SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD NIGERIA
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 18, 1997
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
PETER T. KING, New York
JAY KIM, California
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
TOM CAMPBELL, California
JON FOX, Pennsylvania
JOHN McHUGH, New York
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLEE HAMILTON, Indiana
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
TOM LANTOS, California
HOWARD BERMAN, California
GARY ACKERMAN, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ROBERT ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PAT DANNER, Missouri
EARL HILLIARD, Alabama
WALTER CAPPS, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVE ROTHMAN, New Jersey
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JIM DAVIS, Florida
RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSubcommittee on Africa
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
TOM CAMPBELL, California
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
JIM DAVIS, Florida
TOM SHEEHY, Staff Director
GREG SIMPKINS, Professional Staff Member
JODI CHRISTIANSEN, Democratic Professional Staff Member
SHANNON GAWRONSKI, Staff Associate
C O N T E N T S
Hon. William J. Jefferson, a Representative in Congress from Louisiana
Hon. Johnnie Carson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Africa
Ms. Jean Herskovits, Professor, State University of New York at Purchase
Chief Ralph Obioha, NADECO, USA/Canada
Dr. Abena Busia, Professor, Rutgers University
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statements:
Hon. William J. Jefferson
Acting Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson
Ms. Jean Herskovits
Chief Ralph Obioha
Dr. Abena Busia
Former Ambassador Elwood Young
UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD NIGERIA
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1997
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Africa,
Committee on International Relations,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 3:57 p.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ed Royce (chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. ROYCE. This hearing on the U.S. policy toward Nigeria will come to order.
Today's hearing will examine the U.S. response to the ongoing turmoil in Nigeria, which is the most populous nation in Africa. This turmoil has gone on for quite some time. Nigeria has experienced only 10 years of civilian rule since gaining independence in 1960.
Sadly, Nigeria is now near crisis, both politically and economically. The military government of General Abacha has rightly drawn the censure of the international community. This largely results from the nullified Presidential election of June 1993. After creating two parties and managing the elections process, the government of then-President Babangida nullified the election process, refusing to state its reasoning beyond unspecified irregularities.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Meanwhile, the installment of the presumed election winner, Chief Abiola, has become really a focal point for opponents of the regime. Apparently even those who express little support for him personally, have adopted this as a symbol of civilian rule long denied Nigerians since the nullified 1993 elections. The military government has dismantled civilian institutions. They have jailed or harassed critics of the military. This includes the media, four editors, the Innocent Four as they are called, jailed without trial. Editors publish their papers in a clandestine way in the hopes of publishing some news of what is actually happening in the country.
The execution of the Ogoni Nine in 1995 led to withdrawals of Western diplomats and a deepening of sanctions first imposed after the June 1993 elections were declared null and void.
The United States has an array of sanctions in place against Nigeria, including the ban on the sale and repair of military goods and services to Nigeria, and a visa ban on all officials involved in planning or implementing policies believed to hinder Nigeria's return to civilian rule.
Yet the U.S. Government has largely ignored the Nigerian transition process which is now nearly two-thirds completed. This policy has prevented our government from making the kind of informed analysis that potentially could help improve a decidedly flawed process or, at the very least, would be justification for rallying support for multilateral sanctions.
Admittedly, any outsiders would be hard pressed to steer this transition toward internationally recognized democratic principles, given the Nigerian Government's behavior. The current transition process is based on a constitution that has not been shared with the Nigerian people and is managed by a government whose decrees can supersede any law or court decision. Legitimate political parties have been denied registration, and legitimate political candidates have either been banned from participating in elections or they have been harassed or jailed.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nigeria is the U.S. leading African trading partner. Not only is Nigeria a major power in West Africa, but it remains a major influence on economic and political power throughout the continent. Given the increased attention on Africa here in the United States, it is vital that American policy does what it can to bring back civilian rule on a permanent basis to the people of Nigeria.
Our witnesses today will discuss U.S. policy, which has been criticized by some for being too passive in the face of Nigerian Government repression.
Before we proceed, I would like to recognize the Members on this Committee who are present, and with me are Mr. Don Payne of New Jersey and Mr. Tom Campbell of California. I would ask at this time if Mr. Payne would have an opening statement that he would like to make for the record.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for calling this very important hearing today to examine the U.S. policy toward Nigeria.
I guess other than Sudan, Nigeria certainly poses the greatest threat and disappointment on the continent of Africa, primarily because of the reasons that you have mentioned in your opening remarks, as well as its size, and its natural resources. Not only has democracy taken a setback, but it is a sad state of affairs when a newspaper has to run an ad by the government talking about the scams and the fact that the people should be careful so that they are not taken in by criminals who are from Nigeria, that 30 newspapers in 15 countries ran articles concerning the issue, which is unbelievable.
As you know, prior to that, 29 nations signed a letter to protest business practices in their countries, probably one of the first times that so many countries have been affected by scams and illegal activities. And much of this, in my opinion, would not be occurring if the formal government of the country was opposed to it.
The fact that heroin is still coming into our country in large amounts, the fact that Mr. Abacha is dealing with North Korea and China, the fact that we still have June 12th annulled and Mr. Abiola still in prison, Mr. Falima, Chief Obasanjo, the internal security task force is still in Ozonboogoniland.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For the second year in a row, Nigeria was classified as the most corrupt countrybetween the 52 candidates, it came out No. 1by the association, Transparency International, TI. And the State Department continues to have Nigeria on the Undemocratic List, as it has been for some time.
As we sit here now, the Commonwealth is meeting, and, as you know, the Commonwealth suspended Nigeria 2 years ago, and there is still an overwhelming majority that feels that Nigeria should remain out of the Commonwealth organization, that it would be premature to bring them back in.
Unfortunately, the situation in Nigeria has not improved. I believe it has gotten worse. There has been no move toward democracy, in my opinion. For that matter, there has not been any type of constructive dialog regarding democracy. They will not even talk to our U.S. ambassador unless we are talking about side issues like democracy in Liberia or democracy in Sierra Leone, but it gets difficult when we need to talk about democracy in Nigeria.
The fact is that the carrot approach is not working, and it has never worked, in my opinion. And I think that if the United States is serious about what it stands for, that the policy in Nigeria must become more serious and that sanctions and other kinds of serious consequences, in my opinion, should be brought to the government there.
So, Mr. Chairman, once again, I certainly appreciate you calling this very important hearing. And I would yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. ROYCE. We would appreciate it if witnesses would summarize their testimonies and hold their presentations to no more than 5 minutes. This will allow more time for Members' questions. We invite witnesses to submit the full text of their testimony for the record.
We will also be submitting for the record written testimony from former U.N. Ambassador Edward Young, with whom I had the opportunity to discuss Nigerian policy this morning.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Ambassador Young appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. It is a pleasure to introduce those witnesses who are with us today. We will begin with our first panel. We have Congressman William Jefferson, a distinguished Member of Congress who has long been active on African issues. Mr. Jefferson became involved in Nigerian matters during his term in the Louisiana legislature when he was instrumental in facilitating an agricultural exchange project with Nigeria.
Congressman, thank you for visiting the Subcommittee today.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM J. JEFFERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
Mr. JEFFERSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Payne, and other MembersMr. Campbellof the Subcommittee.
I was hopeful of being able to read my entire statement today, Mr. Chairman, but I will adhere to your instruction.
I could have approached this from a number of different points of view. I could have talked about it from the point of view of the interest of Mr. Abacha or Mr. Abiola and a democracy group or some group that supported the regime. I think it is appropriate, however, for me to talk about this question from the point of view of the interest of the United States.
I believe the principal U.S. interest in Nigeria is to have a stable, democratic Nigeria where due process and the rule of law are observed and secured and which provides a context within which we can productively and cooperatively pursue our other U.S. interests, which are economic, which are, as Mr. Payne talked about, a specific interest in curbing narcotics and syndicated criminal activity that is centered in Nigeria, and other broader geopolitical interests, in enlisting Nigeria's cooperation and assistance on a range of regional and international issues, including peacekeeping and regional stability, particularly on the continent.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, to pursue these interests successfully means that we cannot allow our relationship with Nigeria, in my opinion, to deteriorate to the point where we have no influence over decisions Nigeria makes that affect our interest, and we need, in my humble opinion, a framework to increase our policy effectiveness there.
There is no single successful strategy that can focus on two or three individual issues around which both sides can give and take. Our policy must consist of a comprehensive, integrated strategy to pursue U.S. interest in better governance in Nigeria.
The first point that I want to make is that the United States should encourage Nigeria to achieve a stable, noncorrupt, civil democracy through engagements that take into account U.S. standards and values, but that also represent the present political realities in Nigeria, and that is responsive to the events existing on the ground there. The choice that the United States must choose between of isolation and engagement is, I believe, a false choice. Instead, there must be a multipronged approach toward democratization.
An integrated policy will proceed with the informed view that there is not necessarily a positive relationship between the return to civilian rule and reducing corruption. The second republic of Nigeria was ultimately destroyed by its own corruption. And so we can make progress and take steps to make progress with respect to corruption in Nigeria today.
Such an integrated policy must also deal with the realities of the challenges that face governance in Nigeria, a country with over 250 ethnic groups and where ethnic rivalries just a few years ago brought about a very difficult, ugly civil war and which now accounts, after local government elections, for strife along tribal lines about government boundaries and about the bounty within these boundaries. It evidences a frailty in the winner-take-all type of democracy that we are accustomed to and shows us that Nigeria, if democratized, and therefore vindicates the interests of our country, it must be through a form of democracy that the Nigerian people choose that takes into account their ethnic and cultural complexities and affords a sufficient timetable to work through them.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, another reality is that the actors in Nigeria have created new political realities there over the past several years, one of which is the movement that has been made under the military's plan to return to civilian rule. While we ought to be skeptical about it because of Nigeria's checkered history in this regard, it cannot be dismissed that the NBA and ABA, the bar association, sent independent, well qualified persons there who observed the elections there in March and who observed that those elections established a solid, albeit imperfect, foundation for Nigeria's subsequent balloting at the State gubernatorial, national, and Presidential levels.
Thus, while I personally believe that Mr. Abiola won the annulled election in June 1993, and, because of that, I believe that he should have been installed as President of the country, it is obvious that the events and actors in Nigeria, and the Nigerian people themselves, have embraced and will embrace this 3-year transition plan as the best hope for return to civilian rule. Fifty-five million Nigerians registered under the plan, and 51 percent voted in these local government elections.
