Table of Contents > Africa >
New Life For African Multilateralism
Ambiguity and Duplicity on Human Rights
South Africa and Nigeria: Regional Leaders
Towards Peace in Sub-Saharan Africa?
De Facto International Disengagement
The outlook for human rights in Africa at the close of 2002 was more hopeful than it had been for several years. During the year, there were significant moves towards resolving longstanding conflicts in Angola, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the same time, African leaders made significant commitments to transparent and accountable governance and respect for human rights with the creation of the African Union (A.U.), and its adoption of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a comprehensive economic and political reform program. Yet, African leaders had promised reform on many previous occasions while continuing to embezzle national funds and to violate human rights. In addition, new or ongoing crises in the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe; continued war in Liberia, Burundi, and the DRC; as well as longstanding repression in countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Sudan, Swaziland, and Togo continued to undermine progress towards respect for human rights and the rule of law across the continent.
The African Union officially replaced the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at the July summit of African heads of state in Durban, South Africa. The creation of the A.U. was the culmination of a process that began with an extraordinary OAU summit in 1999. The Constitutive Act of the A.U. proposed future institutional reforms that would make the A.U. less a loose collection of states that meet once a year and more akin to the European Union (E.U.). The Constitutive Act of the A.U. also included significant new language for the promotion of human rights, democratic principles and good governance. Further, the Act empowered the A.U. to "intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity." In addition, noncompliance with A.U. decisions and policies might lead to sanctions.
At the Durban summit, the A.U. formally adopted NEPAD and the related African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic, and Corporate Governance. NEPAD--the final incarnation of reform proposals put forward over several years by South Africa and Senegal, with the support of Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria--put forth a comprehensive, multi-sectoral development program, outlining a partnership between Africa and the West, Africa's leaders and the African people, and among the leaders themselves. It proposed that the industrialized world provide financial, political and strategic support for Africa as its leaders embraced responsibility for Africa's development, political as well as economic. NEPAD included a significant commitment to good governance, peace, security, and democracy, as prerequisites for effective economic development, although its main emphasis was on economics and infrastructure.
Despite the welcome commitments to political and economic reform and respect for human rights, the NEPAD document failed to acknowledge the particular needs of Africa's most marginalized and vulnerable people--women, children, refugees, the internally displaced, and those affected by HIV/AIDS. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), African countries hosted 3.3 million refugees at the beginning of 2002, almost 30 percent of the world's refugee population; a Norwegian Refugee Council survey commissioned by the United Nations (U.N.) and published in June found that around 13.5 million or more than half of the world's twenty-five million internally displaced persons were in Africa (concentrated in Angola, the DRC, and Sudan). NEPAD was silent on the protection and other needs of these uprooted people. NEPAD spoke of "promoting the role of women in social and economic development" and "assuring their participation in political and economic life," but failed to address issues of systemic violence, including rape and harmful traditional practices, and discrimination against women. NEPAD made a welcome reaffirmation of the Millennium Development Goals with respect to children, including in the areas of infant and child mortality and primary schooling. But it offered few concrete strategies to ensure children's rights are a priority focus for development.
NEPAD and the A.U. would also be challenged to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis that continued to engulf the continent. In June, the U.N. projected that between 2000 and 2020, some fifty-five million Africans would die prematurely because of AIDS, underlining the continuing catastrophic impact of the epidemic on the continent. Sexual abuse of women and girls, often those orphaned by AIDS, contributed significantly to the spread of HIV among women across Africa, especially in conflict zones where rape was systematically used as a weapon of war. During the year, Human Rights Watch investigated appalling reports of extreme sexual violence--gang rape, violent abduction followed by repeated rapes, amputation of breasts and sexual organs--in several conflicts, including in the ongoing war in the DRC and during the past civil war in Sierra Leone. The horror that confronted victims of these attacks was often compounded by their contracting HIV/AIDS from their attackers, leading to even greater discrimination and ostracism.
