President Obama travels on Wednesday to Africa, only the second visit of his presidency. On the schedule is a visit to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela is in critical condition. He’ll also visit Tanzania, a choice some are criticizing due to human rights issues. We explore U.S. relations with African countries, and the issues on the president’s agenda, including counter-terrorism, human rights and economic development.


  • John Allen Executive Editor,; Author, "Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu" (Free Press)
  • Mark Lagon International Relations and Security Chair, Master of Science in Foreign Service Program, Georgetown University; Senior Fellow for Human Rights, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Jeffrey Gettleman East Africa Bureau Chief, New York Times


  • 13:06:45

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, protests in Brazil show no sign of letting up anytime soon. But first, President Obama plans to travel to three African nations later this week.

  • 13:07:12

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe trip that has added significance given that a visit to South Africa is on the schedule and former South African President Nelson Mandela is at the moment in critical condition. President Obama raised expectations early on in his administration among the leaders of many African nations and ordinary African citizens.

  • 13:07:33

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe president's father, you may remember, was born in Kenya and among his first foreign trips was a visit to Ghana in 2009 and there was hope that there would be a renewed focus on sub-Saharan Africa. But that first Ghana trip lasted less than 24 hours and President Obama has not been back to continent since.

  • 13:07:53

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss how this trip is likely to play both here and across Africa is Mark Lagon. He is international relations and security chair in the Master of Science and Foreign Service program at Georgetown University. He's also a senior fellow for human rights at the Council on Foreign Relations previously serving in the State Department as ambassador and deputy assistant secretary in the area of human rights. Mark Lagon, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:08:20

    MR. MARK LAGONIt's great to be with you.

  • 13:08:21

    NNAMDIJoining us by phone from Nairobi is Jeffery Gettleman. He is the East Africa Bureau Chief for "The New York Times." He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of famine and conflict there last year. He's currently on book leave. Jeffery Gettleman, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:08:37

    MR. JEFFREY GETTLEMANGlad to be here, thanks.

  • 13:08:39

    NNAMDIAnd joining us by phone from Cape Town, South Africa is John Allen. He is the executive editor of and the author of the book "Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu." John Allen, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:08:55

    MR. JOHN ALLENGood to be with you.

  • 13:08:56

    NNAMDIJohn, as we know, former South African President Nelson Mandela is in critical condition at the moment. Is there any news, what's the situation there on the ground and how are the media handling this situation?

  • 13:09:11

    ALLENWell, the domestic media and the international media both have gone through a little bit of a rocky time over the last two years or so since Mr. Mandela became ill and regularly was being admitted to hospital particularly recently with lung infections.

  • 13:09:30

    ALLENBut in the last little while there's, the situation has stabilized. The domestic media is showing considerable restraint largely on grounds of cultural sensitivities in our society about predicting somebody's death. And the international media by now over the last year or 18 months has by and large fallen in line.

  • 13:09:54

    ALLENThere have been one or two exceptions in recent days and so they're largely confining themselves to relaying government statements from the office of President Zuma which are very short on medical details and simply have been saying since his last, since his recent admission that his situation has been serious but stable but now, as you say, it's critical.

  • 13:10:17

    NNAMDIJohn, the nation has obviously been preparing for this eventuality for some time, what is the mood there?

  • 13:10:26

    ALLENI'd say it's holding its breath at the moment. There's increasing recognition that the worst can be expected sooner rather than later but still there's a lot of people expressing their wishes that he would get better but increasingly leaders in society such as the church leaders saying that we must get over this hope and we must prepare to accept ourselves, we must prepare ourselves to accept to the inevitable.

  • 13:10:52

    NNAMDIJeffery Gettleman, you are in Nairobi, Kenya. What kind of legacy would you say Nelson Mandela has beyond South Africa, in other African nations like Kenya? What's the mood there today and what's being reported there?

  • 13:11:05

    GETTLEMANI think a lot of people are watching this anxiously. There's no surprise that Nelson Mandela is very old and he's probably very ill but people all across the continent look to him. He's one of these, you know, world figures that has almost uncontroversial halo around him.

