On a recent trip to Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told members of the African Union, or AU, that the United States seeks partnerships with African peoples, nations and institutions. One of the goals shared by the U.S. and the AU is advancing the spread of democracy throughout Africa.
More than half the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have embraced democratic, constitutional, multi-party rule. Botswana, Ghana, and Tanzania, have spent decades building institutions and a tradition of peaceful democratic transitions.
Other African nations have been also making important advances. In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan, was inaugurated recently after an election that many assessed as much improved over previous elections. Benin and Malawi both held successful elections this spring, building on previous successful multiparty contests. And Kenya's democracy got a boost from last year's referendum on its new constitution.
Nevertheless, too many people in Africa still live under despotic rulers, men who care too much about remaining in power and too little about the welfare of the people they govern. This very approach is being rejected by countries in North Africa and the Middle East. After years of living under dictatorships, people have demanded new leadership. This message has significance for leaders in Africa and elsewhere who hold on to power at all costs, who suppress dissent, who enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their own people.
"To those leaders our message must be clear," said Secretary Clinton. "Rise to this historic occasion; show leadership by embracing a true path that honors your people's aspirations; create a future that your young people will believe in, defend, and help build. Because. . .if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history, and time will prove that."
The United States pledges its support for those African nations that are committed to building a free, peaceful, and prosperous future. And the U.S. looks to institutions like the African Union that are dedicated to democracy and good governance to encourage countries to walk that path or risk total isolation.