Senegalese Democracy Is On The Right Course
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
-Prof Souleymane Diagne on the demise of Wade
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The palpable tension in the build up the election contrasted sharply with the final outcome in the recent elections in Senegal. President Abdoulaye Wade was defeated in the second round by his former protégé Macky Sall. In a salutary show of political maturity that speaks volumes on the state of democracy in Senegal, defeated President Wade was the first to concede with warm words of congratulations for Macky Sall. Considering that this is the second time in recent times that a seating President was not only defeated by the opposition but left power without the kind of drama and rancor that is the norm in many other African countries, Prof Souleymane Diagne says democracy is on the right path in Senegal.A philosopher of great international repute cited by the authoritative French paper Le Nouvel observateur as one of the 50 thinkers of our time, Prof Diagne says the promises made by Wade to bring change to Senegal were ultimately his undoing as there were too lofty to be fulfilled. Though Wade gets credit for respecting the will of Senegalese, Prof Souleymane says it could not be otherwise since the margin of defeat was comparatively high.
Senegalese people are a very impatient people he says in a veiled indication that Macky Sall may not have much of a honeymoon. Diagne who is a member of the scientific committees of Diogenes (published by UNESCO’s International Counsel of Philosophy and Social Sciences), CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa), and of the African and Malagasy Committee for Higher Education (CAMES), as well as UNESCO’s Council on the Future. Currently a Professor of French and Philosophy at Columbia University, Souleymane Diagne believes that in a continent where democracy is struggling to take root amid incredible odds, the resilience of the Senegalese people may serve as inspiration for other African countries.
PAV: After another successful election with a candidate from the opposition defeating a sitting President, is it safe to say democracy is firmly established in Senegal?
Prof Souleymane Diagne: -I think that we can say yes. The first political change that happened in 2000 was a major change for the Senegalese democratic institutions of course but to have a repeat is a major achievement especially at a time when stakes were so high with the huge disputes over the third term agenda of President Wade and the dispute on whether he was eligible to even run at all. It was a happy ending with voting deciding. If it was not voting, it would have been the streets .It was a peaceful political change where the incumbent lost and congratulated the winner in what was a major test for democracy in Senegal.
PAV: Outgoing President sometimes came across as a stubborn leader, were you surprise with the grace which he embraced defeat?
Prof Souleymane Diagne: -Yes somehow. Prior to the elections his declarations just not envisioning the possibility that he could lose were worrisome. Many people were worried that he did not consider the prospects of losing and things like that but at one point he must have reminded himself of the example set by his predecessor Abdou Diouf. The idea that there was already a deep history with Diouf conceding gracefully must have been a positive precedent. There are many people who think he had no choice though considering that the margin of defeat was even more than that of Diouf when he lost to him. He could not have done otherwise.
PAV: He came in with a lot of promise and was virtually forced out by Senegalese, what went wrong with the Wade Presidency and the “Sopi” or change it was expected to bring?
Prof Souleymane Diagne: -Well in retrospect historians will say it was predictable. Basically Sopi was running a very populist campaign against a President in charge of the structural adjustment programmes .His predecessor who succeeded Senghor in the early 80s was the President under whose watch the unpopular structural adjustment programmes were enforced with the degree of poverty and social discontent that came with it. It was an opening for the opposition which proposed a programme promising jobs, better economic conditions etc. Wade did this with the Sopi which was a promise that things will be better. It was a populist message but those kinds of promises are very hard to deliver and he certainly did not deliver for the twelve years he was in power. In the end his own promises were turned against him.
PAV: May we know some of the achievements recorded by Wade, in other words what would you consider a legacy of the Wade Presidency?
Prof Souleymane Diagne:-What his main legacy might be is the renovation of Dakar which is very different today in terms of fluidity of traffic and sidewalks. Many people from the opposition have said and rightly so that Senegal is not just Dakar. Another aspect of infrastructure is the new airport he wanted to construct in Dakar. He said during the campaigns that he wanted to launch it before he leaves.
So those infrastructural aspects could be considered a legacy. Obviously he would like people to consider the African renaissance monument a legacy but it has been very controversial especially in terms of appropriation. You can build anything but sometimes when people do not see themselves in it, it will not be a good legacy.
