Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Putting a Price on Democracy in Africa Series: GLOBAL FRONTIERS. Part 4 of a 4-Part Series. Fifth of Nine Articles Appearing Today

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Putting a Price on Democracy in Africa Series: GLOBAL FRONTIERS. Part 4 of a 4-Part Series. Fifth of Nine Articles Appearing Today

Article excerpt

WESTERN aid money can nurture pro-democracy movements in Africa, say Western and African diplomats, donor officials, and others. But there is no consensus on how to use the "carrot" of Western aid to get authoritarian governments to adopt democratic reforms.

United States State Department and World Bank officials see three approaches emerging out of the current debate:

*-Cutting off aid to nondemocratic countries;

*-Rewarding with increased foreign aid those states moving toward democracy and improved human rights;

*-Avoiding the issue of democracy directly and rewarding countries deemed more efficient and accountable with public funds.

These various approaches are being discussed as nearly half the countries of Africa have adopted or announced within the past year plans to adopt multiparty politics - indicating a marked switch from authoritarian rule.

"I feel international financial bodies, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Western European Countries, the US, should really support this (pro-democracy) movement," says Nigerian Joe Garba, former president of the United Nations General Assembly. But Mr. Garba cautions that there is no simple formula for the West to encourage democracy in Africa.

The US "has been a great supporter of dictators" in Africa, says Georges Nzongola, professor of African studies at Howard University. Cutting off aid to such governments could spur democratic reforms by forcing leaders to "account to their people why they're not getting that assistance," he says.

Privately, one senior US official says pushing Africa too hard on democratic reforms at a time when about 30 nations are under-going economic reforms may cause instability. He suggests the push should come in two to three years.

Last year, the US Congress passed legislation that withheld assistance to Zaire because of charges of corruption and human rights abuses, and some aid to Kenya was withheld because of alleged human rights abuses. Now there is talk in Congress of cutting off nonhumanitarian aid to countries whose governments are not freely elected.

It is too early to tell whether this criterion will end up in the next foreign aid bill. …

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