The late U.S. Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy is being remembered as someone who was not a leader on Africa, but yet supportive of many legislation that would impact Africa.
The Senator from the state of Massachusetts died Tuesday night from brain cancer after nearly 50 years in the U.S. Senate.
Melvin Foote, founder and president of the Washington-based Constituency for Africa that helps to shape a progressive U.S. policy toward Africa said the late Senator Kennedy supported some key legislation that would impact Africa.
“I would say in terms of Africa, the Kennedys were not known as Africanists per se. At the same they were compassionate. So the Kennedys’ were not Africanists per se, but at the same time they were not obstacles to progress in Africa,” he said.
Foote recalled how the late Senator Kennedy led missions to the Congo, Ghana and other places to negotiate U.S. policy toward Africa.
He described Kennedy as a heavyweight when it came to pushing legislation in the U.S. Congress.
Foote said Kennedy was not only an ardent supporter of comprehensive health for all Americans, but he was also concern about global health.
“He supported the HIV/AIDS legislation that was passed into law, the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) that was initially started by Ron Dellums but then taken up by President Bush and became a $15 billion initiative to address HIV/AIDS in Africa. Ted Kennedy was supportive of it,” Foote said.
He said the late Senator Kennedy was also a supporter of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
“He did offer his support for trade with Africa. So all in all, I think he was supportive of U.S. policy in Africa. But at the same time I will not say that he was a leader in terms of U.S. support for Africa over the last 10 years or so,” he said.
Foote said Kennedy was also credited for his fight against apartheid in South Africa.
“From my reading, not only Ted Kennedy but all the Kennedys, they were against racism. I talked to Jack Kemp (former Congressman and vice presidential candidate) one time, he brought it up that the Kennedys were good people, and that they were for fairness, and they were for equal rights for all Americans,” he said.
Foote said the average American and the world were better off today because of Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family.