Michael O’Hanlon, in his Reuters Opinion piece, “In defense of Susan Rice” (Reuters, December 10, 2012), took issue with my New York Times op-ed article, “Susan Rice and Africa’s Despots” (December 9, 2012).
Mine were not ad hominem attacks. It is fair to hold a public official accountable for her career and for the roles she played and continues to play in attempting to resolve African conflicts. I was not questioning U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s desire for a more peaceful continent.
My point was to call attention to Rice’s relationships with Africa’s strongmen, most notably Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, developed over the decades. I think these relationships have affected U.S. credibility in the region and limited its ability to serve as an unbiased arbiter in conflicts.
In response to my criticism, Michael E. O’Hanlon, the director of research and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has challenged me to offer a constructive solution. Challenge accepted.
Many Eritreans have criticized Rice for a perceived bias against the country both in the months leading up to the 1998 border war with Ethiopia and more recently in the U.N. as the Security Council adopted sanctions against Eritrea in 2009 and 2011. Fair-minded Eritreans ‑and I consider myself one ‑ believe Rice’s judgment was clouded by her close relationship with Ethiopia’s Meles, dating back a decade and a half.