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US Redirects Africa Policy

Clinton team promises more attention and aid - but not for dictators

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JUST before President Clinton's inauguration, an African ambassador with many years of experience in Washington commented, "We have never seen this kind of thing. Under Reagan and Bush we felt completely left out of things. But these Clinton people, they know about Africa and are including us in things. It is very exciting."

Then he dashed off to a meeting with Mike Espy, the newly appointed secretary of agriculture.

Four months later, the Clinton administration has begun to live up to the ambassador's expectations by putting a higher priority than its predecessors on US foreign policy toward the 51 nations and 800 million people of Africa.

Under a blueprint unveiled last week by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the days when the US supported dictators in Liberia, Zaire, Sudan, and a half a dozen other countries is over.

Africa's future lies "not with corrupt dictators like Mobutu [of Zaire] but with courageous democrats in every part of the continent," Mr. Christopher told the African-American Institute. "At the heart of our new policy is an enduring commitment to democracy and human rights...."

As if to underline the secretary's words, on May 19 President Clinton recognized the formerly Marxist government of Angola. In the process, the US turned a cold shoulder to rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who had received support from Presidents Reagan and Bush but has been criticized recently for refusing to abide by a peace settlement and election.

Another sign of the new US policy: Clinton refused to meet with Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida when the Nigerian military leader visited Washington recently. Christopher said that Clinton has invited the "first president of a democratic Namibia, Sam Nujoma, as the first African head of state to be recognized at his White House."

While eschewing African dictators, the administration has pledged itself to helping to rebuild the continent. Christopher promised to keep development aid for Africa at $800 million for the coming year and to work with other creditor nations to reduce debt for countries "cooperating with IMF [International Monetary Fund] adjustment programs."

Christopher also said that the US would spend $70 million this year to protect Africa's environment, and has already spent $1 billion to fight drought this year.

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