29 September 1999
Holbrooke Outlines U.S. Four-Point Agenda to Help Africa
(Security Council holds ministerial meeting on Africa) (1300) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- Discussing what Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Africa's "combination of accomplishments and unresolved problems, opportunities seized and chances missed," the Security Council September 27 held a ministerial-level session on the continent and what the international community and Africans themselves can do to see that their lives are freer, safer, and more secure in the coming century. U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke laid out the U.S. agenda to address conditions described in Annan's 1998 report on the continent. The United States, when it held the Security Council presidency in September 1997, convened the first ministerial session on Africa. Out of that came Annan's 1998 report, entitled "The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa." The report offered what the secretary-general saw as achievable and realistic recommendations for African countries, the international community, and the Security Council itself on issues ranging from arms trafficking and refugees to structural adjustment policies, development assistance, debt, and trade. Stressing that the time is long past when the responsibility for producing change in Africa can be shifted onto others' shoulders, the secretary-general emphasized that both African nations and the international community must summon the political will to end wars on the continent, take good governance seriously, and invest in Africa's resources. The report was based on the principle that solutions must begin in Africa and it is the role of the international community to complement African solutions, not to supplant them or, as has occurred in some past instances, to undermine them. The report has stirred discussion and debate both within the United Nations and among academic institutions, researchers, and individuals interested in Africa. In his 1999 review before the council, Annan said that "there are places where the widely held view of Africa as a region in perpetual crisis is not just an image but an all too grim and painful reality. ... But there are also places -- more than is commonly recognized -- where we are witnessing dramatic changes for the better. "There are places where governments and rebel groups persist in spending money on weapons they can ill afford for wars they should not fight. There are places where whole economies have come to depend on the perpetuation of war; where political power has been attained by violent, undemocratic means; where poor governance deprives people of basic needs; where silence about AIDS exacerbates the epidemic; where corruption thwarts economic growth; where crushing debt burdens, trade barriers, and declining international aid make it extremely hard for African nations to attract investment and stave off further marginalization from the global economy," the secretary-general said. But he also praised Nigeria's return to democratic civilian rule, Liberia's and Mali's large-scale destruction of small arms, Algeria's efforts to end civil strife, South Africa's second presidential election, and African efforts to end Sierra Leone's fighting. Annan also warned the Security Council that Africans are watching closely its deliberations on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC) and Sierra Leone, to see if the council will move as positively to help as it did in Kosovo and East Timor. "Those nations making good-faith efforts and adopting enlightened policies deserve much greater support than they are now getting," the secretary-general said. "There is no excuse for not doing what is reasonable and doable," he said. "It is reasonable to act more rapidly and more decisively on debt. It is reasonable to increase official development assistance." Urging nations to "seize this moment," the secretary-general said that Africans have given many important signs of their yearning for peace, stability, and development and their willingness to work for it. "The right kind of support now, carefully directed to those best able to use it, could help Africans turn a corner and set the stage for a brighter future," he said. U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said that "no longer the victims of colonialism or great power competition, the people of Africa now have an historic opportunity to see that in the coming century their lives can be freer, safer, and more secure. It is imperative that the United Nations do whatever is possible to support and foster their ambitions." Holbrooke outlined the United States' four-part agenda to help the continent enhance its security, grapple with AIDS and terrorism, continue its political transformation toward open societies and markets, and help economic development and humanitarian concerns. On its own and within the United Nations, the United States will help enhance Africa's efforts to resolve and prevent armed conflicts, the ambassador said. The United States will consider supporting the recommendations of the U.N. military liaison officers on how to help the DROC peace process and support the deployment of the full complement of observers to Sierra Leone and a full peacekeeping operation in December. Holbrooke pointed out that through its African Crisis Response Initiative, the United States has trained some 5,000 African peacekeepers from six countries. The United States is also developing procedures to halt U.S. arms sales to regions of conflict not already covered by U.N. arms embargoes and is looking into ways to stop the black markets in diamonds, precious metals, and narcotics that fuel arms sales. "Our responsibilities must not obscure a fundamental reality," Holbrooke pointed out: "The African people and their leaders must provide the basis for peace. ... Where meaningful peace agreements are in place, the U.N. should work hard to implement them. Where an international presence is required, the U.N. has a vital role to play. "But we must, in the end, work toward empowering Africa's people and leaders by enabling them to solve problems themselves and, above all, prevent conflict before it begins," the U.S. ambassador said. Holbrooke also noted that President Clinton is currently asking Congress for an additional $100 million to fight global AIDS and is committed to working with Congress to restore U.S. official development assistance to Africa to its historic high levels. The United States is providing anti-terrorism training to law enforcement officials in eight African states and contributing to many humanitarian relief and demining programs. The Clinton administration is also pressing the Senate to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which would open U.S. markets more broadly to African products, Holbrooke said. "We all have an indispensable role to play in helping African nations progress toward peace, prosperity, and greater human freedom," Holbrooke said. "Strides have been made, but an enormous amount remains to be done. Throughout my tenure as the United States representative to the United Nations, I will work tirelessly with all interested parties to further the agenda." Annan has also recommended that the Security Council authorize "the swift deployment of the robust" peacekeeping force of 6,000 for Sierra Leone. The force would include six infantry battalions; logistics, communications, engineering, transportation, and medical units, and a helicopter-borne rapid reaction unit. The force would help disarm and integrate 45,000 ex-combatants into Sierra Leone society, ensure the security of U.N. personnel and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, monitor the cease-fire, and provide support during elections. "The people of Sierra Leone have an opportunity to repair some of the damage caused by their long conflict and set their country back on the road to peace and prosperity," but they will need long-term, "significant international assistance," Annan said. But Annan warned that the international community will not be able to maintain a major military presence in Sierra Leone indefinitely and the government must expedite the establishment and training of national police and armed forces "without which it will not be possible to achieve long-term stability, national reconciliation, and the reconstruction of the country."
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