In several countries, including South Africa where sexual violence remained at levels constituting a crisis for all women, the police force and justice system provided little protection or redress against violent sexual crimes. In addition, increasing poverty, including the food crisis in southern Africa, led to a high rate of school drop out among girls in many countries. Once out of school, girls were pressured to work, often becoming prostitutes or domestic laborers subject to sexual harassment and abuse and thus at high risk of HIV/AIDS. Research in Zambia conducted by Human Rights Watch found that this kind of abuse was particularly widespread among the rapidly growing population of children orphaned by AIDS. Numerous girl orphans reported that their male guardians had sexually abused them. In some cases, the abuser suggested that they could not refuse sexual advances because no one else would take care of them.
NEPAD's peer review mechanism was generally viewed as the lynchpin for NEPAD's success. The mechanism would function on a voluntary basis: submission to peer review would be an additional step to membership in NEPAD, itself a separate commitment to membership in the A.U. Those countries that chose to participate would be expected to reform their governance to meet the standards specified by the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic, and Corporate Governance. Their progress towards and commitment to political reform would be evaluated through regular investigations of governance practices and policies by an appointed team of reviewers. These evaluations would be presented to and discussed by the APRM members and subsequently made public. No sanctions were specified for noncompliance.
The APRM was pivotal to NEPAD's success because NEPAD's programs would be largely dependant on an inflow of funds from foreign "partners." These partners, individually and collectively, made it clear that their support would come only with a demonstrated commitment from Africa to political and economic reform. Though the proof of the initiative would come in future practice, the APRM in concept broke new ground for African multilateralism. Unlike other regional African organizations and OAU programs, the APRM asked its members to surrender a certain degree of political sovereignty and to subject themselves to collective governance; sub-regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were conceived to encourage economic cooperation and did not seek to hold each other accountable. At a November 2002 meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, twelve states signed a declaration of intent to accede to the APRM: Algeria, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.
Despite the enormous potential of the APRM and the optimism it embodied, it was not clear that the mechanism, as it stood, would successfully instigate political reform. There would be little reason for oppressive, non-declaration-compliant governments to join the APRM and submit themselves to review. States such as Algeria, Angola or Nigeria whose revenue was derived almost entirely from oil or other natural resources, would have little additional incentive to submit to standards designed in large part to attract foreign aid, foreign investment, and debt relief. Further, the APRM would evaluate compliance with Declaration standards against a country's overall level of development. This decision created an opening for subjective and politically motivated evaluations.
NEPAD was also heavily criticized as a top-down--or even top-top--initiative. African and international civil society organizations (CSOs) repeatedly stated that information about NEPAD was not readily accessible and was poorly distributed. CSOs charged that NEPAD's designers had placed greater importance on addressing the priorities of NEPAD's Western partners than those of African actors and stakeholders. The poor efforts that were made to actively involve civil society were especially concerning given that NEPAD's governance programs would depend heavily on strong nongovernmental voices: NEPAD would not undertake direct implementation of its initiatives; rather, it would rely on national governments. The nongovernmental community would, therefore, play a key role in holding governments accountable.
Events in Madagascar raised additional questions about the A.U.'s capacity to influence its members and African governments' ability--individually and collectively--to oppose international pressures. For much of the year, disputes over the December 2001 presidential elections kept Madagascar on the brink of civil war between supporters of incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana. In April, Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, the outgoing OAU chairman, and Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, as well as other heads of state, sought to facilitate a resolution of the ongoing conflict; these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful though Ravalomanana was subsequently inaugurated. A.U. leaders initially refused to recognize Ravalomanana, saying the election had not been legally constituted. But, the larger international community did not follow the A.U., and Senegal's President Wade soon broke with the A.U. decision. The A.U. was essentially forced to reconsider its position in September when the U.N. invited Ravalomanana to the World Summit on Sustainable Development and thus cemented Ravalomanana's authority.
African leaders' efforts throughout 2002 demonstrated a commitment to peace and stability but sent ambiguous messages as to the primacy of human rights. The A.U. successfully pressured Rwanda and Uganda to reach an agreement with President Joseph Kabila's government to move towards an end to the war in the DRC; as of this writing both Rwanda and Uganda had for the most part disengaged from the war in the DRC. However, the A.U. gave no indication of what, if anything, would be done to hold Rwandan and Ugandan forces and other parties accountable for human rights violations and war crimes committed in the DRC.
