Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama Administration Committed to Partnering with Africa

A month after accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to seven African countries, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, in a major policy presentation has reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to engage with Africa and its problems.

"We remain optimistic and hopeful about the continent," in spite of "very serious and well-known challenges," he said during an hour-long presentation and question-and-answer session at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

The visits to Africa by President Obama, Secretary Clinton, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew underline the administration's determination to develop "a partnership that is real, that is meaningful and that is built on mutual respect and mutual responsibility," he said. "We can no longer ignore the role Africa and its people must play in the international community."

Noting that he has been on the job for four months and Obama has been in office for only nine, Carson said: "We are just on the takeoff at this point."

After a diplomatic career devoted to African issues, he said the opportunity to serve in the senior Africa policy post in the U.S. government is "the dream of a lifetime." His 37 years in the foreign service have included tours as the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya.

Following is an AllAfrica transcript of Ambassador Carson's prepared remarks and his responses to questions:

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning to talk with all of you about Africa, U.S.-Africa policy and the policies of the Obama administration. I will use this occasion to try to have a conversation with you. For those of you who know me, that fits into my style and I much prefer a give and take rather than a more formal presentation.

But let me begin with some very brief remarks, some very brief opening remarks to give you a sense of the direction that the administration's policies towards Africa are likely to take, some observations from Secretary Clinton's recent trip to Africa on which I accompanied her, and perhaps conclude with some specific initial thoughts about changes I intend to make at my level.

I have spent my entire professional life working on and in Africa. And this opportunity to serve as the assistant secretary of state in this administration is virtually a dream come true, a dream of a lifetime. I feel especially fortunate and pleased to have so many others here in this room today who are equally passionate and engaged on issues related to Africa. And I see the faces not only in the front row, but others in the back as well, almost too numerous to name.

This encourages me to believe that working together, we can all make a substantial difference in the improvement of our relations with Africa and also improving conditions on the ground for Africans themselves.

In the past four months since I became assistant secretary, it is clear to me that President Obama has a strong, continuing and personal interest in what happens on the continent and that he intends to give Africa a much greater priority among our foreign policy interests. We are already beginning to see this manifested in the travel by the president himself – his early visit to Ghana being an example of that. Our permanent representative to the United Nations, my former boss, Ambassador Susan Rice, visited five African countries in June. Our Deputy Secretary of State, Jack Lew, visited Ethiopia and Tanzania in July. And, as already noted, Secretary Clinton made an extensive seven-country, 11-day trip to Africa in August.

The president will engage with all of the African delegations at the United Nations General Assembly next week when he hosts a luncheon meeting for the African heads of state who are there. He also will be engaged with the African leaders who are coming to the American-hosted G8/G20 meeting in Pittsburgh later in the month. All of these are clear indications, early indications of a strong commitment on the part of the administration to making Africa a central part of our thinking with respect to America's foreign policy engagement.

The president has made it clear that despite the very serious and well-known challenges that confront Africa today, we remain optimistic and hopeful about the continent. We believe in Africa's potential and its promise. We remain committed to Africa's future. And we will be strong partners with African people and African governments.

The world of geostrategic politics continues to shift as the world community leaves behind the challenges and the chessboard of the global Cold War era and move towards a future that is more global, more resource conscious, more affected by issues that know no border, challenges of health, disease, security, food scarcities, energy needs and uneven preservation of the planet's resources. This is why we believe that the 21st century will not be shaped merely in the capitals of the super and near superpowers, but also by the continent of Africa and its leaders as well.

We can no longer ignore the role Africa and its people must play in the international community. The administration sees Africa as a fundamental part of addressing the challenges we face and a real partner in devising solutions to these challenges, especially the challenges that confront the African continent.

We envisage a much stronger partnership in which cooperation, mutual respect and mutual responsibility are the foundations of success between the United States and Africa and its many diverse nations. We believe that African countries and their people must take the lead, must look to a brighter future and must examine themselves frankly to allow us to be honest and open partners together.

The president has acknowledged that considerable progress has been achieved in many parts of Africa. But he has also noted that a good deal of the continent's potential has yet to be fulfilled.

While some African countries used to have growth rates and per-capita income levels higher than many countries in Asia, they have not sustained this promise and have fallen gravely behind Asia and other emerging markets. We must acknowledge that Africa is poor and its people are disadvantaged by poor governments, poor infrastructure, natural and man-made disasters, as well as a harshness of life that is often daunting.

But that is only part of the story. Now in the 21st century, we are beginning to see some budding success stories. We need to nurture these and enable them to blossom into self-sustaining models that can be replicated across the continent. Changes have occurred to disprove the reigning stereotypical views that we see all too often in the media. We must seek out and publicize the progress that is occurring to give hope to others and encourage the kind of investment and people and countries. That is critical.