  • 13:11:25

    GETTLEMANYou know, he can do no wrong, he's seen as a liberation hero, as somebody that was very magnanimous after victory, as a real example for how an African leader or any leader should be. And one of the biggest problems in Africa is bad leadership, there's more dictatorships than coups and corrupt governments in this continent than anywhere else in the world. So if you sort of match that reality up with the myth and, you know, to be fair the history of Nelson Mandela, he just, he's really shy.

  • 13:11:57

    NNAMDIMark Lagon, we all know what Nelson Mandela means to us individually but what would you say Nelson Mandela has meant for U.S. policy in Africa?

  • 13:12:07

    LAGONWell, he's a sign not only for human rights and for peaceful change, but he reminds us that we need to think carefully. When some people are standing up for their freedom as the ANC did, we need to, you know, think that sometimes they may even think about violence and it doesn't mean they can't govern in a really peaceful way.

  • 13:12:30

    LAGONYou know, we need to see how, without being patronizing, we can help those lessons of reconciliation, you know, stick in a place like the Democratic Republic of Congo or the success to date of reconciliation in Rwanda standing and sticking there.

  • 13:12:49

    NNAMDISouth African sees itself as a leader on the continent but there's also disappointment here and elsewhere particularly in the realm of South Africa's apparent lack of leadership on human rights, is there not?

  • 13:13:00

    LAGONYes, you know, a classic example is in Zimbabwe and its immediate neighborhood. When, you know, a leader turns from being a hero of national liberation to clinging to power a state as powerful, as economically strong as South African has important role to play especially given the legacy of the ANC transcending apartheid.

  • 13:13:30

    NNAMDIJohn Allen, how is South Africa's role on the continent seen by its South Africans?

  • 13:13:37

    ALLENI think the feelings of South Africans are mixed. There are many South Africans who would have wished that we played stronger role in promoting human rights. On the other hand the leadership of the ANC and this dates back to President Mandela's time and was particularly strong under, the view was particularly strong under President Mbeki that we should avoid trying to appear, we should avoid appearing to Africans as a dominant, interfering power.

  • 13:14:09

    ALLENWe should avoid being seen as, if you like, the Yanks of Africa. And so there's been a, certainly a very public effort by the ANC government to avoid criticizing other African leaders. Behind the scenes that may be a little different but there are many people who feel that, for instance, Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwe was far too compromised in his relationship with President Mugabe because of his respect for President Mugabe as a liberation leader.

  • 13:14:39

    NNAMDIWell, onto the President of the United States upcoming visit. As we said, President Obama heads to Africa on Wednesday for only the second trip of his presidency including a stop in South Africa. First, John Allen, it's your understanding that that visit is likely to go ahead regardless of what happens with Nelson Mandela and second, how is that trip being seen by South Africans?

  • 13:15:03

    ALLENOn the trip -- on the visit going ahead, President Zuma said earlier today in a briefing to editors that he didn't believe the illness of President Mandela should stop the visit. He didn't talk about, and this is part of the cultural sensitivity about this kind of an issue, he didn't speculate about what would happen if President Mandela died. So I think that's an open question at the moment for everybody.

  • 13:15:28

    ALLENThe South African reception to it I think is mixed, the ANC is part of what it calls a Tripartite Alliance, an alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Both of them, all of elements of them, have come out in the last few days in favor of protests against President Obama's visit. So I think it's safe to say that the response to his visit will be mixed.

  • 13:15:54

    NNAMDIJohn Allen is an executive editor of and the author of "Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu." He joins us by phone from Cape Town, South Africa. Joining us by phone from Nairobi is Jeffery Gettleman. He is the East Africa Bureau Chief of "The New York Times." He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of famine and conflict there last year.

  • 13:16:17

    NNAMDIJoining us in our Washington studio is Mark Lagon, international relations and security chair in the Master of Science and Foreign Service program at Georgetown University and senior fellow for human rights at the Council on Foreign Relations. You can call us at 800-433-8850, do you think the U.S. has paid enough attention to Africa in recent years? 800-433-8850, you can send email to

  • 13:16:44

    NNAMDIJeffery Gettleman, President Obama's agenda this week includes stops in Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania. He chose not to visit Kenya on this trip, the birthplace of his father even though Kenya had a relatively peaceful election earlier this year. Can you talk a little bit about why he might be skipping Nairobi?

