July 3, 2003
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20504
Dear Dr. Rice,
As President Bush prepares to visit Africa, I want to express support for efforts to strengthen U.S. engagement with the peoples of that often-ignored continent. This historic trip provides the President an opportunity to experience Africa’s hopes and vitality, and to deepen the U.S. commitment to help address the many challenges that threaten political stability and economic and social justice for hundreds of millions of people.
Of immediate importance is the humanitarian and political crisis in Liberia, where President Taylor refuses to relinquish power, where more than 200,000 people have lost their lives and more than half the population is internally displaced or has been forced to flee to neighboring states, and where remaining structures of the rule of law are on the brink of total collapse.
In light of the grave humanitarian situation and the historical ties between the United States and Liberia, we urge President Bush to heed the call of the peoples of Liberia and the international community and support deployment of an international stabilization force with appropriate U.S. participation. Such a force is necessary to prevent further violence and bloodshed, and provide the needed space in which new, more just and stable political arrangements might be achieved. Unless immediate and decisive action is taken, many more lives will be lost, and the nation could plunge into a state of deeper chaos thus threatening the stability of the region.
In addition to the urgency of the situation in Liberia, the President’s visit will focus much-needed attention on broader issues of trade, good governance, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other health issues. These issues are critical to Africa’s future. Also critical are continuing efforts to address the crippling debt burden and a lack of sufficient development assistance. While the Enhanced HIPC Initiative has provided some measure of relief, greater efforts, such as implementation of the debt provisions in the AIDS legislation recently signed by the President, are needed if poverty is to be significantly reduced in Africa. The Millennium Challenge Account initiative holds great promise for improving development assistance; however, this promise will not be achieved unless the MCA is fully funded in a manner that does not reduce current funding for other development programs. The MCA would also work better if its benefits were reserved for countries with the greatest need and the fewest options. In the area of trade, special and differential treatment should be provided to the developing nations of Africa so they can better develop their agriculture, feed their people, and take advantage of more open markets.
We hope and pray that these concerns will be addressed as the President undertakes this important journey to deepen our nation’s commitment to the peoples of Africa.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Committee on International Policy