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African Ambassadors Converse with US Policy Makers

A US based nonprofit group says strengthening existing ties between Africa and the United States would be beneficial. The Africa society of the national summit on Africa has launched a series of meetings to discuss new policy approaches. Participants include U.S. legislators and African ambassadors. Society president Leonard Robinson says his group intends to educate Americans about Africa and facilitate the continent’s social development. Here is a report by Voice of America English to Africa’s Angel Tabe.

The society held its first meeting recently here in Washington. Among the participants was senator Richard Lugar of Indiana -- chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, who gave this insight: “We are going to be treated to expertise by those who serve the relation ship of their countries with the United States of America, so that our legislation, our activities will be more humane and effective.”

The countries senator Lugar referred to include Nigeria – who was represented at the meeting by ambassador George Obiozor. Ambassador Obiozor stressed the importance of fora like this in helping strengthen dialogue between African diplomats and U.S. policymakers. “Senator Lugar, … we (African ambassadors) have all been looking for you, then suddenly they brought you and I together on one table! Congressman Payne has been unique for Africa in the US Congress, and we cannot thank you enough…today!”

Ambassador Obiozor was the evening’s keynote speaker. He highlighted the long-standing relationship between his country and the United States. He said as powerful countries in their respective regions, both Nigeria and the United States extend a helping hand to those in need – assistance he said, not always appreciate. “Many Nigerians were taxed to fight Apartheid, and with the major role we are playing, particularly in the west African sub region, quite often we don’t get any form of praise. The fate Nigeria faces in terms of ingratitude from those you have helped, has been American fate… In International Relations, as many have learnt to their own consternation, gratitude is not easy.”

But for the organizers of the new educational series, the core issue remains the strengthening of ties between Africa and the United States. Society president Leonard Robinson talked about the need to constantly review US/Africa policy. “Africa is changing… The continent is showing definitive signs of political maturity, taking initiatives... America is also changing, in terms of how it views Africa. We must begin to shift from a solely humanitarian perspective, to a more strategic basis, it’s in our national interest… It behooves us as a nation to be informed by the African diplomatic perspective, often close confidants of their respective Heads of states and ministers of foreign affairs.

Mr. Robinson’s deputy, Bernadette Paolo, made an appeal to the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. “Senator Lugar, Africa needs your wisdom, celebrity and force.”

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