The new chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee has pledged to put sub-Saharan Africa “on the front burner” of United States foreign policy, including through an expansion of diplomatic, humanitarian and commercial activities in the region.
Congressman Gregory Meeks, who was elected as head of the influential committee in December, said on Monday that the US Foreign Service must be bolstered during President Joe Biden’s administration.
Former President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House saw a depletion of diplomatic staff across the continent – and perhaps most notably, the top ambassador post to Africa, assistant secretary of African affairs, remained vacant for nearly two years under Trump.
“We have an opportunity to redefine America’s foreign policy and to do so in a way that makes it clear that America is back at the table,” Meeks said during an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
“This is especially true in Africa, which the previous administration spent the last four years viewing only through the prism of competition with China and Russia.”
Meeks, the first Black legislator to fill the committee role, is considered a longtime supporter of Africa engagement and will join Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the soon-to-be minted chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, in shaping US foreign policy legislation.
Beyond influencing which bills move forward in the two US legislative chambers, the committees oversee investigations and programmes related to US foreign policy. Their mandates include foreign aid, treaties, military deployments, international trade, arms control, and war powers.
“The previous administration’s focus on great power competition reduced Africa to a pawn in a great game,” Meeks said. “And frankly, this approach was insulting because it assumed that Africans lacked any agency for how they affected, and were affected by, foreign affairs.”
Source : Al Jazeera
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