The Obama administration's
top official for Africa says the United States intends to have astronger
partnership with the continent. Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson spoke at the Center for American
Progress (9/15) in Washington.
"In the past four
months, since I became assistant secretary, it is clear to me that President
Obama has a strong, continuing and personal interest in what happens on the
continent. And that he intends to give
Africa a much greater priority among our foreign policy interests," he says.
"First, we will
work in partnership with African governments and civil society to strengthen
democratic institutions. Second, we will
work for sustained economic development and growth across the continent. Third, we will also continue to maintain our
historical focus on health issues," he says.
Department official says the U.S. will also work to "prevent, mitigate and
resolve conflicts and disputes" -- and deal with the growing problems of
narcotics trafficking, climate change and energy security.
"The world of
geo-strategic politics continues to shift as the world community leaves behind
the challenges and the chessboard of the global cold war era and moves towards
a future that is more global, more resource conscious, more affected by issues
that know no borders," he says.
Meet and greet
Carson says the
Obama administration has proven its interest in Africa with numerous tripsto
the continent by U.S. officials. This
includes a seven-day visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the
president's visit to Ghana.
hosts a luncheon for African heads of state attending the U.N. General Assembly
session and will meet with African leaders invited to the G20 summit in
Pittsburgh September 24th and 25th.
"The president has
made it clear that despite the very serious and well-known challenges that
confront Africa today, we remain optimistic and hopeful about the
continent. We believe in Africa's
potential and its promise," he says.
However, he says
Africa is poor, adding that its people are "disadvantaged by poor governments,
poor infrastructure, natural and man-made disasters." Many suffer from what he calls a harshness of
life that is often daunting.
"We must seek out
and publicize the progress that is occurring to give hope to others and
encourage the kind of investment in people and countries that is critical," he
Asked about the
killing of a suspected terrorist in Somalia by U.S. special forces, Carson says
it probably makes all those who work in East Africa safer and more secure.
He calls Nigeria
the "most important country in sub-Saharan Africa" because of its population,oil and peacekeeping capability. But he
says Nigeria, like other countries on the continent, has failed to live up to
its potential. He cites corruption and violence in the Niger Delta as some of
On Zimbabwe, he
says President Mugabe and his party have failed to live up to the agreement
that brought about a unity government with the opposition.
Carson says Africa
will help shape the 21st Century, adding the United States cannot
ignore the role its people will play in the international community.