Our policies will emphasize mutual responsibility. Our commitment will be measured not merely in monetary and programmatic assistance, although the president has pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance to Africa, but will also be gauged in ways that also further our mutual interests. Our success should not be determined by remaining a source of perpetual aid only, so that people can scrape by, but we should be seen by how we can build partnerships and local capacity to help transform and reduce the need for assistance in the future.

I believe firmly that we will focus on five areas of critical importance for Africa that reflect America's core values and interests, as well as issues of significance and importance to Africa. I will touch briefly on these, and we can discuss them a little more in depth when I have finished this presentation.

First , we will work in partnership with African governments and civil society to strengthen democratic institutions and to protect the gains that have been made in many places in Africa in the area of democracy and governance. This includes rule of law, constitutional norms, democratic principles and privileges and the creation of greater opportunities and the ability to peacefully change governments.

Second , as we have done historically, we will work for sustained economic development and growth across the continent. I do not need to explain to this audience why this remains a critical and essential part of American policy, as well as an interest of the entire international community. We have numerous programs and institutions to undertake this particular challenge. And I believe we will use every tool at our disposal and hope to encourage some non-traditional ones to become more engaged and involved with fostering a more prosperous African continent. Without growth and development, especially that of open markets and the institutions and laws of a market economy, I fear that prosperity will not be achievable over the long term.

Third , we will also continue to maintain our historical focus on health issues with a particular emphasis on public health and the strengthening of African delivery systems to provide the kinds of access, treatment and prevention that remain essential for progress in most other areas. We view this as a basic building block to achieving our other objectives.

There is no question that the need on the continent for improved health care is vast, and the challenges exceed our own resources and capacities. But we hope to work intensively with our global partners and institutions to ensure that this sector remains a very high priority and that we make every effort to ensure that resources are deployed and spent in a coordinated and complementary manner that multiplies the impact across the continent.

Fourth , we will continue to work with the international community and African states and leaders to prevent, mitigate and also to resolve interstate conflicts and disputes. To the extent we have the ability to become a player, we will also work to mitigate and end internal disputes such as in Sudan, Somalia and the Eastern Congo, so that greater stability and security can lead to improved living conditions for those countries and their citizens. Each conflict generates unwanted consequences of impoverishment, disease, refugees, violent deaths and destabilizations internally and in neighboring countries. This cannot be ignored, nor will we allow it to be. We will work with our friends to bring about greater regional and local security and seek partners who share our concerns to end these man-made tragedies.

Fifth and finally, the 21st century has brought new transnational challenges to Africa that were previously prevalent mostly outside of the continent. These global issues have now come to infect Africa with the same virulence that they have appeared elsewhere. Narco-trafficking, climate change, illegal exploitation of Africa's maritime resources, pandemic diseases and energy security are all eroding our ability to meet the historical challenges that have faced Africa. We intend to address these issues in Africa with our African partners with the same seriousness that we have addressed them in our own country and elsewhere. We have learned that these are global challenges, transnational challenges, and that we cannot afford to ignore them wherever they are.

I promised at the very beginning that this would be more a conversation and a discussion than a speech. And I am going to stop right here, allow the moderator to come forward and during the Q&A, I hope that I will get a chance to go into some depth about the secretary's past trip to Africa and give you all an opportunity to ask specific questions about things that I have not mentioned or specific countries that I have not said anything about. I am going to stop here and allow for the dialogue and the conversation to begin. (Applause.)

Moderator - Reuben Brigety (Director of Sustainable Security Program at the Center for American Progress ): We learned that yesterday Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was an operative al-Qaeda, was killed in a quite daring special operations raid in Southern Somalia. And given the history of American counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, I am wondering what you think the death of Mr. Nabhan means for both the ability of the United States to promote stability in Somalia and also for its general counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn.

Carson: Let me just say in general terms without discussing this particular raid by pointing out that the terrorism that we ourselves have experienced in the United States has also been visited on numerous occasions in East Africa. Many people recall that three years prior to 9/11 on August 7, 1998, we had two embassies in East Africa – one in Nairobi, Kenya; the other one is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – that were destroyed by al-Qaeda terrorists. In that terrible event, some 214 people were killed. Forty-four of them were killed inside of the American embassy in Nairobi.

In November of 2002, al-Qaeda in East Africa struck again. And this time, they did it in Mombasa, Kenya, where they destroyed the Paradise Hotel and used two MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) to bring down or attempt to bring down an Israeli charter flight. We know that the individual who was reportedly killed in Somalia yesterday was, in fact, one of the two top leaders of al-Qaeda in East Africa and was, in fact, the individual who was directly responsible for organizing and planning the destruction of the Paradise Hotel and the attempted shoot-down of the Israeli aircraft. We think that his departure from the ranks of the al-Qaeda leadership in East Africa will substantially reduce the capacity of that organization to plan and carry out future attacks.

We believe his departure from that organization will also deprive those individuals in Somalia in the al-Shabaab organization with whom he was collaborating with an individual who has been attempting to undermine the efforts of the transitional federal government of President Sheikh Sharif and attacking the Djibouti process that brought that government to power.

