Barry F. Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs
July 17, 2007
As prepared for delivery
Chairman Feingold and Members of the Committee, thank you for holding this hearing on democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa. I deeply appreciate the Subcommittee’s strong interest in this vast, varied and vibrant region.
The Bush Administration has put in place dynamic policies and programs that demonstrate the American people’s generous commitment to Africa. And I have worked with my counterpart and with the officers of the Africa Bureau at the State Department to implement that commitment.
Mr. Chairman, as President Bush has said, “At a time when freedom is on the march around the world, it is vital that the continent of Africa be a place of democracy, prosperity and hope.”
I am sure that my USAID colleague Michael Hess will agree that the advancement of human rights and democratic principles is integral, indeed crucial, to stability and development in the region. The United States is committed to forging partnerships with democracies across Africa that seek to build a continent where there is peace, where there is prosperity, and where the rights of all men and women are protected.
Mr. Chairman, this will be my last testimony to Congress before I retire from the Federal Government after 31 years of public service. I began my government career at the same time the Bureau I now head was created on the initiative of Congress. During the three decades of the Bureau’s existence, every Administration, and each of my predecessors, has been able to count on the bipartisan backing of the Congress. Your support has immeasurably strengthened our capacity to defend courageous men and women around the globe who work, against great odds and at great risk, to advance the cause of freedom.
Promoting democracy and human rights in Africa has been one of my top priorities during the 2 years I have served as Assistant Secretary. I have no doubt that my Bureau’s engagement on these issues will be a priority for my successor as well, for it remains a priority for President Bush and Secretary Rice.
As I prepare to depart the Bureau, I take satisfaction in knowing that I will leave behind a talented, dedicated and strong Africa team to carry on this important work. I am proud to say that we have quadrupled the number of personnel working on Africa issues and we also now have a separate position devoted to enhancing our cooperation with the African Union.
Mr. Chairman, in every region of the world–not least in Africa–increasing numbers of men and women are pressing for their rights to be respected and their governments to be responsive, for their voices to be heard and their votes to count, for just laws and equal justice for all. Indeed, as Secretary Rice has noted: “in recent years in Africa, we have seen a democratic transformation sweep the continent.”
Africa today is home to several strong, multiparty democracies. South Africa, Botswana, Ghana and Mali serve as models for the continent by virtue of their free and fair elections, their robust civil societies, and their respect for the rule of law. Indeed, Mali will host the next ministerial meeting of the worldwide Community of Democracies in November. It is apt that Mali has chosen as a major focus of the meeting the close interrelationship between democracy and development, underscoring that democracy and development must go hand-in-hand, if both efforts are to succeed.
Despite these positive trends, Africa also bears witness to serious human rights abuses that demand our active attention. In Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Chad, governments trample basic civil and political freedoms, violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Union’s own Charter on Democracy.
The role models and the reprobates stand out. The rest, and they constitute the majority of African countries, struggle somewhere in between. That should come as no surprise. In Africa, as in other regions of the world, gains for human rights and democracy are hard won and challenging to sustain. Even when democratic systems of government have been established, they take time to deliver on the promise they hold of a better life for ordinary citizens. Democratic systems with shallow institutional roots or scarce resources can fall far short of meeting their commitments to citizens. Steps forward can be marred with irregularities. Countries where rulers are insufficiently committed to reform can revert to authoritarian habits. Democratic transitions can be tumultuous and wrenching. Unbridled corruption can retard democratic development, distort judicial processes and destroy public trust. Insecurity due to internal or cross-border conflict can threaten advances made for human rights and democratic government.
Progress is seldom linear. That is why, when I meet with Secretary Rice, the question that comes up the most is: “What is the trajectory?” Is the country more responsive to its citizens? Is a culture of just laws taking root? Some countries may remain fragile for quite some time. Others may backslide.
We do not underestimate the challenges that reformers face in building democratic governance amidst the conditions of poverty, ethnic tension, and weak government institutions prevalent still in much of Africa. Africans are engaged today in trying to simultaneously build their democracies and also their economies, infrastructure and national identities. But even as we acknowledge and account for these challenges, we and the millions of Africans who support democratic reform cannot let those who feel threatened by change use those challenges as an excuse for continued authoritarian rule. Democracy supported by visionary leaders must be a central part of the solution to the continent’s other challenges.