  • 13:17:04

    GETTLEMANYes, I think a lot of people are asking that question here. There's two reasons really, the first one is the international criminal court which has indicated Kenya's president and vice-president for crimes against humanity connected to violence from the election in 2007 - 2008. That's the main reason.

  • 13:17:23

    GETTLEMANThe U.S. is very uncomfortable about Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, winning the election and he won. So now they're in this awkward spot that they don't want to seem too cozy with him because he's facing very serious charges.

  • 13:17:37

    GETTLEMANThe second reason is terrorism. Kenya has been struck by a number of incidents in the last few years of Islamic terrorists striking against Kenyan targets and dozens of people have been killed. The U.S. embassy was blown up here in 1998. So I think even though there are these elaborate efforts to protect the president when he travels abroad and, you know, something like $60, $100 million spent on this trip there's still some concerns that Kenya may not be that safe.

  • 13:18:05

    NNAMDIPresident Obama will visit Tanzania but before I get to Tanzania let me get to you, Mark Lagon, weighing in on why the president chose not to visit Kenya.

  • 13:18:16

    LAGONWell, perhaps he doesn't want to emphasize his own roots. He needs to think about different regions of the vast continent that he's going to visit. Although I think, you know, the considerations about the ICC indictment are probably in mind too.

  • 13:18:32

    NNAMDIPresident Obama will visit Tanzania and the presents some issues starting with you, Mark. Can you talk about that choice?

  • 13:18:39

    LAGONWell, it's interesting as a side story, worth paying attention to. I used to serve as the U.S. ambassador to fight human trafficking and a recent resolution of a long-standing flap is important. You know, sometimes diplomats and the United States have domestic servants who they abuse as human trafficking victims and essentially those are government officials who are complicit in human trafficking and there was an accusation and attempt at prosecution of a diplomat.

  • 13:19:14

    LAGONFinally the government of Tanzania has decided to come through with a payment of damages and that makes it a little less awkward for a visit of the president. But it's very important to follow through, Tanzania itself has some issues in terms of its governance, some restrictions on political expression and I think it's important to carry forward with the relationship.

  • 13:19:38

    LAGONTanzania, it's important to remember with a major beneficiary of U.S. aid to fight HIV-AIDS and in fact that was the surprise of the Bush era, Bush saying at the beginning of his presidential campaign that he thought Africa was going to be a low priority and it ending up being a fairly high priority and certainly one with a substantial anti-HIV-AIDS program.

  • 13:20:03

    NNAMDIJeffrey Gettleman, what we need to be looking for in President Obama's choice to visit Tanzania?

  • 13:20:10

    GETTLEMANWell, I think it's interesting. Kenya is more democratic than Tanzania by a country mile. Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa that has been a one-party state essentially with the same party ruling since independence. There's almost no other country in the continent like that. They've all gone through various changes. So I don't think we should get too excited about Tanzania's democratic credentials. And to say that there are limits on free expression I think is an understatement. It's a real old-school, one-party state.

  • 13:20:40

    GETTLEMANHowever, something we haven't brought up yet is China. And Africa is really the frontline in this emerging battle between the West and China for influence in resources around the world. And the Chinese president's first visit to Africa, he went to Tanzania and he supposedly lined up a number of business deals and tried to really strengthen the relationship between China and Tanzania. So I think we should be realistic that America's trying to check the influence of China in certain parts of Africa. And Tanzania's you know, one of those battle grounds.

  • 13:21:15

    NNAMDIJohn Allen, before you go can you talk a little bit about what South Africa's expectations are about this visit from President Obama?

  • 13:21:24

    ALLENI think realistically one overlooks the protests and the feelings of unions and communists and the friends of Cuban society, their objections to the U.S.'s involvement in globalization and its attitudes and its foreign policy towards places like the Middle East. For people looking for real benefits or real outcomes from the visits, it's issues of trade. It's the basics. It's issues of trade. It's issues of the economy.

  • 13:21:57

    ALLENThere's a real challenge that the United States faces to blame its respectful human rights, which I think many ordinary Africans on the ground like. And in some parts of Africa the local people have quite unfortunate relationships with Chinese workers who brought in this part of the Chinese thrust into Africa.