The United States must have a fuller response, it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, to the transition plan than the one it made back in October 1995. The elections are only 12 months away. Our response, it seems to me, because we have been asked to give assistance, ought to be to use our USIA programs to make them available in an intense fashion, to assist with developing a plan to more effectively deliver materials to the balloting sites, to streamline the voting process for quicker voting, and to ensure transparency and ballot secrecy, to better train polling officials, and to increase the number and participation of international observers, and to train them to assist in registration, and to help to widely publicize the election results.
Apart from managing ethnic conflict, corruption, and a lack of election transparency, the greatest threat to a sustained democracy in Nigeria lies in the manner in which the military relates to the civilian authority there and the economic prosperity of the country. Helping to train Nigerian civilian officials charged with the oversight of the military and helping them to create a culture for regular contact and discussion between the military and civilian officials and civil society and organizations and acceptance by soldiers of a citizen-soldier role is one of the greatest contributions the United States can make toward democratic stability.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our withdrawal from participating in the training of the Nigerians has left them to be trained by the Chinese now, and that is certainly not in the interest of the United States. Our policy needs to be reversed.
Mr. ROYCE. Congressman Jefferson, we will give you some extra time.
Mr. JEFFERSON. Similarly, we need to abandon our policy of noncommunication with the military, which is another result of the sanctions. Because of that, we have reduced the grade level of our military attache from colonel to major, which means that our military attache is too junior in rank and probably in age to much influence the Nigerian military and certainly lacks the diplomatic skills that one needs to discern and become informed about Nigerian military thinking. That is another area I think we need to correct.
The Nigerian Army is too large, but to downsize the army requires alternative employment for Nigerian soldiers to avoid social unrest. We can help in this regard because we have a long history in downsizing after our buildup for wartime, and which includes our GI bill programs for education, housing, and employment.
Finally, after seeing other parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, and other regions in the world, when democracies are emerging, their progress and their vitality and longevity and stability depend on economic success. Our policy of economic isolation and economic sanctions toward Nigeria is counterproductive to the sustenance of a viable and lasting democracy.
It is perhaps time to pursue economic considerations as carrots rather than sticks in order to influence decisions by Nigerian policymakers to adopt our thinking on unrelated issues such as human rights and civil trials over which we disagree.
Prodemocracy groups like NADECO and others must continue to be supportive and encouraged by our government. The voice of opposition must be heard. These prodemocracy groups can properly take credit for a significant share of the progress that has taken place in Nigeria today in the direction of democratization. A full involvement of the democracy groups is essential as a pillar to help ensure that elections are free and fair, and our helping to ensure this role should be a high priority of U.S. policy toward Nigeria.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second point, Mr. Chairman, in changing our policy is that the United States should intensify its efforts to rebuild influence and credibility with those who will guide Nigeria's democratic evolution over the next 5 to 10 years, including the military leadership. I have already talked about the military, and Mr. Payne has made the case, as have you, that the evidence of continuing human rights violations in Nigeria is unimpeachable.
There is no defense that anyone can make there, nor is that my purpose here, but our present policy has not proven effective. We should rightly remain critical of Nigeria's human rights policies and practices, but we do not need to send the signal that we are so opposed to the present unelected government that our policy is one of unrelenting criticism alone. This, too, is an area where an integrated policy must be adopted.
Rightly or wrongly, right now the Nigerians believe that no matter what they do, they will not receive American acknowledgment for their actions. And we ought to decide issues like the airport and the drug question on the basis of fixed standards instead of permitting a generalized animosity toward the regime to decide these issues either expressly or by default.
We need to meet at high levels with Nigerian officials to hammer out understandings and make progress on these issues and on issues such as human rights, including the speedy trials and/or release of certain imprisoned Nigerian officials, to include Chief Abiola, the airport direct flights to Lagos problem, visa restrictions, drug trafficking, and the like. These are not issues in need of discussion merely because of Nigeria's interest but, more importantly, because of U.S. interest.
The Vision 2010 program that I visited some time ago is one which I think provides some opportunities for citizen-to-citizen relationships with Nigerians. Our attitude for the Vision 2010 so far has been one of skeptical disinterest. Nigerians were asking at the meetings that I went to tough questions about their society, examined from the perspective of what they can do for themselves to save their country.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Questions were asked like why Malaysia and Nigeria were in the same part of independence and why Malaysia is now one of the Asian Tigers and Nigeria is rapidly developing problems in its economy. This is precisely the right question. Foreigners are allowed, by invitation, to participate in 2010 sessions.
USIA, the State Department, and others should have an active program promoting ideas through participation, formally and informally, in the dialog that is taking place there. We should, through the discussions with some key 2010 participants, identify the right American input and help provide their working group with the expertise they want and maybe invite some of them to our country to study the issues. Our lack of meaningful dialog with Nigeria costs us credibility that we need to help Nigeria to improve.
I will skip through this part about the relationships with other countries that have outstanding human rights issues and how we deal with those, and simply say that our program lacks evenhandedness, and go to my last point, which is that the existence and functioning of the Economic Community of West African States requires that the U.S. policy toward Nigeria also take into account U.S. interests in the West African subregion.
The other point I want to make here, Mr. Chairman, is that there are formal economic organizations now, and military ones, that tie West Africa and Nigeria together. It is impossible for our country to impose severe sanctions on Nigeria without severely penalizing these other African neighboring countries.
ECOWAS represents a market of over 200 million people in West Africa, and Nigeria accounts for approximately 80 percent of the goods sold in that West African region. So this makes it very difficult for U.S. Nigeria policy and U.S. West African policy not to go hand in hand.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, without touching on the rest of what I have here written, in conclusion, in spite of any personal ties, defeats, or disappointments that we have on either side of the political spectrum and in spite of the obvious and continuing human rights issues in Nigeria, the goal of democracy for the people of Nigeria shouldn't be sacrificed for the vindication of the political interests and agenda of General Abacha, Chief Abiola, or anyone else.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe it is in the mutual interest of the people of Nigeria and the people of the United States to restore civil, stable, lasting democracy in Nigeria with the least delay and with the least amount of suffering on the part of the hundred million citizens of that country. We must choose the best course calculated to achieve that goal and to vindicate U.S. interests. The suggestions I have made here, I believe, will move us in that direction.
I thank you for your indulgence. I am sure I went over 5 minutes, and I would like to submit my entire testimony for the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Jefferson appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. Certainly, it will be included in the record, and I do recognize the effort, Congressman Jefferson, you put into that statement. It is a very detailed account of your observations and your reflection on what you feel we should do. I think you make many good points.
I do have a question about the point that it might be useful to renew U.S. military contact with the Nigerian Government. Are you worried about the type of message that would send for those Nigerians who are pressing for democracy, and how would you respond to that concern?
Mr. JEFFERSON. I think that the military in Nigeria is still very strong and very powerful. The question right now before us is not whether that military is going to be reduced in strength or effectiveness, but what attitudes will they have once the civilian government takes place. The military has been the greatest threat to civilian stability in the country, and it needs to be trained by an army and a country that understands how a military ought to relate to a civilian government.
My worry is that in the place of our training, others step in and give training who have absolutely no orientation toward how an army ought to relate to a civil democracy, like China. That is a greater threat to our interest and to the people of Nigeria and the future of stable democracy than anything that will presently be talked about with respect to the apparent involvement that we might show by assisting the military when, in fact, the military is there very much in power and not going anywhere.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But it is a matter of being able to get the military down in size and to talk about how we might have the military start thinking about citizen-soldiers rather than thinking about the next opportunity to take over the government.
Mr. ROYCE. For 27 out of 37 years, the military has been in power in Nigeria. So it certainly would take a paradigm shift in terms of their view. Do you feel it would be possible to get them to reassessthat progress could actually be made in terms of their vision for the future of Nigeria?
Mr. JEFFERSON. Let me say this: I think that as we have said about almost every African issue, what happens in Africa is going to be determined by Africans, and all we can do is give an assist. I think the people in Nigeria very much want democracy, and think they are insisting upon it and speaking very openly about it, and they are trying to find a way to that end goal.
Right now, I believe that the vast majority feel that the way to do it is by seeing this transition plan through, and so it is in that context that I talk to you about the military. I believe that if we can help in this process now, when the country is on high alert about democratization, to put ourselves into the position to provide assistance to the governments that take over on the local, State, the Federal, legislative, and the executive level about how armies ought to operate in a democracy, we will have a better chance to keep the government stable down the road.
Mr. ROYCE. Let me ask you a question on the party registration process. You talked a little bit about progress in that area, step-by-step democratization. The argument that the Administration has made, and the argument that many Members of Congress have made, is that it is a very exclusive process as it has been used in terms of how they register and who they register.
Do you feel that it is legitimate to put that type of hope in that process in terms of a military government running the process, and given the experience in terms of making it exclusive?
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JEFFERSON. Yes, I agree that the process that produced the political parties was not the most open process and is subject to be criticized for that. Similarly, the process that produced the election between Mr. Abiola and his opponent in 1993 was not an open process, produced two candidates when there were many more who wanted to be fielded as candidates.
We are talking about, how do we, in the context of what we are working with, make the best of it, and that is what I have come to in this whole process. I started out in a very different position than I am today. But over time, and through examination and through meetings, and a great number which I have had with the conference of conferees, with the party heads, with the Chief Justice, who is running a test program in Nigeria, with the foreign ministers and many other officials, I have come to the conclusion that we are not going to get the kind of perfection that we are looking for in the way parties are selected or candidates are selected in Nigeria. We are going to end up, as we did in the case of Chief Abiola when his election took place, get behind the best existing opportunity that we have to see democratization return to Nigeria, and give the people a chance to then hold it.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Congressman Jefferson.
I am going to recognize our vice chairman, Amo Houghton, at this moment for an opening statement, and then we will turn to Congressman Payne.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I have no opening statement. I am delighted to be here with you, my associates, and also with you, Jeff. Thank you.
Mr. JEFFERSON. Thank you.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much, Congressman Jefferson, for your very detailed statement. I just have a few questions. You seem to put some confidence in the fact that in a year from nowI suppose that the national elections are scheduled for 1998?
