Finally, President Obama's first 100 days in office are over, so we can get past that "Hallmark holiday" and he can focus on, you know, the next 1,361 days of his term.
All the headlines have been about Obama's handling of the economy and counterterrorism, but apart from some brief excitement over Somali pirates (forgive me for trying to squeeze out a little bit more, though, because it's such a fascinating story) Africa hasn't featured much on the agenda.
The Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank, has published a comprehensive scorecard for Obama's first 100 days. ("Anyone who wants to lead the United States at such a time must be either crazy or very, very confident," John Feffer writes in the introduction. Feffer then helpfully adds, "Barack Obama, who comes into office at this perilous moment for his country and for the world, certainly falls into the second category.") IPS rates it a 7 out of 10 overall -- "Obama scores high on rhetoric; on action, the review is mixed" -- but the president who's a Mandela-like icon in Africa gets decidedly average scores on African issues -- 5s and 6s across the board from Africa expert Emira Woods.
On executive appointments: 5/10
-- His choice of former U.S. ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson as the State Department's ranking diplomat for Africa is a wise and popular one, but most other posts remain unfilled.
On communication: 5/10
-- Not a lot of rhetoric about Africa. No big surprise here, and no real change from Bush, Woods says.
On diplomacy: 5/10
-- Supports the indictment of Sudanese President Bashir, but hasn't signed on to the Rome Statute to participate in the ICC. (I've written before that I believe this move could be forthcoming -- but it probably isn't a major priority right now.)
Separately, my friend Bec Hamilton, whose new Promise of Engagement blog is a must-read for anyone interested in Darfur and citizen advocacy, writes that after Candidate Obama's tough talk on Darfur, President Obama has made no progress on resolving the Darfur stalemate. There are signs that Obama is continuing the Bush administration's tack of normalizing relations with Sudan -- a move that Candidate Obama called appeasement -- which ought to send advocacy groups through the roof.
Bec writes, "at the 100 day mark...the grace period may be drawing to a close."
Fortunately, Obama still has 93 percent of his term remaining, but as Reuters notes, Obama's predecessor is a tough act to follow: "Former U.S. President George W. Bush oversaw significant aid increases to Africa during his administration, winning fans on the continent as his popularity plunged almost everywhere else."