We have to recognize that there are individuals, including in Africa, who were working against the interest of the United States, the international community and most importantly, against the interest of Africans. We think that his departure from the scene probably makes us all who work in and around East Africa a little bit safer, a little bit more secure.

Mr. Brigety: Ambassador, you spent a fair amount of your time in your presentation just now talking about the importance of economic growth and development both for our partners and also for the ability to provide prosperity. And clearly, Secretary Clinton emphasized that by starting her trip in Kenya with a presentation at the AGOA Summit. And yet, a skeptic might take a look at a variety of issues and have a fair amount of cause for concern with regard to American economic partnership with Africa. We are nine months into an administration without a USAID administrator. The United States has a trillion-dollar budget deficit this year, therefore bringing to some level of question the ability of the president to maintain his commitment to double foreign assistance overall. Key elements of AGOA are set to expire within the next couple of years and they have not been brought in permanently. So for those who are here in the audience and those who may be watching around the world, can you give us some more really quite concrete reasons for African partners to have confidence in the ability of the United States to be true powerful economic partners in this administration going forward?

Carson: I think the commitment of the United States to Africa remains extremely strong. The U.S. has been one of the largest, generally the first or the second largest contributor of development assistance to Africa over the past decade. I expect that our contributions to Africa will continue to remain focused and they will remain strong. I think that this administration will clearly build on some of the very sound initiatives that have been developed over the last decade starting with AGOA.

The secretary did, in fact, go to Kenya to participate in the African Growth and Opportunity Forum. AGOA is a landmark piece of legislation that opens our market to some 6,000 African products duty free. We intend to work as hard as we can to encourage African states to develop the kinds of industry and production that will allow them to send products into the United States.

Equally, we have a strong commitment to MCC (the Millennium Challenge Corporation) and continuing the MCC process of which the secretary of state serves as a chairman of the MCC board. There is an ongoing commitment to support that and to see it fully funded, no drawback on that. There is also a commitment to carry on the HIV/AIDS and prevention programs, which are important for Africa's health.

But beyond that, the president has clearly committed the United States to being a strong partner in the area of development assistance. I think that one should look at the signals that are already out there. The president's engagement on African issues in Rome at the G8/G20 meeting, where, in fact, he spearheaded the international effort to focus on Africa's agriculture and the need to help create a green revolution in Africa, one similar to that which occurred in Asia and Latin America some 20 or 30 years ago and which have transformed the agricultural scenes in those countries.

The administration is working on a major food security initiative. We will be seeing more about this in the weeks to come. The secretary of state and others have been in consultation with all of the African diplomatic missions in this town, as well as a number of diplomatic missions from other parts of the world. There is a strong commitment to try to jumpstart Africa's agricultural sector, to end hunger and to create the kinds of strong agro-industry that can help propel that continent forward.

There is also a strong commitment to support wider public health initiatives. I think both in Rome and in Ghana, the president made it clear that we have broad interests in African health.

There is a need to help Africa eliminate deaths – needless deaths from diseases which are easily cured. African children, African men and women should not, in fact, be dying of cholera, of malaria, of tuberculosis. All of these things can be turned around with proper health care.

Nine months into a new administration – an administration that is only now putting forth its own real budget to the Congress – it has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to build on the good things that have gone before and to start to develop a set of policy frameworks that will carry us forward.

I think that the visits and the interaction that the administration has had – the president; the secretary of state; Ambassador Susan Rice; Jack Lew, our deputy secretary of state – and in the meetings that the president will have next week with African leaders – we are listening, we are planning and we are poised to continue to launch and move forward with developing a partnership that is real, that is meaningful and that is built, as we like to say, on mutual respect and mutual responsibility. I am optimistic. And we believe in Africa's future and its promise.

And we are committed, as I said, to trying to do everything we can to advance it.

Mr. Brigety: In the interest of time, we are going to start taking questions from the audience. Here is how we are going to proceed. As I mentioned, we will start first with members of the press corps. And after a few questions, we will go to the audience as a whole. You made the point that the commitment to Africa extended beyond the flow of resources and you mentioned diplomatic engagement. So I wanted to briefly ask you about the level of engagement and the willingness to be involved in four key areas – Zimbabwe, particularly in light of the fact that President Obama will meet with President [Jacob] Zuma [of South Africa] at the G20: Congo, where you visited along with the secretary; Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa where conflict in the Delta threatens U.S. interests as well as stability in the region; and finally, Liberia, a long-time U.S. ally that is seeing some peace after a long conflict and where many people think that U.S. engagement and partnership is crucial if that country is going to be successful in transitioning to real democracy.

Thank you very much for the question. We are interested and engaged in all of these countries, three of which the secretary visited on her trip.

