Africa's power lies in unity, says American lobbyist

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- An African American lobby group leader, Melvin P.
Foote, has underscored the importance of African states to work in unity so as to have an impact when dealing with Western powers.
In an interview Tuesday, the president of the Washington- based Constituency for Africa also insisted the need to invest in lobby groups like his to campaign for diverse causes at various levels in the US administration.
"The Jews, the Arabs, the Irish and others use their people based in the US to push the US administration support their causes or obtain funds, arms and other things," said Foote after holding discussions with the Director General of PANAPRESS, Babacar Fall.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to Africa, governments do not build their constituency among African Americans on claims that they are too poor to do this.
"But on the other hand, you find the same countries using billions to buy arms from Ukraine," said Foote, who was involved in mediating the recent Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.
He hoped the African Union would enable governments on the continent to deal with Western powers like the US as a single power entity.
"Look at the Europeans, they created their union before confronting the US as a single group.
Africa would have to do the same," Foote told PANA.
Asked whether African Americans understood the AU ideal, Foote said there was a need to promote its objectives which are not yet understood by Americans.
According to Foote, Americans in general are suspicious about its main promoter, Col.
Moammar Kadhafi of Libya, whom they regard as "a man who supports terrorism.
" "We have not yet gone over the Lockerbie bombing," affirmed Foote, who ended his vacation in Senegal on Tuesday.
A strong AU, he said, would only emerge if its leaders are as genuine as was the late Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah.
On whether the presence of African Americans such as Secretary of State Colin Powell in the administration of President George Bush could lead to stronger ties with Africa, Foote said the new government had the advantage of "building upon what was done during the Bill Clinton era.
" But, he noted, the Republicans were generally less inclined to deal with Africa.
"We forced them to give us Powell, Candalesa Rice and several others," said Foote, who believes the Bush administration could be pushed to do more through a strong lobby.
He noted that Americans do not know Africa as well as the French, British or the Germans who had colonies on the continent do.
That is why the American policy has so far been looking at oil, diamonds or other minerals and timber rather than anything else.
Regarding the 200 million dollars offered by the US government to combat AIDS worldwide, Foote said that was a launch subscription for the 10 billion dollar fund proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to combat the incurable disease.
On whether African Americans knew of President Thabo Mbeki's "Millennium African Renaissance Plan" and the "Omega Plan" proposed by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, Foote said the documents had so far not been "broadcast in Washington.

29 may 2001 15:23:00

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