10 June 2004

African Leaders Seek G8 Follow-Through

Washington, DC — Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda and Algeria Presidents Meet G8 Today

Six African presidents are participating in today's discussions at the Group of Eight summit of the world's most powerful nations. The Africans are scheduled to meet over lunch with G8 leaders to discuss peacekeeping , debt relief, HIV/Aids, and peace prospects in Sudan, including the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

The six, invited to the summit by President George Bush, who is this year's host, are Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, John Kufuor of Ghana, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. The leaders were scheduled to return to Washington to attend Friday's funeral for former American president Ronald Reagan.

The Africans planned to ask the G8 to follow through on various aspects of the Africa Action Plan that was adopted at the 2002 G8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. A report issued this week by the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations says the G8 needs to "reiterate" support for the action plan and commit to a "full review" of progress on the plan at next year's summit, to be held in the United Kingdom.

"We want to see a commitment to a response consistent with what has been agreed " at previous summits,"pending a more global review" of the action plan in 2005, Mbeki said during a meeting at the Council's Washington office Wednesday night.

A major focus of this year's session is enhancing Africa's capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts. A plan expected to be approved by the G8 leaders would train and equip some 50,000 soldiers for peacekeeping operations. While the initial focus is on Africa, a White House official briefing reporters on Tuesday said the program is global in its ultimate scope. "The idea is to train peacekeepers and equip them and enable them to get to where they're needed all over the world, " the official said, adding that "the need is greatest in Africa."

The plan is expected to cost $660 million over five years," according to an official at the background briefing. The African leaders are also hoping to see significant G8 movement on debt relief for the continent. The British government, along with other members of the European Union, have been pressing the Bush administration, which is seeking a $90 billion debt write-off for Iraq, to agree to forgive a larger share of Africa's indebtedness, particularly to the large multilateral lending institutions.

A statement issued Tuesday by the Jubilee USA Network, a coalition of organizations campaigning for debt forgiveness, applauded reports that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were discussing 100% debt cancellation, not the " the piecemeal and partial relief" provided by previous arrangements.

One of the White House officials who briefed reporters on the peacekeeping initiative described it as "part of a three-part coherent strategy for Africa" by President Bush, along with his $15 billion HIV/Aids Emergency Plan and his commitment "to grow Africa's economies." Programs that support this goal include the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), the official said. Eight African countries (out of 16 nations in all) last month made the list of likely first-round MCA recipients. But key provisions of Agoa are expiring this year, and African leaders want the Bush administration to lobby more actively with the Congress to extend the legislation until 2015.

Earlier in the planning for this week's G8, it appeared that Africa might not figure on the agenda, which has a heavy focus on the Middle East and terrorism. The Council on Foreign Relations report takes the view that the "momentum of the past three years in the G8-Africa partnership" needs to be maintained and argues that doing so serves vital G8 global interests,

The report resulted from a four-month long G8-Africa Partnership Project directed by Princeton Lyman, the Council's Ralph Bunche Fellow for Africa Studies, that included a series of roundtables in Washington, DC, New York and London. The project was directed by J. Brian Atwood, who headed the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration, and Robert S. Browne, president of the Twenty-First Century Foundation.

According to administration officials, the council's efforts played an important role in the decision to place the Africa discussion on the schedule for the Sea Island meeting.

Continued G8 focus on Africa is needed, the report says, to "reinforce the work of African leaders who are championing democracy, human rights, and good governance." The continent's problems seriously affect global security, the report concludes. But, in addition, it argues "Africa's marginalization and persistent widespread poverty represent a major moral responsibility for the wealthy countries."

The document evaluates the track records of African governments and the G8 since the action plan was adopted, giving both players a generally positive score card but emphasizing the scope of what still needs to be done.

Having accomplished the first goal - keeping Africa from being overlooked by the summit and the United States as host government this year, African advocates stress stresses the importance of a full review of the Africa Action Plan "as a major agenda item" at the G8 meeting next year.

The British government began laying the groundwork for that to happen with the appointment of Blair's 16-member international Commission on Africa, which held its first meeting last month.

CFR REPORT: Freedom, Prosperity, and Security [PDF]

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