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USA/Africa: Questions for Candidates
USA/Africa: Questions for Candidates
Date distributed (ymd): 021004
Africa Action Document
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information
service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa
Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American
Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for
Africa at http://www.africaaction.org
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
+security/peace+ +US policy focus+
This posting contains questions on Africa policy for candidates.
With the current focus on Iraq or the economy, Africa is even more
marginalized than usual in coverage of the November 5 U.S.
elections. The basic questions remain unanswered. Despite promises
of greater attention to AIDS, poverty, and other issues, the
quesions today are little different than those posed two years ago
To the extent that U.S. Africa policy is now being debated within
official circles, the focus seems to be on the strategic importance
of oil and plans for a presidential trip sometime early next
year. Africa Action will have more on these topics in future
postings. Included below are a few selected links on the new oil
debate, plus a report on an important statement on the topic by
Central African bishops, presenting a perspective currently being
ignored in Washington.
Official perspectives include that of an unnamed State Department
official in New Yorker article cited below. Among his comments:
much of West African oil "is in deep water far offshore, so the
natives don't notice it being taken"
Questions on Africa Policy for Candidates and Policymakers
The questions below are addressed to candidates in the 2002 midterm
elections in the U.S. They cover a range of important issues
and challenges for U.S. Africa policy. These questions also apply
more generally to rich country policymakers whose actions or apathy
shape the international response to issues of critical importance
to Africa, such as HIV/AIDS, debt, and development.
The events of September 11, 2001 brought the U.S. to focus on its
role in the world and on global threats to human security. In the
aftermath of the attacks, there seemed to be a new appreciation
among U.S. policymakers of the need to address the destabilizing
divide between rich and poor countries, and of the importance of
building a shared global response to the most urgent global
challenges from HIV/AIDS, to poverty, to terrorism. However, in
the year since September 11, 2001, little has changed in U.S.
Africa policy. The Bush Administration has continued to disregard
African concerns and international obligations, and Africa remains
marginalized in a system of global apartheid.
RECOGNIZING AFRICA'S IMPORTANCE TO THE U.S.
The U.S. has a special historical relationship with the African
continent. As the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth,
it also has a moral and financial obligation to support African
efforts to address the continent's most urgent challenges. The
most immediate threat to global human security, the HIV/AIDS
pandemic, will not be defeated unless there is a successful effort
to respond to the crisis at its epicenter in Africa. Recent polls
reveal that the American public believes the U.S. has vital
interests in Africa. Thirteen percent of Americans trace their
ancestry to Africa. The U.S. imports approximately 18% of its
crude oil from sub-Saharan Africa. However, the Bush
Administration has consistently sidelined African priorities.
Q: What interests do you think the U.S. has in Africa? What
should be the priorities of U.S. Africa policy?
THE HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC
The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa represents the worst plague in human
history and the most serious threat to the continent's future.
According to UNAIDS, Africa is home to more than 28 million of the
40 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. More than 6,000
Africans die of AIDS every day. The social and economic effects of
the HIV/AIDS crisis are devastating entire countries, and life
expectancies are plummeting across the continent. African
governments and civil society are struggling to address this health
emergency, but they lack the necessary resources and public health
infrastructure to provide essential prevention and treatment
services. The new Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS is being starved
of the resources it needs to defeat the pandemic.
Q: What should the U.S. do to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis in
Africa? Would you support a greater U.S. contribution to the Global
Fund against HIV/AIDS? Do you agree that the war on AIDS is more
important than the war on terrorism? Why/not?
AFRICA'S DEBT CRISIS
Sub-Saharan Africa's massive external debt is the single largest
obstacle to the continent's economic development. It is also a
major hindrance to African governments' efforts to respond to the
HIV/AIDS crisis. Over the past two decades, African countries
have paid out more in debt service to foreign creditors than they
have received in development assistance or in new loans. These
foreign debts drain almost $15 billion out of Africa each year.
Many African countries are still forced to spend more on debt
repayments than on the health or education of their own people.