PAV: Macky Sall served as Minister and later Prime Minister under President Wade, what are some of the major challenges that he faces and how might he be different from Wade?
Prof Souleymane Diagne: -It’s going to be different. During Wade’s Presidency, a forum of the opposition and the civil society realized there should be a change in institutions because Senegal inherited from France a system where the President had too much power. There is need for more balance in the system with parliament more empowered. The opposition and the civil society agreed on this amongst others in a conclave boycotted by Wade. Its conclusions were accepted by Macky Sall .Under him Senegalese institutions may change with more power to the parliament, a huge step forward for democracy.
Second, the Presidential terms will revert back to five after been raised to seven by Wade. So the Presidential term of office will be five years renewable once. While Sall might have served as Minister, Prime Minister and President of the Assembly under Wade, it must be recognized that the reason he fell out with Wade was the desire to exercise oversight and accountability in government actions. Wade’s son was summoned before a parliamentary commission to explain usage of money for the agency he was in charge of which was building infrastructure in Senegal. He was ready to fight corruption and wanted power to be accountable. His campaign gave reason to believe that he will fight corruption.
PAV: Is there a way that he could channel the positive energy generated in the youth, civil society, personalities like Youssour Ndour and Jacques Diouf as they sort to defeat Wade into the realization of some big achievements for Senegal?
Prof Souleymane Diagne:The manner in which his government was choice of members has been favourably received. It has people from the civil society .People like Youssour Ndour should be able to serve the Senegalese Culture well.
At the same time you must understand whoever is in power in Senegal will be dealing with a very restive and impatient people. Senegalese are a very impatient people and do want to see results.
PAV: What lessons do you think the rest of Africa should learn from the elections especially in those countries where the democratic experience has not been as exciting and successful as in Senegal?
Prof Souleymane Diagne: In a continent struggling to have democracy, where poverty is high, and there is so much demagoguery, it is so easy for populist discourse to blind side people from the main issues. Any successful election is an encouragement. At one point the Senegalese example was considered flawed but there is a kind of resilience of democracy by African people who want democracy. It is the path to unity, only truly democratic countries can come together to form the kind of confederation or union the continent wants for its salvation. So any good news from any country is good news for the continent.
Inspirational Leadership Critical For Africa – John Kufuor
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
-Sit Tight Leaders betray trust of the people says Former Ghanaian President
By Ajong Mbapndah L.
He may be out of Office but the esteem he enjoys across the globe makes you wonder if he misses anything about power at all. Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor is a prominent figure in the small but growing club of elder statesmen in the continent. For leaving power after two terms (2001-2009) Mr. Kufuor is revered by many across the continent. Out of office Kufuor who served as Chairperson of the African Union from 2007-2008 is still engaged in multiple activities most with a bearing on development in Africa. He is Chairman of the Interpeace Governing Council, World Food Ambassador of the UN against hunger, member of several boards including the Leon Sullivan Foundation, and the Brenthurst Foundation of South Africa just to cite a few. Not the type to shy away from a good course, President Kufuor was recently introduced as a Special Envoy for Neglected Tropical Diseases by the Global Network for Tropical Diseases at a Luncheon in Washington DC. In a chat with PAV, President Kufuor said, his desire to improve on the quality of life not only for Ghanaians but also for humanity makes him ready for service whenever he is called upon. The future is only getting brighter for Africa he enthused but cautioned that inspirational leadership was needed for the continent to reap premium dividends from the courtship it is getting from the rest of the world. Urging leaders to respect trust bestowed on them by their people, President Kufuor says those using messianic instincts to remain in power for ever act in error. Given the opportunity, African people will make their own way forward successful says President Kufuor .
PAV: H: E congratulations for your nomination as new special envoy for neglected and tropical diseases, may we know what this means for you, Ghana and Africa?
John Kufuor: Very Important because neglected diseases have been causing havoc to our communities. There sap our efficiency and productivity among our working communities, our children and make the old unhappy. This can be seen in our villages with diseases like guinea work, river blindness etc. So I feel humbled and honoured that the Global Network should invite me to be its Special Envoy to advocate support from around the world for the fight against these neglected diseases and also to advocate among the recipient countries and heighten the awareness of the dangers posed by these diseases to our people. It is a big thing and I welcome it. I believe the fight is been joined and with the political context that my coming in is calculated to bring, both the local and international community will get up and do more about relieving people of these diseases.