Let me say a bit about Zimbabwe. We remain deeply concerned about the failure of the government of Robert Mugabe, but particularly of President Mugabe and his party to live up to the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement brokered by South Africa and SADC [the Southern African Development Community] and negotiated with the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change]. We would like to see a reaffirmation of the commitment to implement the Global Political Agreement as swiftly as possible and a strong support for moving towards a new constitution and new elections. The president is, indeed, engaged, as is the secretary of state.

You may recall that President Obama met with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the White House. Secretary of State Clinton had a separate meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai. Those meetings were intended to underscore U.S. interest and concern about what is happening in Zimbabwe and the U.S. commitment to try to encourage as much progress as swiftly as possible in helping to restore democracy in that country.

Also note that for the very first time in many years, I have myself sought out the Zimbabweans. I had a not very pleasant or successful meeting with President Mugabe in Libya a month ago. I also met prior to that meeting with Zimbabwe's Vice President Joice Mujuru, a much more satisfactory meeting in which I thought we could work with her to make some progress. We are committed to work with others to try to see Zimbabwe resolved. The best resolution is a full implementation of the Global Political Agreement as swiftly as possible. We will continue to work for it on behalf of democracy, on behalf of the Zimbabwean people and on behalf of the fairness that is required and which is – in its absence, has deprived the MDC of leadership.

Secretary Clinton went to Congo, to Nigeria and to Liberia. The secretary is deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in North and South Kivu. It was the first time that a secretary of state had been to Goma in the Eastern region. It was only the second time in the last 14 years – 12 years that we had seen a secretary of state in the Congo. The last visiting secretary of state was Madeleine Albright. She went to the Congo and to the Kivus to underscore our concern about the continuing violence there, about the use of rape and as a weapon of war against Congolese women and to encourage greater action on behalf of MONUC (United Nations Mission in the Democratic of the Congo), on behalf of the Congolese government and behalf of the international community.

The secretary has indicated that Ambassador Howard Wolpe will be taking an active leading role as an adviser on how we move the Congo along or work with the Congolese government, a reflection of the commitment we have there.

Nigeria is without a doubt for the United States and probably for Africa the most important country on the sub-Saharan portion of the continent – because of its population, because of its oil and mineral resources, because of its economy, because of its peacekeeping capacities and you could go on and on and on.

But Nigeria is one of those African countries, while extraordinarily important, that has not lived up to its full potential. It is a country that is facing enormous challenges both [in the] north, south and central, in the delta, in the north as we have seen with the recent incidents of the Boko Haram faction. And in terms of the ability of the government to move forward in fighting corruption and in dealing with enormous power shortages and in dealing with social, economic and health needs for all of its citizens.

We are engaged in Nigeria. We will continue to be engaged in Nigeria. One of the things that Secretary Clinton said that she would do in conjunction with the Nigerians is to set up a bi-national commission mechanism that would allow for the U.S. and Nigeria to engage on a variety of issues on a routine basis to advance the relationship.

Liberia – there is enormous respect for the work that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done in that country in its effort to restore democracy and stability after the long, long nightmare of Charles Taylor and civil strife. We are committed as a country and a government to work with Liberia on helping to provide development assistance, encourage investment, give support to its ministries and to help in security sector reform. The secretary of state has enormous respect for President Johnson Sirleaf. And it was, in fact, one of the most important stops that she made on the trip.

We are committed in each of these countries. Let me just say, too, that the secretary's trip to Africa can be measured in many ways. But it can be measured in the things that she did not do and measured in the things that she did do. This was a trip in which there was no sightseeing, no game parks, no tourism and no shopping. It was a trip in which we went to all of the difficult and tough spots and where we handled multiple issues at every turn.

Kenya was not just a trip for AGOA. It was also an opportunity to signal our strong support for President Sheikh Sharif, the TFG (the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia) and the Djibouti process. It was an opportunity to talk to the Kenyans about getting their democracy back on track, an important partner for the United States and East Africa.

The same thing was true of every stop. I have talked about Goma. I have talked about Liberia. But every stop was a serious one and a serious country in which we have important relationships. We cannot emphasize enough that the trip itself and what we did on it reflects a level of commitment that we have not had before. This is the longest trip the secretary has taken as secretary of state. Not any of her other foreign trips have been this long. And I would argue that probably none of them have been as difficult and as arduous. It was important. It was significant. It is a manifestation and an underlining of where we are and the commitment that rests ahead.

Nine months into this, nine months into this. We are not talking about three years or four years. We are just on the takeoff at this point.

Mr. Brigety: Did I see a press question in the rear?

Pacifica Radio: Ambassador, thank you very much. I just wondered whether there has been any discussion about involvement and role of the African diaspora and what that discussion has been. What does it sound like? Thank you.

Carson: We have tried in the Africa Bureau to engage all of our constituencies in Washington and around the United States, and we include amongst that the Africa diaspora as one of those constituencies. In discussions that I have had in the Department of State, in meetings that I have had in New York, here in Washington and with individual groups, we have in fact reached out to the African diaspora to talk with them and consult with them. We certainly did prior to the trip, and I've certainly talked to people post the secretary's trip.

