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Analyst Says Current Economic Crisis Could Impact Future US Assistance to Africa


U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday night made his first speech to a joint session of Congress, acknowledging difficult and uncertain economic times but promising the United States will rebuild and be stronger than ever. Mr. Obama, who has been president for a month, called on Americans to pull together to confront challenges and take responsibility for the country's future.

Ron Walters, professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland told VOA the current U.S. economic slowdown is likely to have some impact on future U.S. economic assistance to Africa under the Obama administration.

"I think it's bound to have a slowing effect on the rate at which the United States is able to continue its commitment not only to Africa but everywhere else around the world where international commitments are. I think what we see is the global problem of retrenchment. And when that happens, countries tend to cut some of their international commitments. How much of an impact, it can't be said right now because we don't know how quickly the economy is going to recover. So we're in an atmosphere of uncertainty, and it's difficult to predict with any degree of confidence of what is going to happen to economic assistance program right now," he said.

Walters said while Africans have every right to expect some help from the Obama administration, it would all depend on the condition of the U.S. economy.

"A lot of that as I said is depending upon the revival economy. Most economists are saying it's going to take at least two years before at least the United States begins to get handle on this. Can the countries that are needy last two years in a sunken economic situation? We don't know," Walters said.

On the crisis in Sudan, a number of high profile individuals, including members of Congress and mostly recently actor George Clooney have called on President Obama to appoint a full time envoy on the crisis in Darfur.

Walters said President Obama will most likely appoint an envoy on the crisis in Sudan.

"The president has taken a position on Darfur that the United States should be concerned about intervening in any place where we have a genuine humanitarian crisis. It is a position that (Vice President) Joe Biden just today on the Darfur question. He has been very strong on wanting United States to have a military intervention. It's been called defensive intervention because it would be designed to stop the massacres, to bring some stability to the situation," he said.

On the other hand Walters said the threats by the Khartoum government in case the International Criminal Court issues any arrest warrants against President Bashir should give the United States reason to think before taking any military action in Sudan.

"On the other hand, al-Bashir has given has given some evidence that he is ready to fight to stop the United Nations and other forces who might want to come in perform that role. So this is a very delicate situation, and it remains to be seeing whether or not the United States will in fact commit itself to military intervention in Darfur," Walters said.

Walters said President can press African leaders to entrenched broader democracy in Africa without jeopardizing U.S. interests by starting with places like Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe where there are problems but where the United States has maintained a health relationship and influence to change the situation.


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