A sustained commitment on our part and that of other democracies in the region and across the international community also is required. We fully recognize, however, that democracy promotion is not chemistry. You cannot concoct democracy using a formula. Three interrelated elements are, however, essential to any democracy. One element, of course, is elections. Democratic elections are one of the important milestones on the long journey of democratization. But a free election is not a fair election if in the run-up to Election Day the playing field is not level because the political process is manipulated and basic rights are undermined. A second element must be present for democracy to work: good governance, including the rule of law. And the third essential element in a democracy is a robust civil society that can keep government honest, keep citizens engaged and keep democracy-building on track. In a fully functioning democracy anywhere in the world, all three elements must be present: electoral, institutional and societal.
Let me now illustrate each of democracy’s three essential elements in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa.
First, elections: Democratic elections can help put a country on the path to reform and lay the groundwork for institutionalizing human rights protections and good governance. Africa’s record on free and fair elections is mixed. The good news is that the vast majority of Africans have embraced the concept of elections as a mechanism for determining the course that their countries will take.
A number of elections have taken place recently that give rise to cautious optimism.
After years of civil war that destroyed the country’s infrastructure, Liberia conducted an historic election in November 2005 that led to the selection of Africa’s first elected female head of state. Many Members of this body heard President Sirleaf’s inspirational message on March of last year when she spoke before a joint session of Congress and declared: “Our dream has the size of freedom.”
In 2006, the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo went to the polls for the first time in over 40 years, casting ballots in the hope of finally putting behind them a legacy of brutal dictatorship and violent conflict. The elections, judged free and fair by international observers, were a remarkable feat for a country half the size of the United States, yet virtually without paved roads. While there have been setbacks since the elections, and significant work remains to be done to help Congo through its post-conflict democratic transition, the elections demonstrated the strong desire of the Congolese people to live in freedom.
Mauritania, too, held its first fully democratic election in over 40 years in March of this year. The newly elected government has stated its commitment to enact democratic reforms and we are working to support Mauritania as it makes its democratic transition.
Several of our key partners in the region, however, have held disappointing elections.
In April, Nigeria–Africa’s most populous nation, an economic powerhouse, the seat of ECOWAS, and a critical player in matters of peace and security on the continent–squandered an important opportunity to improve upon its flawed 2003 elections and live up to its potential as a democratic leader for the region. That Nigeria missed this opportunity is even more disappointing considering the vibrancy of its civil society, the influence of its active media, and the strength of its legal system.
The elections took place under an ill-prepared and partial electoral commission, and were marred by reports of voter malfeasance and vote-rigging. In certain areas of the country, polls opened either after significant delay or did not open at all. There were, however, several bright spots: the Supreme Court reinstated an opposition candidate to the ballot only 5 days before the elections, and the former National Assembly refused to go along with now former President Obasanjo’s attempt to secure a third term.
The United States has stressed to Nigerian leaders the need for political reform and judicial transparency. We also have encouraged Nigeria to expedite election tribunals and to strengthen the independence and capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The run-up to Ethiopia’s May 2005 elections was a time of unprecedented democratic openness, with the ruling party agreeing to a series of key electoral reforms, and robust civil society engagement on matters of voter education and mobilization. However, the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems six weeks before Election Day created an atmosphere heavy with suspicion. The expulsions put a halt to valuable training programs for members of civil society, electoral commission staff and political party leaders aimed at increasing confidence in the electoral process.
Election Day was, for the most part, orderly and peaceful. Yet, in the days and months following the elections as rumors of malfeasance grew regarding the election results, the Ethiopian government responded to street protests with lethal force and illegally detained opposition leaders and tens of thousands of their supporters. Among those detained was journalist Serkalem Fasil, the recipient of a Courage in Journalism Award, who was arrested along with thirteen other reporters after publishing articles critical of the Ethiopian government. Fasil gave birth in jail to a son, who was premature and underweight due to inhumane conditions and lack of proper medical attention. She was released from prison in April, but is now threatened with re-arrest. If she is found guilty on charges of treason, outrages against the constitution and incitement to armed conspiracy, she could face the death penalty.
Shortly after I arrived in DRL, I began receiving letters from concerned Members of Congress and the former colleagues of the jailed Ethiopian democracy advocates and journalists, many of whom have had distinguished careers here in the United States and relatives who are United States citizens. Later, when I traveled to Addis Ababa, I raised the issue with Prime Minister Meles and met with the families of the imprisoned.
The government has embraced some new reforms, including revising parliamentary rules of procedure to allow for an increased voice for the opposition. But to this day, the crackdown casts a shadow over the Ethiopian government, though Prime Minister Meles announced yesterday that he plans to recommend clemency for the opposition leaders found guilty on June 11 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Let me now turn to the second essential element of democracy: good governance and the rule of law.
Beyond a free and fair elections process, democracies must have representative, accountable, transparent institutions of government, including an independent legislative body that can act to ensure that leaders who win elections govern democratically once they are in office. The rule of just law must prevail over politics and personalities, and replace cultures of corruption, which have undermined so many reform efforts in Africa.
An important way we encourage and support good governance in Africa is through the Millennium Challenge Account initiative enacted by Congress in 2004. The initiative is designed to embark on a new approach to delivering foreign assistance. MCA is a bold pro-growth strategy that aims to lift the most people out of poverty as fast as possible. The MCA reflects the new international consensus that a growth-based approach to development assistance works best and that countries which adopt good governance policies and invest in their people are the most likely to use their development assistance wisely and reach their development goals.
Only countries that have adopted good governance principles are eligible for MCA funding. Of the 12 MCA compacts signed to date, 6 are with governments in Sub-Saharan Africa, for a total of $2 billion in assistance. We have signed compacts with Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar, and this past Friday, Mozambique. Lesotho will sign its compact next week. Tanzania, Morocco, Namibia and Burkina Faso will sign compacts in the coming months, bringing another $2.6 billion to the continent to fight poverty. Adequate funding from Congress for the Millennium Challenge effort is critical so that we do not have to turn away these countries after they have worked so hard to make the reforms to qualify for Millennium Challenge assistance and to put together great programs for the fund to support.
Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia currently have threshold agreements. All of these governments have made democratic advances, but they continue to be held back, due, in part, to endemic corruption, which they are taking steps to combat. For example, the Tanzanian parliament passed sweeping anti-corruption legislation in April and Zambia is prosecuting former president Chiluba on corruption charges.
The Bush Administration also is supporting innovative efforts to strengthen the rule of law across Africa. For example, in 2004, President Bush allocated $55 million for the Women’s Justice and Empowerment in Africa Program. The program, which will operate in Benin, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa, will train police, judges, prosecutors, health officials and others on women’s rights with the goal of protecting women from and punishing perpetrators of gender-based violence. This program also will assist African governments in developing laws that empower and protect women.
Meeting the enormous challenge of ensuring accountable government, establishing the rule of law and combating corruption requires an unprecedented political commitment from African leaders. It also requires the active participation of the business sector and civil society.
Multi-sector initiatives continue to show promise. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, launched in 2002 by the United Kingdom and formally established in 2003 with more than twenty participating governments and the endorsement of the World Bank, is a good example of a private-public anti-corruption effort. The initiative aims to increase public information about revenues from extractive industries such as petroleum to ensure that these public resources are well spent on the most serious needs of the populations. A number of African countries have endorsed this effort and put the initiative’s best practices into effect, most notably Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. Despite their participation in the initiative, however, both Angola and the Republic of Congo have cracked down on activists working to ensure transparency in the oil industry. In February, the Angolan government detained a prominent British transparency advocate, Dr. Sarah Wykes from the NGO Global Witness, and charged her with violating national security. She was held for three days before being released on bail, and ultimately, allowed to depart the country. The Republic of Congo continues to harass transparency activists Christian Mounzeo and Brice Makosso.
I will now turn to the third essential element of democracy: a vibrant civil society.
The worldwide push for greater personal and political freedom is being felt in Africa. As this global trend grows stronger, it is encountering increasing resistance from those in power who feel threatened by democratic change. 2006 was what I call the “Year of the Push-back” and the phenomenon has continued into 2007.
Last December, on International Human Rights Day, Secretary Rice created a Human Rights Defenders Fund, which will be administered from my Bureau, to enable the State Department to quickly disburse small grants to human rights defenders facing extraordinary needs as a result of government repression. The Secretary also announced ten guiding principles regarding the treatment of NGOs by governments. These core principles are a handy resource for governments, international organizations, civil society groups, and journalists.
Regrettably, a growing number of countries, including African countries, selectively apply laws and regulations against NGOs and the media. They also subject human rights and democracy defenders to extrajudicial measures for peacefully exercising the rights of expression, association and assembly.
In Zimbabwe, civil society–including NGOs, labor unions and religious organizations–remain under heavy siege. On March 11, opposition leaders and civil society members, who had peacefully assembled for a mass prayer meeting, were brutally attacked by security forces. One political activist was shot dead; others were kept from receiving critical medical care.
Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea have enacted burdensome registration requirements and apply heavy-handed oversight that make it all but impossible for NGOs to exist. Slightly less burdensome requirements but continued suspicion and harassment have greatly restricted civil society in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
In some cases, most dramatically in Sudan, when governments persecute NGOs what is at stake is not just the preservation of liberties but the protection of lives. Physical attacks on humanitarian aid organizations in Darfur, and continued interference in their work, have rendered their mission of alleviating the suffering of internally displaced persons ever more difficult.
Mr. Chairman, that brings me to the countries that pose some of the greatest challenges we face in the region–Sudan, Uganda, Somalia and Zimbabwe–and the ways we are working in partnership with African nations to deal with those challenges, and by so doing, advance democracy and human rights.
In March, I traveled to Sudan to assess first-hand the appalling situation in Darfur. Fear and anxiety permeated the region. Not only were the internally displaced people coping with continuing violence, international aid workers also were subjected to an unprecedented level of harassment and attacks. Vital humanitarian assistance was being obstructed.
Yet, in the hell of Kalma Camp for internally displaced persons, I also saw determination among its inhabitants. A group of IDPs had organized themselves into a legal aid society inside the camp. They endure harassment and even assault to defend the rights of their fellow displaced. In the sweltering heat, I sat with my team and talked with these amazing people and the fellow IDPs whom they are assisting. I particularly remember one man who stood up and said, “I’m 37 years-old and never knew what human rights were until I came to this camp.” He said that until he learned about his rights from the legal aid society in the camp, he assumed that it was normal for police to arbitrarily harass, arrest and beat people. We saw the same hunger for dignity and justice in a group of women in South Darfur who were working to educate the young and empower them to defend their rights. These remarkable women shared more than determination. They also shared the belief that, as one put it, “America cares.”
In the months since my trip to Darfur, the situation has gotten even worse. Just to cite one alarming indicator: since early May, due to the unabated violence, the population of Al-Salam IDP Camp near Nyala has doubled from 14,500 to 30,000.
It is critical that the African Union/United Nations hybrid force be deployed without any further delay. President Bashir again declared his commitment to accept the force on June 11 during trilateral talks with the AU and UN. Yet again, a new Security Council resolution authorizing the force is being discussed in New York. The United States is strongly committed to getting that resolution passed. As Secretary Rice recently noted, “We must not let the Government of Sudan continue this game of cat and mouse diplomacy; making promises, then going back on them. It is our responsibility, as principled nations, as principled democracies, to hold Sudan accountable.”
Even as world attention focuses on the horrors of Darfur, it is imperative that we continue to support the implementation of the 2005 North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA. The peace agreement stopped a war that had raged for over 20 years and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people. But stopping a war is not the same as securing a peace.
Sudan’s elections, mandated by the CPA and tentatively planned for February 2009, are a crucial element of the peace process. They will be a key indicator as to whether the country will truly be able to put the civil war behind it and fulfill the late Dr. John Garang’s vision of a united, peaceful nation. The international community must not lose sight of this pivotal election and must stay engaged in the run-up to it.
Meanwhile, the continuing crisis in Darfur threatens to destabilize Sudan’s neighbors. Chad, which has its own challenges, hosts approximately 235,000 Sudanese refugees as well as 50,000 refugees fleeing conflict in the Central African Republic. One hundred eighty thousand Chadians displaced by insecurity from Chadian rebels and cross-border Janjaweit militia attacks from Sudan compound the problem, creating still more conditions for unrest. One bright spot in this bleak picture are the prospects for peace in Uganda. For years, the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels found a hiding place in south Sudan while it terrorized northern Uganda. Today, the Government of Southern Sudan is an active player in the Juba-based negotiations for peace in Uganda.
The African-led mediation process in Juba has made progress in addressing the brutal 20-year conflict in Uganda. The key mediator–Government of Southern Sudan Vice-President Riak Machar and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano–are deeply engaged in the process, and have recently added observers from other African countries and the United States to the talks. Over the past year, thousands of internally displaced persons have been able to leave the camps in northern Uganda and vital commercial corridors in Sudan and northern Uganda have reopened. The United States, through USAID and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, conducts a robust program of humanitarian assistance in northern Uganda.
In Somalia, a country that has seen more than its share of bloodshed during the past 15 years of civil war, there is some cause for hope–provided the Somalis take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the reestablishment of the Transitional Federal Government with the support of the international community. Somalia does not have the luxury of time. The Transitional Federal Government opened a National Reconciliation Congress on July 15 and recessed to allow time to finalize logistical arrangements, such as the issuance of identification badges for Congress delegates and to allow time for additional delegates to arrive in Mogadishu. The United States agreed to provide $2.25 million towards reconciliation through the United Nations Development Program, of which $1.25 million already has been provided and has been used mainly to support the National Reconcilation Congress. The United States remains the leading donor of humanitarian aid to Somalia and has already committed over $40 million for development, humanitarian, and peacekeeping support this year.
In Zimbabwe, it is clear that President Mugabe intends to do whatever it takes to get re-elected. The run-up to the 2008 presidential elections will be a critical time for democratic nations in Africa to take a strong stand for democracy in the region. After the brutal attacks in March that I mentioned earlier, the United States assisted those working for the release of detainees and to secure medical treatment for the injured. Our Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, made his presence felt at police stations and at the courthouse to demonstrate our concern for those being held. The international attention that we helped to focus on the beatings and detentions helped to secure the early release of the detainees.
We also have condemned the Government of Zimbabwe’s violent suppression of a peaceful demonstration on June 6 in Bulawayo by Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA!). Police used batons against some 200 demonstrators, detaining seven activists. Among those detained was WOZA! National Coordinator Jenni Williams, the recipient of Secretary Rice’s 2007 International Women of Courage Award for Africa, and denying them access to their lawyers.
This latest aggression against civil society, coming on the heels of attacks this spring, highlights the need for dialogue among all stakeholders concerned with halting Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis. The active engagement of Zimbabwe’s democratic neighbors will be key to bringing the government and the opposition together to find a way forward for the country. The Southern African Development Community has mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate negotiations between the Government of Zimbabwe and the opposition. In late June, the government and the opposition agreed on an agenda for the negotiations that included constitutional and electoral reforms, security legislation and rules of political engagement. This is a good step. But, given the behavior of President Mugabe, we dare not allow ourselves to think that the road ahead will soon or easily lead to stability, prosperity and liberty for the people of Zimbabwe.
Strengthening Regional Architecture
Dealing with the complex challenges that these strife-riven countries present requires the energetic engagement of neighboring African nations and of Africa’s regional institutions, as well as the support of the United States and the broader international community. We have made it a priority to intensify our relationships with Africa’s regional organizations, and with the African Union in particular on matters of human rights and democracy.
In late 2006, the United States established a bilateral mission to the AU – the first of its kind where an AU observer state has had a separate mission dedicated solely to the AU.
The AU architecture is still evolving, but it is promising. The AU’s 53 member states have committed themselves to an agenda for advancing democracy and human rights, and they are developing bodies and mechanisms to move that agenda forward, including:
* a Peace and Security Commission, similar to the UN Security Council, which approves the scope and duties of AU peace support operations;
* the adoption in 2003 of the African Protocol on the Rights of Women;
* the adoption this January of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, enshrining commitments to political pluralism, free and fair elections, the rule of law and good governance; and
* the creation of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to uphold the provisions of the Democracy Charter. The Court will work in coordination with the AU’s existing Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
It is very much in our interest, and in the interest of other democracies, to help strengthen the capacity of these AU bodies and mechanisms.
To that end, Mr. Chairman, in March I hosted five members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We discussed the importance of engaging with civil society and of addressing urgent human rights concerns. We also agreed to increase our collaboration.
Later that month, I traveled to Addis Ababa and met with the AU Commissioners for political affairs, peace and security, and women and gender development. I discussed a range of issues from democratization and the need for a vibrant civil society to the UN/AU hybrid force in Sudan. I also planted the seeds for formal human rights and democracy consultations with AU. In the fall, DRL will host the first such consultations. We will share experiences, define new strategies for partnership and encourage the forging of relationships between the AU and civil society. We also will identify concrete ways to assist the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the fledgling Court, and a new AU Elections Observation Unit. The Unit’s creation is particularly timely in light of the upcoming elections in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Sudan. USAID already has a $1 million program with IFES to support the creation of the Unit.
In May, I met with eight impressive justices from the nascent Court, who also serve on the bench in their native countries. They are working pro bono to draft the rules and regulations governing the Court’s operations and get it up and running. By the end of the year, their hard work should reach fruition and provide an additional layer of protection for the people of Africa.
Just last week here in Washington, the Organization of American States, the State Department and the African Union held the first ever OAS/AU Democracy Bridge Forum, an event that was sponsored by the State Department. Experts from the AU and OAS, and NGOs from Africa and the Americas exchanged their experiences building regional democratic institutions, planned further cooperation, and established institutional linkages.
Mr. Chairman, clearly there is a lot of work to be done–first and foremost by African democracies–to fully develop the AU and other regional organizations. The goal is not to build elaborate architecture, but to build effective institutions that help lock in democratic gains and play real roles in protecting the rights and improving the lives of the people of Africa. As Secretary Rice said last week to the Chairperson of the AU and former President of Mali, Alpha Konare, the United States is committed to strengthening the AU, and we look forward to enhancing our partnership.
DRL Democracy Assistance
Mr. Chairman, before I conclude, let me briefly respond to your request to hear about the human rights and democracy assistance programs that my Bureau is funding.
DRL has significantly raised its level of programming assistance for Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of Congressionally-mandated funding for the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, or HRDF. HRDF is what I call the venture capital of democracy programming. DRL uses it for cutting-edge innovative programming that upholds democratic principles, supports democratic institutions, promotes human rights and builds civil society in critical countries and regions. We use this fund for pilot projects that will have an immediate impact but that have potential for continued funding beyond HRDF resources. DRL coordinates closely with the Bureau of African Affairs, other State Department bureaus, USAID, and our NGO partners to ensure that our HRDF programs support overall United States foreign policy objectives in the region and are not duplicative.
When I arrived in the fall of 2005, DRL had a little more than $3 million in HRDF for programming in Sub-Saharan Africa. With Congressional support, we tripled the level of DRL assistance to nearly $10 million and have expanded our programmatic reach to critical countries like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Burundi.
We are proud of our small, but growing Africa programs portfolio. I will highlight two which I believe have had a positive impact on human rights:
My Bureau awarded $1.5 million in HRDF to an NGO to establish women’s centers that focus on gender-based violence in nine IDP camps throughout Darfur. The NGO estimates that we have reached tens of thousands of women through these centers, providing a range of services from medical and psychological support to literacy and basic income generation skills. The grant also has helped fund a global Gender-based Violence Coordinator which has enabled this NGO to conduct rapid assessments of gender-based violence in emerging conflict situations in Chad, Lebanon, Colombia, Nepal and the northern Caucasus.
DRL also funded a program to collect scientific evidence of human rights abuses committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone. The more than 3,600 statements from witnesses that were collected should prove useful to the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
With 2007 funds, we will program approximately $10 million for Sub-Saharan Africa. And we have ongoing FY06 programs that are supporting post-election dialogue in Ethiopia, building the capacity of the judiciary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, combating gender-based violence in Ethiopia and Sudan, fighting corruption in Cote d’Ivoire and Burundi, and strengthening civil society efforts in Zimbabwe.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, let me just say that no matter who succeeds me as Assistant Secretary, and no matter what Administration follows the current one, the United States must continue to respond to the pressing demands of Africans for dignity and liberty. We must continue to work in partnership with the governments and peoples of Africa to build a continent of hope and freedom, for their sake, and for the sake of a safer, better world for us all.
And now I would be happy to try to answer your questions.