  • 13:22:21

    ALLENAnd so I think for many ordinary South Africans, they're looking for benefits of trade, benefits of investment and for the U.S. to make Africa a higher profile in this promotion of trade to see Africa as -- and South Africa, and in particular for South Africans, as a country in which America will boost investment, reduce trade policies which inhibit African, South Africans from selling their products abroad to the African Growth and Opportunities Act. So I think, yeah, they're looking for America to take Africa and South Africa as seriously as China does.

  • 13:23:00

    NNAMDIJohn Allen is the executive editor of and the author of "Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu." John Allen, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:10

    ALLENThank you. It's been a pleasure.

  • 13:23:11

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue our conversation about foreign policy and human rights with the focus on President Obama's visit to Africa. Taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think the Obama Administration should focus more on human rights? Do you think the U.S. has paid enough attention to Africa in recent years, 800-433-8850? You can send email to kojo K-O-J-O or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:25:16

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on foreign policy and human rights and President Obama's upcoming trip to Africa. We're talking with Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of famine and conflict there last year. He's currently on book leave. Mark Lagon is international relations and security chair in the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University and senior fellow for human rights at the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • 13:25:42

    NNAMDIYou can call us, 800-433-8850. Jeffrey, as we've said, many people across Africa have expressed disappointment at President Obama's lack of engagement on the continent. How is the president's upcoming trip being seen where you are in Nairobi?

  • 13:26:00

    GETTLEMANA lot of people are very disappointed he's not coming to Kenya and they're looking at it through that lens. If you've read Obama's book, the "Dreams of My Father" you know how special Kenya was for him, how he tried to reconnect with his family's history and his roots here. So this is frustration but it's not really a mystery. People know that the ICC, the International Criminal Court has presented these challenges. Obama does not want to seem too close to the leadership of Kenya because they've both been indicted by the court.

  • 13:26:31

    GETTLEMANBut there's also this sense that there's an irony that the Bush Administration seemed to have been more focused on Africa than Obama's Administration has, which seems strange and unexpected considering Obama's history.

  • 13:26:46

    NNAMDIDeputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the president wants to address that disappointment, Mark. And he said the U.S. would be seeding its leadership position in the world if the president is not deeply engaged in Africa. And that's what he plans to do. But some see President Obama's trip to Africa as too little too late. Do you think this will mark a shift in U.S. policy, Mark?

  • 13:27:09

    LAGONWell, you know, he is playing catch up in a couple of regions. You'll recall as a candidate how he was received in Europe. And Europe, for a number of years, I think they felt that they didn't get the friendship and the follow on to President Bush that they hoped for. And another region that would've expected to get more focus would be Africa. I don't know whether he will change the perception, but he certainly does have key members of his team, his new National Security Advisor Susan Rice and his new UN Ambassador Samantha Power quite focused on Africa. And of course some trouble spots with either atrocities or legacies of them.

  • 13:27:51

    NNAMDIJeffrey Gettleman, many -- a lot of people are contrasting the U.S. to China when it comes to Africa. What kind of investment is China making there?

  • 13:28:02

    GETTLEMANYou see the Chinese all over Africa. I've been here for seven years living in Nairobi and when I first moved here you would only find Chinese work crews, Chinese mining projects that were limited to very specific -- to the pursuit of acquiring national resources. Now it's expanding. You see China playing a much larger role diplomatically. You see China lending technical support in many different areas of Kenya for instance, helping the government with their security agency, helping the military.

  • 13:28:38

    GETTLEMANChina is, you know, voracious in its appetite for resources because that's what its economy relies on. It needs copper, it needs coal plants, it needs gold. It needs all these things to make the electronics and other products that the world is buying from China. And Africa holds the key to that.

  • 13:28:55

    GETTLEMANSo that's where the Chinese interest lies. And they often do these deals with African governments and there are no strings attached. That's a lot different from the U.S. government and from Western governments. They dispense a lot of aid, but there's often conditions connected to human rights, democracy, to forward progress in governance issues and a lack of corruption. So that's the difference. Both of these powers want to stay interested and focused on Africa but they're pursuing it very, very differently.