PAV: How does this new assignment tie in with some of the issues that dominated your Presidency in Ghana?
John Kufuor: Well, health and education are both basic and crucial when it comes to development. If you talk of human development and you do not talk of education, and you do not talk of health, then I do not know what it is to talk about. This appointment ties in with what efforts I made while in government to improve on the quality of live for Ghanaians.
PAV: You are Chairman of the Interpeace Governing Council, World Food Ambassador of the UN against hunger, member of several boards including the Leon Sullivan Foundation, the Brenthurst Foundation of South Africa etc where do you get the energy and how do you juggle all these activities?
John Kufuor: Well, I want to say that I come to politics with a missionary call to help improve on the quality of live for people not only for my people in Ghana, but also for humanity. Where ever I can contribute to improve on quality of living, I am always ready to be of service. I believe people see this in me and this is why people invited me to be part of the venture that brought me here.
PAV: We ask the questions because the continent has leaders who have been in power for thirty years and counting, do you share the concerns of Africans on this disturbing trend?
John Kufuor: First I believe in the self confidence of the African people that given the opportunity, they will make their own way forward successfully. So anybody who pretends to be the messiah because that’s the mentality of those who stay in power indefinitely is making a mistake. You swear by the constitution when you take power and by the same constitution, you must step down when your time or term is up. If you refuse to step down, you are betraying the trust of the people. Any leader who respects the trust of the people he leads would not want to perpetuate himself in power especially against their wishes.
PAV: The continent recently had coups in Mali and most recently Guinea Bissau as one of the Elder Statesmen, what is your reaction to these developments?
John Kufuor: Our continent is very big in terms of land mass and population and faces many challenges. I hope the African Union would use this panel of the wise and other agencies to get people to dialogue and try to resolve the many problems besetting the various countries and people. It is important that in moments of crisis the African Union should show the necessary leadership.
PAV: For the first time an African in the person of Ngozi Okonjo Nweala contested for the presidency of the Bank and lost how much of a blow is this for Africa?
John Kufuor: Well actually those of us who know and appreciate the competence of Ngozi and her expertise in the management of the World Bank are sorry she did not make it. The bank is a world body and the world is made up of so many countries and diverse people. Today our sister did not make it but as you observed, it is the first time, I believe the next time an African candidate will make it just as Koffi Annan also broke into the scene at the United Nations. Africa should bid its time and not give up.
PAV: President Kufuor a prediction on the future of the continent as we to round up?
John Kufuor: I think it is showing so much promise now. The continent is getting lots of attention from all sides of the globe. From the East, China, Japan and India are courting Africa. From the west America and Europe are doing same, Russia does not want to be left behind. This shows there is something about Africa and we must not only be proud but be very ready for that. However leadership is very critical. We must get leadership that will inspire us with confidence and pragmatism instead of dwelling on ideologies we have neither thought through nor understand. If we were to do that and negotiate well with all our friends and partners, Africa will take center stage in the world.
PAV: President Kufuor thanks for talking to PAV
John Kufuor: Thanks
-Nigerians Are United Against Terrorism
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
– Ayodele Akinkuotu Executive Editor Tell Magazine on developments in Nigeria
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Attacks from Boko Haram, elections, the deregulation crisis with strikes which almost grounded the country et al, Nigeria has continued to make headline news. As the Boko Haram continues to run riot in the country, politicians have spent time trading blames. President Goodluck Jonathan who came in with a lot of promise has been under criticism from the break down in security that almost made the country helpless in the face of the Boko Haram. Nigerians are however united against terrorism says Ayodele Akinkuotu Executive Editor of the authoritative Tell Magazine. Approached by PAV in a bid to get an unbiased assessment of the situation in Nigeria, Ayodele says the ease with which the Boko Haram unleashes its mindless attacks has created palpable fear in Nigerians. It may take a while for the Nation to overcome the nightmare but Nigerians are united on the fact that terrorism will do the nation no good. A highly respected voice in African media circles, Ayodele answered questions from PAV’s Ajong Mbapndah L on the Boko Haram, the deregulation crisis, corruption, concerns on whether Nigeria will survive as one Nation and more.
