TIME White House

Obama Hosts 51 African Leaders Amid Grumbling Over His Record

President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

Putting aside Gaza, Iraq and other distractions, Obama focuses on legacy

Barack Obama came to office representing the hopes and dreams of an entire continent. His father, after all, came to America not in the cargo hold of a slave ship hundreds of years ago, but on an academic scholarship from his native Kenya in 1954: for many on the African continent, Obama was the cousin who’d made it big in America. His election was a symbol of hope, and that maybe help was on the way.

Obama stroked those expectations and rapture with the reissuing of his book in 2005, Dreams from My Father, and with a triumphal African tour in 2006, which sparked the first speculation that he might make a bid for the White House. But in his first term in office, Obama visited Africa only once, stopping at the tail end of his first international trip in Cairo deliver his speech launching “A New Beginning” with the Arab world and spending 24-hours in Ghana where he outlined the four themes upon which, he said, the future of Africa would depend: democracy, opportunity, health and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

Those four “pillars,” as he called them, went all but neglected for the next four years as Obama’s attention swung from domestic priorities like health care reform to crises in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq. So, now, as Obama turns an eye to legacy, he is hosting 51 African leaders at the White House this week for a summit. But legacy requires achievement, and Obama has left much undone in Africa.

To be fair, Obama had a tough act to follow. His predecessor George W. Bush created the Millennium Challenge Corporation to boost foreign aid and the Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, where he invested $15 billion for AIDS drugs—a program universally credited for bringing down AIDS deaths in Africa. Bush also had a security vision for Africa, establishing military bases and a joint African command. He helped create an autonomous government in South Sudan in 2005 to stop the genocide in Darfur. And Bush expanded a free trade agreement created under Bill Clinton called the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.

Under Obama—or, perhaps better said, the Republican cost-cutting Congress—Millennium Challenge funding has remained flat and PEPFAR has been cut from $6.63 billion to $6.42 bullion in fiscal 2013 and is expected to face another $50 million in cuts this year. South Sudan, whose independence America celebrated in 2011, fell into civil war this year after the U.S. neglected to appoint a special envoy for more than six months. And AGOA’s renewal remains stalled before a Congress full of members who want to rewrite it, or potentially kill it, much like the Export Import Bank, which finances most U.S. business on the continent.

While Obama did help intervene with NATO in Libya and sent special forces to Uganda in 2011 to hunt down the warlord Joseph Kony, who has yet to be found, Obama has otherwise taken a hands off approach militarily in Africa. In Somalia, he sent in seal team that took out an al-shabab leader but only after that group’s terrorist attack against a high-end Nairobi shopping mall attack, which killed 67 people from 13 countries. He declined to send troops into Mali with France but provided air support, but only after a terrorist attack on a gas plant in neighboring Algeria claimed the lives of three Americans.

“There were tremendous expectations,” says Carl LeVan, an African studies professor at American University, who has just written a book on Nigeria. “There were big expectations from some of the big emerging African players on the continent. What has emerge over time is an appreciation of the American presidency as a complex organization that speaks on behalf of a big country and not just one man.”

Obama second term African record has been better. Last year, he toured the continent with hundreds of business leaders in tow, touting American investment. His second national security adviser, Susan Rice, is largely credited with the U.S. intervention in Libya and has a long history with the continent, which she views as a priority. Ahead of that tour, Obama launched Power Africa, a $7 billion program to provide power to 20 million sub-Saharan Africans. He also started the Young Leaders’ initiative, which provides scholarships for young Africans to top U.S. universities.

Obama emphasizes how America’s innovation has helped Africa skip several steps of development. He points to the broad use of smart phones across the continent as evidence of how American innovation allowed Africa to skip poles and wires and still bring, not just phone service, but online global banking and Internet connectivity to the most rural of communities. America, he argued to The Economist last week, is “better than just about anybody else” at such applications of technology.

But America is no long Africa’s largest patron. As the U.S. is pivoting to Asia, Asia is pivoting to Africa. China’s investments in Africa surpassed those of the U.S. in 2010 and are now five times as big—$15 billion to U.S.’s $3 billion. China’s investment in the raw-resource laden continent is expected to reach as high as $400 billion over the next half century. While, Obama says “the more the merrier,” as he told The Economist, “my advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one, that they’re hiring African workers; number two, that the roads don’t just lead from the mine, to the port to Shanghai.”

To that end, Obama has a distinctly American message for African leaders. He has seized upon the conference to underline the power of democracy for emerging nations. It is not by accident that he invited so many former African leaders: a message to Africa’s many aging dictators that it’s okay to step aside and give someone else a chance. Obama has proven that he isn’t Africa’s savior, and there’s only so much he can do. “If there is any lesson regarding development and stability that has been consistent since the end of World War II and the colonial era,” says Anthony Cordesman, a top conflict analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “it is that we can only really help those states that are helping themselves.”

