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U.S. Must Support Human Rights In Africa

U.S. Must Support Full Spectrum of Human Rights in Africa

Today, on Human Rights Day, Africa Action stated that respect for human rights is a foundation for political and social stability and economic progress. The struggle of Africa's people for human rights continues, and, as in the past, international support can play an important role.

Africa Action noted today that the U.S. support for human rights in Africa should focus on promoting the full spectrum of human rights, however, U.S. policy has tended instead to be quite selective, guided very much by perceived strategic U.S. interests.

While President Bush himself identified the advancement of human rights as an essential component of national security and has been openly critical of the human rights violations perpetrated under the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the Bush administration has been less quick to criticize other countries, like Nigeria, Morocco or Ethiopia, which are considered strategically important to the U.S.

Similarly, the U.S. seeks reconciliation with the Khartoum regime in Sudan - important to the U.S. in terms of intelligence gathering on terrorism as well as oil - despite its continuing genocide against civilians in Darfur. Africa Action calls attention to this dynamic describing it as reminiscent of relations during the Cold War, when geopolitical considerations were placed far above human rights concerns.

This failure to prioritize action to end the genocide in Darfur has resulted in an international political deadlock, where the imperative to protect civilians has been neglected and the violence continues unabated.

Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action said today, "The people of Africa have a right to life and dignity, peace and security, and the U.S. must play a constructive role in the international community to prioritize defending human rights on the continent.

In particular, the U.S. must act now in the United Nations Security Council to ensure that the planned deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur is implemented despite obstructionism of the Sudanese government that threatens to scuttle a multinational intervention to protect civilians."

Though the genocide in Darfur has been making headlines, there are human rights that need defense in other conflicts on the continent including in the Democratic Republic of Congo where almost 4 million have been killed in the conflict over the past decade. The people in Zimbabwe have never been more desperate as they struggle for democracy and the crisis in Somalia has deepened in recent weeks as well. In addition to these gross human rights violations, Africa Action noted the importance of addressing economic and social rights.

"U.S. and international support for human rights and the rule of law must be unequivocal. It should involve the promotion of not only political and civil rights but also of economic and social rights as critical expressions of healthy societies. U.S. policies toward Africa must include support for universal access to health care and education, the rights of workers to organize and the empowerment of women," said Gerald LeMelle today.

"One way to support Africa's right to health would be the commitment of $50 billion to fight global AIDS. Another way to shore up economic rights in Africa would be for the U.S. to expand recent debt cancellation efforts to include all African nations without harmful economic conditions in order for countries on the continent to have full access to national resources to fight poverty."


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