The current international debt relief framework, the Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, has failed to provide a
solution to Africa's debt crisis.
Q: Do you support canceling Africa's unsustainable debt burden, as
was done for European countries such as Germany and Poland? What
new measures do you propose to achieve this?
Public investment in Africa's development, in the form of official
development assistance (ODA), is critical to African efforts to
address the immense social and economic challenges the continent
faces. While the need for such support is greater than ever,
levels of development assistance have fallen in a consistent
downward trend over the past decade. U.S. spending on foreign aid
has declined and now ranks lowest among the world's richest
countries, relative to the size of its economy. Recent Bush
Administration proposals to increase foreign aid to Africa are
still less than the U.S.' fair share, and will not come into effect
for several years yet, if approved by Congress.
Q: Recent polls reveal that the American public supports more
foreign aid for Africa. Do you support an increase in U.S.
development assistance to African countries? Why/not? Do you think
Washington should dictate economic policies to African countries as
a condition for aid?
Africa is marginalized in the global economy by both the
institutions and the rules that govern the system. Both are
dominated by the interests of the world's richest countries. The
World Bank, the IMF and the WTO are controlled by the U.S. and
other G7 countries. These institutions have come to dominate
economic policy-making in African countries, and this has severely
weakened the capacity of African governments to respond to urgent
domestic needs. Poor terms of trade and restricted market access
also keep Africa economically vulnerable, and have restricted the
continent's share of world trade to 1%.
Q: How would you propose reforming the institutions that govern the
global economy in order to make them more democratic and
accountable to those affected by their decisions? What do you
think is the best way to increase the benefits African countries
could derive from international trade?
HUMAN RIGHTS & DEMOCRACY
Democratic governance and the respect for human rights are
indispensable to ensuring stability and sustainable development in
African countries. U.S. support for human rights in Africa also
helps promote international security. The failure to support
human rights in Africa, and the practice of using double standards
to measure human rights practices in Africa, contribute to the loss
of credibility and influence that the U.S. government has on these
Q: How can the U.S. best support democracy and human rights in
Africa? Do you agree that U.S. support for democracy in Africa
should extend beyond support for elections in African countries?
What should be the focus of more long-term U.S. efforts?
U.S. diplomatic and financial support for conflict resolution in
Africa is essential to both regional and global stability.
Unresolved conflicts in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), continue to threaten democratic progress and development
efforts in the continent as a whole. The human and economic toll
of these wars has been devastating. Secretary of State Powell has
referred to the war in Sudan as "the greatest tragedy in the world
today." In Angola, progress has been made with this year's ceasefire
agreement, yet massive challenges still face the country after
27 years of war. U.S. support for bilateral and multilateral
efforts to end ongoing conflicts in Africa, and to mitigate the
impact of these conflicts, is critical.
Q: What should be the role of the U.S. in promoting peace and
security in Africa? Which countries should be priorities of the
U.S., and why? Do you agree that the U.S. has some degree of
obligation to support peace and reconstruction in countries where
it helped promote war, e.g. Angola and Congo?
Many people say that because the U.S. benefitted so much from the
slave trade and the subsequent exploitation of Africa's human and
natural resources, the U.S. should pay reparations to Africans and
their descendants. Precedents for reparations include the
compensation provided by the German government to Holocaust
survivors, and the restitution provided Japanese internment camp
survivors by the U.S. government. The call for reparations for
Africa is based not only on historical exploitation and destruction
caused by the slave trade and colonialism, but also the crimes of
structural racism, as well as Cold War support for apartheid and
other brutal dictatorships in Africa.
Q: Do you believe the U.S. owes reparations to Africa and African
descendants? If so, how do you propose reparations be implemented
in order to address this legacy of injustice? If not, why not?
USA & African Oil - selected recent articles
Institute for Advanced and Strategic Studies
Study by an Israeli think tank on strategic importance of
African oil, which has won support in both the Bush administration
Ken Silverstein, "U.S. Oil Politics in the 'Kuwait of Africa'"
(Equatorial Guinea), The Nation, April 22, 2002
Jon Lee Anderson, "Our New Best Friend: Who needs Saudi Arabia when
you've got Sao Tome?" New Yorker, October 7, 2002. Nine-page
feature article; not available in on-line edition. Includes quotes
from unnamed U.S. official, such as much of the oil "is in deep
water far offshore, so the natives don't notice it being taken" and
Sao Tome "is basically the only stable democracy in West Africa.
Other recent news articles on the topic
[some articles may no longer be available on current web sites]
East African, "U.S. Moves to Protect Interest in African Oil"
September 16, 2002
New York Times, "In Quietly Courting Africa, U.S. Likes the Dowry:
Oil" September 19, 2002
Houston Chronicle, "West African oil suddenly strategic for U.S."
September 20, 2002
The Independent (Banjul), "Africa Becomes New Focal Point of U.S.
Energy Strategy" September 23, 2002
CENTRAL AFRICA-WEST AFRICA:
Few benefit from oil wealth, bishops say
ABIDJAN, 18 Jul 2002 (IRIN) - Central Africa is rich in oil and
other natural resources but its people are among the world's
poorest, say Roman Catholic bishops who have appealed to
petroleum companies, governments, international bodies and
churches in western countries to help end the inequities linked
to the oil industry in the region.
The call came in a joint pastoral letter on the impact of oil in
the region, issued at the end of a plenary assembly of the
Association des Conferences Episcopales de la Region d'Afrique
Centrale (ACERAC), held from 7 to 14 July in Malabo, capital of
Strategic oil region
Just about every country in the region is an established, new or
prospective oil producer. Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of
Congo have been exporters for about three decades. Chad and
Equatorial Guinea are newcomers, and exploratory activities in
the northeast of Central African Republic have been promising,
the bishops noted.
The Gulf of Guinea - which includes Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial
Guinea and Gabon, along with Nigeria - is becoming an important
strategic zone in the global oil industry, they said.
"It offers an interesting alternative to the Middle East," added
the document, titled "L'eglise et la pauvrete en Afrique
centrale: le cas du petrole" (The Church and Poverty in Central
Africa: the case of oil) "Twenty-five percent of American oil
will soon be imported from sub-Saharan Africa, with an important
share coming from our countries".
However, the vast majority of Central Africans have not benefited
from their oil for a number of reasons, says ACERAC (in English,
Association of Episcopal Conferences of the Region of Central
Whereas member states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) nationalised their oil sector, Central Africa's
oil is in the hands of private foreign companies, so most of its
income comes in the form of taxes. OPEC countries use production
cutbacks to keep their prices afloat. Central African ones have
no such leverage.
The bishops also denounced what they saw as "complicity" between
oil companies and politicians in the region, where oil incomes
are used to keep regimes in power and "contracts are drawn up in
absolute secrecy". "The contracts our states sign with the [oil]
companies are surely to the advantage of the latter and reinforce
our economic dependence," they said.
The few dividends derived from such contracts have not
contributed to poverty alleviation and "high illiteracy,
mortality and malnutrition rates still characterise the region"
while roads, health care and education "leave much to be
The region's people pay a heavy price
For the bishops, the negligeable benefits that have accrued to
the region's people are dwarfed by the price they have had to
While offshore production usually has little direct incidence on
people's lives, it affects the marine population and occasional
spills mar the ecological balance. "A study is under way in
Congo, where changes have been observed along the shoreline in
oil-producing areas," ACERAC said. The effects of onshore
production are easier to see: "biodiversity is endangered, and
the population is subjected directly to inflation and endemic
"The example of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline clearly illustrates
this," the bishops say, referring to a project involving the
construction of a pipeline through which oil from new fields in
southern Chad will be pumped to the port of Kribi in southwestern
Cameroon. "Despite the assurances given by the different partners
involved in this project, adverse effects have been observed in
various localities," ACERAC noted. These included skyrocketing
prices of basic commodities, increased prostitution and AIDS, the
erosion of morals and the destruction of the environment, the
Moreover, there is an "imbalance between the harm suffered as a
result of expropriations, on one hand, and compensatory measures,
on the other. "Oil companies violate commitments made with regard
to environmental protection, the provision of jobs and markets,"
according to the clergymen, who said local administrations
sometimes pressured populations into submitting to unjust
decisions by oil companies.
