Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, appeared on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown on Tuesday to discuss the steps the Nigerian government should take to recover 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, including accepting and fully utilizing U.S. assistance. Senator Coons will chair a hearing of the African Affairs Subcomittee on Thursday to examine the situation and determine additional actions the U.S. can take to assist in the recovery of kidnap victims and combat the threat of Boko Haram. "We need to provide every possible assistance to Nigeria so that we waste not one more day before these girls are safely returned to their families," Chris said.
Senator Coons, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, was interviewed on the BBC World Service's NewsHour program Tuesday about the status of nearly 300 girls kidnapped by terrorists in northern Nigeria. He described the Nigerian government's slow and inadequate response to the abductions as "shameful" and expressed his relief that Nigeria's president had finally accepted American offers of assistance. Listen below:
The New York Times published an op-ed by Kenyan journalist Murithi Mutiga on Wednesday about the importance of engaging local communities in efforts to combat poaching. Community stakeholders, Murithi argues, could be conservationists’ greatest allies in the fight against wildlife-trafficking syndicates.
Wild animals may hold a special place in our global heritage, but all too often they threaten the livelihood of the farmers and herders who live near nature reserves and game parks. Elephants routinely trample precious crops, and carnivores sometimes ravage whole herds of livestock.
Poachers have astutely tapped into this reserve of local grievances — made worse by high rates of poverty and unemployment — and struck up partnerships with people in communities around game parks.
Most Kenyans support conservation efforts. But in a country where arable land is exceedingly scarce and about a tenth of the land area is reserved for national parks and reserves, the authorities should take a more sophisticated approach in winning local support for conservation initiatives.
African countries, the author notes, could learn from Nepal, which gives special rights to communities living around major national parks – including royalties of 30 - 50 percent of the proceeds from park entry fees. The result is a local community invested in protecting the park and a massive decline in poaching.
Namibia has also had success with the community-based conservation model. The country's world-renowned conservancy program has empowered communities to create their own conservancies to manage and sustainably benefit from wildlife on communal land, including through tourism.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, has been a leading voice in the Senate for wildlife conservation and efforts to combat poaching in Africa. His third annual Opportunity: Africa conference, held earlier this month in Wilmington, featured a workshop on ending poaching and protecting Africa’s wildlife led by conservation experts from the State Department and World Wildlife Fund, as well as John Kasaona, a Namibian pioneer of community-based conservation. John was also a featured speaker at a Senate briefing on wildlife trafficking hosted by Senator Coons earlier this month.
Click here to read the full article on the New York Times’ website.
Energy poverty is one of the most significant challenges facing Africa today. Seventy percent of Sub-Saharan Africans – and 85 percent of those living rural areas – are currently living without access to electricity.
Pervasive energy poverty undermines economic growth and development goals in health, education, and institution-building across the continent. Businesses have repeatedly cited the lack of reliable energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa as a more significant impediment to doing business than corruption, access to capital, and other challenges. More than 90 million schoolchildren across the continent lack access to this basic educational resource and 30 percent of health facilities are without electricity. Toxic fumes from kerosene – the chemical used to light homes – lead to more than 3 million deaths per year, more than HIV/AIDs and malaria combined.
The Power Africa initiative, launched by President Obama in June 2013, seeks to double the number of individuals with access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa by producing at least 10,000 megawatts of more efficient, cost effective, and sustainable electricity generation capacity on the continent. By 2020, it aims to increase electricity access for at least 20 million new households and commercial entities, enhance the energy resource management capabilities of partner countries, and increase regional cross-border energy trade.
To achieve these goals, the U.S. government and private sector have made approximately $20 billion in commitments to expanding energy access and generation across Sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years, especially in the six Power Africa focus countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
Senator Coons, chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, will chair a hearing on Thursday to examine questions surrounding Power Africa’s scope, implementation and sustainability. The hearing will feature testimony from witnesses leading Power Africa’s implementation, including USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast, OPIC Executive Vice President Mimi Alemayehou, and Ex-Im Africa Director Rick Angiuoni. Additional witnesses include Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power; Del Renigar, Senior Council for Global Government Affairs Policy for General Electric; and Tom Hart, U.S. Executive Director of the ONE Campaign. Their testimony will help to inform the Foreign Relations Committee’s future consideration of legislation to provide congressional authorization for Power Africa.
The hearing will be held Thursday, March 27 at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Click here to view a live webcast of the hearing.
Senator Coons questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about funding for the Power Africa initiative at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations earlier this month. Click here to watch their exchange.
