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The Candidates on U.S. Policy toward Africa

August 24, 2008

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Issue Trackers trace the positions of candidates from the 2008 presidential campaign on major issues related to foreign policy.

Aside from the crisis in Darfur, Africa has been largely neglected in foreign policy discussions during the 2008 presidential race. With U.S. attention focused on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, China's emergence, Iran, and other Middle East concerns, Africa is not a U.S. priority. But the continent has begun to emerge as more than a humanitarian issue for policymakers. Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has drawn attention to China's strong interest in Africa and other developing regions as compared to a "profound" U.S. absence there. Some candidates are calling for a refocusing of U.S. development aid to countries in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. These issues, combined with the continuing calls from a well organized advocacy community for U.S. action to protect civilians in Sudan's Darfur region, and the continuing HIV/AIDS crisis, will likely make U.S. policy toward Africa a point of attention for the next president.

Democratic Ticket on U.S. Policy toward Africa

Barack Obama
Democratic Party Nominee - President

President Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was particularly vocal in the Senate on U.S. Africa policy. He has been especially outspoken regarding policy toward Darfur, traveling to the region with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) in 2006. In May 2008, Obama cosigned a statement with fellow presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain condemning the Sudanese government as "chiefly responsible" for the violence in Darfur, and demanding that the Khartoum regime adhere to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Obama has called for a no-fly zone over Darfur. In 2005, Obama cosponsored the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. He says he has divested (AP) about $180,000 of his personal financial holdings from Sudan-related stock.

Obama has also been outspoken regarding U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe, saying in June 2008 the government of Robert Mugabe is "illegitimate and lacks any credibility." He said the United States should tighten sanctions on Zimbabwe. Obama also urged South Africa's ruling African National Congress party to call for diplomatic action to stop the repression in Zimbabwe.

With Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Obama cosponsored the March 2007 bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to bolster public health efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. That bill has not yet been voted on. Obama told Vanity Fair that as president, he plans to expand PEPFAR "by providing at least $1 billion a year in new money."

In February 2008, Obama called the power-sharing agreement reached between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga "a vital step forward," but urged coalition members to "make an enduring commitment to democracy, cooperation and national unity."

Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, CEO of Millennium Villages, a project aimed at fighting poverty in Africa, was a national security adviser to Obama's campaign.

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Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Democratic Party Nominee - Vice President

Sen. Biden (D-DE) advocates sending U.S. troops to Darfur. He says 2,500 U.S. troops would likely be sufficient to stem the violence. In July 2007, he introduced a resolution with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) calling for the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission to Darfur. That resolution passed unanimously. In July 2008, Biden said the United States, the rest of NATO and "all other capable nations" should "step up" to provide peacekeeping forces in Darfur with helicopters and other equipment, and to end Sudan's "effective blockade" of those supplies.

In terms of HIV/AIDS prevention, Biden says the United States should stop funding abstinence-only sex education programs in Africa. In 2007, he cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act, which would do away with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) earmark mandating that one-third of all funding from that initiative be granted to abstinence-until-marriage programs. That act has not yet been voted on.

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Republican Ticket on U.S. Policy toward Africa

John McCain
Republican Party Nominee - President

Sen. McCain (R-AZ) says the United States should promote democracy in Africa. In a May 2007 speech before the Hoover Institution, McCain called for the United States to join in a "League of Democracies" to help regions in Africa and elsewhere beset by humanitarian crises. He also said the United States should support those in Africa "who favor open economies and democratic government against populist demagogues who are dragging their nations back to the failed socialist policies of the past." In a March 2008 speech, McCain said the United States must "strongly engage on a political, economic, and security level with friendly governments across Africa, but insist on improvements in transparency and the rule of law."

McCain also said as he would establish the goal of eradicating malaria in Africa. "In addition to saving millions of lives in the world's poorest regions, such a campaign would do much to add luster to America's image in the world," he said.

In May 2008, McCain cosigned a statement with fellow presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama condemning the Sudanese government as "chiefly responsible" for the violence in Darfur, and demanding that the Khartoum regime adhere to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Like many of the other candidates, McCain advocates a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Darfur. In a 2006 op-ed, McCain said the United States should pressure the European Union and UN Security Council to impose sanctions (WashPost) on the Sudanese government. He also said the United States should "publicly remind Khartoum that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes in Darfur and that Sudanese leaders will be held personally accountable for attacks on civilians."

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Sarah Palin
Republican Party Nominee - Vice President

Palin's stance on U.S. policy toward Africa is unknown.

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Democratic Primary Candidates on U.S. Policy toward Africa

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Democratic Primary Candidate

During her candidacy, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) pledged to visit Africa during her first term as president "to see the progress of our efforts and to assess first hand the necessary strategies to combat disease and poverty."

Clinton stresses the importance of education in ameliorating the rampant poverty throughout Africa. She proposed the Education for All Act in 2007, which would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include provisions for financial assistance specifically for promoting universal education in developing countries. She told Vanity Fair that if the act did not pass before her inauguration, it would have been her "first priority."

Clinton advocates a no-fly zone over Darfur, enforced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, but said in a June 2007 Democratic debate that she does not believe U.S. troops should be sent there. She also says there should be unilateral airlift and logistical support for peacekeeping operations in Darfur from the United States or NATO. In February 2008, Clinton called on President Bush to appoint a "single, dedicated Administration official who would have final authority on Sudan policy."

In May 2008, Clinton cosigned a statement with fellow presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama condemning the Sudanese government as "chiefly responsible" for the violence in Darfur, and demanding that the Khartoum regime adhere to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Clinton cosponsored Sen. Joe Biden's July 2007 resolution calling for the immediate deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur. She also cosponsored Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback's 2005 Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. That bill would have placed sanctions on officials who are complicit in the killings in Darfur.

Clinton supports the bipartisan renewal of PEPFAR, and said she would have expanded the program, had she been elected. With Biden, Clinton cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act of 2007. Clinton has also said she would set the goal of ending malaria deaths in Africa by the end of her second term.

In February 2008, Clinton praised the compromise reached between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, but warned that the agreement is "a very fragile step forward." The United States must "continue to work closely with Kofi Annan, the African Union, and other international partners to ensure compliance with the agreement," she said.

Editor's Note: Sen. Clinton withdrew her candidacy for theDemocratic presidential nomination on June 7, 2008.

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Christopher J. Dodd
Democratic Primary Candidate

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has primarily focused his discussion of policy toward Africa on supporting the Millennium Development Goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and the reduction of child mortality, among other efforts. Dodd told Vanity Fair that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should “sell a portion of its gold reserves and use the proceeds to establish a trust fund with interest generated devoted to financing the debts of poor countries.”

Dodd cosponsored a March 2007 bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to help efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases in sub-Saharan African countries. The bill directs the President to develop a strategy for improved health care throughout the region. It has not yet been passed in the Senate. He also cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act of 2007 with Biden and Clinton. Dodd cosponsored Biden’s resolution demanding the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur.

Editor's Note: Sen. Dodd withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 3, 2008.

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John Edwards
Democratic Primary Candidate

Like Clinton, Edwards stresses the need for increased accessibility of education for children in developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. “Instead of spending $500 billion in Iraq, suppose America led an effort to make primary school education available to 100 million children in the world who have no education, including in Africa,” Edwards said in a 2007 Democratic debate. In a September 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Edwards said that as president, he would significantly increase funding for clean-water programs to prevent the spread of disease, and he would create a cabinet-level position charged with the facilitation of global development policy.

Edwards says the United States should provide logistical and intelligence support to assist peacekeepers in Darfur. He says NATO should assist the peacekeeping process by establishing a no-fly zone and providing support for the African Union forces already in Darfur. He has also called for U.S. sanctions on twenty-nine companies owned or controlled by Sudan, and for NATO sanctions on the Sudanese government. He also says the United States should pressure China to help end the conflict.

In May 2007, Edwards was informed that he held thousands of dollars in financial investments in companies that work in Sudan. He pledged at the time to sell off (AP) those holdings.

Editor's note: Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination on January 30, 2008.

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Mike Gravel
Democratic Primary Candidate

Gravel’s stance on this issue is unknown.

Editor's Note: Mike Gravel ended his bid for the Democratic nomination on March 26, 2008. He then ran for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination before announcing the end of his political career on May 25, 2008.

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Dennis Kucinich
Democratic Primary Candidate

Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) has been a critic of U.S. policy in Africa, saying at a June 2007 debate at Howard University: “It’s time for the United States to stop looking at Africa as a place where our corporations can exploit the people.”

Kucinich has called for significant increases in U.S. funding for international humanitarian organizations. He blames the IMF and World Bank for the huge debts faced by many African countries, and has called for an “immediate cancellation of all bilateral debts of poor countries as well as cancellation of debts to the IMF and World Bank.”  

In April 2007, Kucinich voted in favor of a House resolution condemning the Zimbabwean government for its violent crackdown against opposition activists. That resolution passed.

Kucinich cosponsored the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, which prohibits the U.S. government from contracting with companies that do business in Sudan. That bill passed in the House but awaits action in the Senate. Kucinich also voted for the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006.

Editor's Note: Rep. Kucinich withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 25, 2008.

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Bill Richardson
Democratic Primary Candidate

Richardson advocates a “multilateral Marshall Plan” for Africa to “prevent societal collapse,” he told Vanity Fair. Such a plan would focus on improved medical care, education, and economic development. “The plan must also anticipate and respond to the impact that global warming will have upon African food and water supplies,” he says.

Richardson, a former UN ambassador, visited Sudan in January 2007 and met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. He attempted to convince (AP) Bashir to allow UN troops to enter Darfur. The Sudanese government has since agreed to allow a hybrid UN-African Union (IHT) force to enter the region. In a June 2007 Democratic debate, Richardson commended President Bush’s funding for the Millennium Development Goals, and for efforts to fight AIDS in Africa in particular.

Editor's Note: Richardson withdrew his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 10, 2008.

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Republican Primary Candidates on U.S. Policy toward Africa

Sam Brownback
Republican Primary Candidate

Sen. Brownback (R-KS) has been a leading voice in Congress for U.S. action in Darfur. With Obama, Brownback wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in December 2005 calling on the United States to “help transform the African Union protection force into a sizable, effective multinational force.”  He introduced the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in 2005, which urged U.S. military intervention. In 2006, Brownback traveled to the region with Obama. Brownback cosponsored Biden’s July 2007 resolution demanding the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur. Brownback also says he sold tens of thousands of dollars in mutual fund holdings in an effort to divest (WashPost) from any companies that do business in Sudan.

In 2006, Brownback drafted legislation that would have required the United States to spend 50 percent of aid to Africa on items like water wells and immunizations, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Editor's Note: Sen. Brownback withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on October 19, 2007.

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Rudy Giuliani
Republican Primary Candidate

Giuliani has said the United States should focus its policy toward Africa on increases in trade. “U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty,” he wrote in a September 2007 Foreign Affairs article. In that article, Giuliani also said the next president “should continue the Bush administration's effort to help Africa overcome AIDS and malaria.”

In May 2007, Giuliani was informed that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in companies that work in Sudan. His campaign spokesperson did not say whether he would be divesting (AP) from those companies.

Editor's note: Giuliani dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 31, 2008.

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Mike Huckabee
Republican Primary Candidate

Huckabee has not made many public statements relating to U.S. policy toward Africa. His stance on U.S.action in Darfur is unknown. He has said foreign aid (Time) “should be limited to purely humanitarian efforts.”

Editor's Note: Huckabee withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on March 4, 2008.

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Duncan Hunter
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Hunter (R-CA) has seldom commented on U.S. policy toward Africa. In June 2006, Hunter sent a letter urging President Bush to improve the Abeche airfield in Chad, near the Darfur border, which he said is a “critical lifeline of the region that, once improved, can stage a significant and immediate increase in humanitarian activities, including potential NATO and UN operations.”

Hunter voted for the voted for the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006. He also voted in favor of the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007.

Editor's note: Hunter dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 19, 2008.

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Ron Paul
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Paul (R-TX) is a critic of U.S. foreign aid. In response to the White House's 2005 announcement that it would double economic aid to Africa, Paul wrote, "a federal government with nearly $8 trillion in debt has no business giving money to anybody."

He attributes widespread African poverty to "corruption that actually is fostered by Western aid."

Paul was one of three representatives to vote against the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006. He was also the only representative to vote against the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007.

Editor's Note: Rep. Paul withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on June 12, 2008.

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Mitt Romney
Republican Primary Candidate

Romney's positions on policy issues toward African countries are not well known. In a July 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Romney praised U2 singer Bono and other activists for their efforts to raise awareness of poverty in Africa and elsewhere. Romney said U.S. efforts to bolster the standing of moderate Muslims abroad by combating poverty and underdevelopment should be focused in Africa as well as the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times reported on August 14, 2007, that Romney has investments in an oil company tied to the Sudanese government, which is accused of being partially responsible for the massacres in Darfur. Romney's campaign spokesman told the Times that Romney's attorney controls his investments and that he "had no influence over how his investments were handled." His spokesman did not say whether Romney would divest these funds.

Editor's note: Romney dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on February 7, 2008.

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Tom Tancredo
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) has been a prominent voice in Congress for taking action to end the violence in Darfur. Tancredo, who cochairs the House Sudan Caucus, cosponsored the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2005. He also cosponsored a 2006 House resolution urging President Bush to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. Shortly after that resolution passed, Bush appointed Special Envoy Andrew Natsios.

Tancredo did not vote on the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007.

Editor's Note: Congressman Tancredo formally withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on December 20, 2007.

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Fred Thompson
Republican Primary Candidate

Thompson has not said much on U.S. policy toward Africa. While he has criticized the United Nations for a lack of action in Darfur, he has not said what he would do as president to stop the violence in the region.

His comments have also been sparse on public health issues in Africa. He voted in favor of the Africa Free Trade bill in 2000. That bill authorized increased trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Editor's note: Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 22, 2008.

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