Oil has also fuelled conflict in the region, they pointed out,
noting that within states, there was a certain animosity between
oil-mining regions and others. "The territorial location of oil
wells and the unequal distribution of oil incomes have become
arguments in favour of a new splintering of our countries," said
the bishops. They added that seccessionist, regionalist and
ethnic-based trends that jeopardise the cohesion of states were
being justified by factors such as injustice in the exploitation
of natural resources in given areas.
Moreover, many power struggles were centred on controlling oil
money, which has also been used to finance arms purchases and the
maintenance of private militias in some countries of the region
"sometimes with the complicity of oil companies" which "based on
their interests, have given financial and logistical support to
belligerents in the region". The ensuing conflicts have
contributed largely to the proliferation of arms, which has
become one of the main causes of insecurity "on the borders of as
well as within our countries," the bishops added. They were also
worried that regional countries might go to war over violations
of oil zones along their borders.
What governments, transnationals need to do
The bishops praised the work of people who strove to eradicate
injustice, corruption, human rights violations and environmental
degradation in Central Africa, but said they were still very few.
They called on others to shrug off fear and selfishness and join
the struggle for respect for human dignity, the preservation of
people's rights and social justice.
They welcomed regulatory and corrective steps some states had
taken or planned in areas such as the management of oil revenues,
environmental protection and social measures, expressing the hope
that other states would follow suit and, especially, that the
measures would be enforced.
ACERAC called on governments to: work towards fair distribution
of the fruits of oil mining by investing the income generated in
social sectors, offering services at reduced costs for all
citizens; manage natural resources with foresight by creating
funds for future generations and investing in economic
diversification; encourage transparency by involving civil
society in the decision-making process, disseminating information
on the mining of oil and other resources, and consulting
organised groups when drawing up contracts.
Governments were also asked to "ensure that commitments made by
the oil companies and any other enterprises engaged in oil mining
are respected" and to "avert conflict by investing not in arms
but in peace-building activities".
The drawing up of codes of conduct by some oil companies, with a
view to correcting past mistakes and improving their image, also
came in for favourable mention. However, the bishops urged the
transnationals to fully respect "the lives of our people, our
environment and our individual and social rights".
The companies were also asked to draw up plans for providing fair
compensation for material and moral harm their activities cause
to the communities and nations, and to consider local populations
as partners by offering them the possibility to define their
needs with regard to compensation and social infrastructure for
They were also told to stay out of the region's conflicts and
contribute to transparency and the fight against corruption by
making the revenue they give to states public.
How can the World Bank and western churches help?
International financial institutions earned appreciation for
their involvement in oil mining, and the World Bank came in for
mention for the emphasis it has been placing on the use of oil
income to alleviate poverty. "May this noble wish become a
reality through the bank's refusing to sanction any activity that
deviates from this guideline," the bishops said. "May it set up
participatory mechanisms for monitoring petroleum projects in our
region, evaluate the effectiveness of its operational directives,
and establish means and criteria for making them more concrete."
The bishops expressed gratitude to churches in other countries
and continents that have shown solidarity with those of Central
Africa. "The oil companies operating in our region are
headquartered in your countries," they said. "We hope you will
echo our voices in your respective countries.
"May the people of good will in your countries who take action in
favour of the humanisation of oil mining in our region receive
real support from you."
This material is distributed by Africa Action (incorporating the
Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the
American Committee on Africa). Africa Action's information
services provide accessible information and analysis in order to
promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that
advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of