A former United States (US) ambassador to South Africa is calling on the US to step up and make the unfolding unrest more of a foreign policy priority.
The US’ reaction to the protests in South Africa has so far been muted. The Biden administration has said little about it and has not offered assistance.
Publicly, the US government has said very little about the situation in South Africa.
The White House has been asked about it. The press secretary Jen Psaki said officials in Washington “certainly track and watch closely and certainly have concerns about unrest that we see in the streets in South Africa.”
The US State Department has said the US mission in the country continues to closely monitor security developments. It says it has received many inquiries from US citizens there looking to get flights out of the affected areas.
Ambassador Cameron Hume, who served as US Ambassador to South Africa between 2001 and 2004, says he hopes the US government and South African government could find better ways to cooperate.
SA Unrest I US keeps close eye on developments:
‘US too fixed on domestic issues’
He says the protests are causing problems for the US government – a government he believes is too firmly fixed on domestic issues.
“They raise for American policymakers the type of issues that come up in, for example, Haiti last week. Or what’s going on in Tigray, And I think it’s hard to make the claim that the Biden administration has a star next to all these problems as A-class issues – they’re B class issues is my perception,” says Hume.
He also said the US should be offering to help with South Africa’s efforts against the pandemic.
“Certainly on some things where we have demonstrated capacity and in our humanitarian sense we should be doing more. First of all with COVID, we should be releasing, sharing more of the vaccine supplies that we have,” says Hume.
Vaccine exports from the US to South Africa hit problems last month when at least two million doses had to be destroyed.
They’d been made at a plant in the US city of Baltimore that was found to have contaminated batches of doses.
Assurances that contaminated J&J vaccines will not be released: