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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

State of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa: The U.S. Perspective

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks to the Ethiopian Community Development Council, 12th National Conference on African Refugees
Arlington, Virginia
May 9, 2006


Good morning, and thank you, Joseph [Moseray], for that warm introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here. We are building a new Africa policy for the U.S that reflects the reality of a post-colonialist, post-Cold War world. Today, I’d like to speak briefly about the Bush Approach to Africa. While other elements of this Administration’s foreign policy may be more hotly debated, some of the Administration’s most radical policies – in a very positive sense -- relate to the nations and people of sub-Saharan Africa. Under President Bush’s leadership and vision, the Administration has challenged long-standing assumptions about: the wisdom of traditional foreign aid, health programs, and conflict resolution.

Transformational Diplomacy

We have reframed the debate, and today I’d like to elaborate on this new paradigm, which Secretary Rice has labeled Transformational Diplomacy. The primary guiding principle of the Bush-Rice foreign policy program is that we work through partnership, rather than the paternalism of the past. Africa is part and parcel of Secretary Rice’s Transformational Diplomacy agenda, which is remaking U.S. foreign policy to more effectively pursue American foreign policy objectives in a world that has moved beyond colonial and Cold War divisions.

Transformational Diplomacy is about “doing things with people, not for them,” the Secretary explained in a January speech, “we seek to use America's diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives and to build their own nations and to transform their own futures.” This concept takes into account the geopolitical shifts we’ve seen in recent years and recognizes that there are new, rising strategic powers, including the 48 nations of sub-Saharan Africa. So, while American media coverage may still reliably report African hardship, those of us in the Bureau of African Affairs have found many reasons to celebrate African progress.

We are working proactively and tackling problems that many people previously believed to be intractable. Through innovative approaches, President Bush and his Administration are shattering the myth of Africa’s being plagued by problems indefinitely.

Progress in Africa

The view from the Bureau of African Affairs is overwhelmingly optimistic. We believe that we are living during a window of opportunity. African history is in the making, and the trends are positive. Nigeria and South Africa have used their diplomatic, economic and military power to shape the continent for the better. Angola and Equatorial Guinea have access to significant oil resources that can transform their societies. Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho, Benin and others are leading the way in showing the world the power of democratic freedom. More conflicts are being resolved peacefully, and populations are working toward elections, power sharing agreements, and representative government. Burundi, Angola, Liberia, and the north-south element of Sudan are prime examples.

The last, Sudan, captured the attention of the president in particular. On the second day of his presidency, President Bush instructed his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to work toward a political solution in Sudan. The President was interested in ending the 22-year North-South war in Sudan that was responsible for over two million deaths. The U.S. worked with Kenya as the lead mediator to successfully broker a political settlement between the government and the SPLM rebels and helped to implement Sudan’s current Government of National Unity.

We continue to work toward resolution in the Darfur region of Sudan. Assistant Secretary Frazer accompanied Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick to Abuja, Nigeria, last week to move negotiations toward a meaningful political solution, since that’s the only way to establish an effective, lasting settlement. That said, in the meantime, African Union’s (AU) forces have valiantly taken the lead in protecting civilians in Darfur. The U.S. has provided the AU with logistical and financial support, and more recently, the President and others in his Administration have worked hard to press NATO and the United Nations to offer supplemental help and possibly contribute peacekeeping forces to dampen violence and protect displaced families. We take Darfur seriously, and we are working to support the African Union lead in resolving this conflict.

Liberia is another prime example of a nation afflicted by internal strife, where things have now taken a turn for the better. Liberians endured a devastating civil war for 14 years. In the spring and summer of 2003, President Bush supported the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in putting together a comprehensive agreement toward a lasting peace. When chaos broke out in the streets of the capital, the U.S. administration helped deploy ECOWAS peacekeepers with U.S. military forces in reserve to help secure an unsteady peace.

Since 2001, one of the central elements of President Bush’s Africa policy has been the emphasis on supporting the capacity of African countries and regional organizations to mediate conflicts and carry out peacekeeping operations.   So, President Bush supported ECOWAS in putting together a peace agreement, as well as maintaining peace in Liberia. In 2003, U.S. military forces were dispatched to Monrovia to support ECOWAS forces, marking the first time American boots touched African soil for peace operations in nearly a decade.  

On September 19, 2003, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1509, which established a peacekeeping operation in Liberia, known as UNMIL. UNMIL has consisted of 15,000 troops plus a sizeable contingent of UN police officers and military observers. This force has helped maintain the calm that paved the way for democratic elections. And so, after 14 years of nearly continuous civil war, this West African nation has a free, elected government. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, is on track to heal and repair her nation.  

As a gesture of enduring American support, the President sent his wife, Laura Bush, and Secretary Rice to lead the U.S. delegation to President Sirleaf’s inauguration in January.   I had the pleasure of being part of that delegation, and it was heartening to see that of all the assembled international dignitaries, our own Secretary Rice received the most applause. The Liberian people understand that the U.S. is a friend of their nation, and they appreciate our support in ending Charles Taylor’s reign of terror.  


I firmly believe that Africa is on its way to a future free of war. It is possible to end every conflict still raging in Africa. We are making progress toward that goal. By our success, the U.S. is demonstrating that summits and contact groups in European capitals are not the key to a more secure future. Bilateral and multilateral efforts that involve African political and civil leaders in the decision making process are much effective.

The U.S. government offers support, as governments adapt to accommodate their people, but not instructions. This is the era of collaboration and local control. President Bush and his Administration have demonstrated in the north-south element of conflict in Sudan and Liberia that this new method of conflict resolution works. Through vision, determination, and innovative policies, this President is proving that if you can imagine a positive alternative to the status quo, we can collaborate to implement it.

Thank you again for this opportunity to speak with you today, and now I would be happy to take any questions.

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