumumba was executed on Jan. 17, 1961, only days before President John F. Kennedy took office.

The Church Committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence to confirm U.S. involvement in the murder plot. But new evidence published in July in the scholarly journal Intelligence and National Security tells another story. It confirms that CIA Station Chief Larry Devlin gave the nod to Mobutu to hand over Lumumba to secessionists who had vowed to kill him. Using newly declassified Church Committee files, CIA cables, and interviews with Belgian and U.S. intelligence officials, political scientist Stephen R. Weissman, a former staff director of the House Africa Subcommittee, concludes that there can no longer be any doubt: The U.S. government shared responsibility with the Belgian and Congolese governments for killing the elected Congolese leader.

It would be a refreshing sign of honesty if President Obama were to acknowledge this shared U.S. responsibility when he meets with African youth, as well as the need for critical scrutiny of U.S. influence today. The flawed Cold War assumptions that painted Lumumba as a threat have been discarded. But a rapid expansion of U.S. military involvement in Africa, which began under the George W. Bush administration, continues under Obama. This raises the risk of new flawed judgments of complex African realities. The record already shows some dubious consequences.

Whether under the umbrella of humanitarian action, as in the Congo, or of counterterrorism, as in Somalia, U.S. involvement can fuel conflict rather than promote African or U.S. security.

One danger is that African security forces can themselves threaten their own people, as illustrated by today's Congo. Despite a peace agreement in 2002 and elections in 2006, conflict has continued, particularly in eastern Congo. Horrific abuses of civilians, especially rape, have been the hallmark of this war. The United States and other countries are training Congolese government troops, but this has not stopped them from committing as many atrocities as rebel soldiers. Simply strengthening security forces, without curbing human-rights abuses, is a recipe for disaster.

Calls for more military intervention in Somalia, following the recent terrorist bombing in Kampala, should also be examined skeptically. The threat from the extremist group Al-Shabaab is real. But a U.S.-backed Ethiopian intervention in Somalia in December 2006 escalated the conflict and aided the rise of Al-Shabaab. The United States, with two failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, should be wary of falling into a similar trap in Africa. Nor should it encourage its African allies to adopt America's flawed security paradigms.

President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world.

Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an obstacle as well as a partner.