Even more disconcerting was the A.U. decision to select Libya, with its long record of human rights abuse, as chair for the 2003 session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). Libya had a long record of detaining government opponents without charge or trial, prohibiting the formation of political parties or independent nongovernmental groups, and muzzling its press. The Libyan government had also been responsible for torture, "disappearances" and the assassination of political opponents abroad. In selecting Libya to chair the UNCHR, African leaders demonstrated disrespect for the commission and for human rights in general.
Meanwhile, oppressive governments continued to deny basic freedoms and new or renewed conflicts led to greater repression, increased human rights abuse, and large numbers of refugees and displaced persons, without any effective African response. In the context of the strong NEPAD and A.U. commitments to promoting and protecting human rights, African leaders' customary silence on many of these developments was all the more discouraging. One commonly cited example of this silence was African endorsement of the election in Zimbabwe. The election was strongly criticized within and outside Africa for not being free and fair. It took place amidst widespread, politically motivated violence by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) against supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party. These abuses were highly publicized in the international and African press. Yet, SADC's official monitors--though not, significantly, the SADC parliamentarians' delegation--determined that the elections were legitimate. African leaders, including South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, two of NEPAD's architects and champions, failed to speak out against the violence inflicted on MDC supporters. However, in the end, both Mbeki and Obasanjo voted to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth in the "troika" set up by that intergovernmental body to consider irregularities during the elections.
African leaders may have been justified in criticizing Western governments for placing undue emphasis on events in Zimbabwe when they had overlooked so many other oppressive situations in Africa, including the simultaneous election crisis in Madagascar. But African leaders also said little as across the continent, in country after country, endemic human rights abuse continued, and daily violations of civil and political liberties persisted. There were several nations in sub-Saharan Africa that were all but invisible to public attention and scrutiny where severe human rights abuse went unabated in 2002, including Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Swaziland, and Togo. In Swaziland and Eritrea, political pluralism was banned. The only party allowed to operate in Eritrea was the government-affiliated People's Front for Democracy and Justice. In both countries, civil liberties were basically nonexistent and civil society was severely restricted. Labor unions were the only CSOs allowed in Swaziland, and they were allowed only in the interest of maintaining trade relations with the United States (U.S.). The Swaziland government maintained tight control of the media; in Eritrea the government completely silenced the private press and arrested all the editors and publishers except those who managed to flee abroad. In June, the Swazi nongovernmental organization Lawyers for Human Rights filed a complaint with the OAU's African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights against King Mswati for consistent human rights abuses despite Swaziland's 1995 ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The hostile environment often faced by civil society in sub-Saharan Africa was yet another example of the ambiguity that characterized African leaders' statements in support of human rights. In general, nongovernmental organizations, human rights defenders and other CSOs operated in highly limiting political environments and faced serious security risks. Research and advocacy efforts were significantly constricted and even entirely shut down in many countries, among them Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, the DRC, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sudan, and Togo. Nevertheless, human rights advocates and defenders managed to increase the pressure on their governments to address human rights abuses and hold accountable those who committed human rights violations. And, a handful of countries, including Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Tanzania, enabled civil society to operate in an environment of relative freedom and openness.
South Africa was a key political force throughout the year. President Thabo Mbeki was one of the five principal NEPAD architects and was the de facto point person for dealings with the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries in the run-up to the June Kananaskis G8 Summit--at which he presented the NEPAD program. Mbeki was elected inaugural A.U. chair at the Durban summit. South Africa's leaders were active participants in the many controversies and challenges that faced the region during the year. Recognizing that the international "face-off" surrounding Zimbabwe's presidential election threatened NEPAD's future, Mbeki balanced competing pressures to preserve relations between Africa and the West. Western leaders looked to Mbeki as a spokesperson for all of Africa, pressuring him, as a symbol of the new African commitment to good governance, to denounce Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and reject the election results. Meanwhile, many Africans judged such pressure to be based on concerns for the white farmers in Zimbabwe--an assessment ably played upon by Mugabe himself--and judged Mbeki's words and actions as indicators of whether NEPAD truly meant African leadership or was simply pandering to Western interests for foreign aid. Others were simply appalled at this politicization of the African response to the precipitate descent of a relatively prosperous and stable country into a self-reinforcing cycle of ever-worsening disrespect for the rule of law, economic chaos and hunger.
