July 9, 2003
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
President Bush appears
truly committed to helping Africa. Even some of his critics now
admit as much. But what exactly can the president do to end
suffering and turn the continent into "a prosperous
He can unveil a new
vision for Africa, based on three universal principles that have
brought prosperity to the West: Economic liberty, political freedom
and respect for the rule of law.
The need to take action
in the world's most troubled continent could hardly be greater.
Civil wars in Liberia and the Congo, tyranny and man-made famine in
Zimbabwe, the AIDS epidemic, the rising threat of international
terrorism in East Africa -- all are issues of mounting concern to
The Bush administration
has begun to offer some real solutions to the continent's vast
problems. For example, the new $5 billion per year Millennium
Challenge Account would require aid recipients to reform their
economies and their governments. Such a revolutionary concept could
serve as a model for international aid programs
Another step in the
right direction: The recently unveiled $100 million U.S.
counter-terrorism package for East Africa. The al-Qaeda threat
continues to grow in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, and we
can't allow it to fester unchecked.
The White House should
also consider the use of covert operations and precision strikes to
target al-Qaeda cells operating in neighboring Somalia, a failed
state that has become a fertile breeding ground for Islamic
At the same time, the Bush administration
can discourage terrorism by encouraging something that's all too
rare in Africa: good government.
Since the end of the
colonial era, much of sub-Saharan Africa has been a playground for
despots wreaking havoc on their defenseless citizens. President
Bush must declare an end to the era of dictatorships. He should
then impose strict economic and political sanctions against regimes
that tyrannize their populations. In certain circumstances,
particularly where our national interest is involved, the credible
threat of military force should be exercised.
Such direct involvement
would be a welcome break from the past. In the 1990s, the United
States was largely content to take a back-seat role in Africa. The
U.S. intervention in Somalia was America's only significant
involvement. After that ill-fated military operation, the Clinton
administration replaced action on the ground with empty rhetoric
about human rights. All the world's major powers stood by while
French-backed Hutus slaughtered a million Tutsis in Rwanda in
We should remain wary
of the perils of nation-building, of course, but we shouldn't
refuse to intervene militarily when vital national interests are
threatened, or when military force can be used effectively to
prevent genocide or other gross violations of human rights. The
West's failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda must never be
repeated. The highly successful British military operation in
Sierra Leone, where a small number of troops ended a civil war in
2000, provides a blueprint for future intervention in
In addition, free trade
remains key to Africa's potential economic renaissance. As the
Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates, the
more a country opens its economy, the more its citizens prosper.
President Bush should call on Congress to end to all barriers to
trade with Africa, and encourage the European Union and all
developed nations to do the same through the World Trade
In the meantime, the
president should reward those African countries that are already
democracies and market economies by forging free-trade agreements
with them. He should press ahead with negotiations to sign a
free-trade agreement with the five members of the Southern African
Customs Union: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and
Swaziland. However, because these nations have much influence in
Zimbabwe, Bush should note that he will link the speed of
negotiations to the pace of political reform there. That may be the
only way to end a man-made famine and prevent an economic collapse
In an increasingly
"globalized" world, the United States and other leading nations
can't afford to ignore Africa's problems. The Bush administration
has shown a refreshing commitment to helping Africa secure a
Yet more is needed. The administration must
adopt an even more robust policy that places the United States at
the forefront of international efforts to deal with Africa's vast
problems. America must play a key role in shaping Africa's future
-- and in helping the continent fulfill its potential as a truly
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire
President Bush appears truly committed to helping Africa. Even some of his critics now admit as much. But what exactly can the president do to end suffering and turn the continent into "a prosperous place"?
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
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