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JEFFERSON. Yes.
Mr. PAYNE. Do you really think that there will be elections in 1998?
Mr. JEFFERSON. Yes, I do. It is not because I have confidence in the military government; it is because I have confidence in the process that the people have themselves undertaken in Nigeria and because of the assurances that have been given to people other than me who, I suppose, are more important in this whole set of questions.
President Carter went over in July and came back with the same feeling, that the country was committed to it. But I have met with the people who are running NECON, to the folks who are running the transition implementation process, to the people who were not just the party heads but folks who are under that, and I have met with some people who have finished with the local government elections and who feel very strongly that this election process will see itself through.
I don't know of a reason right now why I shouldn't believe that. And apart from that, if we want to make sure that it happens, the best thing for us to do is not to stand apart from it but to try to get involved, to do our best to make sure that there is an election, that the timetable is adhered to.
We could have a great deal to do with that, particularly at a time like this, when we are being invited by the Nigerians to send observers, to send people who can help, to bring USIA, and we can help to make this a reality.
But I don't say it because I trust the military government; it is simply because I believe that the people are insisting upon it now and the government is bending to that and will have to bend to it, and because prodemocracy groups have pressured, and I think the time has come when this election is going to be held.
Mr. PAYNE. And therefore, in your opinion, do you think the atmosphere is conducive for elections? It appears to me that if you are moving toward something and it is going to be like national elections, then you would probably have democracy breaking out all over. What evidence do you have that Nigeria today is more free than it was a year ago or 2 years ago or when Babangida aborted the election June 12, 1993?
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC From what I understand, conditions are worsening and not improving. Economically, they are worsening. In Lagos, it is becoming an epidemic of people who are struggling to make it.
How could the atmosphere, how could the climate, be right in a year when it is going in the opposite direction?
Mr. JEFFERSON. We are in an area where we have very few policy choices that we can embrace. If we embrace the choice of greater sanctions, then these very poor people whom we are talking about here, and the very economy we are talking about, suffers more, particularly when there is some hope right now that in 12 months there may be an election that may put people in charge of their own lives perhaps a tad more.
I have to admit to you that Nigeria is a difficult place to judge and a difficult place to operate, and the more I think I know about it, the less sure I am about what I think I know. But that is the way it is. But we have to take it as it is. And the question is, how do we realize our interests out of this process? And we do have very important interests there.
So I could not say to you in honesty that the environment is right. It is going to be tough, but I think we are in the best position to help the people in Nigeria realize a lasting democracy, and anyone else in the world, and I think we have to do more than be critical of what is happening, because the people are generating a movement there that is real and that I believe they are going to insist upon being seen through.
Mr. PAYNE. My final question; I assume that time is running out.
Mr. JEFFERSON. I am glad it is your last question, too.
In your discussions, I just have concern with the health of Chief Abiola. Why would the government continue to keep a person in prison, a person who is not well, a person who was a very honorable, distinguished person in his own country, the chairman of ITT? Why would they? I am sure that if Chief Abiola was given an opportunity to leave, that he probably would agree to leave the country.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What is their rationale for his continued imprisonment? And also a person like Chief Obasanjo, who really is definitely respected throughout the world, a member of the Carnegie Foundation's board of directors. Why would the government refuse to allow a trial or at least to give amnesty and allow these individuals, say, even if it was conditioned on their leaving the country?
Mr. JEFFERSON. I think I have probably reported to you on some of the efforts that many of us have made to try and secure the release of Chief Abiola, from that of talking to other African Heads of State who might be helpful in that regard, to negotiating with some of our people here and with some of the representatives from Nigeria in our country who have come to talk to us.
One issue early on was the health issue of Mr. Abiola, and his doctor hadn't seen him for a while, and we worked out an arrangement for his doctor to see him and provide some attention to him earlier in the year.
We are talking about in Nigeria, obviously, a heavily controlled political environment, and I cannot tell you that there is any good reason that I can see, as an American, or that you will ever understand or that any of us will ever understand in this country why there has not been a trial, why there has not been a determination of his status.
Now, from their point of view, they probably have their reasons, and there is no point in my restating what they say their reasons are. I think it is a deplorable condition for Mr. Abiola to be held and Mr. Obasanjo to be held, and many other people whose names we don't know. We just know these names because they are names of celebrities. There are many other people who shouldn't be held in Nigeria today as well.
I don't argue for that, and I do not defend that, but my question is posited the way it is because I think that is where we have to keep our focus: How we vindicate U.S. interests there, how we bring democracy as quickly as we can, and what is the best way to get this done in spite of the circumstance of Mr. Abiola and Mr. Obasanjo. How do we get this done? So it is a tough question.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know both of these gentlemen personally, and it is a very tough point to get to, but in the end I think the people of Nigeria are dealing with these questions in a very different way than we are. They are going ahead with the elections and registering and going ahead and having meetings, and that is a reality we shouldn't ignore as we go through this process.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much.
Mr. JEFFERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.
Mr. ROYCE. I am going to turn to Mr. Campbell of California, and in the meantime I am going to go vote. Mr. Campbell, I will return in a few minutes.
Mr. CAMPBELL [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for your accommodation and the vice chair's yielding for a moment.
We will also make sure we break in time for you, Mr. Jefferson, to go vote. I just wanted to ask one question.
You have traveled extensively in Africa. Your involvement in the investment caucus, in the investment components of the CBC, is well known, your leadership on Ways and Means. Very much on my mind is the conditions of food for hungry people, education for folks who don't have it otherwise, quality of health care for those who would otherwise be subject to disease.
Democracy has been our focus here, and I am not underplaying that for 1 second, but let me just for this second ask you to judge Nigeria on those other criteria under the Abacha regime and in comparison with what you would consider comparably situated countries in Africa.
Mr. JEFFERSON. I don't know that I can answer all of those questions, but I can say this much about it. The condition of the Nigerian economy in comparison to the other economies similarly situated at the time of Nigeria's independence has deteriorated from that time to now almost steadily.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC During the period of time when there have been democratically elected Presidents, it has been a tough situation, and through the military regimes, and even now to the Abacha regime. And so these economic problems are endemic, and part of it is the nature of the Nigerian economy: On the one hand, its oil and other petroleum products and connected products; on the other hand, it is a very informal economy; there is hardly anything else in the middle.
When the oil came, it took people from the farms and brought them to the cities and disrupted the notion of prosperity in the country, and it has never taken charge of making it work. The centralized economy was a mistake. Only the market economy is going to give some help in the situation, but the centralization and the planning of the economywe have State-owned and State-run factories and enterprisesit didn't work. It was corrupted. It was corrupt under the military. It is corrupt under the civilian authority. Corruption has been a problem, which is a point that I make. It is not a feature of the military government alone, and there is no reason to think that it is going to go away just because we elect a democracy.
These social issues that we talk about are ones that, if we put people in charge of their countryit ties into the democratization idea. If we put folks in charge of that country, and we are there as a country who knows how to make it work and knows how to do the things right with the economy and public education, then it seems to me it helps to vindicate our interest in having a viable democracy in Africa, in having a viable trading partner, and having our other issues secured with drugs and crime issues if we are involved, and in dialog to help to bring the proper discussions to bear on these questions. And so I argue for our dialog and involvement rather than our standing apart just to criticize.
I do think, though, that if you want to just limit it to your question, things that have been very bad economically under the Abacha regime, but as I point out, they were bad economically under Babangida and bad under Shagari. It has been bad, and we need to find a way out of this problem in Nigeria.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CAMPBELL. What I was trying to draw on was your ability as a distinguished student of the area, what comparison you might make to other African nations in particular. I am thinking of Angola, for example, where my colleague and good friend and I were a couple of months ago. You also have an oil-dependent economy; you also had a civil war. Do you have comparisons? And, if not, that is all right.
Mr. JEFFERSON. No. Angola has right now, we understand, almost as much wealth, if not more, in indigenous minerals as Nigeria, but it has a much smaller population and it has much less diversity. And it is going to do better if it can get past the Zavimbi problem that is existing now and the division of the country, because it is going to be easier to manage because it is just less diverse and less large.
But still, I think all of Africa can benefit from our involvement, and I think this thrust that the President has and that the Congress now has of a new interest in Africa is very good for Africa but is in our mutual benefit as well. It will be good for the United States.
I think you have examples where democracy is taking hold in a number of countries in Africa that are doing very well and are coming along. Southern West Africa, we were in Cote d'Ivoire just recently, where some progress is being made. We were in Mozambique over the summer and in Uganda. There are other examples, of course, where there is progress being made in Africa where economies are growing and where people are having a better chance in education, but it is very challenging all over the Sub-Saharan region.
Mr. CAMPBELL. Well, thank you for your commentary.
I believe I am acting chairman, although I am not in the chair. I yield to my colleague from New Jersey, if you have anything further to ask our colleague from Louisiana.
Mr. PAYNE. Just when the trade and investment bill comes up, as you know, there are going to be certain criteria. Nigeria certainly will not fit that criteria. Therefore Nigeria will be unable to benefit from the trade and investment bill, because all of the barriers to democracy and so forth are important.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the other thing that I just might point out is that every country in the region has between a 5 to a 12 percent growth. Ghana, Mozambique, Ethiopia and many other countries are growing at 6, 7, 8, to 12 percent, while Nigeria is actually declining. The other places are having experiments in democracy, and I do think that if people have the right to express themselves, you can turn even the economics around.
I know Nigeria has a bigger population, but, overall, I think that its dictatorial stranglehold on its people stifles the possibility, and it is just killing Nigeria daily.
We had better go vote. I don't think there is much time left.
Mr. CAMPBELL. I thank our distinguished colleague for your informed testimony.
The Committee will stand in recess pending the return of the Chair.
Mr. ROYCE [presiding]. In our second panel we have Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. Ambassador Carson has a long and distinguished Foreign Service career. His most recent posting has been as Ambassador to Zimbabwe. I thank him again for the excellent work he and his staff did on our congressional delegation visit to Zimbabwe last May and, in particular, the visit to the OAU meeting there in Harare.
We very much appreciated the meetings that you set up for the delegation there.
Ambassador Carson has also served as staff director, as a matter of fact, for this Subcommittee from 1979 to 1982.