PAV: A United Nations Office was bombed last year, On Christmas day a Christian facility, many public offices have been targeted and many innocent lives lost, as a result of the Boko Haram which has continued with its attacks unabated and even ordered Christians in the North to move back to the South and Muslims in the South to move back to the North, is Nigeria under siege from this sect?
Ayodele Akinkuotu:There is no doubt that with the mayhem they have unleashed in the last several months, the nation is certainly under siege from the Boko Haram. Their mindless atrocities have created so much palpable fear, especially with the seeming ease with which they strike at their targets. While the nation was caught unawares, the good news, however, is that the security agencies are beginning to counter them through intelligence gathering. It is true some Christians who are southerners are relocating, even if temporarily; but where will Christians who are northerners relocate to?
There is no doubt the militant sect wants to plunge Nigeria into a religious crisis. But many patriotic Nigerians have realised their unwholesome intention, and are not about granting them their wish. It may take a while before the nation overcomes this nightmare, but millions of Nigerians are united on one fact that terrorism will not do the nation any good.
PAV: Religion is a sensitive nerve on the politics of Nigeria, when this Muslim sect targets Christians and Christian facilities, how does the broader Muslim population in Nigeria distinctly distance itself from the Boko Haram and its activities?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: The broader Muslim population has condemned without reservation the mindless activities of Boko Haram. Members of the group are mere impostors hiding under the guise of religion to perpetrate evil. Islam abhors violence. Anybody who says anything to the contrary simply does not know the religion and such a person cannot be a Muslim, no matter his claim to being one. And that includes the Boko Haram
PAV: What is the reaction of Nigerians on the way the Government of President Jonathan has handled the crisis thus far?
Ayodele Akinkuotu:Well, the reactions have been mixed. Many people think President Goodluck Jonathan has not come down heavily on the sect. Others believe, however, that he is trying considering the constraints there are. Do not forget that this is a guerrilla war unleashed on the cities by a faceless group. What the Jonathan administration needs most is cooperation of the citizenry, especially those living in the North of Nigeria, where the Boko Haram is based.
Furthermore, the crisis has confirmed one thing many Nigerians have been calling for quite some time, an overhauling of the nation’s security agencies. And that should include community policing, which will ensure that criminals can be easily identified.
PAV: In previous administrations, little was heard about the Boko Haram, is the surge in their activities a as a result of Christian Southerners at the helm of the country?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: From the little we know so far, the Boko Haram did not just spring up overnight. This is a group that has been recruiting members quietly over the years. Many of their members had been arrested in the past under previous administrations only for them to be released for “no want of evidence”. And because the security agencies were not only careless, there was no synergy between them that would have created the necessary platform to interpret properly the” monster” that was growing right under their nose. The issue is beyond just a Christian being at the helm of the country’s affairs; the Boko Haram first came into national consciousness in the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was a Muslim from the north. We have been told Boko Haram has links with Al Qaeda Maghreb and even the Taliban. The countries where the latter groups originate are basically Islamic. And we have witnessed Muslim-on- Muslim violence in those places.
PAV: The USA, and the other members of the International Community have expressed interest in helping Nigeria to fight the sect, does Nigeria need international help?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: Nigeria surely needs all the support it can get from the international community. However, such assistance should be limited to sharing information with security agencies on how to combat terrorism. The United States has been fighting terrorism for years both within and outside its shores. Nigerian security agencies will benefit greatly from counter-insurgency trainings. A physical deployment of foreign troops to Nigeria for the purpose of combating the Boko Haram menace may be counter- productive. I think the nation has enough security outfits and personnel who if well equipped can stop the terrorists in their tracks.
PAV: Nigerians were in the streets expressing anger over deregulation, may we understand what deregulation is all about and who has a stronger case the government which made the decision or the people who are against it?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: This deregulation of the downstream sector has been going on for years. To the common man on the street, deregulation means removal of fuel subsidy. The issue of subsidy arose because we import refined petroleum products for local consumption, an irony for a nation, which is the sixth oil producer in the world. Therefore Nigerians could not understand why our own refineries would not work; why we import fuel from other places thus creating employment in those countries while millions of Nigerians are unemployed. The deregulation was in public discourse for several weeks and Nigerians wanted to be educated properly by government on why they have to pay more for premium motor spirit. That debate was still in progress when the government announced the removal. Many thought the government was deceitful and uncaring by deciding to inflict more pain on hapless Nigerians on the first day of a new year.
