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[PANEL] 0902 USA AND AFRICA: FROM BERLIN TO SAN FRANCISCO AND AFTER
HAILE Muluken Akalu, Department of History and Heritage Management, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
AYELE Bekerie; HAILE Muluken Akalu; TEFERI Mekonnen
American interest in the Horn of Africa before the Second World War was that of extreme avoidance, especially in ascertaining its effective economic presence, no matter how strong rulers in the region wanted to see it otherwise. As part of its general policy not to antagonize European colonial powers, the USA was ready to overlook Ethiopian offers for economic, political and military cooperation. American apathy in the region drastically changed during and following the Second World War. This stands in stark contrast to the pre-World War I American positioning in international relations.
Hence, in less than a century, the change of American involvement in the continent of Africa can be appreciated from its passive stance to the infamous Berlin Conference (1884-5) to hosting the San Francisco Conference (8 Sep 1951) which foresaw the end of European colonialism in Africa. As a sponsor of the spirit of the Atlantic Charter and the UN, the USA transformed itself from a neutral power to colonialism to a decisive power to decolonization. The desire to prevent the preponderance of communist and Islamic powers in the region and the strategic significance of oil exporting countries made the Red Sea region a lifeline of global power politics. To this was added American maneuvering between Israel and Arab states’ conflict of interest. The way the USA managed to assert its interest in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula remains the most important element in the political and economic history of the region.
This panel brings together articles that depict the changing nature of American foreign policy in Africa in general and the Horn of Africa in particular.
THE UNSTRATEGIC NATURE OF US FOREIGN POLICY IN THE HORN OF AFRICA [Abstract ID: 0902-03]
In recent years, a growing set of literature has been concerned with the analysis of the role of the World Bank Group in the consolidation of the post-Second World War international order. World Bankers provided technical and financial support to recently independent countries in the so-called Global South, concurring to the consolidation of Western economic and political models vis a vis their socialist counterparts. Nevertheless, many scholars argued that in spite of its apolitical nature, the Bank’s policy towards borrowing countries was largely shaped by the political and strategic interests of its member states. This paper will analyse the dialectics between the World Bank, the United States of America, and two European powers (Italy and Great Britain) during one of the most troubled periods in the recent history of the relationship between Ethiopia and the West: the three-years revolution that started in 1974 with the overthrowing of Emperor Haile Selassie and ended in 1977 with the rise on power by Col. Menghistu Haile Mariam and the diplomatic shift of the country towards the socialist bloc. In the quality of Ethiopia’s main international donor, the USA and the World Bank played an important albeit still neglected role in addressing the economic orientation of the DERG during the revolution. The paper relies on untapped primary sources collected in the archives of the World Bank, Great Britain, and the United States. Such archival documents provide an innovative perspective on the role played by the World Bank in shaping the East-West diplomacy during the period under consideration, and highlight how the multilateral organization was subject to multiple pressures by Western countries, eager to exploit the Bank’s financial leverage to pursue their own diplomatic goals and protect their overseas economic assets after the 1975 nationalizations.
THREATS OF COMMUNISM AND POLITICAL ISLAM AS PIVOTS OF USA’S GROWING POLITICAL AND MILITARY ENGAGEMENT IN THE HORN OF AFRICA SINCE CA. 1945 [Abstract ID: 0902-02]
The Second World War marks a turning point in the history of the USA in the Horn of Africa. The two main factors that account for the increasing assertiveness of the USA in the region relate to first the spread of communism and then political Islam. The unique geo-strategic significance of the Horn of Africa to the Middle East conflict and Cold War politics and USA’s unflinching commitment to assert is preponderance there standout as the enduring foundations of USA’s partnership with the Horn of Africa states. Unlike the pre-WW II period, the USA was the most decisive element in deciding the fate of colonies of defeated Axis powers which included overriding the interests of Allied member states, France and Britain. After 1991, the driving cause of US influence in the region relates to terrorism which is responsible for the reconfiguration of relations among Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Sudan, Egypt and Somalia. The article appraises how the USA before and after the Second World War transformed itself from a neutral power to the Scramble for Africa to the most decisive country in shaping the postwar historical dynamics.Fresh archives of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, British Foreign Office, Italian Embassy in Addis Ababa, the United Nations and academic publications have been used to substantiate the arguments.
USA’S GEO-POLITICAL INTEREST AND INVOLVEMENT IN THE HYDROPOLITICS OF THE NILE RIVER [Abstract ID: 0902-04]
The hydro-politics of the Nile River was one of the major factors in shaping interstate relationships in Northeast Africa before and after the advent of colonial rule. During the colonial period, the Ethiopian Government desired to use the United States as a counterweight against Italy and Britain that were threatening its existence as an independent state. Indeed, America began to get involved in the Nile waters issue in 1927; nevertheless US involvement could not serve as a means of safeguarding Ethiopian independence as had been the expectation of the Ethiopian Government. The role of the USA in the water use conflict of Northeast Africa became evident after World War II in general and since the onset of the Cold War in particular. This paper assesses Ethiopia’s attempts at studying its water resources by using American experts and finances from US aid, during the 1950s and early 1960s, in response to the downstream states of Egypt and the Sudan that had promoted unilateral and bilateral water development schemes of their own. It critically examines the Ethio-US Agreement to study the Blue Nile Basin as to tame the river for Ethiopia's use and examines its results. It also deals with the impacts of the massive Ethio-US joint study of the Blue Nile Basin on the downstream states of Egypt and the Sudan as well as the foundations and subsequent developments of some important governmental institutions with respect to the water sector development projects in Ethiopia. Through a study of USA’s response to loan requests to build dams and irrigation projects and the geo-political underpinnings, the paper argues that the USA maneuvered the hydro-politics of the Northeast Africa to promote ultra-regional motives which extends to the Middle East conflict. The article draws on archival evidence from the Ethiopian Ministry of Water Resources, Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic dispatches from Egypt and the Sudan as well as media reports, academic publications and oral informants.