An example of things that we're about to do: I, myself, will be going out to the Midwest, to Minneapolis within the next three weeks. Out there, it is my intent to meet with leaders in the Somali community in Minneapolis. But, yes, we have many constituencies in the Department of State. We think that it is important to talk to the diaspora to listen to it, to hear its views and to share our thoughts and concerns as well.

Mr. Brigety: In the interest of time, we're going to open the floor to general questions.

Executive Intelligence Review: Ambassador… the situation in Sudan. Since the special envoy's [Major-General Scott Gration's] comments at Sen.[John] Kerry's hearing, which I was at, questioning the – being kept on the sponsored list of terrorists and also sanctions, I was told that he came under a lot of attack. There is now a review which was scheduled to be completed, I believe, in early September by the State Department or by the Obama administration. Could you tell us more and how that's proceeding and what are the key issues and what do you think is going to happen in that for U.S. government policy towards settling Sudan?

Foreign Policy Magazine: I also wanted to ask a question about our engagement with Africa a little bit closer to home. Just about a month ago there was an internal report released by the inspector general about the Bureau of African Affairs that raised a number of challenges for the bureau. It also praised very greatly your leadership and the way that that is helping to bring the agency together, but I wonder if I could ask you your assessment of that report, whether those were fair conclusions and what needs to be done in the coming months to address those.

Mr. Brigety: So again, those two questions, Ambassador, on the review of the U.S.- Sudan policy and the on the IG report on Africa Bureau.

Carson: The administration is focused on Sudan and regards it as a serious and significant priority for us. One of the early special envoys appointed by the president was Gen. Scott Gration to handle the Sudan account with a focus clearly on trying to realize full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to work as diligently as possible to bring an end to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and an end to the political crisis in that area as well.

A policy review has in fact been ongoing. It is in fact over. I hope that in the weeks that come, people will have a better perspective on the key elements of that policy. I think we are moving very aggressively towards doing the things which are absolutely vital and key there, and that is trying to ensure that the core elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are fulfilled, that people in Southern Sudan have an opportunity to vote for whether they want to remain a part of Sudan or whether they want their independence, and secondly to bring an end to the crisis, both humanitarian and political, in Darfur.

I think that there is a strong degree of commitment across the administration with respect to Darfur, and I think you're seeing that in the level of activity being undertaken by Scott Gration and others in the administration. I won't say anything more about that.

With respect to the Africa Bureau, the inspector general of the State Department conducts on a routine basis audits and management reviews of embassies and bureaus. One was carried out on the administration of the Africa Bureau over the last three years. That report did not in fact find that everything was running smoothly. There were a number of issues that surfaced. I think that it is my obligation as assistant secretary to look at such things, take them seriously, to remediate them, and improve them.

The Africa Bureau has a long and distinguished record of service in the Department of State. It has produced some of the finest officers in the State Department writ large across all bureaus. I think that it is my responsibility not only to help shape and guide and direct the policy but also to manage the bureau, its personnel, and its resources in the most effective and thoughtful manner, and I will try to do that.

Mr. Brigety: I think we have time for two more questions. Sir, in the yellow tie.

South African Broadcasting Corporation: Let me just make a very quick follow-up on the issue of Zimbabwe in the light of your earlier presentation where you emphasized the issue of mutual respect between the administration and Africans and the fact that you say that Africans must take the lead in resolving their own problems. And they have taken many, but let me just confine my question to one. The resolution of SADC in Kinshasa a week ago, where they said that sanctions must be lifted in Zimbabwe as a matter of – (inaudible) – so that the people of Zimbabwe should start to rebuild their country. And it does seem to me that you are not listening to that and are not prepared to respect that resolution. Why?

Voice of America: Also on Zimbabwe, at what stage would you advise Mr. Tsvangirai to leave the unity government?

National Public Radio: On Sudan, as you review this policy, what do you think the biggest challenges – where are the biggest challenges – in Darfur, or the fact that the North-South peace deal is fraying? Who from Sudan, if anyone, will be invited to this lunch next week with the president? And has there been any diplomatic fallout to this U.S. strike in Somalia yesterday.

Carson: Let me just say that we have an enormous amount of respect for SADC and what SADC stands for. We appreciate enormously the diplomatic efforts that have been undertaken by governments with respect to Zimbabwe. We differ on when and how to lift sanctions.

I want to stress that the sanctions that the United States has in place are primarily directed at individuals, some – approximately 220 of them, of the most senior officials in the government, and also at entities that they possess or may own. We reserve the right to lift those sanctions when we want to do so and when we see progress.

We have sought to engage on Zimbabwe. We would like to see Zimbabwe not be a drag on SADC and the region, and we would like to see a return to democracy. We do not believe that the global political agreement has been implemented and that we do not believe enough has been done.

