U.S. leadership is accused of ignoring Africa TransAfrica head chastises Clinton

February 25, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

The leader of a well-known U.S. lobbying group on African issues accused the Clinton administration of neglecting the continent as, he said, the Bush and Reagan administrations did.

Speaking in Chicago yesterday, Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, also chastised President Clinton for what he called an early, critical failure to support democratic movements in Africa.

"The Clinton administration, like the Bush administration before it, seems to be more preoccupied by Yugoslavia than what's happening in Zaire or Angola," Mr. Robinson said. "To the extent we can read the early indications of what policy on Africa is going to be, the signs have been troubling."

As evidence, Mr. Robinson cited the transfer of 70 jobs from the State Department's Africa desk to other areas, as well as the planned closing of several African consulates. These actions, started during President George Bush's last months, are proceeding apace under Mr. Clinton, he said.

The U.S. government is also coddling African dictators at the expense of democratic forces, Mr. Robinson said.

For example, the United States has not "aggressively" pressured President Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire by moving forcefully to seize his bank accounts in the United States and Europe, he said.

"Mobuto can ignore calls to step down, but he couldn't so easily ignore the freezing of assets," Mr. Robinson added. "Clinton needs to move, and move quickly."

Mr. Robinson urged Mr. Clinton to throw his authority behind the government of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who in September won an internationally monitored popular election, beating rival Jonas Savimbi.

Mr. Savimbi, who controls a large army, has refused to accept the results, and his rebels have continued to battle government troops.

"As of today, Bill Clinton still has not recognized the government of Angola," Mr. Robinson said. "To not respond is to side with Savimbi and sends a terrible signal."

Efforts to reach the White House for a response were unsuccessful.

Mr. Robinson founded the Washington-based TransAfrica in the mid-1970s as a lobby for African and Caribbean causes.

Perhaps best known as the leader of the U.S. campaign for anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa, he essentially became Nelson Mandela's U.S. spokesman.

Despite the apparent progress toward non-racial government in South Africa Mr. Robinson believes sanctions should remain enforced at least until a multi-racial transitional executive council to govern is formed.

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