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Panel Tells Congress US Approach to Africa's Problems Must Change - 2004-07-08


A panel of experts created by Congress last year has recommended steps the United States should take to change the way it deals with problems and opportunities in African countries. The Africa Policy Advisory Panel released its report at a seminar on Capitol Hill attended by members of Congress, African diplomats, and others concerned about the continent. The report covers seven areas in which the 16 experts say the United States could take a leadership role, taking into account what are called "rising U.S. stakes" in Africa.

These include efforts to fight HIV-AIDS, countering terrorist threats, crisis response and peacekeeping, and reinforcing peace efforts in Sudan.

Also on the list: creating a more responsive U.S. energy policy for Africa, supplementing development aid with efforts to build or strengthen capital markets, and preserving natural resources.

With Sudan and the situation in its western Darfur region a key focus of attention, the panel calls for an "action strategy" to lay the groundwork for reconstruction in Sudan.

Addressing the seminar, Secretary of State Colin Powell underscored what the United States and international community expect from the government in Khartoum.

"President Bush, the U.S. Congress, [U.N.] Secretary General [Kofi] Annan, and the international community, want more than promises," he said. "We want to see dramatic improvements on the ground right now. And despite the promises that have been made, we have yet to see these dramatic improvements."

The panel calls for efforts to press for liberalization of what it calls autocratic structures in the north and south, and steps aimed at integrating societies in the two regions.

For now, however, Rick Barton, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), outlines another of the panel recommendations.

"We believe there needs to be a rapid deployment of a U.N.-sponsored Chapter Seven peacekeeping and monitoring force throughout Sudan, North, South, East, West, that includes a fully-equipped quick response force of 500 to 600 international soldiers," said Mr. Barton. Pointing to what is called a rising terrorist threat to U.S. interests in Africa, the panel says the United States must not only provide security assistance, but do more to help promote development, human rights and democracy.

Among the recommendations is a major "outreach" effort to Muslims in Africa, explained here by Stephen Morrison.

"We make a call for a major Muslim Outreach strategy," he added. "Northern Nigeria, coastal Kenya and Tanzania, the pan-Sahel states, a higher level of engagement with Saudi charities and the Saudi government, and an expanded education dimension to this."

Members of Congress, such as Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, called for new ways of dealing with instability, corruption, and human rights issues in Africa.

"Our post 9/11 engagement should not mean return to Cold War myopias or the convenient, but shortsighted patron-client politics of the past," he said. "Another daunting realization in this country is that subordinating basic human rights to accommodate larger strategic goals is a tactic that often comes back to haunt us."

On the fight against AIDS, the policy panel calls for a "balanced strategy that complements and supports local needs, conditions and priorities."

John Lange, deputy U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, said that disagreements should not be allowed to set back efforts to fight the disease.

"We must not allow this pandemic to divide us when we are all striving toward the same goal," he explained. "HIV and the denial, stigma and complacency that fuel it, are the real enemies and all efforts must be directed at them."

The 16-member Africa Policy Advisory Panel was commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 2003 to develop policy initiatives based on U.S. national interests in Africa.