I want to thank Ambassador Carson for presenting the Administration's views to the Subcommittee today. It seems to me that this is an important time for a revised U.S. policy and there is a natural opportunity for reassessment. We will have a new ambassador in Nigeria soon, and we will have a new Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. I look forward to hearing about the status of the Administration's current review of its Nigeria policy.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ambassador Carson.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHNNIE CARSON, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AFRICA
Mr. CARSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your warm introduction. It is a pleasure for me to be here this afternoon in surroundings that are quite familiar to me, having served as the staff director of the Subcommittee on Africa for 4 years, as you previously mentioned.
I am in an awkward situation this afternoon of giving testimony and being subject to the very sharp and inquisitive mind of Members like yourself with respect to the Administration's policy. What I hope to do this afternoon is to share with you some of our views and concerns with respect to Nigeria.
The complexity of Nigeria does not lend itself to easy solutions or characterizations, but one thing is clear, Nigeria is too important to ignore. With over 100 million people, it is Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria has vast natural resources and economic potential and a talented and educated workforce. Nigeria's capacity to influence regional developments, both positively and negatively, is large.
Nigeria also suffers from staggering ethnic, political, and economic divisions. The involvement of Nigerians in narcotics trafficking and financial fraud schemes poses major risk to Americans at home and abroad. Current trends in Nigeria such as rampant corruption, the lack of transparency in decisionmaking, ruled by a military decree, and the precipitous decline of government institutions undermine Nigeria's future as a coherent State. Instability or worse in Nigeria would have profound humanitarian, political, and economic consequences for West Africa and also for the United States.
The U.S. interests in Nigeria are diverse. Fundamentally, we seek a stable, civilian, democratic government in Nigeria which respects human rights and the rule of law. Economically, Nigeria is our most significant trade and investment partner in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria produces 2.2 million barrels of oil per day and supplies 8 percent of U.S. oil imports; 40 percent of its exports go to the United States. Bilateral trade between the United States and Nigeria exceeded $6.6 billion in 1996, with U.S. exports, primarily oil related, accounting for over $800 million. U.S. oil firms have invested nearly $4 billion in Nigeria.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A priority U.S. Government interest is combating Nigerian criminal activities affecting the United States and is obtaining effective Nigerian Government cooperation, and that means demonstrated political will and adequate material resources to combat these criminal menaces.
As a major player in the United Nations and the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, Nigeria can be a valuable partner on regional initiatives of mutual interest. We and Nigeria worked effectively on the Liberian peace process culminating in last July's successful Presidential election. We seek similar cooperation with Nigeria on the current crisis in Sierra Leone. It is not in our interest to see Nigeria become a pariah or an isolationist State or for Nigeria to use its resources and its influence recklessly at home or abroad.
We have worked to promote our objectives through a combination of pressure and dialog. The pressure is manifested by a series of sanctions and measures progressively implemented since the annulled 1993 Presidential elections in that country. They include: a ban on all military sales and services to Nigeria; a ban on all military assistance and training to that country; the termination of virtually all direct bilateral assistance; the issuance of a Presidential proclamation that restricts the entry into the United States of persons who formulate, implement, or benefit from policies which hinder Nigeria's transition to democracy, as well as members of their immediate families; the requirement of Nigerian Government officials who visit the United Nations or the intermediate financial institutions in this country to remain within 25 miles of those organizations.
In addition, since the 1994 denial of counternarcotics certification, we have been required to vote against new credits for Nigeria in the multilateral development banks listed in the Foreign Assistance Act. We have also ceased all OPIC and Eximbank support for Nigeria and ended USAID assistance, except for specialized categories of disaster relief and provision of food and medicines to refugees.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Assistance is also provided to democracy and governance programs exclusively through Nigerian nongovernmental organizations. In 1997, total U.S. Government assistance to Nigeria to nongovernmental organizations was approximately $7 million.
We are also active in promoting annual Nigerian human rights resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. This year's UNHRC resolution in Geneva was particularly successful in that it mandated the appointment of a country rapporteur for Nigeria.
The Commonwealth of Nations suspended Nigeria in 1995 and is considering renewing that suspension at its Edinburgh summit in October of this year. Canada and Jamaica have adopted, on their own, certain measures against Nigeria. The European Union also has sanctions comparable to ours which are reviewed every 6 months.
We believe the European Union and Commonwealth scrutiny of Nigeria has produced some positive steps, like the Nigerian Government's release last November of three prominent human rights activists during the visit of a Commonwealth delegation. It is therefore our hope that our international partners will maintain existing measures and sanctions on Nigeria.
The next 12 months are crucial for Nigeria. The transition program and, in particular, its electoral process lacks credibility because of the exclusionary way it has been conceived and implemented. In particular, an opaque registration process of political parties effectively barred most prominent Nigerian politicians from the transition process. According to a decree, opposition to the transition is punishable by 5-year imprisonment.
There have also been irregularities with voter registration. At one point, the government claimed to have registered more people than were demographically possible and eligible. Most telling and important is the failure of the five registered parties, and hence the transition program itself, to generate any popular enthusiasm.
Most Nigerians expect General Abacha to return and to run for the Presidency and win against no meaningful competition as a newly minted civilian. General Abacha's defenders note former generals have become President in the United States, but they miss the key point that they did so via a genuine competitive process and clearly after they had departed military service.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Abacha has given signals that he intends to run but has made no definitive statement yet. If General Abacha does not run, there is no obvious alternative candidate in or out of the five registered parties. The result could be heightened political instability just as the transition program nears its most sensitive moment.
General Abacha's transition program is unfolding against an inauspicious backdrop of economic stagnation, ethnic unrest in some parts of the country, popular frustration over recurring gasoline shortages, and the prospect of a major military commitment in Sierra Leone.
Our Country Report on Human Rights details the poor human rights situation that exists in Nigeria today. Economically, Nigeria has taken some important macroeconomic steps to stabilize the economy since 1995, but the government balks at key moves like privatizing or making more transparent the operation of parastatals like the national oil company.
Without aggressive reform, growth rates will likely stay at no more than 3 to 4 percent, about half of what is needed to alleviate poverty in Africa's most populous nation. Economic reform is essential for Nigeria, and we would like to support related undertakings consistent with U.S. policy and law.
Nigerians need to address complex constitutional and power-sharing issues to defuse regional and ethnic rivalries and animosities. However, civil societyfor example, professional associations, a variety of nongovernmental organizations, unions, and media groupscan play an important long-term role in creating and supporting pluralism in Nigeria.
Nigerian-related criminal enterprises are also a major U.S. concern. Nigerian trafficking organizations transport significant percentages of the heroin that reached the U.S. market, and Nigerian financial fraud, including the infamous scam letters, conservatively cost American taxpayers over $250 million each year. Many Nigerians falsely believe the narcotics decertification of Nigeria stems from our broader bilateral differences.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We recognize some progress has occurred in the performance of the Nigerian drug law enforcement agency. However, there has been no progress on key performance indicators like extraditions; the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of major drug traffickers; effective action against corruption; and the enforcement of money laundering laws. We would like to work with the Nigerian Government in this important area.
In December of last year, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jonathon Winer of our Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs led an interagency delegation to Nigeria and had apparently constructive discussions with Nigerian officials on crime issues. However, we are still waiting for concrete followup action by the Nigerians to serve as a basis for some expanded cooperation, such as targeted training, consistent with our legislative and policy constraints.
Many Nigerians complain about the U.S. ban on direct flights between the United States and Lagos airport. The FAA's decision was based on technical issues related to the assessed security standards at the Lagos airport. The high civil aviation accident rate in Nigeria underscores our concern about Nigerian civil aviation safety in general.
We have been reviewing our Nigerian policy to consider whether there can be a more effective deployment of the panoply of normal diplomatic and other tools at our disposal. Several points are clear right now.
First, we are committed to retaining all existing measures and sanctions against Nigeria until there is improvement on the ground in Nigeria to justify changes.
Second, our commitment to promoting human rights and democracy in Nigeria is well known and will not change.
Third, on law enforcement cooperation, resumed extraditions would represent concrete progress and could lead to graduated bilateral cooperation.
Fourth, as a practical matter, we need to work with Nigerians on issues of mutual concern to advance both our short- and long-term objectives. Dialog with Nigerians is an essential component of effective engagement.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we also share the goal of a prosperous, stable, and democratic Nigeria and would welcome an improved bilateral relationship if conditions permit. Nigeria is entering a crucial period as its civilian and military elites work often at cross purposes to achieve their stated objective of civilian democratic rule.
We would view positively such Nigerian Government actions as the release of Chief Abiola and Generals Obasanjo and Yar'Adua and other political prisoners. We would also welcome resumed extraditions of narcotics traffickers to the United States as well. We would also welcome an end to the harassment of the media in Nigeria and a free and fair judicial process for Nigerian defendants, both political and otherwise.
I thank the Subcommittee and you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence, and I will be happy to answer your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Carson appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Ambassador Carson.
You state that the next 12 months of the transition program are crucial for Nigeria but that the process lacks credibility because of the exclusionary way it has been conceived and implemented, particularly with the registration process of the political parties.
Does the State Department believe this transition program is salvageable? What would be the minimum that the Nigerian Government would have to do over the next year to make the transition credible in the view of the Administration?
Mr. CARSON. As I said, Mr. Chairman, the process is deeply flawed. The parties have been created by the military. The candidates are likely to be suggested, if not imposed, by General Abuja and the people around him. The registration of voters is not run in a soundly democratic fashion. Indeed, it may be too late to salvage the process. But the Nigerian Government knows how best to run an effective, free, and fair election. If there is a desire by the government to do so, they can take remedial steps to ensure that the process is more transparent, more open, and is fair.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. Let me ask you what you see in upcoming policy departures, if any, from the status quo in the Administration with respect to Nigeria.
Mr. CARSON. Mr. Chairman, we are still reviewing our policy toward Nigeria, and I hope at some point in the future to be able to come back here to the Committee to share with you the outlines of precisely what that policy will be.
I would like to emphasize one thing very clearly. There may be a different policy approach, but the objectives of our policy will fundamentally remain the same. We are committed to seeing a democracy in Nigeria under civilian constitutional rule. We are committed to seeing human rights improvements in Nigeria with the release of the present political prisoners, including Chief Abiola and also former Generals Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, and the hundred other political prisoners in that country.
