Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Expanding Partnerships in Africa Requires Close Cooperation

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. - Staff Writer

Washington - Close cooperation is essential if the United States is to develop partnerships in Africa to expand democracy and good governance, promote sustainable economic growth and improve access to health care, education and basic services, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

During a daylong conference in Washington on U.S.-African relations, Clinton said the same cooperation needed to accomplish these goals is also critical to eliminating the conflicts and violence that destroy lives and destabilize the sub-Saharan region of Africa.

"We wish to work as partners not only with African governments, but, most importantly, with the people of Africa. Because we believe that the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans," Clinton said at the June 14 conference.

Clinton said progress remains steady across Africa for the expansion of democracy and human rights, which contribute directly to the kind of good governance that can be accountable to the people. Good governance is stymied if, after elections, the government isn't accountable, she said.

In the next two years, Clinton said, 27 nations in sub-Saharan Africa will hold elections, but "we have to recognize the challenges that still exist for even stable democracies that are trying to fully embed their progress." It is also imperative to recognize the challenges confronted by many nations that are still facing severe conflicts, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan, she said.

Last year, Clinton attended the annual conference of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) countries held in Nairobi, Kenya, where she underscored the U.S. commitment to helping the emerging economies of Africa grow. "Central to that is revitalizing agriculture and enhancing its value-added returns for African farmers," she said June 14.

Clinton said the United States is also committed to investing in Africa's women because they are the principal farmers on the continent, producing food for themselves and their families and reinvesting the profits in benefits for their children and future generations.

The United States also recognizes that corruption remains an obstacle to economic growth and many of the goals the United States is pursuing, Clinton said. Looting state coffers deprives millions of African of basic services, and makes it easier for drug traffickers, terrorists and other criminals to expand their ventures.

"Fighting corruption is not only the right thing to do and helps improve people's lives, it gives them more of a stake in their own society," Clinton said. "And it is a high [U.S.] priority."

The United States has committed $63 billion over five years for expanded health care programs across Africa to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and polio. Special emphasis is on Africa and the health of women and children, she said.

The United States recognizes the need for mitigating conflicts, and that the United Nations and African Union have been leaders in peacekeeping and mediation efforts, Clinton said.

"We are strong supporters of that. We pay particular attention to gender-based violence and the recruitment and use of child soldiers," she said.

Africa's rich mineral resources have helped fuel fighting and corruption, so the United States is working closely to promote the responsible use of natural resources through an initiative that encourages openness in mining industries such as diamonds, Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States is working closely with South Africa and the African Union along with others to help the people of Zimbabwe, which is a very difficult challenge to the United States and its Africa-focused policies. "It is a country that has been woefully governed and misruled for a number of years now," she said.

Primarily, the United States is offering humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe. There is a great need for corn or corn meal, cooking oil and other basic commodities, she said.

"And we're trying to help with health care, particularly with communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as with malaria and maternal and child health care," Clinton said.

President Obama has renewed targeted sanctions against 220 individuals and entities associated with the regime of Robert Mugabe, Clinton said.

"We are also looking to link democratic and economic performance by encouraging that the government be held accountable and working with those who are attempting to do so," Clinton said.

By the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State