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USA: Questions for Candidates, 2
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USA: Questions for Candidates, 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 961016
Note: This two-part article is being distributed to e-mail
addresses on the list with U.S. domains only. A short
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full article is also available at:
Putting Africa on the Agenda: Questions for Candidates and
Democratization & Human Rights
Support for democratization and human rights in Africa is in
principle one of the cornerstones of US policy in Africa.
Public pressure against abusive regimes, support for
elections, aid to a wide variety of groups in African civil
society--all are on the standard list of policy instruments.
Despite the relative consensus on this general policy
framework, however, there are substantive concerns about US
policy in practice.
Probably the most predictable as well as the most disturbing
issue is the pervasive inertial tendency towards business as
usual. Human rights are almost always given lip service, but
far too often in practice are shoved to the side in favor of
more "realistic" preoccupations with economic ties or other
pragmatic considerations, including conflict resolution.
High-profile criticism and, at the extreme, sanctions, are not
appropriate in all cases, of course. However, in many cases
the US response has been far too weak. With respect to
Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Ethiopia, and many other cases, the
response to repression, human rights abuses, or political
exclusion of opponents has typically been to speak softly and
carry a small stick, or none at all. The US has been more
consistently willing to exert meaningful pressure to gain
concessions on economic issues than to use effective leverage
in support of the cause of human rights and democracy.
To the extent that the US has become engaged, through USAID
and other bilateral agencies, in support of civil society and
pro-democracy forces, there remain substantive issues of both
quantity and quality. With strong Congressional pressure to
cut back on funds available for almost all international
involvement, many promising initiatives--including US support
for multilateral initiatives--are ruled out for budgetary
reasons. To give only one set of examples, programs for
international human rights monitors in conflict situations, as
well as the international genocide tribunal, have been
crippled by lack of timely funding and personnel.
There is also the issue of the content of support that is
given. Critics maintain that in many cases US programs
inappropriately promote the uncritical transfer of US views to
other societies, neglect the substance of democratic
participation in favor of formalities of electoral systems and
ill-defined "training" programs, and neglect the potential for
dialogue with Africans themselves about priorities in building
democratic institutions suitable for each country. At a time
when the World Bank and other multilateral institutions are
increasingly realizing the need to listen to grassroots
critics, the US still gives little opportunity for the
intended beneficiaries to engage in dialogue with policymakers
on the results and process of bilateral programs.
(1) Support for democracy and human rights: What level of US
funding do you support for civil society, pro-democracy, and
human-rights groups in Africa, through US agencies? Through
multilateral institutions? Through African governments that
demonstrate the political will to build more effective and
participatory democratic institutions? About the same as now,
less than now, much less than now, more than now, much more
(2) Program accountability: What mechanisms do you propose or
support to gain feedback from African human rights and pro-
democracy representatives, and African civil society more
generally, on US policy and programs concerning human rights
and democracy in African countries?
(3) Nigeria: What additional measures, including specific
sanctions, do you propose to increase pressure on the Nigerian
military regime to respect human rights and accept popularly
elected democratic authority? Do you support the Nigerian
sanctions legislation introduced in 1996 by Senator Kassebaum
(R-KS) and Representative Payne (D-NJ)? Would you support
additional US funds to aid pro-democracy groups and Nigerian
(4) Kenya: Do you support withholding US and international aid
from Kenya in response to the Moi regime's abuses of human
rights, instigation of ethnic violence and harassment of
political opposition groups?
(5) Zaire: What concrete measures would you support to induce
pressure on Zaire leader Mobutu on issues including ethnic
violence in Eastern Zaire, the flow of arms through Zaire
fueling conflicts in Angola and the Great Lakes region, and
repeated failure to stop impeding the process of
democratization for Zaire?
(6) Algeria: Given the economic importance of US-Algerian
ties, and the region-wide implications of the violent
confrontation between a repressive regime and extremist
fundamentalist forces, do you support a more active role for
the US, with European and other countries, in promoting peace
negotiations and an end to violence in Algeria?
Sustainable Development & Social Equity
The issue of what policies are most effective in promoting
sustainable development that can benefit the majority of
Africa's people is complex. There are no magic formulas to
ensure success. US policy should integrate different
components rather than placing sustainable development and
private sector approaches as contradictory alternatives.
Sustainable development should be the goal, including economic
growth, social equity, and preservation of environmental
capital which protects the options of future generations.
These are goals and values which apply equally to the least
developed countries and the most advanced industrial
countries. As Africa advances towards these goals, the
potential for mutually beneficial ties between the US and
Africa also grows.
