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The Clinton Administration and Africa: White House Involvement and the Foreign Affairs Bureaucracies

  • John F. Clark

Both continuity and change capture the evolving role of the Clinton White House in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. Elements of continuity are reflected in a familiar pattern of relationships between the White House and the principal foreign policy bureaucracies, most notably the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and more recently the U.S. Department of Commerce. As cogently argued in Peter J. Schraeder’s analysis of U.S. foreign policy toward Africa during the Cold War era, the White House has tended to take charge of U.S. African policies only in those relatively rare situations perceived as crises by the president and his closest advisors. In other, more routine situations—the hallmark of the myriad of U.S. African relations—the main foreign policy bureaucracies have been at the forefront of policy formulation, and “bureaucratic dominance” of the policymaking process has prevailed. Much the same pattern is visible in the Clinton administration, with the exception of President Clinton’s trip to Africa in 1998. Until that time, events in Somalia in 1993 served as the only true African crisis of the administration that was capable of focusing the ongoing attention of President Clinton and his closest advisors. Given that the United States is now disengaged from most African crises, Africa has remained a “backwater” for the White House and the wider foreign policymaking establishment.

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1. Schraeder, Peter J., United States Foreign Policy Toward Africa: Incrementalism, Crisis, and Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 1137 .

2. Clinton, William J., “Remarks to the White House Conference on Africa” (June 27, 1994), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1995), 1152 (hereafter PPPUS).

3. Patrick J. Sloyan, “How the Warlord Outwitted Clinton’s Spooks,” Washington Post, April 3, 1994, A29.

4. “Remarks to the White House Conference on Africa,” PPPUS, p. 1150.

5. “Interview With Journalists on South Africa,” PPPUS, p. 749.

6. “Remarks to the White House Conference on Africa,” PPPUS, p. 1151.

7. “Digest of Announcements,” July 26, 1994, PPPUS, p. 1369.

8. “Remarks to the White House Conference on Africa,” PPPUS, p. 1151.

9. See “Statement on the Observance of Freedom Day in South Africa,” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents April 28, 1995, 607 (hereafter WCPD); and “Message to Congress on the South Africa-United States Agreement on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy,” ibid., September 29, 1995.

10. “African Roadshow Rolls,” Africa Confidential 39, no. 6 (March 20, 1998): 1.

11. William J. Clinton, “Remarks at the Entebbe Summit for Peace and Prosperity,” WCPD, March 25, 1998, 503.

12. See Peter J. Schraeder, “USA—The Clinton Administration’s Africa Policies—Some Comments on Continuity and Change at Mid-Term,” L’Afrique Politique 1995, 1996,48.

13. U.S. Department of Defense, United States Security Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa,” cited in Henk, Dan and Metz, Steven, The United States and the Transformation of African Security: The African Crisis Response Initiative and Beyond (Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute, December 1997), 11 .

14. Walter Pincus, “CIA Plans to Close 15 Stations in African Cutback,” Washington Post, June 23, 1994, A20, cited in Schraeder, “USA—The Clinton Administration’s Africa Policies,” p. 53.

15. “Recent U.S. Arms Transfers to Africa,” Africa Policy Report no. 4 (March 31, 1996): 12-13.

16. “Sudan’s Rebels Change Their Spots,” Economist, March 28, 1998,43-44.

17. “Sudanese General Points to CIA Base,” Washington Times, October 9, 1997, A15.

18. See “Proclamation 6958—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Are Members or Officials of the Sudanese Government or Armed Forces,” WCPD, November 22, 1996, 2425; and “Executive Order 13067—Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions With Sudan,” ibid., November 3, 1997, 1727.

20. See Rice, Susan E., “U.S. Trade and Investment in Africa—Address to the U.S. Trade and Investment Conference,” New Orleans, Louisiana, April 16, 1998, at the State Department’s Web site,

21. For example, military planners at Fort Leavenworth studied and then reprinted, with commentary, the report of a South African army colonel on the possibility of such a mission in 1995. The report, Foreign Military Studies Office (Fort Leavenworth), “An African Rapid-deployment Force for Peace Operations on the African Continent,” can be found at

22. “Clinton Administration Policy and Human Rights in Africa,” Africa Watch 10, no.1 (March 1998):11-12.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 1548-4505
  • EISSN: -
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
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