As President Barack Obama decides whom to nominate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state during his second term, Africa specialists in the United States are beginning to turn a critical gaze on the US permanent representative at the United Nations, Susan E. Rice.
By our top partner allAfrica
Amid speculation that Rice is on Obama's list for the post, a heated and partisan debate has been generated in Washington by her statements soon after the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, to the effect that his death was a consequence of a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film rather than a pre-meditated attack by militants. Her explanation prompted vigorous attacks by Republicans, who said they would oppose her nomination as secretary.
Obama hit back angrily, suggesting she was being targeted for simply conveying intelligence she had received. He said he had not yet decided whom to propose to replace Clinton, but if he thought Rice "would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department, then I will nominate her".
Behind the domestic furor over events in Libya, some Africa specialists in the United States are questioning her suitability on the basis of her record on Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other east and central African nations, going back to the 1990s when she held posts in the administration of former president Bill Clinton.
Jason K. Stearns, a former United Nations official and director of a project of the Rift Valley Institute, charged in a recent blog post that "guilt over her inaction" on the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and "frustration" with Congolese leaders in the same era had led to Rice developing sympathies with the post-genocide leadership of Rwanda.
Stearns accused Rice of protecting Rwanda, then Uganda, during this year's controversy over a report by a UN Group of Experts which said the two governments were backing the DR Congo's M23 rebels. He alleged that "Rice has emerged as a holdout within American foreign policy, a sort of minority report to the prevailing criticism of Rwanda and the M23."
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