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Enough Project: Obama, Africa, and Peace

Authors: John Prendergast, and John Norris
January 13, 2009

John Prendergast and John Norris identify necessary prerogatives for the Obama administration regarding Africa, and encourage a dramatic refashioning of American policy in the region.

The Obama administration has an opportunity to fundamentally remake U.S. relations with Africa during its tenure, and a cornerstone of that effort needs to be a much greater emphasis on the most cost-effective element of our foreign policy tools: peacemaking. An investment in ending some of the world's deadliest, most destructive, and costliest wars would yield great results in those countries and the positive repercussions from such engagement would rebound across the continent.

As the first president of the United States with immediate African roots, President Obama not only has an important reservoir of goodwill on the continent, he also has the ability to move beyond the tendentious "North-South" debate between developed and less developed countries that has made more transformational policies difficult to attain. Efforts by the dying generation of Africa's strong men who believe they should rule for life, such as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, to portray President Obama as a former colonial master will have little resonance in Africa or elsewhere. President Obama will represent a fresh start, but the problems facing Africa and how best to address them will be no less acute.

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