Wednesday February 1, 2023
By Lauren Sforza
Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on January. 25. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) announced that she will be launching a policy working group to hear from officials and experts who work with and in Africa as her committee assignment remains unclear.
Omar launched the U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the group will hold briefings with administration officials, journalists and people from organizations and social movements affecting the relations between Africa and the United States. The statement said that the group will focus primarily on conflicts within Africa and its global interests, including “perspectives” on the Russia-Ukraine war and “the rise of China.”
“Our role must be as partners with the movements and civil society groups acting on the ground,” Omar said in the statement. “For far too long, the United States has treated Africa as a threat that needed to be contained, a series of fires that needed to be put out, or a junior partner that needed to be disciplined.”
The Minnesota Democrat noted that Congress has paid little attention to issues in Africa, and that this group will serve to research how to best deal with partners on the continent.
“Congress has historically paid scant attention to the continent except when extreme circumstances have prompted reactive responses. The U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group will be a venue for the promotion of American values and American interests in our dealings with our African partners,” she said.
“It is my sincere hope that it will become a central player in creating lasting partnerships and building up a base of expertise so that Congress can be more actively involved in U.S. policy in Africa, and help move the conversation forward for many years to come,” Omar continued.
She previously wrote on Twitter that not being on the Africa subcommittee, despite being born in Somalia, eliminated “all the voices that have never been heard on a committee on the continent.”
Omar is facing opposition from House Republicans over assigning her to the Foreign Affairs Committee, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has vowed to keep her off the panel. McCarthy has accused Omar of “repeated antisemitic and anti-American remarks,” and cited that as the reason for booting her from the committee.
Omar, one of the two first Muslim women elected to Congress, has since apologized for remarks that critics said were antisemitic. She said on Sunday that the move to kick her off the Foreign Affairs Committee is because of her religion, arguing that her opponents are “not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee,” on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
It’s still unclear whether McCarthy will have the votes to block Omar, as at least three House Republicans have signaled they do not support the effort.