Mbeki was the principal mediator in the DRC peace process. He was a constant voice for peace and compromise from the initial Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, through the conversations between DRC President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the A.U. Summit, and into the talks in Pretoria that led to the signing of a "memorandum of understanding" on the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the DRC and the disarming and disbanding of the ex-FAR (former Rwandan armed forces) and the Interhamwe (Rwandan Hutu militia) forces in the DRC. In the last week of October, Mbeki again hosted the Congolese factions in Pretoria to reach an agreement on an interim power-sharing government.
South Africa also played a key role in bringing Burundi closer to peace. Without incident, South African troops, deployed late in 2001, protected the interim power-sharing government. The interim government had been agreed to in 2001 during talks mediated by former South African President Nelson Mandela. South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma made numerous attempts to bring all fighting parties to the negotiating table for a peace based on the 2000 Arusha Accord. On October 7, the transitional government signed a cease-fire with two rebel factions at the Great Lakes summit convened by regional African leaders. The leaders gave two hard-line factions thirty days to begin talks for a cease-fire agreement.
President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, like Mbeki, was outspoken about the need for change in Africa and the importance of good governance and human rights. Yet his actions cast serious doubts on the veracity of his words. At this writing, Obasanjo was under impeachment by the National Assembly: he was charged with violating the constitution by not implementing the approved national budget, abetting corruption, and ordering army forces to attack civilians in two incidents in 1999 and 2001.
Since Obasanjo took office in 1999, inter-communal violence and ethnic tensions escalated in Nigeria and threatened to undermine elections scheduled for 2003. The authorities made little effort to prevent conflicts or limit the escalation of political violence. Human rights abuses by the Nigerian police forces abounded in 2002. This pattern of abuse, coupled with the general failure of Nigerian authorities to provide security, spurred vigilante activity. In some instances, state governments supported these vigilante groups as they committed brutal executions, systematic torture and unlawful arrests. In August and September, efforts were made to crack down on vigilante activity in the southeast but little was done to address the underlying conditions that had led to its proliferation. Further, the efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission to register voters were marked by significant irregularities, and in a closed decision process, the commission approved only three new parties. Given Obasanjo's leading role in NEPAD and the A.U., the significant level of ongoing human rights abuse in Nigeria did not reflect well on the degree of reform to be expected from other African leaders.
Moves towards peace were not limited to the Great Lakes. Fighting in Angola came to an end in 2002, prompted by the February 22 death of Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). In March, President José Eduardo dos Santos, under considerable pressure from Western and African leaders, as well as Angolan civil society, announced that the government and the UNITA rebels had agreed to a truce. The cease-fire went into effect on April 4. Shortly thereafter, the UNITA soldiers were quickly demobilized and the various UNITA factions began unity talks, which were successfully completed in early October. Lasting peace would depend largely on the Angolan government's ability to rehabilitate and reintegrate demilitarized UNITA combatants and Angola's displaced--4.1 million internally displaced persons and 430,000 refugees, according to UN sources.
Sierra Leone moved closer to ongoing stability after January 18 when President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah declared that the decade-long civil war had ended. Kabbah lifted the four-year state of emergency on March 1. Then in May, presidential elections were successfully completed with little violence. The successful disarmament of combatants by the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone and their subsequent rehabilitation through British-led efforts contributed significantly to prospects for continued and ongoing peace and stability. Major steps were made towards justice and accountability with the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, the poor performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) cast serious doubts over the Special Court. In addition, concerns for Sierra Leone's peace rose as the year progressed and the civil war in neighboring Liberia intensified. (See below.)
Peace was, for the first time in at least twenty years, a possibility in Sudan due to the joint efforts of the U.S., the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Norway. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Peace in Sudan John Danforth brokered four significant agreements between the Sudan government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in early 2002, all of which specifically highlighted the importance of human rights. In particular, the government and the SPLA agreed to end attacks on civilians and civilian objects in the south, with independent international monitoring.
