Thursday, December 08, 2005

State's Frazer Heralds Spread of Democracy in Africa

Assistant secretary also cites concern over human rights in Ethiopia

USINFOSTATE.GOV -- Democracy in Africa is growing, with more than 50 democratic elections in the past four years, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told foreign journalists in a news briefing in Washington December 5.

"Liberia's legislative and presidential elections on October 11 were the most free and fair elections in its history, with a high voter turnout and no significant reports of fraud, violence or intimidation," she told reporters.

Additionally, she said elections have taken place widely over the past 15 years in Africa. "Power has changed hands in a number of key nations from Senegal to Ghana and from Mozambique to Namibia. We have seen term limits for the presidency introduced in several countries as more open societies begin to turn away from the ‘big man’ model of government. Military regimes are increasingly anachronistic.

"It is true that this progress is by fits and starts, and Uganda, which had limited the number of terms a president can serve, has now reconsidered and Mauritania is ruled by a military junta. But this question of giving the people a real chance to select and to change their leaders is now being freely debated across the length and breadth of Africa," she said.

Frazer spoke to reporters after returning from several trips to Africa, including stops in Liberia and Sudan, and also from consultations in China on African issues.

Asked about the situation in Ethiopia, where the news media have been restrained and opposition party supporters have been jailed, Frazer said the United States is on record as "putting pressure on [Ethiopia] Prime Minister Meles to allow for greater freedom of assembly and certainly freedom of expression."

"We've called on the government to free the many who are jailed and we've called on them to free the leaders of the opposition who are in jail right now, who are detained," she said.

Frazer said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Don Yamamoto carried the same message in person to the prime minister and the foreign minister in Ethiopia, "so we're continuing to hold the government accountable for allowing greater democratic space and respect for human rights."

She added that the opposition -- composed of "democrats and nondemocrats" -- must abide by the same rules by respecting the rule of law in their demonstrations, although the government is being held "more accountable for not allowing free demonstrations … because they are supposed to be the upholders of the rule of law."

READ the complete transcript.

VIEW the complete list of the unjustly imprisoned CUD leaders.

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