PAV: Corruption has been known to be rife in the country, are there any signs that the government is making progress in fighting it?
Ayodele Akinkuotu:There are two agencies charged with fighting the war against corruption. It will be uncharitable to say they have not done well. There are still so many constraints blocking the war. There is a Code of Ethics for public officers in Nigeria. The Code is being observed in the breach. The failure to follow due process in the execution of public contracts prepares a fertile soil for corruption to thrive in. The private sector is not left out too, as recent probes of the banking sector and even the on-going probe of the petroleum sector have shown.
Many of our leaders in both the public and private sectors are not transparent and accountable in their handling of their responsibilities. The nation will turn the bend for good in the anti-corruption war the day a leader who is determined and has the political will emerges. It is such a leader who can deal with all the sacred cows who are stealing the nation blind, thus mortgaging the future for generations yet unborn.
PAV: In all fairness and for the same of some objectivity and honesty though is there anything the Jonathan administration has done that deserves credit, just anything no matter how small?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: Except for his deployment of troops to the streets of Lagos and some other cities in January to frighten anti-fuel subsidy protesters off the streets, Jonathan has tried in the area of rule of law.
PAV: Are the crises that Nigeria is facing today not an invitation for the military to start nursing political ambitions again?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: The military laid the foundation of these crises during their 30-year rule. If any group of soldiers becomes adventurous and tries to stage a putsch, it will be a serious error of judgment. I
think the nation can surely do without politicians in military uniform. This democracy should be seen as work in progress. Therefore it should be allowed to grow and get a taproot so that it can thrive.
PAV: Last question Sir, is Nigeria capable of remaining one, strong and united and what will it take?
Ayodele Akinkuotu: Millions of Nigerians do not entertain any doubt that their country can remain as a strong, indivisible and united nation. Although we are just 51 years old as an independent country, the journey to nationhood began nearly 100 years ago. The 250-odd ethic groups have become so interdependent that it would be chaotic if we now declare “to your tents oh Israel”! Considering the position of Nigeria as the largest black nation on earth, a balkanized Nigeria will not only create turmoil in the sub-region, but the ugly ripples will be felt all over Africa. To avoid such a development is why many eminent Nigerians across the ethnic divide have been calling for a national conference. That call is against the backdrop that the 1999 Constitution is not “a people’s constitution”. They believe that constitution was fashioned by a cabal in the military for a hidden agenda. Thus at the moment the country which is supposed to be a federation is being run like a unitary government. A national conference in which all the ethnic groups are represented will discuss the fundamentals of our co-existence as a nation. There are many who are opposed to this conference in the belief that it may pave the way for disintegration. They are being told, however, that to continue to postpone this national dialogue by shying away from it is to perpetually bind us to discord.
Africa is Extremely Important To US Foreign Policy
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
-Bruce Wharton Deputy Asst Sec for Public Diplomacy for the Bureau of African Affairs
By Ajong Mbapndah L
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have Africa very high on the U.S Foreign policy priority list says Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the State Departments African Bureau. Although President Obama in his fourth year in office has made it to Sub Saharan Africa just once, Mr. Wharton uses a broad list of very high U.S government Officials who have visited the continent to stress the importance of Africa in the Administration’s Foreign policy. In an interview which took place towards the end of last year, Mr. Wharton’s expectation that Secretary of State will return to the continent in early 2012 was on mark as Hillary Clinton recently rounded up another trip to Africa with stops in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, and Cape Verde. The Obama Administration according to Mr. Wharton sees partnership in its relationship as oppose to patronage. The USA is not in open competition with China in Africa he says, opining that both countries bring very different things to the table. Whereas the Chinese are interested in raw materials, Mr. Wharton who has served in South Africa and Zimbabwe says his country is more focused on building human capacity. The United States he believes however has a responsibility to urge American Businesses to take a fresh look at the opportunities that abound in Africa. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, the affable State Department Official offers insight into the USA Foreign Policy in Africa and the logic behind some positions taken by his country in Libya, Ivory Coast and the D.R.Congo.