We are also committed to trying to see that Nigeria plays a responsible international role in handling international transnational concerns, such as drug trafficking, financial money scams, and other illegal activities that are cross-border in nature and which can have an impact on the United States. Indeed, those will remain fundamental objectives of our policy, but the policy will be reviewed, and, as a result, we may in fact look at new options that will bring about new approaches.
Mr. ROYCE. I wanted to ask one last question. Then I will turn to my colleagues. Is the custom that on October 1, Nigeria's independence day, the Head of State makes a major announcement every year? What are we expecting General Abacha to say, and will the U.S. Government react to his statements, and would it be outgoing Ambassador Walter Carrington who makes such a response? I think that would be an opportunity, and I would like your response.
Mr. CARSON. October 1 is Nigeria's independence day and national day. It is customary for the Head of State to make a major address on that date. I have no idea what General Abacha will say on that occasion, and it would be premature to even suggest what he might say. Indeed, if he were to make a significant statement and gesture with respect to some of the core issues that concern us or about a desire to establish and open a more productive dialog with the United States, we would certainly respond in a very comprehensive and direct manner to that statement. But, again, I do not know what he will say.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is not customary for an ambassador to make a rebuttal or a counterstatement on another country's national day. It is generally inappropriate. It is the kind of thing that is done on our Fourth of July, but it is not done customarily as a diplomatic practice.
Mr. ROYCE. I see.
Well, thank you, Ambassador Carson. I am going to turn to the vice chairman, Mr. Amo Houghton.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Mr. Ambassador, it is good to see you. I am sorry I didn't see you in Zimbabwe when we were over there.
Mr. CARSON. Congressman Houghton, it is good to see you, and we had the welcome mat out several times.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you.
Very briefly, because we have a short period of time for this and I know the Chairman wants to come back for the other panels, but rather than going through the words, it doesn't seem like you are very happy with the way things are going there.
However, in terms of your solutions, I really don't understand what you are doing. It seems like your thrust is toward more dialog, and then you say you are going to look for new options and for new approaches here, and then you say we would respond positively to this.
Is there any pressureare there any specific things we are going to do differently tomorrow than we have done in the past?
Mr. CARSON. Congressman Houghton, as I said, the review of our policy is ongoing. The fundamental objectives and pillars of that policy will not change. We will use, and we are certainly right now endeavoring to use, our imagination downtown, at the Department of State, to review the number of things that we can possibly do with Nigeria.
Currently, we have in play a range of sanctions against Nigeria that cover a broad number of areas, and it is possible that there could be some discussion about how we implement those, either ratcheting them up, leaving them the same, or pulling them down.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But our relationship with Nigeria is a very, very multifaceted and a very complex relationship. In some areas, the relationship moves relatively smoothly. Indeed, we see in West Africa, we have worked very cooperatively with the Nigerians as a part of ECOWAS and ECOMOG in bringing about a transition to a more democratic and stable Liberia following the elections.
On the other hand, just to show you the diversity and the complexity, some of our discussions with the Nigerians with respect to narcotics trafficking remains deeply flawed and stalled. Indeed, we have asked the Nigerians to extradite a number of individuals who are wanted in this country for serious drug offenses, and there has been little or no cooperation in that area.
In the middle road, we have in Nigeria some four or five American oil companies who have a total investment that ranges over $4 billion in U.S. capital. We are a major importer of Nigerian oil, and that part of the operation moves very smoothly.
There are numerous things that are possible in terms of approaches. We are examining some of those possibilities now, but it is a very broad relationship, and there are things that possibly can be done, but I must stress also, aside from the fact that our policy goals will remain the same, we will be looking also for the Nigerians to be responsive to anything that we might suggest and that we might do. We cannot have a policy that is simply a one-way street or a policy that is in a vacuum.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much.
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Campbell.
Mr. CAMPBELL. I will wait.
Mr. ROYCE. I know Congressman Payne had a question, so if we could adjourn at this time, we will return momentarily.
Thank you very much, Ambassador.
Mr. CARSON. Should I stay? I will stay.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. If you would, because I would like to give Congressman Payne an opportunity.
Mr. CARSON. Sure.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
Mr. ROYCE. We will reconvene this hearing at this time.
Congressman Payne of New Jersey, if you have any questions you would like to ask Ambassador Carson.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much, and I certainly apologize for being out. We had a series of votes, and I stayed on the Floor.
Ambassador Carson, I was just looking at the U.S. policy that was put into place following the 1993 annulment of the Presidential elections, and I see: Ban all military sales and services to Nigeria, ban on military assistance, termination of virtually all bilateral assistance.
What is the U.S. stand on new investments in Nigeria? We know that there are a number of current investments in the country. What about the new investments? Or if it is an existing company that retools or repairs pipelines or whatever, where do we get one, if our policy does a ban on investment, and if it does, when is it considered that new investments are kicking in?
Mr. CARSON. Mr. Congressman, there is no ban on new investment going into Nigeria. Indeed, Nigeria holds out the promise and the opportunity of being one of the largest markets in the world. With 100 million people, a fifth of Africa's population, and an oil sector that is producing millions of dollars in revenue, it is a potentially major market.
Commercial activity in the oil sector is strong and generally vibrant, and there are no bans on commercial activity for new investments or reinvestments by American companies in that market.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do tell American investors to beware, buyer beware, be cautious, because of some of the commercial dealings that have gone wrong, but there are no bans on new or reinvested capital.
Mr. PAYNE. Do you think that if the climate continues and there are no elections, as scheduled, for 1998, the Administration might decide to get serious with Nigeria and talk in terms of issues like no new investment and other kinds of sanctions?
Mr. CARSON. It is premature for me to say what we might do as a result of a flawed or failed transition next year. I think that our policy review is ongoing, and options are still open. I think that it is just too early to say.
You note, Mr. Congressman, that if there were to be an effort to block new investments by oil companies or reinvestments, that this would be a dramatic and momentous shift and would require a great deal of effort on behalf of many, many people.
Mr. PAYNE. Just one final question. I think you mentioned something that the United States would like to see in Nigeria, some judicial reform, freedom of the press, and perhaps release of political prisoners. Once again, it is conjecture, but do you feel that Nigeria is willing and able to show any of these reforms before this election that is supposed to take place in 1998?
Mr. CARSON. It is possible for the current government to show some flexibility and to release some of the political prisoners that are currently being held in jail. I think everyone would welcome this.
Nigerians, they are neighbors in West Africa, as well as the United States, and other countries, and we certainly encourage, actively encourage, the Nigerians to release the current political prisoners that they are holding, to stop the harassment of journalists and the press and NGO's that are politically active. It requires a political will and a political commitment on the part of the Nigerian leadership, and we are always both encouraging them and hopeful that they will take these steps as a genuine indication that they seek to improve their responsiveness to their population.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PAYNE. Finally, I understand that former President Carter is talking with the Nigerian Government. Of course, he is also talking to the Government of Sudan, and we are seeing about the same amount of improvement there as we are in Nigeria.
Do you know whether President Carter has come back optimistic, or has he reported to the State Department about any breakthroughs that the Carter Center has made with his negotiations?
Mr. CARSON. I know that President Carter was recently in Abuja to meet with General Abacha. I am not aware of the nature of those conversations, whether he came back optimistic or whether he was pessimistic.
We know that former President Carter remains deeply concerned and deeply engaged on the Nigerian issue, but I have not seen any report nor been privy to a report of his conversations or the results of his meetings there. We only note that he remains interested and concerned in the issue.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you very much, Mr. Payne.
Ambassador Carson, we really want to thank you for not only your testimony today but your patience as well, as we have had a number of votes interrupt your testimony. We are sorry for that. And, again, thank you so much.
Mr. CARSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, and it is a pleasure to be here with you and to see you again and also to be here with Congressman Payne. I know that both of you represent individuals who are deeply interested and concerned about developments in Africa, and we in the Africa Bureau of the Department of State not only appreciate your interest but applaud it as well.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. I am going to at this time ask our next panel to come up, and we are going to try to have everyone keep their testimony to 5 minutes, and your testimony is really more impactful if you give it to us without reading it, and I urge you to do that.
So we will ask our panel to take their chairs at this time. There is a vote on, but we are going to begin the testimony and we have Members that will return as they vote. We have on our third panel Professor Jean Herskovits, professor of history at the State University of New York. Dr. Herskovits has had extensive Africa experience over the last three decades, including working on academic, electoral, and developmental projects. Her involvement with Nigeria began as a student in 1958 and has included regular visits to Nigeria, including her latest visit to Nigeria last month. We especially thank her for coming down from New York.
If you will proceed, Dr. Herskovitswe do have a copy for the record of your written testimony, and the Members read that last night, so if you want to sum up there.
STATEMENT OF JEAN HERSKOVITS, PROFESSOR, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT PURCHASE
Ms. HERSKOVITS. I understand. And I will try to keep it as short as I can.
Thank you very much. I am very grateful for the opportunity to testify at this hearing. As your introduction indicates, these are issues that have concerned me for a very long time.
In my written statement, I mentioned briefly how we got to the present pass in relations between the United States and Nigeria, and I won't take up any of that now. What I would like to do is to take a brief look at where we are now and where we go from here. Now is, of course, not 1993 or 1995, it is 1 year and 2 weeks from October 1, 1998, which, as we all know, is when Nigeria's current military regime has promised to return the country to democratic civilian rule.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It seems to me that our policy debate has been largely frozen in its focus. What matters most to Nigerians is what lies ahead for them economically and politically. The vast majority of them want the same things that we say we want: The military permanently out; democracy in; human rights respected; and, of the utmost importance, a revived growing economy.
I am concerned about whether U.S. actions have furthered these goals or, however inadvertently, perhaps undermined them. I regret that at this critical time the debate about policy is still polarized, focusing mostly on what kind of pressure and how much, with those arguing against having pressure usually called progov-ernment and those for it, prodemocracy.
For me, Nigeria is too complex for such a clear dichotomy. I have long studied its complexity, and I can't accept so simplistic a way of formulating policy. There must be, in my view, a more nuanced approach and one that takes into account more of the problems Nigerians face.
