Friday, December 18, 2009

U.S. to pressure Nigeria to embrace change

The United States has said that it will vigorously put pressure on the Federal Government to make changes that will be beneficial to Nigerians.

The US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, made this known while presenting an overview of the President Barack Obama administration’s agenda on human rights and democracy at the Georgetown University in Washington DC on Monday.

The US government regularly focuses on human rights, good governance and democracy issues, including an annual human rights reports as mandated by the US Congress in its relationships with governments of other nations.

In her speech, Clinton classified some governments under three categories.

The first are those that are able but unwilling to make changes desired by their people while the second are those willing but unable. The third are governments that are both unwilling and unable.

Nigeria and Cuba were listed by Clinton as those in the first category, while young democracies in Africa came under the second.

She did not mention such young democracies in her speech that was gazzetted and made available on Tuesday by the State Department to a US-based Nigerian news agency, Empowered Newswire.

Congo was the only country mentioned by Clinton as being among nations that belong to the third category of ‘unwilling and unable.’

In the speech, the Secretary of State said Washington would vigorously put pressure on Nigerian and Cuban leaders to end repression, improve on their human rights records and democratic practices.

She said, “like Cuba or Nigeria, (these) governments are able but unwilling to make the changes their citizens deserve. There, we must vigorously press the leaders to end repression, while supporting those within the societies who are working for a change.”

In the case of countries where “governments are willing but unable to establish strong institutions and protections for citizens,” the Secretary of State said the US would “extend our hand as a partner to help them try to achieve authority and build the progress they desire.”

Three former US Ambassadors to Nigeria, including Mr. Walter Carrington, had recently expressed the view that Nigeria‘s global significance was declining.

Referring to countries like Congo and others ” where governments are both unwilling and unable,” Clinton said, “We have to support those courageous individuals and organisations who try to protect people and who battle against the odds to plant seeds for a more hopeful future.”

She said that in all countries, human development must be part of “our human rights agenda.”

Clinton said, “Because basic levels of wellbeing - food, shelter, health, and education - and of public common goods like environmental sustainability, protection against pandemic disease, provisions for refugees - are necessary for people to exercise their rights, and because human development and democracy are mutually reinforcing.

“ Democratic governments are not likely to survive long if their citizens do not have the basic necessities of life.”

Referring to US President Barack Obama‘s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize last week, Clinton reiterated Obama’s position that ”while war is never welcome or good, it will sometimes be right and necessary.”

The Secretary of State added that the same set of values in the US Declaration of Independence were also ”the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the prerequisite for building a world in which every person has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential and the power behind every movement for freedom, every campaign for democracy, every effort to foster development, and every struggle against oppression.”

She declared that the US government’s human rights agenda for the 21st century was ”to make human rights a human reality, and the first step is to see human rights in a broad context.”

Clinton said, “People must be free from the oppression of tyranny, from torture, from discrimination, from the fear of leaders who will imprison or ’disappear’ them.

“But they also must be free from the oppression of want - want of food, want of health, want of education, and want of equality in law and in fact.

”I don‘t need to tell you that challenges we face are diverse and complicated. And there is not one approach or formula, doctrine or theory that can be easily applied to every situation.”

She added that sometimes the US government ”will have the most impact by publicly denouncing a government action, like the coup in Honduras or violence in Guinea.”

“Other times, we will be more likely to help the oppressed by engaging in tough negotiations behind closed doors, like pressing China and Russia as part of our broader agenda. In every instance, our aim will be to make a difference, not to prove a point,” the Secretary of State said.

According to her, the US ”will hold governments accountable for their actions, as we have just recently (done) by terminating Millennium Challenge Corporation grants this year for Madagascar and Niger in the wake of government behavior.”

She added that Washington was ready ”to help governments that have committed to improving themselves by assisting them in fighting corruption and helping train police forces and public servants.”

She disclosed that the US government would also “support regional organisations and institutions like the Organisation of American States, the African Union, and the Association of South-East Asian Nations, where they take their own steps to defend democratic principles and institutions.”


Related stories: Video report of Hillary Clinton comparing Nigeria's election to America's previous election in 2000 

President Barack Obama's speech in Ghana

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