Africa has as much potential as anywhere on earth and, in this era of globalization, what happens in Africa will have a direct impact on the United States, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said February 17 in the keynote address at the National Summit on Africa.
She said that she, along with President Clinton and Vice President Gore "have been determined to see that Africa gets its fair share" of America's foreign policy budget. "And we have made substantial progress," she said, noting that this year U.S. assistance to Nigeria will reach almost $110 million, up from $7 million two years ago.
President Clinton, she said, is asking Congress for an additional $150 million in the next fiscal year to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases internationally, with a focus on initiatives in Africa.
Albright urged the U.S. Congress to immediately pass and send to President Clinton for his signature a final version of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the act, and the two must now be reconciled by a conference committee.
She noted that she had visited Africa several times as America's Ambassador to the United Nations, and has been back every year since she became Secretary of State.
"I see a continent that is more democratic than it ever has been, more economically open, and more alive with the energy of a growing civil society," she told the Summit.
But Africa also faces problems, she said, and the U.S. "response to the examples of misery and conflict must be to roll up our sleeves -- not throw up our hands. The human stakes are too high and the implications for our own future too great simply to walk away."
"Six years ago, when a campaign of genocide was launched in Rwanda, neither America, nor the nations of Africa, nor the rest of the international community did enough, quickly enough, to try to stop it," she said. "And I say to you today that we must do all we can now to see that such a nightmare is never repeated.
Albright said she is "proud that America took the lead in creating an international criminal tribunal for Rwanda."
"And in the Sudan, we have taken a major role in trying to energize a regional peace process that could finally settle that country's disastrous sixteen-year-long civil war," she said.
American diplomats, she added, are also "fully engaged" inefforts to resolve other conflicts across the continent, from civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone to the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said, the United States has "actively supported Zambian President Chiluba's sustained efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a regional peace settlement."
"If we can help alleviate the suffering caused by these conflicts, we should. This is the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing. For we should have learned by now that America cannot be secure if millions elsewhere are trapped by strife and scarcity."
Following is the State Department transcript of her remarks, as delivered:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 17, 2000
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
THE NATIONAL SUMMIT ON AFRICA
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What a crowd! This is fantastic. Thank you very much, Andy, for that very nice introduction -- and I gather you kind of were almost a stand-up comic here for a while.
President Moi, Vice President Atiku, Under Secretary-General Gambari -- a very good friend of mine from the UN days -- Executive Secretary Amoako, Minister Brito and other distinguished colleagues, First Lady Taylor, Members of Congress, Administrator Anderson, Assistant Secretary Rice, and NSC Senior Director Smith, friends and distinguished guests: I am truly delighted to be able to welcome you here to Washington and to this amazing gathering.
President Clinton is always a tough act to follow, and I'm not going to repeat everything that the President said in his wonderful address earlier this morning. I do want to say that I have been proud to serve in different capacities under two Presidents -- Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- who truly care about and respect Africa's history, accomplishments and unlimited promise.
Let me start by thanking Leonard Robinson and Herschelle Challenor and everyone else who has been involved in organizing this extremely impressive Summit. I am told you range in age from 11 to 74, and represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That is quite a showing. And it is exactly the kind of comprehensive grassroots effort we need to muster and get greater support here at home for our partnership with an area of the world that is increasingly important to all of us.
As you know, there are still too many Americans who have in their heads a wrong and incomplete picture about Africa.
Some see Africa as remote and backward, that it is irrelevant to our interests. Others see it as doomed to economic and political failure. But you and I know the truth, which is that Africa has as much potential as anywhere on earth; that in parts of the continent it is starting to reach that potential, and that in this era of globalization, what happens in Africa will have a direct impact on us here in America. As you have so eloquently and convincingly argued, "Africa Matters."
So an essential part of my job -- and yours -- is to educate our fellow Americans. We all need to know more about the promising developments that are taking place across the continent, from Bamako and Lagos to Maputo and Hargeisa. And Americans need to know that the United States can play a vital and constructive role in Africa -- a role that is very much in our own national interests.
I visited Africa several times as America's Ambassador to the United Nations, and I have been back every year since I became Secretary of State. And I see a continent that is more democratic than it ever has been, more economically open, and more alive with the energy of a growing civil society.
In October, I went to Nigeria, where the government and people are engaged in a dramatic and high-stakes struggle to establish a viable democratic system. President Obasanjo is a courageous and visionary leader, and he is committed to jump-starting the economy, fighting corruption and resolving regional problems. I have to say that when he was Ambassador, Ambassador Gambari kept assuring me it would eventually happen. Ibrahim, it did. Whether he succeeds or fails will matter a great deal to us because Nigeria is a bellwether nation. It is large, strategically located, a major oil producer, and has the potential to lead of all West Africa in the direction of peace, democracy and the rule of law.
I have also had the pleasure of visiting South Africa, where President Mbeki has taken up the daunting challenge of succeeding Nelson Mandela. Now, that's the political equivalent of playing golf against Tiger Woods. But Mbeki is a remarkable leader in his own right, and has been working energetically to attract private investment, improve education and reduce unemployment and crime. Under his leadership, South Africa is taking an increasingly active role in regional affairs and strengthening its key international relationships, including with the United States.
Of course, just as it is wrong to exaggerate Africa's problems, so it would be irresponsible to ignore them. But our response to the examples of misery and conflict must be to roll up our sleeves -- not throw up our hands. The human stakes are too high and the implications for our own future too great simply to walk away.