My greatest concern, in fact, is the economic circumstances in which Nigerians now find themselves, and you have heard a little bit about that from other people; I won't spend time on it. Needless to say, it is a situation which none of us would have wished for Nigeria at this time. I, however, am concerned in today's context, because it is hard to imagine a stable democracy without a solid economic base. U.S. policy has clear implications for Nigeria's economic future, and I believe that in that, as in other aspects of our relations, diminished discussion between us and them has not helped.
Mr. Chairman, you have asked us to place U.S. policy in the context of Nigerians' transitions, past and present. My written statement deals extensively with that context and also its impact on the current program. I take up some particulars and some constitutional matters related to it in my statement, and I am not going to go over those here, but I would like to make just a few points.
First, it seems clear that the Abacha regime is going ahead with its own transition, regardless of how outsiders view it thus far, and with adjustments in timing that most Nigerians that I have talked to regard as plausible. The government has been doing what it announced in October 1995 it would do.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Interestingly, a decree just issued underscores and restates a commitment to the October 1, 1998, handover date while it provides for further adjustments in specific dates of elections. I would be glad to discuss those changes and timetable, if you wish, during the question period.
I don't think it is useful to spend time on the issue of sincerity. We can only settle that decisively once the transition has taken place or it has not.
But however flawed the registration processand Nigeria has a history of flawed registration processesNigerian voters did turn out in substantial numbers for the two elections held thus far, both at local government levels.
The next round for State assemblies is now scheduled for December 6, and under the present timetable, Federal House and Senate elections are due April 25, 1998, with the all important Presidential and gubernatorial ones on August 1 of next year.
This current transition draws, for good or ill, on transitions past. Only by understanding their intricacies and the problems in them that Nigerians have sought to prevent occurring in the future can one assess specifics in this one.
The important point is that both the successful transition of 1975 to 1979 and the endless failed one that culminated in the annulled election of 1993 provided the context for the present arrangements.
It is true, as others have said, Nigeria has spent some 30 of its 39 years of independence under military rule, but Nigerians have more experience with democracy and more civilians with government experience among them than many other countries whose elections of democratic leaders we have seen recently.
Again, Nigeria's complexity enters, and it is not just the numbers of languages and the millions of people, it is also a long history of trying to put in place Federal arrangements in which all can feel confident of being treated fairly. The legacy of civilian politics also enters, and each transition has set rules upon rules for how to become a recognized party, how to qualify as a candidate, and many others.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. Doctor, could I stop you right there. I am going to recess just for a minute. I have just enough time to get to the vote. The vice chairman will be returning momentarily. We will take up where we left off.
We stand in recess.
Mr. HOUGHTON [presiding]. Well, Dr. Herskovits, would you please continue. I am sorry for the interruption. It is nothing we had any control over.
Ms. HERSKOVITS. Well, I had come to the ''perfect point'' in my statement for an interruption:
At the moment, there is a kind of suspended animation in Nigeria on the Nigerian political scene. (That is exactly where I was.) I discuss in my statement some of the reasons for it but will mention here only one: Uncertainty about whether General Abacha intends to enter the Presidential competition. This lies behind the wait-and-see attitude of other possible candidates.
The anniversary of Nigeria's independence, October 1, as we have heard, is often the occasion when the Head of State makes important policy announcements. A clarification of this matter could be one of them. And depending on how the clarification goes, and maybe either way, if it were to come, I sense there could be a reenergizing of the political scene in the offing.
The lasting democracy Nigerians want derives much of its framework by their own choice from American models. But what has the United States contributed in recent years? By severing military contacts and, through visa policy, effectively cutting off dialog with almost all government officials, we have, as I have noted and as you have heard earlier, opted for a role of pressure rather than persuasion. We have scarcely engaged in policy discussions on political, economic, and/or other fronts. Indeed, we have blocked most avenues for such discussion. We have done this on the unproven assumption that pressure would bring results, and we have included a range of measures, which we have heard about, some imposed 4 years ago, some 2, despite the fact that they have produced almost nothing of what we sought.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Further, in my Nigerian travels, I have met very few individuals, as distinct for those speaking for organizations, who believe more pressure is desirable or will be effective.
Mr. Chairman, I wish not to be misunderstood here. I am not saying most people I talk to are not critical of the current situation, nor am I saying I personally ignore the distressing events of 1993 and 1995 or am content with the circumstances of today's Nigeria, or that I believe policies now in place could not be improved.
Rather, I have found in long, detailed, and frank discussions that those who have intimate knowledge of the military in general and this government's principal actors in particular see punitive measures and public denunciation as simply counterproductive.
I continue to believe the test of policy has to be effectiveness in achieving the goals we all sharethat Nigeria be a stable, successful democracy, respecting human rights and resting on a secure and growing economy, free of the corruption that has undermined both. To achieve this is a challenge that goes beyond the details of this immediate transition.
If there is no greater improvement in Nigerians' economic circumstances than the small gains of the last couple of years, and now a dip again, the country could face what it does not need and Nigerians do not want: further instability and another military intervention, leading to yet another transition to who knows where.
While addressing the situation of the moment, we must all, I believe, Nigerians and outsiders alike, keep the goal in view. The isolation of this Nigerian Government, far greater than in any time in my experience, cannot be what we want to encourage. We have, as I mentioned, cut off communication and more tangible relationships with the military of this still military-ruled country.
We deplore their sending their young officers to China for courses, after we, with our European allies, have denied them access to training in the West and the kind of education in relations between a military and a democratic government that we know they need. I continually marvel at how we expect that experience in China to instill in Nigeria's military support for democracy and subordination to civilian authority.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Where do we go from here, then? Or where should we? At the minimum, I believe we must have a kind of Hippocratic policy: Do no harm, and encourage Nigeria to do the same. But I hope for more.
Though it is late in the day, I would like to see renewed dialog with Nigeria's officials as a matter of urgency. I hope this would be undertaken without publicity, encouraging both countries to put their concerns frankly on the table. I would like to see emerge from this a flexible approach, one that would include the possibility of easing restrictive steps taken on both sides, starting with our visa policy, to make such dialog possible.
We could begin with reopening discussions about the Lagos airport, where conditions have greatly improved, as the press reported as long as 2 years agoand I have seen it firsthand, in and out, year after yearand also the resumption of direct flights.
I believe we should also renew discussion at policymaking levels about narcotics trafficking and financial crimes, acknowledging the Nigerian authorities have taken important steps to deal with these matters which greatly concern us. Unless I am mistaken, the only high-level policy discussion was a brief trip by Assistant Secretary Winer, which was mentioned earlier. But we need something more sustained. And I believe we should urgently restore military contacts, given how crucial Nigeria's military is to the transition and a stable future democracy alike.
Reciprocally, the Nigerian Government could begin with one of several steps. I would hope that what would come first would be the releasing or at least ameliorating the conditions of those detained or imprisoned for political reasons, and I would hope they would use a generous definition of that category. I continue to think that the chances for such actions would improve with increased communication and, if you will, negotiation.
I think there could also be a role for American NGO's in the political and electoral mechanics ahead. But for them, as for anyone seeking to resume official contact, I would urge approaching this complex and difficult situation with a certain humility. Nigerians of all sorts used to regard Americans as friends, but Nigerians are proud people, and despite their difficult circumstances, they have not responded well to being demonized, nor have they shown much sign of believing that Americans have all the answers. Like us, they are highly self-critical but do not automatically embrace criticism from outside, especially if it is ill informed. If we want to be effective, we will have to understand this and act accordingly, I think.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is much to do, in short, but I believe the steps I suggested, or any one of them, could move us down a more constructive road for Nigerians and for relations between our two countries. We need to start now.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Herskovits appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. Well, thank you, Dr. Herskovits. I certainly appreciate your testimony. I thought we would just go through the other testimony before we have questions.
The next person to testify is Chief Obioha of the National Democratic Coalition of the USA and Canada, the North American affiliate of Nigeria's largest coalition and prodemocratic organization. Chief Obioha is a long-time politician in Nigeria. His support in 1993 was considered instrumental in swinging the Social Democratic Party to Chief Abiola.
So thank you, Chief, for being here, and we appreciate your testimony.
STATEMENT OF CHIEF RALPH OBIOHA, NADECO USA/CANADA
Chief OBIOHA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Mr. Payne, staff of the Subcommittee on Africa, ladies and gentlemen, I am indeed very pleased to be here this afternoon to present views I hope will assist in shaping U.S. policy toward Nigeria, that will advance the return of democratic governance, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.
I am aware that I am in the company of the distinguished people who have genuine interest and are well informed about events in Nigeria in the past few years.
In the prepared statement I submitted to the Subcommittee, much effort was made to show the extent of damage caused Nigeria by the lack of democratic governance. In the introductory section, emphasis was made about sanctions presently imposed by the United States, Canada, the Commonwealth, and the European Economic Community. This section demonstrated that these measures failed because they were insufficient, lacked bite, and were not well coordinated.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An in-depth look at the measures instituted by the nations and bodies listed above will reveal that not much progress has been achieved in persuading the military regime to retrace its steps. The United States should provide the requisite leadership and impress upon the authorities in Nigeria the compelling urgency to dismantle military rule and erect genuine structures of democracy.
No one here would seriously consider a situation in Washington where an Army chief abolishes an elected Congress, imprisons the President, appoints cronies and defeated candidates to a rump assembly, and then manipulates the electoral process to ensure that he is elected civilian President and his appointees and cronies are crookedly elected into the Congress.
The above is what obtains in Nigeria today, and General Sani Abacha has earmarked millions of dollars to recruit U.S. lobbyists, church ministers, journalists, and sundry individuals to mount an unrelenting campaign in the United States, to give his so-called democratic transition program an acceptable face.
I am yet to accept that the United States will abandon its ideals and values to give an undeserved comfort to a dictator in exchange for business as usual.
In 1995, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa took a strong position on Abacha and was left in the cold by Britain and the United States in their failure to back him up. Canada struck Abacha with concrete positions and was driven into going into it alone.
The point here is that the United States abandoned its leadership position, feeling satisfied that it had placed some sanctions on Nigeria. After 4 years, it is clear the measures so far adopted have not had any serious effect, apart from confirming the pariah status on the Nigerian State under the present regime.