PAV: Pan African Visions is grateful for your willingness to grant this interview Sir, may we know the place that Africa currently occupies in the U.S Foreign policy?
Bruce Wharton: President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have placed Africa very high on our foreign policy priority list. A number of reasons for that of course. First of all, there are deep deep connections between the USA and Africa. I think the aspirations of the African people and nations and the United States are very similar. We want freedom to express ourselves, we want the opportunity to grow a strong economic future, we want to be able to choose our governments and choose the way forward. So Africa is very important to the USA.
PAV: President Obama at the sunset of his first term of Office has been to Africa, well Sub Sahara Africa just once; in the face of this how do you convincingly make the case that the USA is sincere and willing to step up its cooperation with Africa?
Bruce Wharton: Well again I maintain that Africa is extremely important to our foreign policy. You are right the President has only been to Sub Sahara Africa once. I know that he wants to return but let me point out that the Vice President has been to Sub Sahara Africa. The Secretary of State has been on two really extensive trips. In 2009 she spent nearly two weeks on the continent; I think it was ten or eleven days. Just this year in 2011, she spent another week on the continent. I expect she will go again early next year. We have had our Under Secretary for Political Affairs go to the continent. The Under Secretary for Global Affairs has been there. My Boss, Assistant Secretary Carson has been there many times. So I think it is important to point out that a lot of very high level American Officials have spent time in Africa. The Presidents’ Global Health Initiative has dedicated $63 billion to health initiatives around the world. That is a global number but if you look at the countries that benefit from the Global Health Initiative, a majority are in Africa. So I think President Obama is building on the good work that was done by his predecessors.
PAV: There are many who see great need greater partnership between the U.S and Africa, there are also many who are increasingly wary of what the US actually wants in Africa especially in the lines of interventions like the one your country was engaged in Libya, how does the U.S draw a line between its own interests and the respect of what Africans actually think is right for their continent?
Bruce Wharton: Well, I think one of the characteristics of the Obama Administration is a new approach to International Affairs especially in Africa. It is more of a partnership rather than a patronage relationship. We have worked hard to build a strong relationship with the African Union for example and with regional organizations such as ECOWAS, the EAC and SADC. The Libyan example is an interesting one. I will tell you that we responded, NATO and the USA responded to what we perceived as an emerging humanitarian crisis in Libya. We did not act alone. The Arab League essentially demanded that the world intervene to prevent Muarmar Kaddafi from inflicting harm on the 700000 people that were in Benghazi at the time. Kaddafi’s aircrafts, artillery and troops were rolling into Benghazi and the world was seriously concerned that we were about to witness a slaughter on the scale of the Rwandan genocide. So the United Nations Security Council issued security resolution 1973 demanding action implementing a no fly zone. The Arab League asked the world to protect the people in Benghazi. The US and NATO began to work on this. There was a meeting in London to which the African Union was invited, there was a subsequent follow up meeting in Paris to which was invited to attend. I can’t explain why they were not able to attend .So NATO took action and the African Union felt there had been left out but I don’t think that takes into account the impending danger in Benghazi or the United Nations Security Council Resolution or the Arab League’s call to relieve the situation.
PAV: We asked this question because the position of the African Union was at odds with what the British and French backed by the US decided to do in Libya, African leaders and indeed a number of Africans feel that there was actually much to the intervention in Libya than meets the eye.
Bruce Wharton: It was a humanitarian intervention. Muarmar Kaddafi and the Government he controlled was making war on its own people and I think after the events in Rwanda in 1994, the determination the world made was that we will not stand by and watch that happen again. So the world intervened to protect the people of Libya.
PAV: Africa is today a source of great competition certainly for its resources and huge market from the Chinese, Canadians, Indians, the Europeans etc, what does the U.S bring to the table , in other words if you had to sum up a solid case for Africa to prefer partnership with the U S over other countries with competing interests.