When I was in Gulu, Uganda, I met with young people who had been abducted from their homes and taken to Sudan to serve as slaves or child soldiers. Some escaped from the Sudan-backed Lord's Resistance Army. All had been terribly abused and none could imagine a future free of violence and want.
Last fall, I visited Sierra Leone and I will not soon forget the terrible suffering inflicted on the children I saw at the Murray Town Amputee Camp. Some of the children were too young to even know what they have lost. As I held one armless child no bigger than my little grandson, I couldn't help but think "Who did he threaten? Whose enemy was he?"
For me, these and similar memories gathered elsewhere on the continent fill me not with despair, but rather anger, and a determination to do more to help the people of Africa to achieve and sustain peace.
Six years ago, when a campaign of genocide was launched in Rwanda, neither America, nor the nations of Africa, nor the rest of the international community did enough, quickly enough, to try to stop it. It is no secret that I was furious at what happened and was not satisfied with our efforts then. And I say to you today that we must do all we can now to see that such a nightmare is never repeated.
I am proud that America took the lead in creating an international criminal tribunal for Rwanda. The Tribunal has offered the world a lesson by prosecuting not just the perpetrators but the leaders of genocide. And it has established, once and for all, that those who see rape and sexual assault as just another weapon of war must answer for their crimes. And in the Sudan, we have taken a major role in trying to energize a regional peace process that could finally settle that country's disastrous sixteen-year-long civil war. As we seek an end to that war, we also insist on an end to slavery, religious persecution and support for terrorism.
On Tuesday, I met with Bishop Macram Max Gassis, a leading Sudanese human rights activist. Bishop Gassis regularly conducts relief flights into the Nuba region at great personal risk, and he was able to give me firsthand accounts of the impact of Sudan's civil war -- particularly of the government's aerial bombardment of the people in his diocese. Nine days ago, one of those air strikes killed 14 children and a teacher. This was yet another unconscionable assault on innocent civilians, and both President Clinton and I have expressed our outrage.
I told Bishop Gassis that we will make it a priority to increase the international pressure on the regime in Khartoum until these violations stop. And we have to make sure that humanitarian organizations are given full and immediate access to all those in need. We want to bring Sudan's leaders to a just and comprehensive peace, but peace will not be achievable without the Government of Sudan demonstrating respect for basic human rights.
American diplomats are also fully engaged in efforts to resolve the other conflicts across the continent, from civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone to the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have actively supported Zambian President Chiluba's sustained efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a regional peace settlement. Later this month, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on sending a United Nations observer force to help in that effort. But in order for the UN's effort to be successful, the parties to the conflict must honor their commitment to sustain the peace. So we have been working very closely with Ketumile Masire, the former President of Botswana, as he seeks to organize a Congolese national dialogue to promote reconciliation and build new democratic institutions.
If we can help alleviate the suffering caused by these conflicts, we should. This is the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing. For we should have learned by now that America cannot be secure if millions elsewhere are trapped by strife and scarcity.
Economically, the key to progress in Africa, as elsewhere, is creating good jobs and sound economic structures. So the Clinton Administration, starting with the leadership of the late Ron Brown, and with the strong support of Vice President Al Gore, has worked hard to encourage American importers, exporters and investors to make the most of the opportunities Africa has to offer.
In this area, as with all the others, we are working in close consultation and partnership with Africa's democratically-elected leaders. Last year, I hosted representatives of 46 African nations for the first US-Africa Ministerial. It was the largest gathering of American and African officials ever, and an important opportunity to hear the concerns of the continent's leaders.
At the Ministerial, African leaders told us in no uncertain terms that one of the most helpful things we could do would be to obtain passage of a strong Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. This Act would give a hand up to leaders who have been reforming and modernizing their economies, and give new reason for others to do the same.
And so I strongly encourage you to support this measure. It may not be perfect, but it is good -- I would say a giant step forward. Congress should enact this legislation -- not at some distant point, but this year, this month, now. Before closing, I want to say a few words about resources. President Clinton, Vice President Gore and I have been determined to see that Africa gets its fair share of our foreign policy budget. And we have made substantial progress. For instance, this year our assistance to Nigeria will reach almost $110 million, up from $7 million two years ago. And the President is asking for an additional $150 million in the next fiscal year to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases internationally, with a focus on initiatives in Africa.
But unfortunately, the overall resources we have available for foreign policy today have not kept pace with our responsibilities. For years, our workload has gone up, while our budget has gone down. And I don't know how many of you would believe this, but out of our federal budget dollar, let's say, only one penny is used for foreign policy. That is quite stunning.
Today, our rich and powerful nation devotes a smaller percentage of its wealth to assisting overseas development than any other industrialized country. During the past decade, our rate of investment has declined by fifty percent; and since the days of the Marshall Plan by more than ninety.
As the new century dawns, we are allocating only one penny out of every federal dollar we spend for the entire array of international affairs programs. But that single penny -- or the lack of a half-penny more -- could spell the difference between hard times and good times for our people, war and peace for our country, less and more for freedom for our world. And I hope you will agree with me that we can do better, and that we must do better.
I have banned the word "foreign aid" because it's aid to America. That is what that budget is for.
Let me conclude by saying that I am looking forward to seeing the Summit's National Plan of Action. The drafting process, including your six regional Summits, has already proven its worth by helping to awaken the American people to our own interest in a strong and stable and prosperous Africa. I expect the final text will serve the same purpose very well, and I hope that each of you will stay actively involved in educating others -- including legislators, key opinion makers and the media -- on what we need to do and why.
Thank you all very much for your attention and for your warm reception. Thank you.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)