Africa: Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold Remarks for Africa Policy Advisory Panel Report Roll-Out


Washington, DC — I want to thank CSIS for giving me this opportunity to talk about U.S.-Africa policy today, and to thank all of the members of the Africa Policy Advisory Panel and the staff who spent long hours working on the reports that were submitted to the Secretary of State and are before you today. It was a pleasure for me to work with such accomplished experts, and I believe that the reports produced by the Panel are full of sound analysis and important recommendations.

But as good as this work is, these reports simply are not enough. To translate sound thinking into policy that will yield real results, we need a sea change, across the partisan divide and throughout government, that brings a new seriousness and commitment to our engagement in Africa. We need to be operating in a context in which we all acknowledge that it is inexcusable for a presidential candidate to say, as one did four years ago, that Africa "doesn't fit into our national strategic interests, as far as I can see them."

We need consensus that our policy should involve more than reacting to crises and more than batting down emerging threats. We need sustained, not sporadic, engagement if we are to foster the real partnerships that we will need in the years ahead.

We must not repeatedly "rediscover" Africa with a flurry of flashy new initiatives that are usually financed by squeezing resources out of the last round of initiatives, or worse, out of basic development efforts.

And we need to stop personalizing our relationships, relying on "our man" in this or that capital, allowing one person to embody the prospects of progress for millions. Instead of falling in and out of love with various heads of state or opposition leaders, we need much more serious thinking and engagement with the next generation of African leaders, whether they enter the private sector or the political arena, or become driving forces in civil society.

I believe that we need to think in very concrete terms about why Africa is so important and so indispensable to pursuing our most important foreign policy interests. Then we need to think about how to cultivate the right kinds of long-term relationships with African partners, and that means focusing on Africa's future. Finally, we need to acknowledge that today, we are not prepared, at the nuts-and-bolts level, to pursue the policies that are in our interest - and we need to make the necessary changes to get our posture right.

Africa and Our First Foreign Policy Priority

Since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, many Americans have come to understand that state sponsorship of terrorism is one kind of serious threat that must be addressed, but also that the absence of a functioning state is another. For several years now I have worked to call attention to some of the manifestations of states' weakness in various parts of Africa ­ both in terms of humanitarian and economic collapse and in terms of such phenomenons as piracy, illicit air transport networks, and trafficking in arms, gemstones, and people. I believe that we must think more carefully about the relationship between criminal activity, corruption, and humanitarian crisis so as to help make these states less appealing to criminal opportunists, including terrorists.

Our first foreign policy priority is to combat the terrorist forces who would do us harm. Africa is unquestionably an important part of that effort. The 1998 embassy bombings, the 2002 bombings in Mombasa, and the consistent and credible reports of terrorist organizations operating in north, west, and southern Africa leave no room for doubt.

Short-term fixes to concerns about the terrorist presence in Africa - military strikes on terrorist training camps or freezing the assets of traders involved in laundering terrorist assets - may address some immediate threats, but they do little to ensure that our children will not face the same problems in the years to come. We must develop policies to help bring lasting stability to these terribly unstable places, to build solid relationships and gain access to solid information.

This seems an obvious point in many ways, but translating general agreement into action is no easy thing. Take the case of Somalia. I applaud the Administration's East African Counter-Terrorism Initiative, which recognizes that there are real threats in Somalia. We know that some of the most troubling actors on the international scene are the only ones involved in providing basic services to some people in parts of Somalia ­ such that parents can send children to an extremist school, or to no school at all. Shouldn't our strategy have a Somalia component, rather than just focusing on states around Somalia, as the East African Initiative does?

I raised this issue at a hearing I chaired in early 2002, and deduced that we had no real strategy. I have asked about it since at hearings and in meetings. No real answer. For two years in a row, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved authorizing legislation containing a provision that I authored calling for a Somalia strategy, but none has been shared with us. I worked with the appropriators to ensure that last year the Foreign Operations appropriations bill contained language calling for a report on our strategy in Somalia, is due this month. This is about American interests. It is not a remotely partisan issue. Moving forward should not require pulling teeth.

A word of caution is in order when talking about the need to combat terrorism in Africa by working to shore up weak states. Our post 9/11 engagement should not mean a return to Cold War myopias or the convenient but short-sighted patron-client politics of the past.

Another dawning realization in this country is that subordinating basic human rights to accommodate larger strategic goals is a tactic that often comes back to haunt us. In Liberia and in the Congo, U.S.-backed dictatorships utterly destroyed the institutions of the state and society, leaving civilians few tools for building a better future, and warlords ample opportunity to continue looting these countries' wealth. Regimes that thrive on corruption and injustice eventually create weak and broken states ­ it could not be more clear that our long-term national interests are on the side of accountability and respect for basic human rights.

Cultivating Future Partners

If, as I believe is the case, the U.S. must aim to foster stability in Africa as a part of our fight against terrorism, then we must do so by working to cultivate future partners.

In the midst of immediate crises and political intrigue, it can be easy to overlook major demographic trends. But we do so at our peril. The intelligence community has long recognized the importance of demography for future stability. In July of 2001, just months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th irreversibly changed the way we think about our security and about the world, the Central Intelligence Agency published a report on "Long-Term Global Demographic Trends: Reshaping the Geopolitical Landscape." The report makes for provocative reading.

Despite the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS, the number of young Africans will continue to grow dramatically. In fact, the report indicates that "the size of youth bulges will decrease in all regions of the world except for Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 20 years." All of the ten countries projected to have the largest youth bulges in 2020 are in sub-Saharan Africa. And the report raises real questions about whether African economies will be able to generate jobs for these youths, and about whether African realities will be able to meet the raised expectations and aspirations of increasingly urbanized populations with access to the same media messages that our own children see. To quote directly from the report:

"The failure to adequately integrate large youth populations in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to perpetuate the cycle of political instability, ethnic wars, revolutions, and anti-regime activities that already affect many of these countries. . . . Increases in youth populations will aggravate problems with trade, terrorism . . . and crime and add to the many existing factors that already are making the region's problems increasingly difficult to surmount." Vast youthful populationscoping with unemployment, alienation, and a sense of humiliation? It is hard not to feel a sense of alarm in contemplating this scenario. And when one thinks about what the world and the future looks like for many of Africa's children today, that sense of alarm is heightened.

UNICEF reports that about 11% of children are enrolled in primary school in Somalia. 52% of Ethiopian children under five suffer from moderate and severe stunting due to malnutrition. And UNICEF estimates that in Nigeria alone, nearly a million children had been orphaned by AIDS by 2001. Too many African girls do not have the power to make healthy choices that can keep them HIV-negative. Too many African children have already seen the cruelties of war - too often as soldiers on the battlefield. Think of the terrorized youth militia members of Zimbabwe, or the children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, and ask yourself what the future will bring.

Ten years ago today, the Rwandan genocide was coming to an end, and that small country's future depends upon the children who survived that horror. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a resolution I authored commemorating the Rwandan genocide, and calling for a focus on the future of the Rwandan people, so that they may enjoy full civil and political rights and feel free to voice legitimate disagreements honestly and publicly without fear of violence or intimidation. But today we find that the Rwandan government is considering a request from the parliament - which is dominated by the ruling party - to dissolve one of the country's leading human rights groups and four other civil society organizations. The parliamentary commission that made these recommendations interpreted even disagreement with government plans to consolidate land holdings as support of genocidal ideas. If current trends continue, what will the future look like for Rwanda's children? The U.S. should not be silent.

The U.S. is engaged in a global fight that will take years to wage and cannot be won without cooperation around the world. What kind of partners will these children become? What will they believe about America? Already credible research suggests that many African states, and many African states with Muslim majorities, are viewing the U.S. with suspicion, anger, and fear. For those fortunate to live in democratic states, what kind of voters will they become?

There is so much that is strong and admirable and encouraging about so many African communities. We must think about how to help our African partners make the most of those strengths, and we need to prove to them that we share their interests in building a better, more peaceful, more prosperous, more just future.

How? By not losing sight of the enduring relevance of promoting basic human rights. By resisting the temptation to turn away from the un-glamorous work of increasing access to basic healthcare and education in favor of flashier projects. By taking the long view, and by refusing to embrace a charismatic leader instead of engaging in the hard slog of fashioning policies to support institutions rather than people. And by moving beyond rhetoric in the fight against corruption.

I am delighted by the emphasis that is placed on transparency in the Panel's report on Crafting a U.S. Energy Policy for Africa. We know that the diversion or waste of oil revenues in oil-rich African states has had terrible human costs. IMF estimates show that one dollar in four of Angolan state revenues ­ over $1.5 billion a year ­ cannot be accounted for from 1996 through 2001. At the same time, one in four Angolan children died in infancy of preventable diseases. We know that this corruption creates a business climate that discourages private investment and hampers growth. Now we need to do something about it.

The Administration needs to take concrete steps to promote the transparency of both company payments and government receipts in the oil sector. We need a coordinated, concerted effort to get that information to citizens of the countries in question, to empower them to use this information to ask tough questions and to demand better governance. And we need to put solid leverage behind the demand for transparency ­ including leverage at export credit agencies.

Getting Our Posture Right

To make the kind of long-term, sustained effort that I am talking about, it is time for the foreign policy community and the U.S. government to think seriously about the resources we devote to our engagement with Africa. I speak not just about money, but about people, attention, and political will.

After 12 years on the Subcommittee on African Affairs, I have traveled widely enough to know that understaffed embassies in Africa are more the norm than the exception. We have wonderful, capable, deeply committed foreign service officers working in Africa. I admire them and I am deeply grateful for their service. But they are too few in number ­ particularly when it comes to seasoned, expert people. Tiny embassy staffs are trying to cover huge, complex countries ­ too often without adequate effort or capacity to get out of the capital city. We have no permanent presence in northern Nigeria or eastern Congo, despite the fact that the stability of whole swathes of the continent can hinge on events in those areas. We have no permanent presence in Zanzibar or in Mombasa. Jeffrey Herbst and Princeton Lyman are right to call attention to the inadequacy of our diplomatic presence on the ground.

And in the latest round of post-September 11th "rediscovery" of Africa, we run the risk of drowning out the counsel and efforts of the few seasoned diplomats we do have engaged on the ground with the louder voices of bigger agencies and bigger budgets. I am delighted that EUCOM is reinvigorating the Department of Defense's efforts to engage in Africa, and I believe that CENTCOM's efforts in the Horn are vitally important. DOD's engagement is clearly in our national interest, it is an appropriate part of mature relationships with African states, and I value the efforts and the views of our excellent military officers and civilian experts working for the Department of Defense. But it is not the responsibility of the Department of Defense to drive our foreign policy, and we must make sure that the vast resources at the disposal of the Department of Defense do not, de facto, put them in the driver's seat wherever they choose to engage. That puts an inappropriate burden on the Department of Defense, and it virtually guarantees that important aspects of our policy will be left behind, and that signals about U.S. priorities will be misinterpreted.

In the same vein, unprecedented resources are currently being devoted to the fight against HIV/AIDS. I wholeheartedly support this effort. I co-chair the CSIS Task Force on HIV/AIDS with Senator Frist, I have consistently voted to support more funding for the fight against AIDS, I believe that the President's call for a $15 billion commitment to fighting AIDS will be remembered by history as one of his finest hours, and I recognize that failure to tackle the pandemic with all the vigor and urgency we can muster jeopardizes every effort to cultivate thriving, stable African partners. I have every enthusiasm for this issue, but while I recognize that our policy in Africa must be about fighting AIDS, but it must be about more than that as well. When the resources to fight AIDS swamp the resources available for every other priority but there is little change in our embassy staffing on the ground, we risk forcing important issues onto the back burner while our people try to cope with the tremendous administrative burden of implementing our AIDS programs.

So we need an adequate presence on the ground, which we do not have today. And we need to ensure that the part of our government charged with directing our foreign policy efforts is indeed playing that leading role ­ with, of course, appropriate and vigorous oversight from the elected representatives of the American people in the Congress. But we also need to make sure that senior leaders in the Administration ­ any Administration ­ are responsive to our voices in the field, are proactive in their approach, and demonstrate the political will to build the relationships with African partners that I believe are so important to our future.

Concluding Remarks - Sudan

We have a recent and truly admirable example of this kind of high-level attention in Secretary Powell's recent trip to Darfur. I commend the Secretary and the many U.S. officials who have been working to respond to this urgent crisis. As we gather here to contemplate U.S.-Africa Policy, a brutal campaign conducted by Sudanese military forces and government-backed militia forces has left tens of thousands dead, over a million displaced, and hundreds of thousands at immediate, urgent risk. The massacres and widespread rapes, the destruction of villages, mosques and farms ­ all of this violence and horror have given rise to a second, even more costly wave of suffering, as civilians are left with no capacity to sustain themselves as the rainy season approaches.

There seems to be some disagreement about whether what is happening in Darfur is or is not genocide. Frankly, I believe that to argue over the semantics is to miss the point. What is happening is appalling, it is an affront to all humanity, to all faiths, and we cannot stand by and simply watch this unfold if we are to be the people and the country we wish to be.

Right now our priority must be to avert continued humanitarian catastrophe. But over time, we must again return to the long view. The tremendous investment of diplomatic resources, taxpayer dollars, and political will in resolving the north-south conflict Sudan thus far ­ an investment that I applaud ­ will be squandered if we fail to address the underlying issues of disenfranchisement and marginalization that are at the heart of the conflict in Darfur. We cannot have order without accommodating demands for justice. We cannot hope to have a true partner in the Sudan of the future without turning our attention to the conditions of the Sudanese people today.

In the same vein, we cannot hope to paper over the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not benefitted from the same high-level attention and focused political will that have been brought to bear in Sudan, despite the fact that millions have died in Congo's recent spasms of conflict. We need to make a commitment to rebuilding long-term stability, to creating conditions in which Congolese parents can reasonably hope for a better life for their children. We need a policy to cope with the unraveling of the rule of law in Nigeria ­ again, one that takes the long view and is backed up with the necessary diplomatic resources.

There is so much to be done, so many opportunities to foster real partnerships and help cultivate real allies. I hope that today marks the start, not the conclusion, of a concerted, bipartisan effort to strengthen U.S. policy in Africa. It is not just Africa's future, it is our future, that is at stake.

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