Pssst! Here’s a Cheat Sheet for the US-Africa Leaders Summit

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Need some talking points? Make reference to China’s influence, the unrest in South Sudan and Libya, and be sure to throw in, “Did you hear what Hillary said?!” and you’ll be all right.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on August 4, 2014.

Africa’s coming to town.

And in a big way. Africa’s movers and shakers are in Washington, D.C., this week to chop it up with President Barack Obama about trade and investment opportunities, politics and the U.S.’s interests in the region’s stability. The 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is the largest gathering of African presidents and leaders ever to meet with a U.S. president.

If you’ve got your eyes on the international stage, then this initiative should be of no surprise. China has been making a killing in Africa. The Chinese had the insight to take Africa seriously as an economic partner when a lot of nations saw the continent more as a humanitarian charity case. Now that Africa’s influence is becoming increasingly important to a lot of countries’ bottom lines and GDPs, Western nations are looking at the Motherland through a new lens.

The festivities start on Monday. Here are some topics to keep in mind when gabbing about the summit at the watercooler or during happy hour as you take in the news reports that’ll trickle out of this three-day affair:

1.) South Sudan’s civil war is ongoing.

United Nations peacekeepers patrol a road in Malakal, South Sudan, as internally displaced South Sudanese people go about their daily routines.

United Nations peacekeepers patrol a road in Malakal, South Sudan, as internally displaced South Sudanese people go about their daily routines.

The civil war in South Sudan is not looking like it’s getting any better. The 2013 fallout between its warring ethnic groups—those loyal to the current president, Salva Kiir of the Dinka tribe, and those loyal to a deposed vice president, Riek Machar of the Nuer tribe—is picking up steam again since the meetings that were supposed to take place last week to drum up solutions were delayed. Apparently both sides are still engaged in off-the-record conversations about the state of the transitional government. South Sudan is a fairly new country—it split from Sudan in 2011 and has been embroiled in ethnic fighting stemming from that succession ever since. That there’s still fighting going on in one of its northern states is not helping move things along.

The United States and Europe threw down the gauntlet by freezing important assets in the country and told both sides that they have until mid-August to form an interim government that has a clear plan for maintaining the peace.

2.) Ebola is refueling Africa’s “image” problem.

Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.

Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, primarily Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have people on edge. In fact the leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone will be skipping the summit in order to tend to the Ebola outbreaks in their countries. Within the past two weeks, more than 100 new cases were reported in these countries, and two American health care workers who were working in Liberia contracted the virus. Besides the obvious health concerns, one point that is not being discussed, which ought to be, is how this recent outbreak is unraveling the years of work it took to undo the perception that Africa is a diseased continent and that travelers going there should beware.

Unfortunately, for many parts of West Africa, that perception is now a reality.

3.) Libya’s power vacuum has taken a turn for the worse.

Libyans take part in a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, on July 31, 2014, calling for international intervention to protect civilians.

Libyans take part in a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, on July 31, 2014, calling for international intervention to protect civilians.

The summit, like most initiatives about Africa, will likely focus on the continent’s sub-Saharan countries, but Libya, an African country that is typically brought up during discussions relating to the Middle East, ought to be on everyone’s minds as well.

Getting rid of a dictator is typically a good thing but the power vacuums that emerge often create bigger problems. It’s been nearly three years since Libya’s former leader Moammar Gadhafi was disposed. But in that time, the interim government has not been able to reign in the various law-enforcement groups that have vied to fill that slot and provide security. The situation has gotten so bad on the ground that several embassies were evacuated—including that of the U.S.—and the United Nations no longer has a strong presence in the region.

There’s been chatter that this is the West’s problem, since Gadhafi’s ousting was heavily influenced and backed by Great Britain and France. Some say the enthusiasm to hold Libya’s hand as it transitions to a sound democracy hasn’t been there, and that lack of support is causing a lot of violence, unrest and confusion on the ground.

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All the Times Eric Holder Kept It Completely 100

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

Here’s proof that our attorney general is as real as they come.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on July 24, 2014.

It was nothing for Attorney General Eric Holder to tell ABC News that Sarah Palin “wasn’t a particularly good vice presidential candidate” and for him to suggest, in his own way, that she ought to read the Constitution before proposing that President Barack Obama be impeached—seeing as how there would be no legal basis for such an act. Lest we forget, Holder has been speaking his mind since he got the job, and lucky for us—that is, people who love it when politicians let loose and tell us what they’re really thinking—he won’t stop.

As attorney general, Eric Holder is America’s chief law-enforcement officer. And judging by this roundup of times that he has spoken candidly and uninhibitedly about hot-button topics and controversial issues, I think it’s safe to say that Holder is the type of counsel who will give it to you straight—no chaser.

1. That time he said most of the hate and vitriol that he and the president receive stems from racism.

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder

Holder is not saying anything that black folk and liberals haven’t been saying among themselves for years in barbershops and hair salons, at the kitchen table and on MSNBC. Let’s face it: President Barack Obama could bring unemployment down to 3 percent, get the Dow to 20,000, make peace in the Middle East, solve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, find that Malaysian plane, have a caramel latte once a week with Rush Limbaugh, curse Al Sharpton’s name, and he would still be hated on by some individuals who can’t stand to see an African-American president in the White House.

During an interview with ABC, Holder basically articulated that there is nothing—I repeat, nothing—that the president could do to win over those people who can’t wrap their minds around there being a black president. These bigots hide behind their half-baked political arguments and trot out played-out talking points from the 1980s to mask their utter disgust of what Obama represents: an H-N-I-C.

2. That time he begged David Simon to bring back The Wire.

holder and the wire _2

Attorney General Eric Holder; Idris Elba and Wood Harris in The Wire

We knew that Obama’s presidency was going to be a truly special experience when he gushed about how much he loved The Wire—the critically acclaimed HBO show. We black people practically stomped our feet, cupped our mouths and mouthed “Yooooo!” when Obama said that Omar, the gay stickup bandit played by Michael K. Williams, was his favorite character.

But Holder one-upped his boss during a panel discussion when he pleaded for David Simon, the show’s creator and lead writer, to bring back the series for a sixth season. The attorney general, like the rest of the show’s cultlike following, knew how authentic the series was in communicating the complexities of inner-city life: There are no good or bad characters in the hood. Nearly everyone—the cops included—is shades of gray.

3. That time he told those Republicans who were hell-bent on perpetuating the Fast and Furious scandal to get a life.

holder_3

Attorney General Eric Holder

It was a well-intentioned strategy of follow-the-gun-trail. Federal agencies looked the other way while American guns were being sold up the ladder to high-level drug-cartel leaders in Mexico. The plan was that U.S. law-enforcement officials would monitor the gun sales to eventually catch all of the big-time criminals wreaking havoc in and around the border.

That was until some of the guns were found at the murder site of a U.S. border-patrol agent. Somebody needed to take the fall for Operation Fast and Furious, and the GOP picked Eric Holder. He became the only Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. The attorney general didn’t take too kindly to what he perceived was election-year shucking and jiving by Republicans, and described the entire ordeal as “truly absurd conspiracy theories” that were “unnecessary and unwarranted.”

It’s his politically correct way of saying, “This is bulls–t.”

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