TIME India

At Least 60 Dead, Scores Missing in India Landslide

Eight people have been rescued so far

Search teams continue to dig through the mud from a landslide that buried a village in western India on Wednesday as the death toll has reached 66, officials said Friday.

The evening landslide crashed into the small village of Malin, taking its approximately 150 residents by surprise, the BBC reported. Workers have managed to reach the central part of the village, but no survivors have been recovered in the past 48 hours.

The torrential rain that caused the disaster continues to hamper rescue efforts, said officials, despite the attempts of the 250 disaster response workers and 100 ambulances on the scene. The eight villagers thus far rescued are receiving treatment at a government hospital 60 kilometers away.

India’s monsoon season runs from June to September.

[BBC]

TIME Mali

Doomed Air Algérie Flight Asked to Turn Back Before Crash

French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algerie flight AH5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi
French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algérie Flight 5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi on July 24, 2014 Souley Mane Ag Anara—Reuters

Air Algérie Flight 5017, which went down in Mali, was the third airliner to suffer a disastrous crash in a week

Shortly before ground controllers lost contact with Air Algérie Flight 5017, the airliner’s crew requested to abandon its journey to Algiers and head back to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, eyeing foul weather on the radar.

The plane crashed in a remote corner of Mali shortly thereafter, killing all 118 passengers and crew members on board.

Its black-box flight recorders arrived in Paris on Monday, Agence France-Presse reports, offering investigators insight into the July 24 tragedy — the third airline disaster in just over a week, coming after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine and the unsuccessful landing of TransAsia Airways Flight 222 in Taiwan.

Authorities had previously known that the Air Algérie plane requested a change of route but not a return to its point of origin.

[AFP]

TIME Algeria

France Confirms No Survivors in Air Algerie Plane Crash

Air Algerie Plane Crash Mali Algiers Algeria Burkina Faso
French soldiers stand by the wreckage of the Air Algerie flight AH5017 which crashed in Mali's Gossi region, west of Gao, on July 24, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

Cause of the crash still unknown, but French officials suspect bad weather to blame

President François Hollande of France confirmed Friday that there were no survivors from Flight AH5017 that crashed carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The wreckage of the plane was found Thursday in Mali, according to officials.

Both of the plane’s black boxes have been recovered and as yet, the cause of the crash remains unknown.

The Air Algerie commercial plane lost contact with controllers early Thursday an hour after it took off, as it headed into a rainstorm. The wreckage was found near the border of Burkina Faso, a presidential aide for Burkina Faso told the Associated Press.

“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he said.

France’s Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, told RTL radio that the aircraft most likely crashed because of the storm, though he added that terrorist groups are operational in the area where the plane was found.

Nearly half of the people on the flight were French. The passengers aboard included 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxembourg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, officials said. “If this catastrophe is confirmed, it would be a major tragedy that hits our entire nation, and many others,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. French officials do not believe that extremists in Mali have the weaponry necessary to have shot down the plane at cruising altitude.

This is the latest in several major flight disasters in the last week: a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down last Thursday while flying over a tumultuous section of Ukraine, and a Taiwanese jet crashed during a storm Wednesday killing 48 people. Travelers have become increasingly nervous about flying as U.S. and European airlines have been selectively canceling flights to Israel after a rocket landed near the airport in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, a Malaysian airline flight carrying 239 people that disappeared in March has yet to be found.

[AP]

TIME Disasters

No, Fidel Castro’s Niece Wasn’t on the Algerian Plane

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.
Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014. Franklin Reyes—AP

"I’m alive and kicking"

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter—Fidel Castro’s niece—was on the Air Algérie flight that disappeared earlier in the day, citing information from the airport in Burkina Faso. Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay rights activist, is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

But she wasn’t on the flight.

“I’m at a meeting, happy and healthy,” she told the television network TeleSUR. “I’m alive and kicking.”

The Facebook post which appeared to have first reported the news was later deleted.

 

 

TIME Algeria

Air Algérie Flight Disappears Over Mali With Over 110 Aboard

France's Foreign Minister said Flight AH5017 "probably crashed"

+ READ ARTICLE

Air Algérie said Thursday it lost contact during the night with an Algiers-bound flight from Burkina Faso carrying more than 110 people.

The Algerian national airliner said in a statement to the Algerian news agency APS that the flight, AH5017, took off from Ouagadougou at 1:17 a.m. GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 5:11. But the airline lost contact with the plane about 50 minutes into the flight, though the exact timing remains unclear amid differing reports.

Heather Jones for TIME

French President François Hollande, who cancelled his planned trip to the French island Réunion, said in a televised address that 51 French citizens were on the flight ahead of a connection in Algiers. In his statement, which followed an emergency meeting with top ministers, he said that “everything suggests that this plane crashed.”

He said that France, which has spearheaded an international military intervention in Mali against Islamic extremists in the north of the country, will deploy “all the military means that we have on location in Mali” to find the plane.

