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Africa: Bush legacy is

Published date:
Friday, 16 January 2009

The legacy of the Bush administration's policy toward sub-Saharan Africa is partnership, according to Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

U.S. policy for the past eight years has been based on a "very solid, comprehensive and holistic" foundation of partnership that has improved the health and lives of Africans in many ways, she said.

Frazer made that point in a January 14 interview with, just days before President Bush, Frazer and other administration officials make way for the new administration, which begins with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on January 20.

Elaborating on the important role partnership has played in the Bush administration's Africa policy, Frazer said, "When we talk about partnership, we mean that we respect African views. We believe in African capacity" to accomplish great goals.

She went on to paraphrase Bush: "We are not going to do it for them; we will do it with them. We can't replace African leadership. We can't replace African initiative. What we can do is empower it, facilitate it and support it."

Partnership, she said, is "helping others to do for themselves ... and respecting their views."

Frazer cited the current situation in Somalia. The African Union (AU), Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the opposition, and the countries contributing troops to the AU force in Somalia all have asked the United Nations to assume control of the peacekeeping operation there. "The United States takes their call seriously," she said, and thus "has been pushing in the United Nations Security Council to get a U.N. peacekeeping operation launched because we have heard what the Africans are saying. Others out there have not taken them seriously."

As part of Bush's partnership approach with Africa, Frazer said, the U.S. government has worked hard to promote democracy, peace, prosperity and better health through a broad array of innovative initiatives and "intense engagement and dialogue" with Africans.

Success has been apparent in economic growth, with a 6 percent average gross domestic product growth rate in the region. Some countries, like Angola, Frazer said, are experiencing a growth rate of 27 percent while Mozambique has achieved 10 percent. Only Zimbabwe has had negative economic growth, she said.

The Bush administration has also worked hard to promote freedom and democracy.

Frazer, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa who also served as the Bush administration's senior director of African affairs at the National Security Council from 2001-2004, said the biggest threat to democracy in Africa is incumbent heads of state like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who refuse to surrender power. Even leaders like the late President Lansana Conté of Guinea, she said, "stayed in power so long that when he left the institutions were too weak and the military intervened."

For that reason, she said, "African leaders have to look at peaceful transition in an orderly fashion based on the will of the African people through their vote."

Frazer called civil society "the foundation and fabric of democratic progress across Africa." The Bush administration has worked hard along with other African entities in the region to end wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Burundi, the Congo and Sudan, she said. "All were in great crisis" early in the administration, she said.

"Obviously Somalia was the failed state that it continues to be today," she said, "but we have had a lot of success on the conflict-resolution front."

She acknowledged that some "reversals" have become apparent in eastern Congo, where militia groups are proliferating despite intensive and ongoing diplomatic efforts. Some reversal can also be seen in Sudan, she said, which has the North-South Agreement while the problems in Darfur persist.

Frazer said the Bush administration has been active in trying to address the situation in Darfur, spending almost $5 billion there since 2004 and $100 million to train peacekeepers who are now being deployed.

Frazer said Africans have greatly benefited from the Millennium Challenge Account -- a Bush administration initiative which is focused on promoting economic growth and good governance in a broad array of developing countries.

She cited two other successful U.S. economic initiatives for Africa: the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants duty-free access to the U.S. market for African goods, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which provides financing, political risk insurance and investment funding that guarantee more U.S. direct investment in Africa.

While much progress has been made in the region, she said, many will most remember the Bush administration for its health policies and initiatives in Africa, especially for the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), which has been reauthorized for $30 billion more. She also cited Bush's Malaria Initiative as another success story. It was launched in June 2005 as a $1.2 billion program over five years to combat malaria in Africa's 15 hardest-hit nations.

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