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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/02/22 TESTIMONY: JOHN SHATTUCK ON HUMAN RIGHTS/DEMONCRACY IN AFRICA BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGTHS, AND LABOR
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE JOHN SHATTUCK ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FEBRUARY 22, 1995
Madame Chairman, I am glad to be here with you today to discuss human rights and democracy in Africa.
Africa defies generalization. We see significant variation among countries, and within countries. Across this diversity events unfold, some profoundly hopeful, others profoundly disappointing. For simplicity's sake, I will speak of Africa as an entity, and our diplomacy does have a continental scope, as we work through and support multilateral institutions such as the Organization of African Unity. But I stress that we recognize and work with each country's unique social, economic and political circumstances, and that perspective informs my remarks today.
Before I turn to the details, let me offer a general assessment. First, we have seen and have every reason to expect to see some very encouraging developments. The majority of Africa's states are turning toward democracy and market-based economic systems, having realized that one-party rule and state-run economies do not and cannot work. Progress here has not been uniform - the fullness and consolidation of democratic and market reform vary across countries. For our part, we in the U.S. government intend to do what we can to support these transitions. I would of course highlight South Africa's transition from legal apartheid to democracy, which led to the election of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994. We are proud of our contribution to that change and we look forward to continued effort to help South Africa succeed over the local haul. The most immediate effect of its success will be felt in its region, where other democratic governments such as Botswana and Namibia among others will benefit from a vibrant free-market democracy in South Africa.
In Africa of course we see major problems, most stunningly in Rwanda, but elsewhere as well. One of Africa's largest and most important states, Nigeria, remains under the rule of the military, who seized power after the elections of 1993; there are civil wars in Liberia and Sudan; last year, The Gambia slid back into military rule. I will take up many of these problems in detail later in my remarks. Here I will say only that we believe that democracy and human rights in Africa matter to the United States, and we intend to do what we can to work with those trying to improve their own countries, and to work with multilateral organizations, including the U.N., to help resolve civil conflicts and prevent future crises.
U.S. Policy Objectives
Let us turn first to the key goals of U.S. policy towards Africa, which can be briefly summarized. They are based upon the premise that we need to support the political and economic reforms initiated by Africans themselves. Our chief objectives are:
1) Governments that are democratic, stable, effective and responsible;
2) Equitable economic growth;
3) Prevention and resolution of conflicts;
4) Effective responses to transnational issues.
These goals and the policies to effect them are related; we have learned in our human rights and democracy work in Africa, as elsewhere, that we must look at events through a policy lens that will capture the complex relationships among problems - and among solutions. Thus, we recognize that the growth of democracy supports market-based economic growth by providing the resources for the development of what we refer to as civil society, a network of relationships based on mutual trust and the rule of law rather than arbitrary or authoritarian power. By the same token, preventing or if need be resolving conflicts through the development of African peacekeeping and enforcement mechanisms will also help prevent the massive violations of human rights that we have seen in Rwanda, and Liberia, and elsewhere, and in turn help reduce the refugee movements and environmental destruction these conflicts engender.
Bearing in mind the links among these issues, I will focus my testimony on the first policy objective I mentioned, the promotion of democracy and human rights on the continent. In Africa, as elsewhere, democratic government and respect for human rights are closely linked. Democracy is the best means the world has produced to protect and advance human rights, based on individual freedom and dignity. In turn, respect for human rights is the only means by which a democracy can sustain the individual freedom and dignity that enables it to endure.
Tools for Promoting Democracy and Human Rights
The United States has a range of tools to promote democracy and human rights in our foreign policy. Central among them are our assistance programs, which are used both positively to encourage progress and negatively to discourage and condemn reversals and bring to justice human rights violators. The Congress has played a key role with the executive branch in developing specific democracy assistance programs. Some programs are carried out through grants administered by American nongovernmental organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, and the African-American Institute. One of our most innovative and creative assistance programs, the democracy and human rights fund, enables our embassies to provide small support grants for grass roots democratization and human rights projects that they can directly observe and evaluate. The important role of these grants in effecting real change in Africa's political life is all the more striking in light of the small sums involved - in FY1995 just $4 million, with no individual grant exceeding $100 thousand. The Administration strongly supports this program and urges that it be retained as we reshape our assistance policies toward Africa.
