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Setting the Record Straight: President Bush Committed to Strengthening Democracy Throughout Africa

February 22, 2008

The Washington Post Wrongly Claims Progress Towards Democracy In Africa Has Degenerated Despite 50 Democratic Elections Being Held Over The Past Four Years

Today, The Washington Post incorrectly asserted that President Bush has neglected his commitment to democracy in Africa.The Post's blatantly one-sided article ignores the significant democratic progress that has been taking place across the African continent. During his recent trip to Africa, the President highlighted examples of the democratic reforms taking place in Benin, Tanzania, and Liberia.

The United States Is Dedicated To Promoting Both Democracy And Human Rights While Also Assisting Refugees In Africa

  • According to the Heidelberg Institute of Conflict, when President Bush took office there were seven major wars taking place on the continent of Africa. Today, that number has been reduced to two.
  • At least five African countries involved in war in the Congo in 2001 have ceased this involvement. When President Bush entered office, he urged Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nambia, and other African countries to exit the Congo. In 2006, Congo held its first free and fair election in more than 40 years. Most recently, the U.S. was heavily involved in the signing of the Goma agreement – the final step to disarm all remaining militias in eastern Congo and to ensure security and prosperity for the Congolese people.
  • In the past four years alone, there have been more than 50 democratic elections in Africa, and more than two-thirds of Sub-Saharan African nations live in freedom. President Bush continues to support democratic transitions in many African countries such as Liberia and Mauritania, strengthening democratic institutions in post-conflict countries, such as the Congo, Liberia, and Burundi and assisting civil society organizations across Africa in combating gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and other human rights violations.
  • The U.S. is the largest donor to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with more than 40 percent of that funding going to Africa in 2007.

The Washington Post inaccurately asserts that President Bush's "focus on counterterrorism has overtaken his other stated foreign policy goals of promoting democracy and human rights." (Stephanie McCrummen, "U.S. Policy In Africa Faulted On Priorities," The Washington Post, 2/22/08)

  • U.S. assistance promotes democracy, human rights, and effective governing. President Bush launched the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) as a new model of assistance based on the principle that aid is most effective when it supports locally led and owned strategies for economic growth. The MCC is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people, so before a country can become eligible to receive assistance, MCC ensures that countries are committed to fighting corruption and protecting democratic principles of governance. To date, the MCC has signed eight compacts with African countries totaling $3.1 billion. The MCC also has "threshold" programs with seven African countries totaling $100 million and focused largely on fighting corruption and improving governance.
  • Democracy and security work hand in hand. For example, the United States suspended assistance to Mauritania as a result of their military coup. We provided only support for assistance such as an independent election commission, press, and civil society, and Mauritania was then able to hold free and fair elections. The U.S. relationship with Mauritania is now stronger than ever, and they have become a key partner in the fight against terror in the Sahel.
  • The United States promotes African security. Since 2005, the United States has trained over 39,000 African peacekeepers in 20 countries. The U.S. has trained over 80 percent of African peacekeepers who are currently deployed in African Union and United Nations missions both inside and outside of Africa. The U.S. is partnering with the A.U. and member states to support the establishment of an African Standby Force.

The Washington Post cites an unfounded argument by Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Associate Joel Barkan, claiming "money for once-robust programs aimed at strengthening democratic institutions such as courts and parliaments has dried up." (Stephanie McCrummen, "U.S. Policy In Africa Faulted On Priorities," The Washington Post, 2/22/08)

  • In FY 2008, the U.S. will provide nearly $172 million for programs that promote just and democratic governance in African nations. Continuing this funding, the President's FY 2009 request is nearly $273 million for such programs in Africa.

The Washington Post also makes an unsupported assertion that "many Africans who hoped that the United States would support their struggle for more just and open societies have been disappointed," and "significantly in Kenya and Somalia, moderate Muslims [have] felt unjustly targeted in the U.S.-driven hunt for terrorism suspects." (Stephanie McCrummen, "U.S. Policy In Africa Faulted On Priorities," The Washington Post, 2/22/08)

  • A recent survey shows that 87 percent of Kenyans hold a favorable opinion of the United States. A poll done by Pew Global in June 2007, shows residents of African countries hold the U.S. in high regard.

The Washington Post makes an unwarranted claim that "in Sudan, analysts have suggested that U.S. reliance on Sudanese counterterrorism intelligence has prevented a tougher stance on the crisis in the country's western Darfur region, where a government crackdown on rebels has left as many as 450,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced." (Stephanie McCrummen, "U.S. Policy In Africa Faulted On Priorities," The Washington Post, 2/22/08)

  • The United States has imposed economic sanctions on seven Sudanese individuals responsible for violence in Darfur and on more than 160 companies owned or controlled by the Government of Sudan. The United States took these steps to increase pressure on Khartoum to end the violence in Darfur. Furthermore, the United States has enforced the application of existing sanctions to deny Sudanese banks access to the U.S. financial system and use of the U.S. Dollar.
  • The United States is pushing for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in January 2005 and ended 21 years of civil war between the North and South. The CPA, which created the Government of National Unity, calls for democratic national elections before July 2009 and the deployment of troops away from the border. Implementation of the CPA will help end the crisis in Darfur and provide a framework for the development of a peaceful, unified, and democratic Sudan.
  • The United States supports the rapid deployment of 26,000 United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers. Since 2004, the United States has spent more than $15 million to airlift 11,400 peacekeepers and their equipment to and from Darfur, and has provided over $30 million to train and equip those forces. Since 2004, total direct and indirect U.S. support provided to peacekeeping operations in Darfur totals more than $600 million.

George W. Bush, Setting the Record Straight: President Bush Committed to Strengthening Democracy Throughout Africa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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