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USIS Washington File

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
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
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
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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