Through these assistance programs we have conducted a wide variety of effective projects in recent years. For example, we have supported election assistance and civic education in Mali; election monitors in Zambia; training for political parties in Benin; election efforts and democratic institution building in Malawi; election management, demobilization and civic education in Namibia; and parliamentary training in the Central African Republic. In South Africa democracy promotion projects such as voter education, community outreach and leadership development, and support for strengthening of public management and institutions and the like are a significant part of our overall program to help South Africa through its dramatic and difficult transition from apartheid to democracy.
We also use our aid to press for an end to human rights abuses by reducing or eliminating programs. One recent example is The Gambia, where the 1994 coup prompted a suspension of our aid program. Multilaterally, we oppose loans by international financial institutions to countries that have a pattern of serious human rights abuses, excepting loans for basic human needs. We have opposed loans to Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Sudan for these reasons.
On the political and diplomatic level, we are actively working to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of democratic systems that respect human rights. Our embassies are responsible for developing annual plans to work on these goals, with specific teams to oversee progress. In the department and in the field we review problems continually and ensure that they are raised in private and public diplomatic channels as appropriate. For example, we have urged the regime in Nigeria to rescind its decrees restricting press and other freedoms, and return to its announced program to hand over power to elected civilian leaders. I will discuss Nigeria later in some detail. We have employed a variety of sanctions there, including refusal of visas to civilian and military leaders (and their families) who impede the return to democracy, export control restrictions, prohibition of military sales, and termination of EXIM lending and OPIC coverage. To look at a different sort of case, in Mauritania, we have condemned and pressed the government to end continuing practices of slavery by cutting off assistance and ending trade benefits under the General System of Preferences.
Another important diplomatic tool is our annual country reports on human rights, published earlier this month. These reports are widely publicized throughout Africa and are closely read by governments and private organizations; we are confident they have an impact on official behavior.
Democratic Developments in 1994
I will now turn to the record of events in Africa over the last year and review some key countries in more detail. Although international attention tends to focus on some deeply disturbing developments - exemplified by the Rwandan catastrophe, to which I will return later - it is essential that we recognize the truly remarkable progress on the continent. By pursuing a strong policy on democracy and human rights in Africa, the United States has made a positive difference in many places. In that regard I cite the greatest triumph of 1994, the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa, marking the end of one of the most profoundly racist systems in history and the beginning of a democratic polity. South Africa's new interim constitution and Bill of Fundamental Rights provide for freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and other critical rights. Although the Government faces difficult challenges, the cabinet has operated by consensus and enjoys widespread popular support. Politically motivated violence has decreased significantly since the April elections. Just last week, the country took another step forward with the installation of a constitutional review court, some of whose members were anti-apartheid activists in the past, including one who represented President Mandela at his trial for treason 31 years ago. Not long ago most observers would have considered this peaceful shift to a model democracy as nearly impossible. We are proud to have contributed to this major victory for democracy.
Many other African countries have undertaken democratic transitions, which while perhaps less heralded, are by no means less profound or meaningful, particularly for their citizens. Five years ago there were five democratically elected governments in sub-Saharan Africa; today there are twenty-one. There have been other important strides towards civil society. For example, the press in many African countries has gained considerably greater freedom than it enjoyed a decade ago in a number of countries. The numbers of human rights activists and organizations are growing, exemplified by GERDDES (in English, the Group for Studies and Research on Democracy and Economic and Social Devlopment) in several francophone states of West Africa and ZIMRIGHTS in Zimbabwe.