  • 13:29:23

    NNAMDIJeffrey, you say Africa is, quoting here, "the frontline between China and the West." Can you explain?

  • 13:29:31

    GETTLEMANI don't think there's another part of the world where you see these powers really battling for influence the way you do in Africa. If you look at Europe, the Chinese don't have a large presence, aren't that influential in Europe. In Asia China's the dominant power. In the United States obviously the U.S. is the power. South America is kind of within the U.S. sphere of influence. So that leaves Africa as the major geographic area in the world. And because of the resources, the Chinese have been here for a long time looking for these resources.

  • 13:29:59

    GETTLEMANThere's also history. Like Tanzania used to be a socialist leaning country. It had ties to China. So did Ethiopia. So did many countries across Africa that were aligned with the Eastern bloc. And China's kind of taken on that mantel since the end of the Cold War. So I think it's going to be interesting. It's a different -- you know, these powers are trying to get something different out of Africa but they want to remain relevant and influential here. And that's what we're seeing on a day-to-day basis in a place like Kenya or Tanzania.

  • 13:30:29

    GETTLEMANI mean, for the Chinese president to pick, of all the countries in Africa, the first place to go Tanzania, it said a lot to the Tanzanians. And the fact that Obama picks that country of the three countries he's visited in Africa, again there seems to be a relationship there.

  • 13:30:44

    NNAMDIMark Lagon, we heard Jeffrey point out that the difference between the U.S. and China when it comes to aid is that the Chinese aid seems to come with no strings attached, whereas the U.S. tends to have conditions attached to its aid. What do you think the different -- what difference do you think that makes?

  • 13:31:02

    LAGONWell, it may end up being somewhat different from the way it appears on the surface. You know, no strings attached, it maybe that the Chinese try and stack their deals to make sure that employment of operations that they fund on the African continent goes to their own nationals rather than to local people. And that they retain access to resources in a way that deals with the West and the United States don't have.

  • 13:31:27

    LAGONAlso it's worth thinking about Senegal on this trip. If the American strings for investment and aid have been calling for transparency, fighting corruption, good governance, this is the story among the three. Senegal is the one that has moved the most in the last couple of years. With the government of Macky Sall there's been a -- initial steps to move towards transparency and away from corruption. It may be the strings that the U.S. asks for compared to China are actually more in the long term interests of Africans.

  • 13:31:58

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Ayalu (sp?) in Silver Spring, Md. Ayalu, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:32:05

    AYALUHi, Kojo. Thank you so much. I'm really a listener of your program all the time. Very good program. Thank you so much always. My question today relates to the president's visit to Africa and specifically the situation in (word?). There's a gridlock between the opposition party and the current government. And both sides seem to exaggerate one another when it comes to the situation. But my question is, is there any plan for the U.S. as well as any with some countries to focus their aid in the state of just material or in line with the current aid, if there's any plan to change the situation in good governance.

  • 13:32:48

    AYALUSo to perhaps create a platform and establishing a national army for the country, which is, you know, and a peace order, the justice system. And, you know, balance of power in general because the aids are focused to that. And it seems the government has been a great loss. If they losing their power to share with others, they feel their life is (word?) . And on the other side, the opposition is, oh, we don't need this government at all, kind of situation. So it's both sides in my opinion are wrong. And it's just because of lack of (unintelligible).

  • 13:33:29

    NNAMDIAll me to put the question to both of our guests. First you, Jeffrey Gettleman. Ethiopia, it's considered a U.S. ally but there have been long complaints about democracy. And our caller feels that the U.S. aid needs to be going to infrastructure.

  • 13:33:45

    GETTLEMANWell, Ethiopia's one of the most interesting relationships the U.S. has on the continent. It is the recipient of about a billion dollars of taxpayer money. Americans pay about, you know, in their taxes a billion dollars to help Ethiopia in many different ways, humanitarian, education, health, military aid, government aid directly. And Ethiopia has a horrendous human rights record, you know, as Mark can detail for you. They imprison journalists, they kill opposition members.