Honorable Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, the critical measure that will stampede the regime has to do with its pocketbook. Crude oil revenue is the key to Nigeria's development, but it has also turned out to be the blame of its cohesion as a nation State. Apart from being the backbone of Nigeria's economy, it has become the lucre for military dictators to stranglehold the country.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That the proceeds accruable to Nigeria from oil sales serves the ruling junta primarily is hardly in doubt. Even opponents of an oil embargo verily agree that the country's oil wealth serves the principal purpose of sustaining the dictatorship in power.
Let me address the U.S. interest if an effective oil sanction is imposed. A study commissioned by the U.S. General Accounting Office discounted any major adverse effect on U.S. oil supplies and gas station fuel prices.
Since the United States, European Economic Community, and Commonwealth are in agreement over the undesirability of the military to impose itself on governance in Nigeria, it is doubtful that the junta will contemplate seizure, nationalization, or expropriation of oil companies' investments in Nigeria, fears expressed by U.S. oil companies to explain the reasons they are behind the military dictatorship in Nigeria. Oil sanctions and oil export embargoes will definitely bring the dictatorship down.
Democracy offers the only option on which to build a progressive and stable Nigeria. Critics have suggested that Africans, by their nature, and given their history, may not be suited to practice democracy. Those critics, however, miss the point that most African nations have failed due to the absence of genuine democracy in their countries.
Democracy is governed by fixed guidelines and rules. There is no democracy that bans opposition, because opposition is the very essence of democracy. I believe that is why there is a Republican and Democratic Party in the United States.
The State Department often refers to Nigeria's strategic importance to West Africa, specifically in the cases of Liberia and, most recently, Sierra Leone. While there was peacekeeping activity in Liberia, the Babangida and Abacha regimes looted Liberia for everything that was not nailed down. Dissident soldiers in Abacha's regime would often wind up killed or missing in action in Liberia when, in fact, they were liquidated to terminate their possible threat to his grip on power.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We contend, however, that everywhere that Nigeria military plays a role, regardless of its purpose, the country becomes a narcotics transiting center shortly thereafter. This phenomenon is also reflected in the 1997 State Department report on international narcotics trafficking. The former U.S. National Security Adviser, Mr. Anthony Lake, indicated that 40 percent of heroin entering the United States originates from Nigeria, constituting a matter of national security. By the way, Nigeria is a nation that does not produce narcotics itself.
I urge this esteemed Subcommittee to recommend a U.S. policy toward Nigeria that reflects the will of the Nigerian people and protects the U.S. interest as well. The prevailing climate in Nigeria with respect to lack of transparency, and chronic corruption, no trade and investment policy is possible to work there.
We have challenged the military regime's transition program for various practical reasons; namely, a democratic process without opposition is no democracy at all. We will try to lay down six points we believe as strong recommendations that can move the U.S. policy toward a meaningful exchange and changes in Nigeria.
The first is: The United States should assume its rightful leadership role and twist arms, if necessary, to get a multilateral action on Nigeria. There is no longer the question of whether other nations will come on board. For certain, the new British Government is on record to have given the Abacha Government notice that it will join multilaterally in actions to see that democracy is returned to Nigeria. The military junta's intervention to restore constitutional democracy in Sierra Leone justifies any action taken by the United States and others to restore democracy in Nigeria.
The second one is: The United States should facilitate the reduction of tension in Nigeria by using channels available to her to persuade the military regime to give up power peacefully. The measures most likely to lead to instant reduction of tensions are: The release of all political prisoners and the restoration of individual liberties and rights. Notably, releasing M.K.O. Abiola will go a long way to demonstrate the seriousness of the regime. In seeking this objective, the mere release of a few, as has been the case in the past, should not be regarded as demonstrable progress.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A proviso not to harass, rearrest, or intimidate released prisoners should be added. All those forced to flee or go into hiding should be permitted to return, with strict assurances that they will not be harassed or intimidated.
A supervised dialog should be convened with the view of establishing a government of national unity and reconciliation headed by M.K.O. Abiola and comprising representatives of all sectors of Nigerian society, including representatives of the military. This government should be tailored on the form which saw South Africa through its transition to majority rule.
In securing a role for M.K.O. Abiola, a role should be created for the military to assuage any fear of its constitutional relevance. The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation should, as first priority, convene a sovereign national conference to produce a civilian-drafted and supervised constitution for the Nation.
At the U.S. Congress, the Nigerian democracy bill should be enacted on a bipartisan basis to speed the passage of the bill, which will create the enabling law to empower the Administration to take tougher measures on Nigeria, since critical provisions in the bill address many issues raised that will persuade the military regime to give up power.
The section of the bill that outlined the measures to promote democracy and human rights is sufficiently comprehensive and, if applied, will achieve the purpose of the bill.
Lacking in the bill, however, is the crucial issue of a crude oil embargo. Without that big stick, the military authorities can weather through these sticking measures as long as oil sales revenue pour in to sustain the clique that has violently retained power at all cost.
We urge an amendment to the bill that includes all options, including oil embargo, in order to send the appropriate message.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Just as much as it may seem impractical to maintain a complete boycott of talks, trade and dealings with the military regime in Nigeria, if that is the price to pay for their clear human rights violations, then it is well worth it. But if contact must be maintained, then at each occasion and opportunity, it must be hammered to the military authorities that the United States insists on the release of all political prisoners and restoration of judicial provisions that guarantee human rights. This is the absolute minimal requirement to justify any contacts with the military authorities.
Part of the opposition to the junta is the odium associated with being a Nigerian internationally, because of the discrimination Nigerians suffer in relation to being suspects of dealing in narcotics and in business scams. The military regime runs a firmly closed shop without openness and contrary views. By its regimented structure and ''obey the command'' mentality, it is easily deducible that military authorities are responsible for the use of Nigerian territory as a transit center for narcotics smuggling to the United States, Western nations, and Arab countries.
Some U.S. officials who request information on the drug barons operating in Nigeria ought to know that lack of openness in government affairs is a command matter, and this helps to put a lid on any information getting out to apprehend the real kingpins behind the drug trade. The military entrenchment in governance has long protected exposure of illicit narcotics transhipment to the United States.
The recent articles published in leading newspapers around the world warning foreigners about Central Bank of Nigeria scams are laughable, because victims will readily tell you that they were admitted into the real offices of principal officers of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In the same vein, General Sani Abacha is committing troops and resources to restore democracy in Sierra Leone while denying the same to his countrymen. The U.S. policy should be vigorously directed in securing genuine democracy in Nigeria in order to create an open government, protect human rights, and a stable climate for trade and investment.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The U.S. policy toward Nigeria should set benchmarks.
Mr. ROYCE. Well, Chief Obioha, we do have your testimony. We all read that last night. Now you have added to that, at length.
Chief OBIOHA. If you assure me that my entire testimony
will be on record, I take the leave to stop. I thank you very much for that.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you very much, Chief. We will put your entire testimony on record.
Chief OBIOHA. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I will take your questions if there are any.
[The prepared statement of Chief Obioha appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. All right. I would like at this time to introduce Professor Abena Busia, associate professor of English at Rutgers University. She is a national of Ghana, the daughter of the late Ghana Prime Minister Kofi Busia. She has written widely on Africa, including serving as codirector of an international research and publishing project, Women Writing Africa.
STATEMENT OF ABENA BUSIA, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
Dr. BUSIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honorable Members. I would like to start by saying how thankful I am to be invited to speak here today.
Unlike almost everyone else who has spoken on today's panels, I am not a Nigerian or anyone who has worked on Nigeria for an extensive period of time. I am simply a concerned West African who values greatly the invitation to put on record the general concerns of some of us, non-Nigerians, but still, from the region.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would also like to make it clear that I speak here on behalf of no organized group or party. I am a university professor and a Ghanian concerned only for the quality of life in the continent of my birth, and anxious to do or say what I can to secure a stability and well being in the next century that has eluded us since well before the last.
While it is true that deciding on a policy toward Nigeria is complex in the current political climate, it is also true that in making this decision, as in making all others, what will in the end determine action, is not the nature of the beast being faced, but the nature of the beast within.
Thus, perhaps the central question at this juncture is, is the policy of the United States determined by what kind of State she is dealing with, or what kind of State she is, or at least wishes to be? That is to say, in the end, the determination will be based not only on what kind of regime governs Nigeria but what kind of regime governs the United States.
Is the United States clear on what her interests in Nigeria and Africa are? Are democracy, human rights, and the rule of law her policy standards? If so, to what extent is she prepared to take the risks involved in being committed to them and when?
And finally, is the purpose of these deliberations to change the governance of the United States or to change that of Nigeria?
I need hardly remind this body that one in five Africans born is a Nigerian and Nigeria is physically situated in West Africa. Thus, everything that happens in, or affects, Nigeria affects the subregion. By virtue of population, size, and wealth, Nigeria has played, historically, a dominant role, positive and negative, in the history of the region and continues to do so. Any policy toward Nigeria, per force, must take the needs of the rest of the subregion into account.
Nevertheless, although it is hard to do so, we must try to disentangle the history and role of Nigeria as a State, from the history and role of its current regime, in order to be able to see clearly the distinctions between Nigeria's role in the region, and the behavior of the present regime within its own borders.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In looking at its role as a State at present, it can, with important qualifications, be seen to be acting on behalf of the representatives of the region. It can do this at present because, and only because, the situationand I am thinking specifically of Sierra Leonecalls for the ability at least to suggest the threat of force. However, as with all military power, that force can be both beneficial and pernicious, and there is always a fine line between the threat of force and its use.
The beneficial aspect currently is that it is used in support of the people of Sierra Leone in their campaign of civil disobedience against an illegal regime which they refuse to accept. It is not to the credit of the rest of the world that the only peoples prepared to take an active stand in their support have been those of the ECOWAS countries. It is, in fact, the inattention of the rest of the world that has strengthened the hand of Nigeria's Head of State with respect to the ECOMOG forces.
The solidarity of the region must be seen as a positive thing. The people of Sierra Leone have determined that if they have a bad leader, they would like the opportunity to change him through the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun. Their determination on this fact over the last several months is unprecedented in this regard.
Furthermore, the resolve of the ECOWAS leaders, despite their own often murky credentials with respect to democratic processes, that this is one struggle they would try to unite to defend, is a determination which must be supported.
In this case, Sierra Leone is a test case for the region and all those powers, including the United States, who have dealings with it. It is thus also a test case for Nigeria.
