US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer says democracy in Africa is growing and this is the opportune time to consolidate the progress and promise of the continent. She spoke Monday at the Washington Foreign Press Center on the state of democracy and human rights in Africa.
English to Africa’s James Butty was there and filed a report. Briefing foreign journalists ahead of this week’s commemoration of International Human Rights Day, Ambassador Frazer says Africa has had more than 50 democratic elections in the last four years. She described Liberia’s election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president as a genuine milestone in African women’s march to political equality. Ambassador Frazer says the United States will assist in the rebuilding of Liberia. “Over the last two years, the United States has contributed about a billion dollars in assistance to Liberia. We’ll continue to provide significant assistance.” On the question of former president Charles Taylor, Ambassador Frazer says it’s always been the policy of the United States that Mr. Taylor should be turned over to the Special Court in Sierra Leone: “You know that President Bush had a conversation with the president-elect to discuss the issue of Charles Taylor, and she said that she needed more time. But certainly we will have an expectation that that government would turn him over.” On the question of Zimbabwe, Ambassador Frazer says the United States believes that all countries, including Africa’s regional powers like South Africa, should put pressure on Zimbabwe to move toward greater democracy and economic reform. “Our policy is that the Mugabe government should be isolated until it allows a return to democracy, a respect for human rights, and we see that the economy is in a freefall because of the terrible policy of President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF Party.” On the political situation in Ethiopia, Ambassador Frazer says the United States believes pressure should be exerted on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to allow for greater freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. “We’re continuing to hold the government accountable for allowing greater democratic space and respect for human rights. That said, I must say also that it’s the responsibility of the opposition as well because when the opposition takes stones and pelts the police forces, they have to respect the rule of law when they’re demonstrating freely.”