Let me cite some of the African democracy and human rights success stories in the nineties:
In 1991, Mali's twenty-three year old military dictatorship was deposed and a multiparty democracy has risen in its place. The Central African Republic successfully completed its transition to democratic, multiparty rule following free and fair elections in 1993. In 1994 Malawi ended the one-man, one-party rule it had experienced since independence and introduced an new constitution with strong human rights provisions. Namibia has made a successful transition to multiparty democracy, and in December 1994 it held free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. Ghana's transition to a constitutional democracy, begun in 1992, remained on track. A UN-negotiated peace in Mozambique ended sixteen years of war and elections last year installed a new government; the human rights situation has steadily improved, and we are hopeful this progress will be sustained. Tanzania also continued to move toward democracy, and most of the twelve new opposition parties participated in local and by-elections in 1994. Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, and Cape Verde, are also examples of nations that have recently joined the ranks of African democracies with good human rights records. Zimbabwe has continued to improve its human rights record, led by key rulings from the Supreme Court in 1994 on rights of women, free assembly and press, and due process. In 1994 Botswana completed twenty-eight years of democracy since independence. President Masire's government, which has an excellent record of respect for human rights, has made a commitment to address gender inequities in the citizenship law this year.
These and other examples reflect the diversity I noted earlier; there has been a broad variety of democracy movements and institutional means of transition - referenda, national conferences, constitutional commissions -- and different approaches to the establishment of accountable governments that respect human rights. In the aid projects I discussed earlier, we have sought to support the institutions each country is developing for itself, and also attempted to provide cross-fertilization by sharing ideas that have worked elsewhere. I also note that many of these countries are undertaking democratic reform in tandem with serious efforts at economic reform. We are working to support such economic reform through our assistance programs. And we provide humanitarian aid to countries in transition, to lessen the sufferings of innocent civilians and to help create a climate conducive to negotiations and dialogue, for example in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Mozambique.
Human Rights Crises and the U.S. Response
Africa is also the site of very serious human rights problems. Liberia continues to be wracked by brutal civil war; we are working with the UN and with regional organizations to bring the parties together. In southern Africa, Angola has been unable to bring its conflict to a peaceful conclusion, and egregious violations of human rights continue, although there is hope that the Lusaka protocol signed late in 1994 will finally bring peace, and US participation helped bring this about. In the Sudan, the civil war continues and the dismal human rights situation shows no signs of improvement. Both government and rebels commit horrendous abuses, with the official pressure for Islamization presenting special hardships for the non-Muslim population. We have made a resolution on Sudan one of our top priorities this year in the UN Human Rights Commission.
Both military and civilian governments in Africa are responsible for human rights abuses. In Nigeria, the military seized power in November of 1993 following the annulment of the elections in June of that year, which had been judged by national and international observers as the freest and fairest in that nation's history. The military government, as I noted earlier, has an abysmal human rights record and is making almost no progress toward democracy, disregarding any semblance of democratic process. We have made unambiguously clear that we support responsible efforts to restore civilian, democratic government and an end to human rights abuses. We have, as I mentioned, instituted visa restrictions and export controls, terminated all aid except for humanitarian and democratization aid through non-governmental entities, suspended consideration of applications for OPIC and EXIM financing -- and we do not rule out the possibility of further sanctions.
The Gambia's military have scrapped most of the country's democratic institutions and committed many abuses; in response we have terminated aid other than democracy promotion. The military rulers have now agreed to a two-year timetable for holding democratic elections. In Zaire, Prime Minister Kengo's ambitious and at times courageous program of political reform continues to be obstructed by President Mobutu and his allies in the security services and the parliament. We have imposed an arms embargo in response, as well as a visa sanction targeted at Zairian obstructionists. The Kenyan Government continued efforts to silence critics, although in June it withdrew charges against opposition leaders and democratic reformers in Parliament continue to press for change. In neighboring Ethiopia the transitional government continued to move toward multiparty democracy, but opposition parties are boycotting the spring 1995 elections, complaining of government domination of the political process.
In northern Africa, human rights conditions have deteriorated in several countries. In Egypt, the government's security services and terrorist groups are locked in a cycle of violence and widespread violations continue. In Algeria, government forces have shown increasing disregard for human rights in their attempts to suppress the Islamist insurgency, while some Islamist groups have committed heinous acts of violence against Algerian citizens and foreigners, intimidating the population and depriving it of basic human rights. We have publicly and privately condemned violence and human rights abuses in both Egypt and Algeria. Libya, of course, is one of the rogue states of the world, and we have used a broad range of sanctions against its harsh regime.