Bruce Wharton: I don’t think it is an either or equation. I think that Africa can benefit from Chinese interests, Indian interests, European interests, American interests and from South American interests because the Brazilians are very active in parts of Africa. Everybody brings something different to the relationship. The Chinese are very interested in raw materials and good at building infrastructure. The U S, our special relationship is building human capacity. Trying to help people become Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers and strengthening Institutions. So I do not see it as a head to head competition with the Chinese. I think we bring different things. We do think the United States does have the responsibility to urge American businesses to take a fresh look at Africa. We think there are economic and trade opportunities that American businesses have not yet seen. We for example will be leading a big Trade Delegation to Africa early next year as a way to get American business to take a fresh look at Africa. We are excited about potential for the economic growth of the continent and will like American businesses to be part of that.
PAV: The U.S is a country known for democratic values, rule of law and respect of human rights that are the envy of many. These are values many Africans have been fighting for, these are also values held hostage by a lot of leaders with doubtful legitimacies across the continent, how does the U.S navigate between legitimate aspirations of African people and the whims and caprices of leaders especially in countries where there seem to be vested interests?
Bruce Wharton: That is a good question and part of the answer is that Africa is not a single place. There are 53 countries in the continent, in Sub Sahara Africa; we deal with about 45 of them. Each one is different, each one is unique. There is no single approach that makes sense. I think we have to deal with the culture, history and reality of each country separately. We do believe we have to do the best job possible to listen to the people of Africa and respect the dreams and desires of people of individual countries. So for example in Cote D’Ivoire we and ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations believed that the results of the Presidential elections held there showed very clearly that Alassane Ouattara won. So we then worked with the International Community to try to make sure that the wishes of the people of Ivory Coast were respected. Gbagbo left power and Alassane Ouattara was allowed to occupy the Presidency.
On Zimbabwe where we have profound concerns on the elections that have been held there in the last ten years, we have sort to bring targeted sanctions to a small number, less than two hundred individuals and enterprises that we believe are working against the wishes of the people. More recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have openly expressed our concerns about the severe short comings in the electoral process. We don’t know that those short comings changed the outcome so we think the important thing now is to keep peace, to take a technical look at the electoral process, figure out how we can support a process where people of the D.R.C are satisfied with the results and can move forward. Again each country is at a different stage of development. Botswana and Mauritius have this whole democratic cycle. This is the first time that the DRC has ever managed its own elections in a very long time so we have to take those differences into account.
PAV: In making these decisions, does the US arrive at its own conclusions or goes along with position of its more entrenched European allies in the continent? In Zimbabwe Britain the former colonial master calls for sanctions ,in Cote D’Ivoire France the former colonial master recognizes Ouattara and in both cases the USA does same, how much of the decisions are based on independent assessment and how much is based on going with allies with greater interests?
Bruce Wharton: The answer is we arrive at our own conclusions about situations in each country and the best response to it. In Cote D’Ivoire we had teams in close contact with election observers. Of course we shared notes from people with the United Nations but ultimately our judgment that Ouattara had been elected with some 54% was based on our own data collection and data that was shared with us from international organizations such as the Carter center and multi-lateral groups such as the United Nations.
In Zimbabwe, again I think we have reached conclusions on our own about the legitimacy of elections in the last ten years. Those conclusions are shared by other people as well. I think SADC, the international organizations and other countries believe that the elections have not been free and fair, those are our conclusions. We don’t copy others.
PAV:As Africa grapples with the challenges of democracy each time elections take place, the US seems to have a way of categorizing them free and fair with examples in mind been Ghana, flawed with examples been the way the last elections in Zimbabwe or Ivory Coast were characterized and a more nuanced reaction that leads to many scratching their heads, the elections had irregularities but it is doubtful if this could affect the overall conduct of elections, is this not often a way to bail out those in the good books of the US as is the case with Desire Kabila in D.R.Congo today?
Bruce Wharton: Well first of all there is no such thing as a perfect election and we have proved that in our own country. We have issues with elections in our own country. So an election is always a process .There is never a perfect example. Like I said earlier, I don’t think it is fair to hold a country like the DRC to the same standard that you will hold a country like Botswana, or the United Kingdom or the USA. Many countries in Africa are very young democracies. Their independence only came fifty years ago
It’s enormously complicated, infrastructure is poor and institutions are weak. The key to us is whether or not we think to the best of our ability an elections reflects the will of the people .Sometimes it is very hard to tell and you know in case of the DRC we simply don’t know .The game then becomes how best we can help to improve on next elections and how best we can support the people in Congo who are working towards a better election.