  • 13:34:18

    GETTLEMANThere was an election a few years ago where it looked like the opposition was winning and the government deployed troops on the streets and rounded up tens of thousands of young people who protested. But it's seen as a critical ally for the U.S. in its war against terrorism, against Islamic extremism. And so Ethiopia basically gets a path. And it was interesting. In the U.S. government the State Department and the executive branch were closer to Ethiopia than many people were in Congress who were trying to push this bill that was going to put more restrictions on aid to Ethiopia.

  • 13:34:51

    GETTLEMANSo as far as infrastructure, Ethiopia does a pretty good job of taking care of its own infrastructure. It's one of the fastest growing countries in Africa because it has a very sharp, you know, government that has planned years in advance and is trying to lift Ethiopia out of poverty. But they're very weak in terms of democracy and human rights.

  • 13:35:12

    NNAMDIAnd we haven't heard a great deal from the Obama Administration about that lack of democracy and human rights in Ethiopia.

  • 13:35:19

    LAGONNo, we haven't. And I think that there -- you know, why not look at the Obama presidency and see there's a certain way that he compartmentalizes and he focuses on key issues. He's been the anti-terrorism president. It's been good in some ways. He, you know, oft Osama bin Laden but, you know, human rights has at time taken a backseat. And one might've hoped that President Obama would move us more in the direction of Consistency.

  • 13:35:44

    LAGONYou know, I think there's a false dichotomy between American ideals and American interests. And people would say ideals would point you towards human rights and the interests would point you towards relationships with liberal governments who work with us on things on terrorism. It's actually profoundly not in the U.S. interests to bankroll autocratic regimes that actually create a pressure cooker and increase the chance for terrorism in their own countries.

  • 13:36:09

    NNAMDIAnd a lot of people are saying that there should be intervention, oh, in Syria because of reasons of human rights, because of humanitarian reasons. We are sending arms to the rebel fighters there. Yet a number of humanitarian crises have unfolded in places like Congo in recent years with much less U.S. attention. Why that contrast?

  • 13:36:29

    LAGONWell, there really are double standards about which issues get major focus. And, you know, if one looks back to Bosnia and Rwanda, you know, the West -- the great powers acted slowly on Bosnia but they acted not at all on Rwanda and giving direction to peace keepers on the ground to stop the problem. And I think there'll continue to be biases against certain cases in Africa.

  • 13:36:56

    LAGONThis trip on the economic front of the U.S. and China entering should lead people to see that this is a new Africa. This is Africa that is not -- should not be relegated to, you know, seen as being always in chaos and always in the deepest poverty. It is in fact the growing area of opportunity. And actually that investment of time and focus should also be in the political area.

  • 13:37:25

    NNAMDIPresident Obama recently appointed Samantha Power as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN and we know her big focus is human rights. What do you make of that appointment and does it point to a renewed focus maybe on human rights in Africa and elsewhere?

  • 13:37:39

    LAGONWell, I do think that's what she symbolizes. Like Susan Rice before her she has the ear of the president. She's a personal friend of the president. I'm not sure how much more she'll manage to get Russia and China to cooperate in the UN security council and okay sanctions or military action in cases of atrocities like, you know, in Syria or follow on problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But she is an emblem of somebody who's devoted her life, her writing and her recent service in the National Security Council to atrocities prevention.

  • 13:38:17

    NNAMDISome people, Jeffrey Gettleman, say the reason for this is that we, the media, don't focus enough attention on Africa. Some say one problem, that we get so little news coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa in the U.S. is the problem, that I know that you, like I am, are part of the media. But what is your view of this?

  • 13:38:38

    GETTLEMANListen, I'm biased. I haven't had any problem, you know, getting my editor's interest in the work that I've been doing in East Africa. There seems to be -- you know, when I do a big story out of Congo or Somali or Sudan there's interest in it. You know, I get inundated with emails, people that want to help and want more information. So I don't -- and the big media companies still have correspondents here, you know, African media itself has gotten a lot better as time has gone on and the technology has really made it more democratic.

  • 13:39:13

    GETTLEMANSo, you know, you're able to get news out of Africa in ways that you couldn't just a few years ago. So I don't really buy that. I mean, of course there's -- you know, Europe is more developed and China is more of an economic power in the world so there's more news out of those places. But I don't think there are big stories in Africa that are happening right now that are not widely known. I think we know -- we have a pretty good sense of what's happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, what's happening in Sudan, what's happened in Kenya recently.