Finally, a group of human rights disasters poses enormous challenges for the United States and the world community in responding to and getting ahead of the immediate conflict, coping with the refugee movements that result, and resolving the conflict so that longterm stability can be established. Our efforts to create or assist effective local conflict prevention and peacekeeping institutions will be critical if we are to avoid future disasters. Somalia, where the civil war continues unabated and the human rights situation goes on deteriorating, is an obvious example. The international community has not been able to find a means to resolve this conflict. Without political reconciliation, and faced with a worsening security situation, the Security Council reluctantly ordered a total withdrawal of UN forces by the end of March 1995.
Genocide in Rwanda
An even more pressing situation is presented by Rwanda. The genocidal slaughter in Rwanda is among the greatest human rights catastrophes of our time in both speed and scale. I have travelled twice to Rwanda since the onslaught of the killings in April 1994. I cannot adequately describe some of the things I have seen. From this horror, we are trying to wrest some measure of justice and hope for the future. In particular, we fought hard and successfully for the creation of the UN War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda. We have contributed personnel and over $1 million in funds to the Tribunal, and were instrumental in helping the UN field human rights monitors in Rwanda, contributing three quarters of a million dollars to this major effort to stabilize the country so that refugees can return, and we are contributing development aid for the rebuilding of the economic and social structures. The establishment of criminal responsibility for genocide is crucial if we are to differentiate victims from aggressors, foster societal reconciliation and overcome the cynical argument that ethnic conflicts cannot be resolved.
The Rwanda genocide was the result of years of mounting interethnic hostility and conflict; it is the cause of the flood of refugees, the depopulation of the country and the continuing instability, which threatens to spread to neighboring countries. In order to address this crisis, all aspects of a human rights response must be present and well integrated.
How is that to be done? First, through the Tribunal. Second, through the deployment of UN monitors whose work and presence will promote stability. Third, we must coordinate the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda with humanitarian relief and human rights monitoring and enforcement activities. Fourth, through the UN we must assist the Rwandan government to build national institutions of justice and democracy.
We must also work to prevent a human rights disaster in Burundi akin to that of Rwanda. Here, we are actively supporting efforts to prevent ethnic bloodshed and promote national reconciliation. We will provide $5 million in FY-95 development aid focused on grants to promote dialogue, reconciliation and human rights; we will look to other funds to support the UN's comprehensive plan for human rights advisory services and the OAU monitoring force. We are also pressing for accountability for those responsible for the attempted coup and murder of President Ndayade in October 1993 and the ethnic violence that followed. I have travelled twice to Burundi to investigate and encourage efforts at accountability and reconciliation.
I have discussed Rwanda and Burundi at some length because they are indicative of the new, creative efforts in preventive diplomacy and preemptive conflict resolution that we must develop to manage the post-Cold War human rights challenges that arise along the fault lines within societies and between countries. Many of the old familiar diplomatic and military tools have proven to be of limited utility in addressing these challenges. We are joining our efforts with other governments and nongovernmental organizations to begin to establish mechanisms that will meet these challenges.
In closing, Madame Chairman, I would echo the words of National Security Advisor Lake, who has devoted much of his career to the study of Africa, and who recently completed extensive travels there. He has said: "President Clinton and his Administration reject Afro-pessimism. But neither should any of us seek refuge in the illusions of Afro-optimism. . . What is needed instead is a new Afro-realism - an Afro-realism that commits us to the hard work that can strengthen the partnership between Africa and America. Without that partnership, Africa will have lost the support we wish to give and are determined to give. America will have lost the opportunity to participate in what could be - what must be - one of the great adventures of our time: fulfilling the dreams of Africa's greatness that animated the leaders of its independence so many years ago."
I would add that those dreams are not the special province of the elite. Men and women throughout Africa are working to create better lives for themselves and their children, often in the face of fantastic hardship and with great courage. They are endowed with inalienable rights to freedom and dignity, and we are committed to helping them realize those rights.
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