Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

An Interview with Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman and Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

An Interview with Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman and Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Article excerpt

What strategic interests does the United States have in Africa?

Lyman: In Africa you have a whole set of complex security and related issues. Not only the expansion of terrorism from East Africa across the Sahel and the dangers of health pandemics which pose threats to the international community, but if you combine those with the demographics and problems of poverty, development, and climate change, these will cause a tremendous migration push toward Europe and elsewhere. All of which impacts on the United States. That combination of things going on in Africa has a very direct and important, strategic importance for the United States.

Carson: The United States is part of a global community and Africa is an increasingly important member. Stability, economic growth, improved health, and greater trade and commerce in Africa contribute to global stability and thus to U.S. stability. The absence of peace is conflict; and the absence of development is poverty; the absence of good economic growth can also generate inequality, poverty, and social upheaval. We have to recognize we are better off as a country and as a global community when Africa is better off.

The problems in Africa do not exist in isolation from the United States. Conflict in Africa generally comes at a high cost to our country. The State Department, USAID, and the White House are often required to engage politically. It also costs us financially at the UN because we [the United States] have to pay the largest share of the budget for UN peacekeepers, humanitarian support and refugee assistance, and for implementing many of the organization's political and diplomatic resolutions.

What are the major impediments to peace, economic growth, and development in Africa?

Lyman: One of them is the difficulty related to creating large enough economic markets, sub-regional, and then beyond sub-regional markets in Africa so that you have economies of scale and efficiencies of production. Better and more stable governance are needed; and investment is needed. You also need a transformation in Africa from being merely suppliers of natural commodities, and natural resources-that transformation has not taken place in very many African countries. And on top of that, there is a tremendous growth in population, and the ability of Africans to manage that is still limited.

Carson: I would agree that probably the greatest impediment is the absence of good leadership, the absence of good governance, and the absence of the rule of law. There is in fact a correlation between good governance and stability. Countries that are governed well are generally more stable and peaceful. Those areas of Africa where we see the greatest instability are those areas where we see enormous deficits in the quality of leadership; where we in fact see inadequate governance, poor rule of law, and a disrespect for basic freedoms and civil liberties. Where we see the greatest attempts to strengthen good governance, rule of law, and respect for democratic values, we see less persuasive instability.

What are the origins of that deficit in governance and absence of good leadership in Africa? What are the causes of that deficit?

Lyman: There is a whole history of colonial rule, building countries within borders that were created in Europe and that did not correspond to any of the ethnic or tribal relationships in the continent. You had systems that moved basically from a chieftaincy model with all of the patrimonial linkages that entails, to a national model under the rule of state law. Some of the inherited models were essential for holding the countries together when they first became independent, but many countries never evolved into more effective and accountable systems of governance. In some cases they did; there are countries like Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal that have evolved tremendously in terms of developing democratic norms, etc. But, you have a lot of other countries in which this remains a problem, and issues of identity, rivalry, and lack of modern governing institutions continue to constrain development. …

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