  • 13:39:44

    GETTLEMANI think we have, you know, a sense of this because it's been covered. So I don't buy that.

  • 13:39:50

    NNAMDII guess it's worth mentioning that Jeffrey Gettleman's Pulitzer Prize for international reporting was last year for his coverage of famine and conflict in East Africa in a news cycle when many assumed that coverage of the Arab Spring would be front and center, but I'm interested in hearing what you have to say, Mark Lagon.

  • 13:40:06

    LAGONWell, I'm not a journalist, and so I respect, you know, our colleagues view. I do think it's a different world. The big news organizations, especially the print organizations, don't have the resources they once had. There's a sense that this world of social media and Internet-based news is more democratic, but it's a kind of curated world in which people choose which issues are placed at the top of the agenda, and I just -- consistently in the west the African issues might be covered, but in terms of a drum beat for focus, that isn't there.

  • 13:40:43

    NNAMDIOnto Victor in Lanham, Md. Victor, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:40:47

    VICTORHey, Kojo. (unintelligible). My comment is about the aid with no strings attached. I want to say that China will never give any aid to Africa with no strings attached. But the difference between the West and China is the West strings attached is in regards to what will work for the people of Africa in regards to development human rights and all that stuff. China's strings attached is buried in the fine line, and this is -- one of things they're doing is that their strings is that you can't hire -- establish their industry, they don't hire any locals.

  • 13:41:29

    VICTORAll is Chinese people working for them, and the one or two locals they will hire are locals that will do the manual labor, or just put them up front for, like, (unintelligible). And most of them, they're going there, they're building these stores, putting mom and pop stores out of business. They're building their own stores and selling their own Chinese goods -- imported Chinese goods instead of building factories and all that, and they're plundering the soil. They're plundering our natural resources and then ship it off to China. They (unintelligible)

  • 13:42:05

    NNAMDIVictor, we're running out of time very quickly, so I'd like to have my guests respond. I've heard the same complaint in my native country of Guyana. Are you hearing that complaint also, Jeffrey Gettleman, in addition to the praise for China's increase investment in African countries?

  • 13:42:20

    GETTLEMANYes, I am. And I think the caller made a really good point. There are strings attached, they're just different. They're not so much about governance or transparency or fighting corruption, but they are about getting resources. And we have to remember that China's taking a much longer view. They don't have a four-year election cycle in China. They can go into a place like Congo or Sudan and say, we're going to build a big factory, or we're going to, you know, establish a large mine, and we're not going to see anything out of it for 10 or 15 years, but that's okay.

  • 13:42:53

    GETTLEMANAnd that's what you see in Africa. You see this scramble for resources really like you haven't seen, you know, at any time in the recent past.

  • 13:43:01

    NNAMDIYour turn, Mark.

  • 13:43:02

    LAGONI'd just say, you know, it actually is a good thing for the United States and some of the other democratic powers in the world to urge their African friends in the direction of good governance, it's in their interests. And at least those are transparent conditions, just as your caller says.

  • 13:43:21

    NNAMDII'm afraid we're just about out of time. Jeffrey Gettleman is the East Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of famine and conflict there last year, currently on book leave. Jeffrey Gettleman, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:43:33

    GETTLEMANHey, it was a great show. Thank you.

  • 13:43:35

    NNAMDIMark Lagon is international relations and security chair in the Master of Science and Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University, and senior fellow for human rights at the Council on Foreign Relations. We ask you to pass on both congratulations on her birthday, and apologies for taking you away from her birthday lunch to you daughter, Elena, Mark Lagon.

  • 13:43:58

    LAGONThank you very much.

  • 13:43:59

    NNAMDITell her thank you very much for allow us to have you.

  • 13:44:02

    LAGONShe's glad to have a teacher for a dad, so I'm glad she's here with me.

  • 13:44:05

    NNAMDIDuring this happy birthday, Elena. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, developments in Brazil. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Topics + Tags


comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

The Politics Hour – October 20, 2017

Friday, Oct 20 2017Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy discusses his efforts to address gang violence. Plus, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White joins us to recap the "grocery march" protesting food deserts east of the Anacostia River.