The French President said that at 1:48 a.m. the crew signaled that it was changing its route because of particularly difficult weather conditions. A Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that the plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi about 70 km (43 miles) from the city of Gao in northern Mali.

The airline told APS early Thursday that the plane was carrying 119 passengers and 7 crewmembers of Spanish nationality, though officials have provided slightly varying numbers. In a separate statement, Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said that the plane was carrying 116 people, including 110 passengers and 6 crewmembers. Swiftair said the plane was an MD-83 operated by Air Algeria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that 51 French citizens were on the flight. The Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that there were also passengers from at least 13 other countries, and an Air Algérie representative told reporters in Burkino Faso that all of the passengers on the plane were in transit, according to Reuters.

The plane disappeared in rough weather over Mali. Data from weather satellites show that there may have been storms in the plane’s flightpath:

 

TIME Africa

Mali Acts To Stem Spread Of Ebola

The government in Bamako has begun using thermal imaging to check for travelers with high fevers, and warned against non-essential travel for its citizens as ebola spreads in West Africa

Mali is on high alert against the spread of the ebola virus in western Africa, reports the BBC.

Three new suspected cases of the disease were found on Friday near where Mali borders Guinea, where 86 people have already died as a result of the illness. New government precautions include using thermal imaging cameras to screen people for potential signs of fever, as well as restricting the movements of people trying to enter the capital city of Bamako from the border region. The government in Mali has also advised citizens against travel to any suspected ebola-affected areas within the country.

The ebola virus is spread by close contact with other carriers and leads to a high fever causing muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and even organ failure. There is no known cure.

The current outbreak was first discovered in Guinea’s southeastern region of Nzerekore, but was not officially confirmed as ebola for six weeks. It has since spread to the country’s capital, Conakry. Although normally found in places like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has also reached Liberia where it has killed six people. Sierra Leone has similarly reported some cases, and Senegal has closed its border with Guinea.

[BBC]

TIME France

So Much for Freedom Fries: America’s New BFF Is France

First Lady Michelle Obama, French President Francois Hollande and President Barack Obama pose in front of the Grand Staircase for an official photo before a State Dinner at the White House February 11, 2014 in Washington.
First Lady Michelle Obama, French President Francois Hollande and President Barack Obama pose in front of the Grand Staircase for an official photo before a State Dinner at the White House February 11, 2014 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

What freedom fries? France and the U.S. have rarely looked closer as the Francois Hollande and the Obamas cozied up at an official State Dinner to toast the French president's arrival in Washington

This was only the seventh time President Obama had treated a visiting foreign leader to a full-on State Dinner and mon dieu but it was a flashy affair. French President François Hollande got the full works on Tuesday night: a menu of American Osetra caviar, dry-aged rib eye beef, Hawaiian chocolate-malted ganache and 300 guests summoned to the White House in his honor, including luminaries such as Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, JJ Abrams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Stephen Colbert.

You could see the logic. Louis-Dreyfus is half-French, Colbert’s name sounds French, and the wines, though American, were produced using French methods. The choice of Mary J. Blige as the evening’s headline act is a little harder to explain, but Daft Punk, France’s most successful band du jour, may have had trouble navigating White House security in their helmets. No matter: with both Obama and Hollande delivering effusive toasts to their very cordial entente, it was clear that the evening had successfully conveyed a message that suited both men: the U.S. and France heart each other. “We Americans have grown to love all things French — the films, the food, the wine. Especially the wine. But most of all, we love our French friends because we’ve stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years,” said Obama.

His warm words cloaked a dig at America’s erstwhile favorite chum, at least in the eyes of British mass-market newspaper, the Daily Mail. “OBAMA SNUBS BRITAIN AND COSIES UP THE FRENCH,” it declared in a headline above a piece describing Hollande’s first day in the U.S., a pleasant whirl of activity including a trip with Obama to Monticello, historic home of American founding father and supporter of the French Revolution Thomas Jefferson. Britons set great store by their Special Relationship™ with the U.S. and are apt to react like an official First Lady learning of a possible rival to her affections if America gets too close to another European country.

And in this case, they may be right to worry. Since France, not Britain, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in joining potential air strikes against the Syrian regime and sent troops to Mali and the Central African Republic with U.S. support, there has been a distinct shift in transatlantic relations. Gone are the days when the U.S. dismissed the French as cheese-eating surrender monkeys for their refusal to get involved in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Hollande looks like Obama’s most reliable ally, especially as the French leader has signalled his magnanimity on the issue that could have thrown cold water on the burgeoning bromance: the NSA’s spying on French citizens. As Hollande told TIME in an exclusive Jan. 24 interview, he intends to forgive if not to forget, looking instead for “a new cooperation in the field of intelligence.”

So intoxicating were the love vibes in the White House that even the French press corps, usually a buttoned-up bunch, got into the mood, snapping selfies as Hollande and Obama chatted oblivious to all but each other, in the background:

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