Washington DC — The foreign policy objectives of the Obama administration in Africa are rooted in security, political, economic and humanitarian interests, Secretary of State–designate Hillary Clinton told a U.S. Senate committee January 13.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton said the Obama administration's foreign policy objectives for Africa also include "combating al-Qaida's efforts to seek safe havens in failed states in the Horn of Africa; helping African nations to conserve their natural resources and reap fair benefits from them; stopping war in Congo; [and] ending autocracy in Zimbabwe and human devastation in Darfur."
Additionally, she said the United States will support African democracies like South Africa and Ghana, which just had its second peaceful change of power following democratic elections.
"We must work hard with our African friends to reach the Millennium Development Goals in health, education and economic opportunities," she added, referring to a set of goals set out by the United Nations that seek to end poverty and hunger; instill universal education, gender equality, and child and maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS; and promote environmental sustainability and global partnerships.
"The Obama administration recognizes that even when we cannot fully agree with some governments, we share a bond of humanity with their people. By investing in that common humanity, we advance our common security," she told the committee. That panel will report its recommendation to the full Senate, which then must vote on the nomination.
Clinton underscored the importance of U.S. involvement in the continued global fight against HIV/AIDS. "Now, thanks to a variety of efforts, including President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — as well as the work of [nongovernmental organizations] and foundations — the United States enjoys widespread support in public opinion polls in many African countries. Even among Muslim populations in Tanzania and Kenya, America is seen as a leader in the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis," she said.
The secretary-designate said the United States has a chance to build on this success by partnering with nongovernmental organizations to expand health clinics in Africa, giving more people access to life-saving drugs and ensuring fewer mothers transmit HIV to their children and fewer lives are lost.
DARFUR, ZIMBABWE, EASTERN CONGO
Equally important to the Obama administration, Clinton said, will be a continued focus on Darfur.
"This is an area of great concern to me, as it is to the president-elect. We are putting together the options that we think are available and workable. It is done in conjunction, as you would assume, with the Department of Defense. There is a great need for us to sound the alarm again about Darfur. It is a terrible humanitarian crisis, compounded by a corrupt and very cruel regime in Khartoum, and it's important that the world know that we intend to address this in the most effective way possible once we have completed our review, and that we intend to bring along as many people as we can to fulfill the mission of the U.N.-AU force, which is not yet up to speed and fully deployed.…
"We are going to work to try to effectuate it," she pledged.
Clinton acknowledged that chaos — such as piracy — flows from failed states like Somalia. Add to that Zimbabwe, she said, where the regime of Robert Mugabe has so mistreated its people, and the anarchy and violence in Eastern Congo, and this chaos continues to pose problems for the continent.
She called those countries "breeding grounds not only for the worst abuses of human beings, from mass murders to rapes to indifference toward disease and other terrible calamities, but they are [also] invitations to terrorists to find refuge amidst the chaos."
EDUCATION, SOCIAL INVESTMENT
On education and social investment, Clinton said the United States can generate more good will by partnering with international groups and nongovernmental organizations to build schools and train teachers.
"The president-elect supports a global education fund to bolster secular education around the world. I want to emphasize the importance to us of this bottom-up approach. The president-elect and I believe in this so strongly. Investing in our common humanity through social development is not marginal to our foreign policy but essential to the realization of our goals."
Clinton also stressed the importance of microfinance.
"As a personal aside, I want to mention that President-elect Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was a pioneer in microfinance in Indonesia. In my own work on microfinance around the world, from Bangladesh to Chile to Vietnam to South Africa and many other countries, I've seen firsthand how small loans given to poor women to start businesses can raise standards of living and transform local economies. The president-elect's mother had planned to attend a microfinance forum at the Beijing Women's Conference in 1995 that I participated in. Unfortunately, she was very ill and couldn't travel, and sadly passed away a few months later.
"But I think it's fair to say that her work in international development, the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son, our president- elect. And I believe that it has certainly informed his views and his vision. We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham's work in the years ahead," Clinton said.