Ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, it has become increasingly difficult for the U.S. to maintain its decades-long policy of support for dictatorial Middle Eastern regimes that obediently conform to U.S. interests, as I wrote more than two years ago. While U.S. support for these regimes hasn’t shifted, cracks have begun to form, as was seen with the Obama administration’s decision this month to withhold some military aid to Egypt.
But as long-standing U.S. towards brutal Middle Eastern regimes begins to adjust due largely to increased awareness, America’s penchant for supporting dictatorship is shifting to Africa. Newly strengthened U.S. allies are sharply intensified domestic repression.
Ever since the country’s disputed elections in 2005, Ethiopia has been a strong U.S. ally, even invading Somalia with Washington’s support in 2006. These years have correlated with harsh crackdowns.
“Ethiopian authorities have subjected political detainees to torture and other ill-treatment at the main detention center in Addis Ababa,” reports Human Rights Watch this month. “Those detained in Maekelawi include scores of opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, and alleged supporters of ethnic insurgencies.”
And remember Obama’s unilateral decision back in 2011 to send U.S. troops to Uganda to support the government’s fight against domestic militants? Well, a matter of months into that increased support role, Amnesty International warned that “the Ugandan government and public officials are increasingly placing illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to silence critical voices.”
Amnesty reported that public protests had been banned and several political activists had been charged with treason, a capital offense.
Increased U.S. military and financial support for the Kenyan government is also correlated with increases in human rights abuses. According to Jonathan Horowitz at Foreign Policy, the U.S. “may rightly be criticized for aiding and abetting human rights violations,” like “detainee abuse, denial of fair trial guarantees, extrajudicial killings, or unlawful extraditions.”
And then, at the end of September, the Obama administration issued blanket waivers exempting three countries from a federal law banning U.S. military aid to countries that use child soldiers. Two of these exempted countries were in the heart of Africa: Chad and South Sudan.