I might also that while we have sanctions on Zimbabwe, the United States has been a strong contributor to ongoing humanitarian assistance for that country in providing food aid, medical assistance to help in the recent cholera outbreak, health assistance and fighting HIV/AIDS and supporting child survival. And following Morgan Tsvangirai's visit to Washington, President Obama and Secretary Clinton requested that we also increase or at least provide some support to education and agriculture as long as it did not go through government hands.

We will continue to remain engaged on Zimbabwe. We think it is premature to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders. And we think it is important not to let the economic advantages that Morgan Tsvangirai and [finance minister] Tendai Biti bring to the case to be exploited and used by Robert Mugabe and others to secure their further control on government. We will continue to dialogue and talk with SADC and others, but we still think insufficient progress has been made, and to remove that pressure may in effect allow for economic gains, but not in effect change the dynamics of the political strangulation that ZANU exercises on political control and power.

Let me just say Morgan Tsvangirai's decision on when he – what he does are his own decisions, not for us to advise him or to criticize him one way or another. Those are domestic decisions, personal decisions, political decisions that he and he alone and his colleagues must make. They're not for us in Washington to make.

The issues related to Sudan – I believe personally and professionally that the most serious problem today there is ensuring that the Cmprehensive Peace Agreement is fully implemented. One can only look at Sudan's history to recognize the criticality of ensuring that this agreement is implemented. Throughout some 70 percent of its post-independence history since 1957, Sudan has been engulfed in war, two long struggles, Anyanya 1 and Anyanya 2, the second one being brought to an end in January of '05 with a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Both of those conflicts have caused enormous loss of life, not in the hundreds of thousands, but in terms of four or five million people. It would be disastrous not only for Sudan but also for the region if this agreement were not completely fulfilled and there were a reemergence of conflict in the south or between the north and the south. Ensuring that that agreement stays on track is critically important.

That is not to diminish the need, the very serious need to resolve the humanitarian situation in Darfur or to reach a political conclusion there, but the CPA and the North-South Agreement is critical to the stability of that country. If that agreement unravels, it is unlikely that anyone in Darfur will put much trust in an agreement between Darfurians and the Khartoum government. They would expect that it probably would have the same kind of shelf life or life expectancy of the CPA. Making sure that agreement works, making sure that it works fairly on behalf of all involved, north and south is absolutely critical.

As far as our planning or planning of those who are most directly involved in next week's events in New York, it is not our intention to have any contacts at the White House level with anyone from the leadership in Sudan. It would be inappropriate.

You had one last question and I can't – remind –

Mr. Brigety: It was the diplomatic fallout from the strike in –

Carson: Diplomatic fallout – at this juncture no diplomatic fallout – we have seen statements from a number of leaders in Somalia associated with the TFG and with the other groups that are fighting al-Shabaab that have applauded the success of the effort against Saleh Nabhan. We have not seen any statements – at least I haven't seen from any governments at this point in the region. But as I said earlier, Saleh Nabhan was an international terrorist. He was responsible for the death and destruction of a number of Kenyans and others in Mombasa and certainly was an individual who was clearly capable of carrying out incidents like this in the future if he had remained at large

Copyright © 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

What Bono doesn't say about Africa - Africa is the best Place on Earth

Celebrities like to portray it as a basket case, but they ignore very real progress.
By William Easterly
WILLIAM EASTERLY is a professor of economics at New York University, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of "The White Man's Burden: How the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have

July 6, 2007

JUST WHEN IT SEEMED that Western images of Africa could not get any weirder, the July 2007 special Africa issue of Vanity Fair was published, complete with a feature article on "Madonna's Malawi." At the same time, the memoirs of an African child soldier are on sale at your local Starbucks, and celebrity activist Bob Geldof is touring Africa yet again, followed by TV cameras, to document that "War, Famine, Plague & Death are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and these days they're riding hard through the back roads of Africa."

It's a dark and scary picture of a helpless, backward continent that's being offered up to TV watchers and coffee drinkers. But in fact, the real Africa is quite a bit different. And the problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fueling support for patronizing Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help.

Let's begin with those rampaging Four Horsemen. Do they really explain Africa today? What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less; for example, annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades. That doesn't lessen the tragedy, of course, of those who are such victims, and maybe there are things the West can do to help them. But the typical African is a long way from being a starving, AIDS-stricken refugee at the mercy of child soldiers. The reality is that many more Africans need latrines than need Western peacekeepers — but that doesn't play so well on TV.

Further distortions of Africa emanate from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's star-studded Africa Progress Panel (which includes the ubiquitous Geldof). The panel laments in its 2007 news release that Africa remains "far short" of its goal of making "substantial inroads into poverty reduction." But this doesn't quite square with the sub-Saharan Africa that in 2006 registered its third straight year of good GDP growth — about 6%, well above historic averages for either today's rich countries or all developing countries. Growth of living standards in the last five years is the highest in Africa's history.