Subsequently, the Sudan government and the SPLM entered peace negotiations, which were sponsored by the Kenya-led Inter-Government Authority on Development. The parties signed a peace protocol in Kenya on July 20, agreeing that after an interim period of six and a half years, a self-determination referendum would be held to determine whether the south wished to secede. The interim period would begin after a final peace agreement had been signed. They also agreed that shari'a (Islamic law) would not apply in the south for the interim period. Although, during negotiations, the government continued to deny humanitarian access in the south and to bomb oil-rich areas despite the presence of civilians, on October 15 the parties agreed to a military standstill until December 31 and later agreed to full humanitarian access during that period.
Elsewhere on the continent, these positive trends were contradicted. In mid-September, Côte d'Ivoire erupted in conflict when roughly 750 soldiers mutinied out of anger over their imminent dismissal, returning the country to the instability that took hold following a 1999 military coup. The incident provoked rapid international support of the government, with Nigeria and Ghana committing military support to government efforts to suppress the rebellion. ECOWAS dispatched a mediation team of high-level delegates to Bouaké, the rebel stronghold, in early October, and on October 21 the rebels conceded to sign a cease-fire agreement. Multinational ECOWAS troops under Nigerian leadership were dispatched to monitor the peace. However, concerns arose over Côte d'Ivoire's long-term prospects for stability as violence caused by reignited ethnic, religious and political tensions spread independently of rebel activity. It was uncertain that this violence would subside once the rebels and the government had come to terms.
While concerted regional efforts seemed to prevent the Côte d'Ivoire rebellion from escalating into civil war, internal conflicts continued in Liberia and Uganda, and abuses in these countries received little attention. Fighting between the Liberian government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) threatened stability in the Mano River Union area (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea) as Liberians sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Guinea, where serious violations of their human rights were documented. While abuses inside Liberia were generally worse in areas under government control, both government and LURD forces committed serious human rights violations against civilians, including killing, torture, rape, forced labor and forced recruitment. Liberia's President Charles Taylor declared a state of emergency for a large portion of the year, enabling the government to harass all perceived opponents or rebel supporters.
Civilians in northern Uganda and southern Sudan were subjected to similar abuses due to fighting between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). LRA forces in particular targeted civilians, though the Ugandan army also committed abuses. The LRA raided and looted villages and refugee camps and abducted children, forcing them to fight as child soldiers. It also attacked humanitarian aid workers and camps. As in Liberia, the Ugandan government arbitrarily arrested and detained those suspected of being rebel sympathizers or political opponents. In addition, the already limited political activity permitted under Uganda's no-party "Movement" system was further constrained when the parliament passed the Political Organizations Law.
At the Kananaskis summit, the G8 pledged its support for NEPAD and highlighted the centrality of embracing good governance and human rights. Previously, Western governments had denounced Africa's leaders for continued "cronyism" when they failed to reject President Robert Mugabe's victory in Zimbabwe's March election. Yet, the international community's actions in 2002 suggested that Africa--despite its many conflicts and human rights crises--generally remained a low priority. When Africa did receive international attention, human rights took a back seat to geopolitical interests.
Throughout 2002, the international community emphasized the importance of peace in the DRC. The U.N. and the E.U. both condemned any violations of the tentative truce that had been reached in 2001. U.S. President George W. Bush met with presidents Kagame and Kabila, and the U.K. also played a key role in brokering the eventual agreement between Rwanda and the DRC, which Uganda subsequently joined. But, amidst these concerted international efforts, the U.N. mission in the DRC (MONUC) did little to address the ongoing fighting between DRC rebel groups, whether home-grown or sponsored from outside by the same powers that had nominally withdrawn. Granted insufficient troops and resources by the U.N. Security Council, MONUC also failed to protect civilians. Once Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe had signed a peace agreement with the DRC, international interests turned to monitoring the withdrawal of foreign troops, with little concern for issues of international justice and accountability for war crimes. Calls for an international tribunal by Kabila and other Congolese were essentially brushed aside. In mid-October, the U.N. Security Council was presented with a report detailing how Rwandan, Ugandan and Zimbabwean officers, as well as Congolese authorities, manipulated internal conflicts to facilitate the looting of natural resources. The report also stated that the withdrawal of foreign troops would not end this exploitation. At this writing, there had been no indication that the Security Council intended to take further steps to end the plundering of the DRC's resources.
