Rosenblum, a respected human rights lawyer and professor at Columbia Law
School, says that the U.S.'s reticence in singling out state actors is
significant, especially at the U.N. "It shows [Rice] is willing to expend
political capital to cast something of a shield over Rwanda and Uganda," he
says. "These are the things that in diplomatic settings, they are remarked
upon. People see that the U.S. is still there defending the leaders of these
countries at a time when many of their other closest allies have just grown
sort of increasingly weary and dismayed."
Margon of Human Rights Watch agrees that the U.S. should be more active in
naming potential obstacles in resolving the eastern DRC conflict. "It's
unacceptable for Rwanda to be violating UN Security Council resolutions and meddling
in international peace and security," she says. "I think the U.S. government
has a very powerful voice and they need to use it."
some, Rice embodies a period in American policy in which U.S. influence was not
put to particularly effective use in Africa. Rice served as Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs during Bill Clinton's second term as president. As
Rosenblum explained in a 2002 article in Current
History [$], the second Clinton administration began with a full-fledged
pivot to Africa, with Madeline Albright undertaking a high-profile visit to the
continent early in her tenure as secretary of state. It was a substantive trip -- Albright
gathered some of Africa's most dynamic newly-installed heads of state in
Entebbe and Addis Ababa, where she articulated America's intention to change
its relationship with the continent.
Rosenblum explains that this approach meant embracing now-problematic leaders
like Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Ethiopia's
Meles Zenawi, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, and, to a lesser extent, DRC's
Laurent Kabila and Eritrea's Isais Afewerki. Under Clinton's Africa policy,
these leaders -- all of whom were former rebels who had taken power through
violent means -- would serve as a vanguard for the social and political transformation
of the continent. Above all, they would
be treated as normal allies of the United States, regarded as equal partners
and autonomous actors, rather than countries that were only important insomuch
as they could be exploited or ignored. Redefining and strengthening Washington's relationship to Africa was a laudable aim that arguably presaged the much greater degree of engagement that followed under George W. Bush and Obama.
Yet Rosenblum believes Rice helped usher in a policy that counted
very few successes, even if he says that he has been "very impressed" with her tenure as UN ambassador. "Rice was a major force in this new, very personalized
engagement with a group of leaders who had come to power through military means
but who represented, for the Clinton policy people, something new and
admirable," he says. "The group they bonded to included leaders who were
eventually at war with each other within a period of two or three years." By the end
of Clinton's presidency, Afewerki and Zenawi had fought a war that killed
between 70,000 and 100,000 people; Kagame and Museveni fought Kabila in the
eastern DRC, and then turned their guns on each other. Many, including the author and former U.N.
investigator Jason Stearns, believe that Clinton's policy enabled
both Rwandan and Ugandan adventurism in Eastern Congo, prolonging a conflict
that still reverberates.