Africa: Useful or not?

As it took over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, the United States declared January the month of Africa. The Council prepared to hear about the problems of Burundi from a large gathering of African presidents. It’s not the first time that new initiatives have been announced for a continent that some describe as forgotten. But will it make a difference, or increase understanding?

The World Today
5 minute READ

Dr Comfort Ero

Programme Director, Africa, International Crisis Group

Commentators examining the response of Western governments to conflicts in Africa in the 1990s have noted the death of outside engagement. The embarrassing departure of US troops from Somalia, the failure of the United Nations Security Council to respond decisively to the Rwandan genocide, accusations that France continued to support the Hutu génocidaries in Rwanda, claims that the British government privately sanctioned the use of the military company, Sandline International, in Sierra Leone and the humiliating withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Angola, all pointed to the declining importance of African affairs in the foreign ministries of Western states.

Yet Sierra Leone, a small country of just over five million on the West African coast, has been receiving international support since its civil war ended with the signing of the Lomé peace agreement in July 1999.

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