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As Secretary Clinton heads to Africa August 5: Expert Available on African Politics and US-Africa Foreign Relations

On August 5, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin a seven-nation trip to Africa with the 8th U.S.–Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (known as the AGOA Forum) in Nairobi, Kenya. According to a State Department news release, this trip will highlight the Obama administration’s commitment to making Africa a priority in U.S. foreign policy. In Kenya, she will emphasize “investment and broad-based economic growth.” In other countries, “she will underline America’s commitment to partner with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and private citizens to build societies where each individual can realize their potential.”

Pierre Englebert, a professor of politics at Pomona College and the author of the new book Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, and Sorrow (Lynne Rienner, 2009) and the award-winning State Legitimacy and Development in Africa (2000), has spent more than 25 years studying African politics, with a particular focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo. His most recent trip to Africa was in 2008, and he is traveling to Mozambique, Niger and South Africa in the coming months. He has done fieldwork in Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, both Congos, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia, among others. His latest book has sections on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, two of the countries on Secretary Clinton’s itinerary.

Prof. Englebert is available to talk with media about a wide range of African political issues and U.S. Africa relations, including:

  • Where Clinton might have her most success;
  • The nature of power in Africa;
  • What programs might truly work and why;
  • How international aid has supported weak nations;
  • Why Africa is so corrupt; and
  • What explains political violence in many countries.

According to Prof. Englebert, “Dysfunctional and weak African states are often optimal for African elites, and we should not expect too much from "good governance" reforms and fights against corruption. Unfortunately, African states are unlikely to be he tools of development and human emancipation in their present configuration.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular, is a deeply failed state, plagued with violence, corruption and dysfunctional institutions, but where political elites benefit from the state's failure and dependency on foreign partners. Since 1998, close to 5 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of thousands remain displaced. But the problems go beyond disarming rebels in the east and restoring the authority of the state. The state itself is the problem, and we need to find ways to deflate its power over people.

“What the United States can do is help to facilitate the military defeat of rebels in the east, in part with logistics support from AFRICOM (our new Africa Command); prevent their replacement by the equally dangerous government armed forces; promote local land and institutional reforms to deflate the capacity of state agents to inflict misery upon others; and promote local industrialization and manufacturing to offer young people opportunities beyond warfare.

“Stabilization in the RDC will reduce the flow of refugees to other countries; force Rwanda to be more accountable domestically and to donors, and reduce the risk of military contagion.”

Professor Englebert may be reached at his office (909) 607-2496 by email at, or through the Pomona College Communications Office at (909) 621-8158. He will be reachable until August 11.

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Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, and Sorrow
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009

State Legitimacy and Development in Africa
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000