The real Africa also has seen cellphone and Internet use double every year for the last seven years. Foreign private capital inflows into Africa hit $38 billion in 2006 — more than foreign aid. Africans are saving a higher percentage of their incomes than Americans are (so much for the "poverty trap" of being "too poor to save" endlessly repeated in aid reports). I agree that it's too soon to conclude that Africa is on a stable growth track, but why not celebrate what Africans have already achieved?

Instead, the international development establishment is rigging the game to make Africa — which is, of course, still very poor — look even worse than it really is. It announces, for instance, that Africa is the only region that is failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs in aid-speak) set out by the United Nations. Well, it takes extraordinary growth to cut extreme poverty rates in half by 2015 (the first goal) when a near-majority of the population is poor, as is the case in Africa. (Latin America, by contrast, requires only modest growth to halve its extreme poverty rate from 10% to 5%.)

This is how Blair's panel managed to call Africa's recent growth successes a failure. But the reality is that virtually all other countries that have escaped extreme poverty did so through the kind of respectable growth that Africa is enjoying — not the kind of extraordinary growth that would have been required to meet the arbitrary Millennium Development Goals.

Africa will also fail to meet the second goal of universal primary education by 2015. But this goal is also rigged against Africa, because Africa started with an unusually low percentage of children enrolled in elementary school. As economist Michael Clemens points out, most African countries have actually expanded enrollments far more rapidly over the last five decades than Western countries did during their development, but Africans still won't reach the arbitrary aid target of universal enrollment by 2015. For example, the World Bank condemned Burkina Faso in 2003 as "seriously off track" to meet the second MDG, yet the country has expanded elementary education at more than twice the rate of Western historical experience, and it is even far above the faster educational expansions of all other developing countries in recent decades.

Why do aid organizations and their celebrity backers want to make African successes look like failures? One can only speculate, but it certainly helps aid agencies get more publicity and more money if problems seem greater than they are. As for the stars — well, could Africa be saving celebrity careers more than celebrities are saving Africa?

In truth, Africans are and will be escaping poverty the same way everybody else did: through the efforts of resourceful entrepreneurs, democratic reformers and ordinary citizens at home, not through PR extravaganzas of ill-informed outsiders.

The real Africa needs increased trade from the West more than it needs more aid handouts. A respected Ugandan journalist, Andrew Mwenda, made this point at a recent African conference despite the fact that the world's most famous celebrity activist — Bono — was attempting to shout him down. Mwenda was suffering from too much reality for Bono's taste: "What man or nation has ever become rich by holding out a begging bowl?" asked Mwenda.

Perhaps Bono was grouchy because his celebrity-laden "Red" campaign to promote Western brands to finance begging bowls for Africa has spent $100 million on marketing and generated sales of only $18 million, according to a recent report. But the fact remains that the West shows a lot more interest in begging bowls than in, say, letting African cotton growers compete fairly in Western markets (see the recent collapse of world trade talks).

Today, as I sip my Rwandan gourmet coffee and wear my Nigerian shirt here in New York, and as European men eat fresh Ghanaian pineapple for breakfast and bring Kenyan flowers home to their wives, I wonder what it will take for Western consumers to learn even more about the products of self-sufficient, hardworking, dignified Africans. Perhaps they should spend less time consuming Africa disaster stereotypes from television and Vanity Fair.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leaving Africa for the Promise land, United Kingdom, Part I

Going to make loads of money in United Kingdom!?

Coming to Diaspora After hearing all the good stuff that goes in United Kingdom, the 30 British Pound per hour jobs, how my friend in London had just bought some land in a prime location in Harare, I decided to quit my job and go to UK for a better new life.I was very excited for this transition as my life in Zimbabwe had reached a stagnant point. I was working as a school headmaster in a high density suburb of Harare called Tafara.

My income had lost its value due to the severe economic inflation my country was experiencing. I was living paycheck to paycheck, just barely surviving. I missed those days in the 80s when a job as a school headmaster was highly revered and handsomely paid. I remember those days, I could afford to send my children to the best boarding schools in the country, and also save for an annual vacation trip with my family to Kariba or Victoria Falls. These days, things had totally changed.

My twin daughters back home waiting for Daddy to send some British Pounds

I had fired my garden boy and maid since my paltry salary could not buy that lifestyle anymore.Upon realizing the opportunities to go to UK, I decided t quit my job. One huge hurdle was securing money to get the British Visa and airfare from Harare to London. After serious soul searching, I decided to sell my house. I moved my family to a smaller house where they would be tenants for the first time. I had no choice. I needed money to fly to the promise land. What a big risk, but hey, high risk - high returns.My friend in the UK, Tom, had assured that he would take care of me for the first few months in UK until I got off my feet. I was so excited. This was my first time to fly, my first time on the plane. I was a little nervous, what if the plane crushed into the sea?

