AFRICA AT 50
As she looked back over the past 50 years, when African nations began winning independence from European colonial powers, Miss Rice this week said she sees a "renewed spirit of independence" among many African leaders.
The United States recognized the emerging potential of Africa in 1958 when President Eisenhower created the Bureau of African Affairs to focus U.S. diplomacy on the continent instead of on the colonial masters.
"The Bureau of African Affairs was founded at the dawn of Africa's independence as a sign of America's support for Africa's quest for dignity, respect and opportunity that come from freedom," Miss Rice said, honoring the 50th anniversary of the bureau.
"Led by the men and women of our [bureau] ..., we have forged new partnerships throughout Africa to build peace, combat disease, expand prosperity and improve governance. ... Africa still faces profound challenges, but I am optimistic about Africa's future."
Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told guests at a State Department reception Monday that "the next half-century" is a "historic window of opportunity" for Africa.
"Sometimes we forget that it has only been 50 years since African countries began obtaining their independence," Miss Frazer said.
"During these past 50 years, Africans have overcome great challenges and adversity and have achieved much success, from attaining their independence from colonial rule to the end of apartheid. From the decline of conflict and the rise in democracy, over the last decade African people have demonstrated a commitment to peace, security and development."
Some of the larger nations in sub-Saharan Africa are younger than 50. Nigeria won its independence in 1960, South Africa in 1961, Kenya in 1963 and Angola not until 1975.
Conflicts still rage in some countries like Sudan, and economic crises grip others like Zimbabwe, where estimated inflation reached a staggering 1 million percent in May. President Bush's Africa trip in February emphasized countries that have achieved progress despite years of authoritarian governments, civil wars or genocide when he visited Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Many African leaders praised Mr. Bush for his efforts to combat AIDS on a continent racked with the disease. His administration has provided $15 billion for AIDS treatment since 2003.
The reception at the State Department included all U.S. ambassadors from sub-Saharan Africa and most of the African ambassadors in Washington, led by Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti, dean of the diplomatic corps and the most senior African envoy here.
The world is not one big global family, but diplomats and members of Congress on Wednesday began preparing for an event established to try to reach that goal.
"With the world's conflicts growing ever daily in the 21st century, it is extremely encouraging to see congressional members, diplomats and civil society and, most importantly, children coming together to support and launch Global Family Day on January 1, 2009," said Dominick Chilcott, deputy chief of mission at the British Embassy, which hosted a reception to support the initiative.
Noel Brown, president of the Friends of the United Nations, presented a humanitarian award to Linda Grover, co-founder of Global Family Day. Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, is the other co-founder.
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