International commitment to justice was also lacking vis-à-vis the ICTR. Encouragingly, several important genocidaires were arrested and rendered to the ICTR during the year, including Augustin Bizimungu, chief of staff of the former Rwandan army, but the ICTR was understaffed and under-funded. However, these were not the most significant problems: Kagame's government effectively refused to cooperate if the ICTR prosecutor insisted on indicting soldiers from the current Rwandan government (the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF) for war crimes. In response, both the U.S. and the U.N. pressured Kagame not to disrupt the prosecution of Hutu genocidaires but did not insist on prosecuting RPF members. If the RPF were granted this de facto immunity, the legitimacy of the entire justice process would be undermined.
With respect to Angola, the U.N. and the E.U. pledged support for the demobilization and reintegration of UNITA combatants, giving reason to be cautiously hopeful of sustained peace. However, the cease-fire revealed a humanitarian crisis of widespread malnutrition and medical neglect, which received insufficient international attention. Humanitarian agencies repeatedly stressed the need for greater U.N. commitment to the dire conditions facing the internally displaced but the international community did little in 2002 to address these concerns. In August, the United Nations Mission in Angola (UNMA) was established and mandated to assist the Angolan government in protecting human rights. However, little material improvement resulted for the internally displaced; they continued to be physically harassed and abused by the security forces. They were also subjected to violations of their freedom of movement and forced removal from camps.
France responded rapidly to the rebellion in Côte d'Ivoire, focusing on providing safety for French nationals (roughly twenty thousand inhabitants) and evacuating those in highly unstable areas. As of October, significant numbers of French nationals were still trapped in the rebel-controlled northern city of Bouaké. France also deployed reinforcements for the standing force of six hundred troops it maintained in Côte d'Ivoire: by late October, a total of seven hundred French troops were securing the areas between rebel-controlled and government-controlled territory. It was proposed that an ECOWAS peacekeeping force would take over from the French.
The primacy of the "war on terrorism" for the Bush administration affected U.S. policies towards Africa in two ways: The U.S. gave even less attention to much of the continent than might otherwise have been expected, and, in those few African countries with a strategically valuable role to play, particularly in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. de-emphasized human rights issues. The E.U. and the U.N. both denounced the Eritrean government's continued human rights abuses and the E.U. largely limited aid to humanitarian aid. In October, the U.S. State Department publicly rebuked Eritrea for human rights abuses. In contrast, the U.S., considering Ethiopia to be a well-positioned potential ally, continued non-humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and was markedly quiet about ongoing human rights violations. Also in October, U.S. defense officials confirmed that they were planning to establish a military headquarters in the Horn of Africa to help in the hunt for suspected terrorists.
Sudan, governed by an Islamist party, received significant attention from the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress as well as from a grassroots movement concerned in part about the treatment of Christians in Sudan. U.S. attention contributed to the year's substantial progress towards peace in Sudan, as it did in the DRC. Like the E.U. and the U.K., the U.S. administration and Congress also focused on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, calling for President Mugabe to respect the rule of law, denouncing irregularities in the elections, and urging President Mbeki of South Africa to take the lead in an African response to the situation.
Energy security was a key concern for the Bush administration in 2002. The administration specifically highlighted its interest in pursuing African oil resources as substitutes for oil from the Middle East. Although the U.S. periodically raised the issue of transparency and good governance in countries like Angola, it appeared to place a greater priority on solidifying relationships with major and emerging African oil producers. For example, during a July visit to Nigeria, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner focused his public statements almost entirely on the importance of Nigerian oil to the U.S. (Nigeria was its fifth largest supplier). No mention was made of the extrajudicial killings and other abuses by Nigerian security forces in the Niger Delta oil region or elsewhere. In contrast, international nongovernmental voices continued to pressure oil companies about human rights abuses. In fact, an international human rights campaign may have been partially responsible for the decision by Talisman Energy Inc., a Canadian oil company, to sell its Sudan assets.
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