Africa: Policy Outlook 1996

Africa: Policy Outlook 1996

Africa: Policy Outlook 1996
Date Distributed (ymd): 960110

Africa Policy Information Center Policy Outlook 1996

The political climate in Washington will likely remain extremely difficult for Africa advocacy this year. Funding for aid, peacekeeping and other U.S. international obligations is sure to come under renewed attack in the second year of the 104th Congress. Many congressional advocates for African issues, Republican and Democratic, are scheduled to retire at the end of the 1996 session, notably Senators Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.). And it is very unlikely that international issues, much less Africa, will figure prominently in the 1996 election campaigns.

In general, therefore--short of a catastophe on the scale of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 or Somalia's disintegration in 1992-1993--it will not be easy to attract high-level attention to African issues, even when they do not involve significant funding commitments. The one African issue that seems likely to stay in the spotlight is the campaign for sanctions to promote democracy in Nigeria--if, that is, the late-1995 momentum of grassroots involvement and media coverage is maintained.

Nevertheless, the prospects are good for maintaining some level of constructive U.S. involvement in strengthening ongoing ties with South Africa. Washington will also likely play a role in selected peacekeeping operations such as Angola and Liberia, in promoting debt relief for African countries, and in a number of aid initiatives. The extent of active U.S. support for pro-democracy and human rights efforts in Nigeria and other countries, going beyond business-as-usual diplomacy, will depend above all on the level of public pressure and press attention.

Economies Grow, But So Does Debt Burden

Economic growth rates for Africa in 1995 and 1996 were projected to be in the 3% range, considerably higher than the 1.5% average of the early 1990s. But this still falls short of the rate necessary to keep pace with population growth, much less provide a basis for sustainable growth. Reductions in flows of external assistance, together with a still-mounting debt burden, pose additional obstacles. However, rising capital flows into South Africa and expectations of increased growth there and in several other countries somewhat offset these general trends.

A late 1995 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development highlighted prospects for foreign investment in Africa, which it termed potentially the most profitable world region. But long-term economic difficulties and new burdens imposed by economic austerity programs mean most of the continent's people face a grim year of renewed hardships.

Proposals for further action on debt reduction, including the more than $35 billion Africa owes to international financial institutions, will be under consideration in 1996. Congress may also try to shape an agenda for improving Africa's trade prospects. But both initiatives will have to overcome apathy as well as substantive opposition to new proposals.

The prospects for economic advance also depend fundamentally on resolving and averting violent conflicts and on building and strengthening democratic institutions. In terms of security, the most intractable and devastating conflict in 1996, as in 1995, is likely to be the war in southern Sudan. But implementation of peace settlements in Angola and Liberia was still problematic as the year began, and escalation of mass violence in Rwanda, Burundi or both was an ever-present danger. The struggle for democracy against the military regime in Nigeria is likely to be the most prominent African issue in 1996. Meanwhile, human rights activists and pro-democracy groups also face serious repression in a number of other countries.

Countries and Issues

Following are brief highlights of specific areas and issues on which U.S. involvement may make a difference this year.

Conflict (Sudan and other countries): War continues in southern Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are caught in conflict between the brutally repressive Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which has gained military ground in recent months. The international community is engaged in relief efforts, but efforts at mediation have stalled. Regime opponents in the north as well as the south have called for increased international pressure against the Khartoum regime.

While on a smaller scale than in Sudan, ongoing or sporadic violent conflict or insecurity characterizes a number of other countries, including Algeria, Sierra Leone, Zaire, Somalia, the Tuareg area in northern Niger, and KwaZulu/Natal province in South Africa.

Peace agreements (Angola and Liberia): Observers are hopeful that implementation of the peace agreements in these two countries will move ahead in 1996, but further delays are almost certain and renewed conflict a constant threat. In Angola, the demobilization of Unita troops called for under the November 1994 accords has barely begun, and government forces are highly suspicious that the delay will be used to rebuild Unita military capacity. And in Liberia it is still doubtful whether the resources and political will are sufficient for the agreed disarmament of combatants.

Prevention of wider conflict (Rwanda and Burundi): The situation in these two countries continues tense and potentially explosive. Some 1.8 million Rwandan refugees remain outside Rwanda, mainly in Zaire, where officials of the former Rwandan government responsible for the 1994 genocide still hold sway over their army and most civilians. Delays in prosecutions for the genocide, and threats that the refugees might return or be returned home forcibly, are among factors making a new escalation of violence possible. In Burundi, ethnic violence will likely continue--and possibily escalate-- despite international mediators' efforts to maintain a delicate coalition between the predominantly Tutsi military and an elected multiethnic government.

Democratization (Nigeria and other countries): The campaign for democracy in Nigeria gained new international prominence in late 1995 after the Nigerian military regime executed enviromental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth, and support for oil and other sanctions came from a wide range of groups around the world. Bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress which fell short of oil sanctions, but did include bans on new investment and a freeze on personal assets of top Nigerian officials. Governments were slow to move on more substantive measures, which were vigorously opposed by oil companies. The sanctions campaign will likely continue to grow in 1996, but it remains to be seen whether it can overcome excuses for inaction by governments.

Meanwhile, in many other countries, notably Zaire and Kenya, the pro-democracy momentum of the early 1990s has been difficult to maintain in the face of both repression and other ploys by incumbent regimes. In some countries that have recently held elections (for example, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire), serious questions have been raised about the fairness of those polls. International donors, including the United States, have shown far more consistency in pressing for free-market economic policies than they have in demanding respect for human rights and political participation by diverse social groups.

South Africa and the continent: In 1996 South Africa is likely to confront increasing disagreements among labor, business and different political forces over how to craft social and economic policies that address the legacy of apartheid inequality. The Truth Commission, headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will begin its controversial work of investigating human rights abuses in the apartheid era. Conflict between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party may escalate in KwaZulu-Natal, particularly around the local government elections now scheduled for May.

Meanwhile, South Africa will be forced to deal with the challenge of identifying appropriate roles for itself on wider African issues, such as Nigeria. In doing so it must avoid the twin dangers of narrow isolationism and condescending paternalism toward other African states. Like the U.S. outside the continent, South Africa neither can nor should attempt to resolve every crisis. Its stance on key issues, regardless, will be closely watched by African countries and outside powers alike.

************************************************************ From: "APIC" Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 09:07:26 +0000 Subject: Africa: Policy Outlook 1996