Africa, No. 487
ADA urges Congress to increase assistance for the poorest and most disadvantaged African nations and their citizens.
Americans for Democratic Action has a long history of supporting the growth of democracy and liberty on the African continent, opposing social injustice on the continent, and insisting on expanded development funds.
*Millenium Challenge Account: President George W. Bush has promised to dramatically increase U.S. foreign aid for development and in 2004 launched the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), an effort intended to increase U.S. foreign aid over by $5 billion in three years, so that by 2006 an annual doubling of current levels would be achieved. In 2004, $1 billion was appropriated for the MCA, slightly less than what the President requested. The MCA has not yet achieved its goal: past 2006, President Bush requested only $3 billion and the Congress appropriated $2 billion for FY 2007.
The Millennium Challenge Account initiative still proposes a far smaller increase in assistance than the U.S. can and should provide. Proportionately, the U.S. currently ranks at the bottom of all donor countries with only 0.1% of GNP, or just over $27.5 billion, going to foreign aid worldwide (almost half of that amount going directly to only two countries: $10.2 billion to Iraq and 1.5 billion to Afghanistan). Only a handful of countries meeting certain economic and political criteria, defined by Washington, will be eligible to receive aid through the MCA. The eligibility criteria dictated by the U.S. creates relationships reminiscent of colonial times. They also create competition among poor countries for a portion of the relatively meager MCA funds. This selective approach to development assistance risks punishing those countries in which the people are the worst off and in greatest need of international support.
This record stands in stark contrast to previous U.S. aid programs in Africa. In the past the U.S. has provided hundred of thousands of families in Mozambique with seeds to help them to grow their own food, and has funded agricultural credit programs in Ghana that helped rural farm women expand their subsistence agriculture so that they can market their surplus. Further U.S. aid to Africa has provided better water and sanitation for tens of thousands of families in South Africa and helped clear tens of thousands of land mines in Angola.
The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) may be diverting money from “core” development accounts such as those promoted via Official Development Assistance by the USAID and allocating the money unevenly. Since adoption of the MCA, Africa has experienced 10% reduction in US aid for development (not including HIV programs). On the other hand, the MCA has helped other countries in the Near East, which have experienced a 200% increase in U.S. aid.
*HIV/AIDS: Almost 42 million Africans are currently living with HIV/AIDS, but only 2% of these people have access to life-saving treatment. The dramatic announcement by President Bush in his January 2004 State of the Union address of a $15 billion program over five years to combat HIV/AIDS is similarly strong on rhetoric and short on results. The President followed up this speech with a request for $450 million in funding for this initiative, well short of the promised $2.7 billion. Recently, President Bush again committed himself to address his best efforts to work with the Congress in order to increase the promised $15 billion to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPAR) to $30 billion, in FY 2008.
As part of this effort, in 2004 the Bush administration also launched a U.S. Global AIDS Initiative and created a new bureaucracy headed until recently by former pharmaceutical executive Randall Tobias. This initiative compete with and duplicate efforts of other more important vehicles such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.
The Bush Administration’s close ties with the pharmaceutical industry raise serious questions about its commitment to ensuring low-cost access to treatment for HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. Although President Bush has acknowledged that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are necessary, U.S. policies continue to block African countries’ efforts to acquire these drugs at the lowest cost for their people.
*Debt Relief: Africa remains the continent with many of the poorest countries in the world, many of which are saddled with unpayable levels of international debt. The tiny country of Malawi, even after becoming eligible for “debt relief” from the International Monetary Fund, is still devoting 52% of its GNP to debt payments. The president of Nigeria, one of the largest countries on the continent, in June 2004 asked why the U.S. supported cancellation of the foreign debts of Iraq and Pakistan, but could not offer similar support for the countries of Africa. “Debt relief, debt cancellation is a political, not economic issue,” he noted bitterly.
*Nigeria: The U.S. government is rightly concerned about international supplies of oil and gas, but too often U.S. economic interests in stable energy supplies in the short term take precedence over long-term development and stability. Chevron, Shell and other major U.S. and European oil companies operate in Nigeria without regard to the human and social rights of the people of the Niger Delta oil fields. In several recent incidents, these corporations have been complicit with Nigerian security forces in gross human rights violations in the oil producing communities and in the growing militarization of the political crisis in the area. Those companies are accused of supporting well-paid police officers who commit violence, mistreatment and torture against the population as means to control tensions between communities and disputes over resources, yet the root causes of those tensions are the unfulfilled economic and social rights of the individuals. Payments are made to the federal government with little benefit to the people of the Delta’s impoverished local communities, whose land produces billions of dollars annually for the oil companies. As a result, tensions increase in the region, and oil spills and acid rain devastate the local environment.
*Democratic Republic of the Congo: The Democratic Republic of the Congo is trying to emerge from a brutal conflict in which more that 3 million people have died, and many thousands more have been maimed. On 6 December, 2006, Joseph Kabila was elected president in the first democratic process, since Congolese independence. A peace process is still ongoing, and a grossly under-funded and under-resourced peacekeeping force is now in place in the country, but neither the countries in the region nor the international community have demonstrated the will to address the military, political, and economic problems that are at the root of this conflict.
*Zimbabwe: The regime of President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has destroyed his country. While acknowledging that colonial patterns of land ownership have left Zimbabwe and many other countries in the region with a terrible legacy, ADA condemns Mugabe’s practices of seizing property from white commercial farmers who are in adequate by compensated and deported, although ruled unlawful by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court. In defiance of his Minister of Home Affair’s, opposition. Mugabe carried out the evictions ultimately affecting the farm workers (the majority of whom are migrants from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique as much as the white farmers). Mugabe’s economic policies have nearly destroyed the country leading to unemployment 85%, soaring national debt, 1000% inflation, and poverty afflicting up to 90% of the population. He remains President by means of a rigged election. He has also indicted leaders of the opposition for treason, a charge that carrying a potentially death penalty. Mugabe uses the country’s security forces to protect himself and his small inner-circle while Zimbabwe falls into ruin.
*Liberia: The peace process in Liberia, a country with strong ties to the United States, has been moving ahead at an uneven pace. Although the demobilization of ex-fighters continues, there are still tens of thousands of internally displaced people, and the new government does not have effective control over the whole country.
The crisis in Liberia in 2003 provided a clear example of official U.S. disdain for Africa. Despite unique historic ties and important national interests, President Bush stalled on this crisis during his visit to Africa, and was ultimately unwilling to make a commitment to stabilizing Liberia and supporting its people. The U.S. can play a crucial role in helping to guarantee the positive changes introduced by the new government, as West African countries attempt to counteract insecurity in the broader region, but a real commitment appears unlikely. Congress did succeed in appropriating $200 million for Liberia in 2004. But what is needed most from the U.S. is the political will to vigorously support West African efforts to stabilize their countries and the larger West Africa region.
*The brutal civil war in Sudan has claimed over two million lives and displaced more than 4 million since the conflict began in 1983. Millions more have died since Sudan gained its independence in 1956 in its almost never-ending civil war. Although tentative peace agreements have been signed consecutively, in 2004 and 2006, horrifying reports of genocide continue to emerge from the Darfur region and eastern Sudan. Up to one million people are now at risk in Darfur as a result of an ongoing government–sponsored campaign to destroy a portion of its population. According to some international experts the loss of life in Darfur could even dwarf the horrific deaths seen in Rwanda.
ADA calls for:
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Foreign and Military Policy Commission