I prayed that the dear Lord would protect us during the flight. I arrived at Heathrow airport early morning, exhausted from the flight, but also excited that I had arrived in UK. My life was going to change from this point. I wondered at the airport looking for my friend Tom who was supposed to pick me up. Tom was nowhere to be found. Hmm, scary. I went to the nearest public telephone and tried to call Tom, no response. I started to panic. I spent the whole day at the airport, heavily jet legged, waiting that my friend Tom would show up, but I didn’t see anyone.
Whilst sleeping on one of the airport benches, one of the cleaners woke me up to move to another section of the airport as they needed to evacuate this part of the airport for heavy cleaning in preparation for the next day. I felt relieved after finding out this guy had a Zimbabwean accent. We started chatting and I told him my story. Misheck told me that it was not rare for people to stand their visitors from Africa.
He explained that living in UK was difficult and not as rosy as people make it look or sound.Misheck offered to take me to his house for the night. He however told me that he lived with 6 roommates in a 2 bedroom flat just outside london. We got to the flat, and I was shocked how these people were living in this small space. I slept on the floor whilst Misheck took his spot, the couch....

Part II coming next

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sex for Immigration Papers

There are numerous stories of immigrants who have done the weirdest things in order to get immigration papers. Some westerners or Africans who are legal residents of the country in question, America, UK, Australia or Canada, masquerade as messiahs who can help those Africans in dire need of immigration papers.

In one of the most bizarre situation in United Kingdom, a few guys who pretended to work for the UK immigration office asked African girls who needed help with immigration papers to strip so they could fondle them. Afterwards, the "UK immigration officers" would then write a recommendation letter for the African girl to present to the UK Immigration office to obtain legal immigration papers.Some might ask, why would one stoop that low to stay in UK, America or Australia?

The predicament of immigrants is so destitute if one doesn’t have any immigration papers. One is not allowed to work, on top of having no job, there is the cultural obligation to help support one's family and relatives back in Africa. Leaving UK, America or Australia to go back home does not look as promising as there is nothing to do in Africa.

No jobs, the education systems are not as advanced as the west.It is interesting to note that the relatives and families back in Africa do not really understand what we go through in order to stay here. We sacrifice a lot to be in these foreign countries, but is it worth it? It is a difficult question. For example, let's us take a look at Thoko from Zimbabwe who now lives in Bronx, New York as an illegal resident since her immigration papers expired. Thoko supports a family of 10 in Harare, Zimbabwe, inclyuding her grandparents who live just outside Harare. Her meager wages from her job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant in Manhattan are enough to send her 4 siblings and 3 nephews to school, get groceries for her grandparents. However, the money is not enough for Thoko to enjoy the American life that she dreamed of before setting foot in this promise land of milk and honey.

She lives in one bedroom shared with another family in a low income apartment in Bronx, where she pays a monthly rent of USD400. Her total monthly income from her dishwashing job is USD600. After all expenses and funneling money home, Thoko is left with a paltry $50. Thoko cannot have a better paying job because she does not have the necessary legal immigration status. No one can hire her without the "papers".

She is lucky to have an illegal job as a dishwasher where she is paid "under the table,"It is sad to note that when Thoko left Zimbabwe, she was a very promising individual, one of the top students at her high school. She came to America to go to college, but could not continue due to financial hardships. A USD40,000 annual tuition bill became unbearable for her parents in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, she dropped out. Now she struggles to make ends meet, she is responsible for the upkeep of her parents, and relatives in Zimbabwe. If she doesn’t work, they will starve.

Maybe she should just go back home and forget about the greener pastures in America, they have proved not be that green anyway. Though not that green, it is tough to imagine that Thoko will get a good job in Zimbabwe that will pay her the same amount she is getting washing dishes at a Manhattan restaurant.

She is in a lock. Living paycheck to paycheck, she has been living here in America for 8 years now, she doesn’t even know what Las Vegas looks like, she hasn’t set foot at the majestic Grand Canyon, no vacation!Many thoughts have crossed Thoko. What elese can she do to make extra dollar bills. She has seen some of her African American girl friends stripping at a local strip club for extra money, but she does not want to go that route. Maybe the grass in not that green on the other side….well for some it is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Welcome to The Diaspora Blog

On This Blog we feature the lives of people from Africa, who left the motherland in pursuit of the good life in western countries: America, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand amongst others.

We cover the struggles people undergo to come to the "promise land", the diaries of the people once they come in America, UK...fights with the immigration officers, deportations back to Africa...some are living the life in America, some are better off at home.

Some regret why they came and left their good lifestyles in Africa - from a mansion in Dakar to a studio apartment in Philadelphia, from having maids and a garden boy in Harare to working as a garden boy on the upper east side of New York to make ends meet, African PhDs turned into janitors, or African brothers running global firms in finance capitals such as London.

Welcome to America, Welcome to Canada, Welcome to United Kingdom, Welcome to New Zealand.

Feel Free to Share your stories or chime in to posts through the comments sections.

Hope you Enjoy the Diaspora Blog.