EDITORIAL: Cry havoc, and let slip the US ex-diplomats

Saturday May 11 2019

A combo photo of South Sudan President Salva Kiir (left) and opposition leader Riek Machar. The two have agreed to delay a transition government by six months. PHOTOS | AFP

By The EastAfrican

The Dogs of War, a Fredrick Forsyth novel published in 1974, romanticises but also exposes the dubious role of the Western mercenary in overthrowing African governments.

Later made into a movie of the same title, the book brings to mind the real life exploits of late French soldier of fortune Bob Denard in Madagascar, and more so in the Comoros Islands, where on several occasions his mercenary bands overthrew and installed governments with ease, throughout the mid-1970s to the late 80s.

While the end of the “Cold War” in 1990, saw a moral renaissance sweep over Western society, bringing to an end the career of Denard, who in 2007 died after a long stint in a French prison, Western interference in Africa is hardly dead.

The mercenary has been laundered and has today assumed a more intriguing and not-so-obvious profile.

In separate reports this week, both global news agency Reuters and Foreign Policy magazine, revealed efforts by South Sudan President Salvar Kiir to block the creation of a war crimes court, itself a key provision of the peace agreement that is supposed to end a bloody six-year war with his arch-rival Riek Machar.

To achieve this goal, Juba is counting on the expertise of Gainful Solutions, a California based lobbying firm that for $ 3.7 million, will try to secure the Donald Trump administration’s nod to the backpedalling.


Lobbying is a centuries-old diplomatic tool that has always been used to advance interests or shape an important player’s perception of a major issue.

In the case of South Sudan, however, what is shocking is that it is the United States that picked up the $4.8 million price tag for setting up the court.

But the names of the guns hired to help turn the dial on an issue with far reaching ramifications for prospects for peace in South Sudan are even more puzzling.

Michael Ranneberger, whose controversial tenure as United States ambassador to Kenya is well remembered, is the managing partner at Gainful Solutions.

Comparing his posture back then, his flip from the high priest of justice and human rights, to the devil’s advocate cannot escape attention.

Former assistant secretary for African affairs Jendayi Frazer, is another US top gun diplomat who is well known for her consultancy services across East and Central Africa since leaving US government service.

At issue here is whether American diplomacy, as represented by Frazer and Ranneberger while in office and consultancy upon leaving government service, subscribes to any universal values at all. It is obvious that these diplomats are exploiting the networks made during their career in Foreign Service to make hay in retirement.

In an ideal world, the stakes in South Sudan are so high, that they should be adequate incentive for anybody to think beyond the short-term gains an individual could make out of the situation.

Ultimately, however, external interference cannot be discussed without examining the role of the African politician who has been a willing accomplice by shunting aside the national interest in favour of self-preservation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to remove the association earlier made between big infrastructure projects in Uganda and Ms Jendayi Frazer. Ms Frazer has not been involved in any infrastructure deals in Uganda and her name was inadvertently mentioned in that segment of the leader. We regret the error.