Trade and aid policies should be seen as complementary, rather
than mutually exclusive options applied to different sets of
countries. The effectiveness of both will also be
significantly affected by the adequacy of measures to address
the serious problem of indebtedness of African states. Both
existing and new programs should be considered in relationship
to each other, and evaluated in terms of their potential
contribution to sustainable and equitable development. There
should be procedures for results-based evaluation of programs,
regardless of whether they are implemented primarily through
governmental agencies, the private sector, or the voluntary
The actual economic ties between the United States and each of
Africa's five regions (North, West, Central, East and
Southern) are already substantial. Sub-Saharan Africa alone,
excluding both North Africa and South Africa, accounts for
more US trade than Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union
combined. The potential for expansion is enormous. To
develop that potential and insure that it benefits ordinary
citizens both in Africa and the United States, however,
requires sustained investment in human resources and
infrastructure, understanding that the payoffs will take time.
With the end of political apartheid and the beginning of
democracy in South Africa, the US and South Africa now
confront many of the same dilemmas. Both need to deal with
racially and class-divided societies, as well as with
escalating crime and economic insecurity. Both must find how
to invest in human resources and promote social equity while
confronting serious budgetary constraints. There is much
opportunity for mutually beneficial exchange, not only in
trade and investment, but also in dialogue about how to
confront similar societal problems.
(1) Do you support reinstatement of the "earmarked" allocation
of assistance funds for the Development Fund for Africa, which
ensures a minimum level of US bilateral support for African
(2) The US is dead last among developed countries in
percentage of Gross National Product going to investment in
sustainable development assistance world-wide, which accounts
for less than 1% of the US federal budget. Yet the average
American thinks we are spending 15 times that much or more.
What are you doing as a candidate to correct this
misinformation, and to promote increases in assistance that
(3) Do you support prompt US payment of outstanding arrears
and current obligations to the World Bank's International
Development Association, as well as to United Nations agencies
engaged in development-oriented programs?
(4) Program accountability: What mechanisms do you propose or
support to gain feedback from African grassroots development
groups, and from African civil society generally, on US policy
and programs concerning economic policy and development in
(5) The "structural adjustment" packages promoted by the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the parallel
"market-oriented economic reform" packages pushed by the US
government, have been strongly criticized by African
grassroots groups as often overly rigid, damaging to the poor,
harmful to the environment, and having a doubtful record even
in terms of economic growth. What mechanisms would you
suggest to promote a wider, more democratic debate about the
proper mix of economic policies, both in international
institutions and the US policy community, which would allow
substantive input from African civil society, including
environmental, labor, human rights, and women's groups?
(6) What measures do you support for more rapid debt relief
for heavily indebted African countries, including better terms
for relief of bilateral loans and of debts to the World Bank
and International Monetary Fund?
(7) Do you support measures such as the one advanced by
Representative McDermott (D-WA) and others to expand US trade
and investment with Africa, and to move towards a US-Africa
Free Trade framework? If so, what measures do you propose to
include so that the benefits are equitably distributed, with
increased African access to the US market as well as vice-
versa, and so that workers' and environmental rights are
protected both in the US and Africa?
(8) South Africa: What measures do you support to increase the
dialogue between the United States and South Africa, at
different levels of government and civil society, about common
problems? What mechanisms do you support for both the South
African and US public to provide more input on the content of
US government programs in South Africa and US-South African
dialogue at elite levels of government and business?
Shaping and Changing Gender Relations
Highlighted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
in September 1995, there is an increasing recognition that the
solution of the full range of Africa's problems cited above
will hinge in large part on the extent to which Africa's women
move towards full participation at all levels. Women and
children are disproportionately the victims of war and
displacement. The voices of women, if they are heeded, are
often the most eloquent and coherent for peacemaking. Support
for the small farmer and rural food security, as well as for
micro-enterprise and viable survival strategies in Africa's
sprawling cities, in practice must mean support for women,
who are disproportionately represented in these life-
sustaining roles. Concerns for equity, human rights promotion
and political participation must integrally support the
protection of women's rights, including protection against
domestic and sexual violence. New World Bank President James
Wolfensohn has joined many earlier advocates in noting that
investment in the education of girls is among the most cost-
effective development action that countries and international
institutions can take.
African women's groups are both growing in number and taking
a wider range of initiatives. But they face many
difficulties, including lack of organizational capacity,
traditional prejudices, and unsupportive governments. Many of
the initiatives promoting women's rights have been advanced by
multilateral institutions, particularly UN specialized
agencies, which face massive budget problems, largely as a
result of US cutbacks. US government support for bilateral
and multilateral family planning programs, vital to women's
health, has been restricted by Congress. There is a
continuing need to incorporate sensitivity to women's rights
not only in economic or civil society assistance programs but
also into human rights criteria which should influence US
bilateral relations with African countries.
(1) Do you support continued and increased funding for
multilateral and bilateral programs promoting African women's
rights, including protection against violence, health, family
planning, education, participation in economic development
(including micro-enterprise), and political participation?
(2) What measures do you support further to incorporate
women's rights issues, including implementation of the Beijing
Platform of Action, into US bilateral relations with African
countries? Into immigration policy towards asylum seekers?
This material is produced and distributed by the Washington
Office on Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union
and civil rights group supported organization that works with
Congress on Africa-related legislation. WOA's educational
affiliate is the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC).