- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

African summit responds to 'misleading' editorial


Your March 8 editorial "A monologue with Africa" was a groundless attack on the dialogue and celebration of last month's National Summit on Africa. The information cited in the editorial was both inaccurate and misleading.
More than 7,500 people officially attended the summit, not 2,300 "attendees," as you stated. Among the participants were 2,300 delegates, who actually drafted and adopted the National Policy Plan of Action. The document is 102 pages in length, not 254, as you claim. The plan of action contains 254 recommendations to guide U.S. foreign policy toward Africa in the new millennium.
Your allegation that the summit lacked African input is untrue. Continental Africans were well-represented as the national co-chairmen and on the summit's Secretariat, Board of Directors and Foreign Policy Advisory Committee and in the group of experts that wrote the five original thematic policy papers on which the deliberations were based. They include such notable figures as Professor Ali Mazrui, Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and others.
At every step of the process, the summit actively encouraged African participation by disseminating our policy documents to the Organization of African Unity, the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, the African diplomatic community and dozens of grass-roots organizations and non-governmental organizations across the continent. Their written comments and criticisms, formally packaged and presented to the delegates during the deliberative process, received consideration and were factored into the final document.
From the summit's inception, Africans residing in the United States have been actively encouraged to participate. During the past three years, participation by continental Africans at the six regional summits, three policy forums and the national summit is conservatively estimated at 30 percent. Many were elected official delegates to the Washington summit, and several others were elected state chairmen by their peers. Their active participation in the workshops and debates underscored the credibility of the summit process as one that was inclusive and unprecedented.
Those who came to the event participated in a dialogue with Americans, not a "monologue," as you falsely assert. There was dialogue in the spirited deliberative process sessions and the more than 50 issues-oriented workshops and in and around the halls and corridors of the Washington Convention Center.
The comments by Kenyan journalist Kibusi Kabatesi, questioning the presence of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, also were misleading. Mr. Moi's record on democracy and adherence to the protection of basic human rights is, at best, mixed. Yet it was stated repeatedly that the summit invited practically every head of state in Africa whose government enjoys diplomatic relations with the United States. For reasons beyond the summit's control, only Mr. Moi could attend.
As a head of state, Mr. Moi was entitled to receive a civil and respectful hearing in accordance with the democratic values and principles we as Americans hold dear, including the right of free speech. This should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of Mr. Moi's policies by the summit.
With respect to misleading statements about my own professional background, let me set the record straight. During my last tenure as deputy assistant secretary of state, I was principally responsible for West and Central Africa policy and for the continent's anti-narcotics, anti-terrorism and democracy programs.
In 1993, while I was working for the former law firm of Washington & Christian, the firm, with the encouragement of U.S. authorities, agreed to assist the government of Nigeria in establishing a drug interdiction program, including initiating a polygraph system for police officers, security personnel and border guards, and to help formulate an official drug policy.
Your allegation that the National Summit on Africa was controlled somehow by people with an emphasis on trade and investment and that these are the "new colonizers" also is without foundation. A "colonizer" is one who settles in a colony. In contrast, it is perhaps those who think they know what is best for Africa, despite clear statements by Africans to the contrary, who are acting in a paternalistic manner characteristic of the former colonial powers.
Of the proposals contained in the National Policy Plan of Action, which ones do you deem "doubtful" of assisting African needs? Which ones "serve U.S. interests in the short-term?" The Times editorial was not specific about which policy recommendations it objected to, and you apparently were unaware of the number of overall recommendations. It is unclear whether you ever read the National Policy Plan of Action.
Instead of pointing fingers, the National Summit on Africa has always encouraged inclusive dialogue from Americans of all colors, faiths, political persuasions and backgrounds as well as Africans. We have always been all ears because we strongly believe Africa matters.
All the National Summit on Africa seeks is that the realities of Africa be known and understood by the American people, that the support base for Africa in the United States expand dramatically and that American policy toward the nations of the African continent be responsive to their legitimate needs and our respective mutual interests.
LEONARD H. ROBINSON JR.
President and CEO
The National Summit on Africa
Washington

Letter illustrated why religion does not belong in public schools


In a recent letter, Geoffrey Shaw referred to those who disagree with his views regarding the issue of the separation of church and state as belonging to the "irreligious left" ("Church-state 'wall of separation' a paper tiger," March 26).
This categorization of those who do not believe as the writer believes is a compelling argument against the reintroduction of organized religious expression in public schools. Mr. Shaw's "irreligious left" label is strong evidence that those students who choose not to participate in a public display of personal religious beliefs may run the risk of being alienated unfairly as "irreligious" nonconformists by their peers.
Because anyone can pray to his or her Supreme Being anytime and anywhere, injecting organized religion into the public school system is neither necessary nor desirable.
RICK PELTZ
Frederick, Md.

Unappreciative OPEC countries have forgotten about wa


Generally ignored by the media has been the major role of our erstwhile allies Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the rapidly rising gas prices at the pump. With a shortfall of only 2.5 million barrels per day accounting for the dramatic increase, Saudi Arabia has restricted its production to 7.73 million barrels per day, Kuwait to 1.91 million and the UAE to 2.10 million, all well below their pumping capacity. In light of the massive U.S. military effort that saved these nations from extinction at the hands of Iraq and Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf war, the present price gouging is obscene.
With production cost in all three nations well below $10 per barrel and mostly in the $5 to $8 range, the current purchase price of $32 per barrel in some cases represents more than a 400 percent markup. Even at the previous price of $20 per barrel before the current price escalation, the profit level was more than 200 percent, not a shabby return.
Should we have saved these countries from Iraq? The answer certainly is yes in light of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and his designs for hegemony over the entire region with its substantial oil reserves. Should we expect that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE be grateful to us for our intervention? The answer is a resounding yes. However, they have not demonstrated their thanks with the restriction of oil supply and the egregious increase in pump prices, directly affecting the economy of the United States and threatening to plunge the world into an economic recession.
In light of this experience, we should in the future demand a quid pro quo when we defend nations from disappearing and impose certain promises in return for our aid. With a U.S. cost of more than $60 billion for the Persian Gulf war, we have been rewarded for our efforts by a price gouge at the gas pumps.
NELSON MARANS
Silver Spring

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