NED grantee priorities emphasized by Clinton in Africa

The critical work of NED grantees across the African continent was affirmed at the highest diplomatic levels during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 11-day trip to Africa in August.  Secretary Clinton’s frequent calls to end corruption, promote good governance, reform electoral systems, and combat sexual violence were consistent with the long-term efforts of many NED grantees. Throughout her seven-country tour, Secretary Clinton met with civil society, addressed democracy and human rights issues, and, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria, met directly with current and former Endowment grantees. 

Clinton is the highest U.S. official ever to visit the DRC’s restive east, and while visiting Goma, she met with a delegation that included Immaculée Birhaheka, founder of the Endowment’s partner Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), and a winner of NED’s 2006 Democracy Award.  PAIF, which has played a vital role in protecting and promoting the rights of political prisoners and of women and leading the efforts to end the widespread rape of women and girls in Eastern DRC, was among several Endowment grantees who are members of the Congo Advocacy Coalition, a group of 88 humanitarian and human rights organizations calling for more focus on rape and justice issues.  During  a roundtable with civil society activists and NGOs, Secretary Clinton pledged over $17 million to combat sexual violence.

Along with PAIF, NED partners Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO),  and Collectif des Jeunes du Sud Kivu,  and Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo (COJESKI) were all part of the coalition that issued  a press release during the Clinton visit, calling on the UN Peacekeeping force for Congo (MONUC) to be more accountable for the safety of civilians in a region that is one of the most volatile and dangerous in the world.   The coalition press release received widespread news coverage, including mentions by ABC News and the Washington Post.  Endowment partner COJESKI also organized with Search for Common Ground the Secretary’s only public activity in Kinshasa.  One hundred forty university students came together in the Congolese capital for a conversation with her about their experiences and aspirations for democracy and governance in the DRC.  The town hall-style meeting also featured Congolese basketball star Dikembe Mutombo  and received coverage by several prominent newspapers

Clinton focused on the plight of another Endowment partner, human rights activist Golden Misabiko of Association Africaine de Defense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO), during her meeting with Congolese president Joseph Kabila and her talk with the foreign minister. Misabiko was detained on July 23 after his organization released a report raising questions related to the uranium mining in DRC. 

In Nigeria, priorities of NED grantees were again in sync with Secretary Clinton, who expressed strong support for electoral reforms, anti-corruption, good governance, and conflict resolution in the Niger-Delta. 

Before her arrival, NED grantee Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) wrote opinion pieces in Nigerian newspapers urging Clinton to use her visit to “press the government to exercise political will in fighting high level corruption.”  During her meetings with the government, Secretary Clinton called for a reinvigoration of Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign stating that, Nigeria’s anti-corruption commission “has fallen off in the last two years, and we want to see them start work again as before."

Clinton also expressed strong support for electoral reform in Nigeria, and urged the government to implement recommendations that two NED grantees, Human Rights Monitor and Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), helped to craft.  Finally, she spoke about the importance of good governance and transparency at a civil society town hall meeting hosted by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a civil society coalition and former NED grantee that received the Endowment’s Democracy Award  in May 1999.

Throughout the trip, the work of Endowment grantees received prominent exposure either directly or indirectly, and NED’s Senior Director for Africa Dave Peterson was also interviewed by leading news outlets including, National Public Radio’s Marketplace for its report on Congo, and Bloomberg newswire for its articles on Congo and Nigeria.

Hillary Clinton’s trip to Africa provided a special opportunity for the world to look more closely at the serious challenges facing the African continent, and provided a spotlight for the many brave and dedicated African activists who have for years been working, often with NED support, to advance the goals emphasized by Clinton:  tackling corruption, promoting women’s and human rights, supporting justice, advancing good governance.   With support for 252 projects totaling more than $17 million in nearly 30 countries across Africa in fiscal year 2009, the Endowment is confident that the work of its grantees will make real contributions to the struggle to secure the rights and freedoms of all Africans.