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US must boost democracy development aid in Africa

Regarding the Feb. 15 article, "In Africa, a different Bush image": The article accurately points out that President Bush has greatly increased United States direct foreign assistance to Africa, particularly in the areas of health and infrastructure. Unfortunately, US funding for democracy promotion is languishing badly in Africa. Developing independent electoral commissions, building civil society capacity, training judicial authorities and investigative journalists, and organizing political parties are all areas where the US has traditionally invested democracy funds.

Sadly, examples of dwindling US support for African democracy promotion are easy to come by. Giant Nigeria, a staunch ally of Washington, has seen its funding for democracy promotion from the US Agency for International Development slashed this fiscal year. In Sudan, another top priority country, no significant US funds have yet been provided to help prepare for a critical series of elections and referendums during the 2009-11 period. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which last year held widely applauded national elections, several of the most prominent US democracy organizations have been forced to cease vital activities due to funding cuts.

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