The problem is, in the context of its behavior within its own borders, the current Nigerian regime has not necessarily acted in the best interests of its people. To the contrary, the abrogation of the will of the people and the elevation of self-interest against the welfare of the citizenry represents everything that the people of Sierra Leone are trying to change.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is a real need for a strong Nigeria. There is a serious mistrust of a Nigeria directed by its present rulers. A strong but unprincipled Nigeria gives sanction to similar misrule in the rest of the region. In the long run, the absence of moral authority blights the efforts of those obliged to work with Nigeria to gain credibility and work for lasting peace in the trouble spots of the region, and bolsters those with other motives. The people of Sierra Leone could do with a whole lot of other friends right now.
It is undeniable that within the region and, indeed, throughout the continent, Nigeria has played an important and critical role in this troubled decade. It is also unquestionable that Nigeria could play a far better role if serious questions could not be raised concerning its current leadership. It is in all our interests to assist Nigeria to become stable and play her proper leading role in regional and world affairs, and, in this instance, it is also important not to confuse longevity with stability, as is too often done when the West looks at ''the rest of us''.
The force the military regime in Nigeria is calling upon to act on behalf of ECOWAS is the same force it has used to stymie democratic progress within Nigeria. The end result is that internally Nigeria is an unstable State. Might is not always right, and a silent population is not always a peaceful one.
Military governments and dictatorships, overt and disguised, tend to appear stable and long lasting, for they are accountable to no one and have swift means of silencing opposition. The question then arises, do we tolerate them because, despite their unethical existence, they are of benefit to usand this usually means financially, as happened, for example, in the case of Zaireor do we say we want a different kind of world and will lend our support to those who demonstrably wish to work for an ethical world?
There are many ways of negotiating with people. However, the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues, for example, at the time and in the circumstances under which this happened, made it clear that this is not a government susceptible to moral suasion. The strongest remaining weapon, therefore, is the one which is the cornerstone of their rule, for good or evil, abroad or at home, economic power. And the only people who have that to use against Nigeria are those with economic sway within Nigeria, her Western trading powers and the consumers of her oil, including the United States.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Are you prepared to take risks? The Commonwealth stand of suspending Nigeria for her gross violations of the rule of law within her borders and also trying to work toward dialog and an eventual restoration of normal relations is a good example and a start. None of us knows how things will go and what decisions will be taken. We are looking for sincerity. It would be wise to be ready with an alternate strategy.
Sanctions are a costly weapon. When judiciously used and enforced with integrity, they do work. So what is it the United States is trying to change?
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Professor Busia.
Let me ask you a couple of questions, if I could. What is the general view of Nigeria by other nations in West Africa?
Dr. BUSIA. It depends on the time of day you are asking the question. I do not mean that flippantly, actually. It is conflicted, actually, for all the reasons that have been outlined today.
The general view can at times be one of pride, in the sense that we see Nigeria as a possible strong nation, as a nation that has at critical times taken very strong stands as in, for example, the question of apartheid, and which has spoken, in that case eloquently, on our behalf.
Nigeria has played a leading role in the establishment of ECOWAS itself and the OAU and has been, in that sense, a flag bearer on many occasions for Africa-centered policy directives and statements, however imperfectly they may or may not work.
It is that side of Nigeria and her policy that the rest of the region would like to promote and would like to protect and would like to support. The very clear sense that Africa, particularly the subregion, should be the central focus of her foreign policy and not Europe or the United States or somewhere else, that is viewed with great pride.
The down sides of that have, again, all been mentioned today. I mean, it is embarrassing to us the number of jokes that are told about Nigerians. To see advertisements spread all over the world about ''watch out'', we all know people, every single one of us has got friends, who have come up to us, who said, ''Have you seen this letter from this Nigerian person? What on earth is going on?''
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, I am a Ghanian. That is likeasking a Ghanian about a Nigerian or a Nigerian about a Ghanian is like asking an Irishman about English peoplethe number of jokes that are told.
It is a very serious question, because Nigeria matters and therefore the sort of uneasy mix of a fierce pride and a potential for something wonderful, whether it is winning the Olympic gold medal or policy ventures, is mixed with this terrible sense of embarrassment, about
Mr. ROYCE. Over its failure to maintain civilian rule?
Dr. BUSIA. Yes, to maintain civilian rule under circumstances that make a lack of maintenance of any kind of civil behavior so very public. That a country with those assets, both human and natural resources, is continually beset by a complete inability to behave within its borders the way it professes outside is a source of deep regret.
Mr. ROYCE. There are several ways to read this, but at the August meeting of ECOWAS in Nigeria, the Members voted to emphasize diplomacy rather than force in Sierra Leone. My question is, do you think that signals in ECOWAS a policy away from Nigerian dominance?
Dr. BUSIA. That is hard for me to answer. I would say, though, that the situation is a little tricky. For instance, Ghana's regime has often been cited as the regime that seemed to present an alternative to the use of force. But a little historical memory and reflection might make it a little clearer why it would be hard for the current Head of State in Ghana to oppose absolutely the regime of a military buccaneer who has been spirited out of jail and made a Head of State.
We only need to look back to what we are told is our glorious June 4th revolution to understand the awkward position that our current President of Ghana is in on this issue.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So it is hard to disentangle diplomacy from self-serving interest in this particular instance.
Mr. ROYCE. I see. Yes, I think it is hard.
Dr. BUSIA. Our President is in exactly the same position as the man the people of Sierra Leone are trying to get rid of.
Mr. ROYCE. I thank you for your analysis and your testimony, Professor Busia.
I wanted to ask one question before I turn to my colleague, Mr. Payne from New Jersey. I wanted to ask Chief Obioha a question.
There has been a persistent fuel shortage in Nigeria, especially in the north, and this largely is blamed, if you hear Nigerians speak about it, on government incompetence. That is the argument they use. And there have been reports of riots caused by these shortages.
My question is, have pro-democracy groups seen any increase in their ranksany increase in interest as a result of this situation of a fuel shortage in Nigeria?
Chief OBIOHA. For a long time we have predicted about the incompetence of all military regimes that were exposed by the fuel shortages in Nigeria. We have no doubt in our minds that the majority of Nigerians, at least up to 95 percent, are opposed to the regime, but they have no way of expressing it. Any expression attracts instant repression. And when they come for the person they are looking for and they don't find him, they go for his wife or his children. That has been widely reported.
The fuel shortages expose this regime very much, and they very nearly brought it down. I understand that the fuel shortage is again beginning to wreak havoc and there is a lot of uneasiness once again because of this.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
Let me turn to Mr. Payne of New Jersey.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much.
Time is really short. I hope that perhaps we could return. I don't know what the Chairman has in mind. But I would like to.
And congratulations, Dr. Busia, being from my State of New Jersey. I would, though, like to perhapsI don't think that President Rawlings is particularly in the same situation as the situation in Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone voted a year ago very overwhelmingly. There was an attempt to stop the election in Sierra Leone by the people, and the people, particularly the women, would not allow that to happen. The new government was elected and has only been in power for a short period, less than a year before the military rogues took over.
I am not a Ghanian, but I have studied it pretty carefully. I think it is unfair to compare what General Rawlings did in Ghana; it was not less than a year after a new government had been legally elected.
Dr. BUSIA. When he (Rawlings) returned in 1981, the President's (Liman) regime had only been in power about 14 months. Rawlings has had two manifestations; I collapsed them. He was sprung out of jail in 1979, took power in a coup, and he quickly stepped down. There was an election in 1979, and he returned within 14 months to oust a democratically elected government (Liman).
Mr. PAYNE. Well, we won't go on to debate Ghana and Sierra Leone, but I do think that there are some differences.
Second, after the election, after taking over from the barrel of a gun and turning over to have elections is also something that was relatively rare, other than General Gowon in Nigeria.
Let me get to the point that you mentioned about the United States and its governance and what it is interested in doing. I have spoken to countries in the region of Nigeria, and many of them condone the action of Nigeria, which therefore confuses me.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I wonder if your feeling is that they condone it because they may be afraid to speak out about the giant, or do they honestly believe that Nigeria is different than any other country?
You know, the thing that kills me about many of those speaking on Nigeria, they say Nigeria is different; Nigeria is different; we have 250 ethnic groups; you can do these things; you just can't tell Nigerians anything; you can with everybody else around the world, but just don't tell Nigerians. Well, more or less.
But I wonder how we get this feeling that the sun sets on every place around the world, but Nigeria is Nigeriathe United States tells the People's Republic of China, you ought to let people out of prison. They tell Israel, you need to talk to Arafat. We tell everyone, whether they listen or not. But I hear a very learned Ph.D. say you can't tell Nigerians, you just can't tell them. And so I wonder, what is the view of the neighbors, the countries around?
Dr. BUSIA. I will try and address myself to that.
First of all, I would like to clear up something. I want to put on record that I was not trying to compare President Rawlings now with the situation now, but President Rawlings then with the situation now. And I also would like to say yes, in Ghana we were very, very happy that, whatever the results of the 1996 elections, we had finally had two elections in one republic for the first time.
On the question of Nigeria and why can't anybody tell Nigeria what to do, I don't think it is that so much. I think also that there is currently a sea change, if you like, from, you know, from my senseand, as I say, it is a very informal sense of talking to my friends, some of them in and out of office in Ghana and other places, mostly in exile from other West African countries.
I think what has happened now, which is what gives us sort of a schizophrenic attitude, is that there is a certain kind of elation about being able to see the region at least trying to act in concert; that is one; and trying to act in concert in support of civilians who want to govern themselves.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So the hesitation, therefore, is not to sort of condone what Nigeria is doing within its borders or to say that Nigeria doesn't count or doesn't matter. On the contrary, it exacerbates the feelings of pain about what is going on in Nigeria. But it is only to say, can we figure out how to get the good resultsI am trying to avoid the cliche about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
We need to be able to create stability in the entire region. One would have hoped that it would begin with Nigeria, but if it doesn't begin with Nigeria, it is great that it is beginning somewhere else.
Mr. ROYCE. And on that point, Professor Busia, for Congressman Payne and myself, if we start right now and run fast enough, we will just make this vote.
I really want to thank all three of you for making a special effort to come down here to Washington today to testify at this hearing. We appreciate it very much. We are going to have to adjourn the hearing at this time. And thank you again.
[Whereupon, at 6:35 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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