The Washington Post published an article Thursday on the public health consequences of recently enacted anti-homosexuality laws in Nigeria, Uganda, and elsewhere – specifically citing their negative impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS.
It is the job of public health officials to account for the reality of human behavior in pursuit of the public good. Anti-gay laws complicate that task in practical ways. MSM who are afraid of prosecution and violence are less likely to attend meetings where they are given education, condoms and lubricants. Less likely to be honest with their physicians about their sexual histories. Less likely to be tested for AIDS and receive treatment and care. And more likely to inadvertently infect others.
When Western governments lecture African countries about their retrograde views, it can feed a populist, anti-colonial backlash. When donors threaten to cut off aid, it can cause lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists to cringe — fearing they will be scapegoated for the punishment of their whole country.
What might be more effective is a forceful health-related message. This is an area in which civil rights — starting out with a simple zone of personal privacy — is a requirement of public health. Nations such as Nigeria and Uganda are committed to ambitious objectives in fighting AIDS. Those goals are unachievable while any group is targeted for discrimination and excluded from effective outreach.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, spoke out against the enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in February calling the law “a setback for human rights around the world” and appeared on MSNBC earlier this month to discuss steps the U.S. can take to combat the law and stand up for Uganda’s LGBT community.
Click here to read the full article on the Washington Post’s website.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about funding for the President’s Power Africa initiative, the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, humanitarian challenges in Sudan and South Sudan, wildlife trafficking, and other Africa priorities in the State Department budget at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on Thursday. Watch the full exchange below. Secretary Kerry's remarks begin at 4:13.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee, joined MSNBC's Steve Kornacki Sunday morning to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and actions the U.S. can take to combat Uganda's unacceptable anti-LGBT law, including scaling back assistance related to police training, opening up avenues for asylum for those fleeing oppression, and considering sanctions and/or visa denials for those who incite violence against the LGBT community. “We need to make sure that our rhetoric is matched by our actions,” Chris said. Watch the full interview below.
Senator Coons appeared on MSNBC's Daily Rundown on Friday to reflect on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, and to talk about his own experience fighting apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. After graduating college, Chris went to work for the Investor Responsibility Research Center and actually wrote a book encouraging colleges and universities to divest from South Africa.
The Central African Republic (CAR), long a fragile state, has spiraled downward since March, when the president was ousted by a diffuse group of rebels called Seleka. The humanitarian situation is dire and getting worse. More than 460,000 Central Africans have been displaced and, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, half of the population of 4.6 million needs humanitarian assistance and about a quarter are seriously food insecure. Without strong, high level international engagement, the CAR risks descending into chronic violence and lawlessness guaranteed to cause even more human suffering.
Secretary Kerry’s statement on November 20 condemning the ongoing abuses and announcing that the U.S. Government will provide $40 million to support the African Union Peacekeeping Mission (MISCA) in CAR is a step in the right direction. Now, the United States must urgently deliver the promised support to MISCA, work with the international community to accelerate humanitarian relief, and engage with community-based and national efforts to advance reconciliation and political transition. Several respected international rights groups issued a statement to that effect on November 19, outlining recommendations for a comprehensive U.S. Government strategy that merit serious consideration.
As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, Senator Coons is closely following the ongoing situation in the CAR and is committed to working to support peacekeeping, humanitarian, and democracy efforts in the country.
Since a March coup ousted the nation’s president, inter-communal and sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has resulted in widespread chaos and lawlessness. Despite a rapidly deteriorating situation, the mass violence and suffering of civilians has been met with far too little international outrage or assistance. The recent decisions by the African Union (AU) to expand its stabilization force and the United Nations to strengthen the Peacebuilding Office are welcome moves that could lay the groundwork for expanded protection for civilians and accelerated progress toward greater stability. The U.S. administration should step up with assistance to help ensure that AU forces can carry out their mission effectively and support UN and AU efforts to promote reconciliation and democracy in this troubled country.
An October 31 press release by a number of respected international NGOs starkly describes the situation in the CAR and issues a strong call for greater international focus on the country.
As advocates and organizations dedicated to the prevention of violent conflict and mass atrocities, we are deeply disturbed by the violence that is plaguing CAR. The most recent wave is tipping the situation beyond control and is taking a trajectory towards large-scale interreligious and intercommunal violence.
We urge the international community to act swiftly to prevent atrocities and ensure civilian protection. The international community must rapidly expand its presence in the country, extend protection beyond a few selected sites, and allocate the resources necessary to address the complex and protracted nature of humanitarian needs.
As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, Senator Coons is deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in the CAR, and is committed to working within the committee and with the administration and non-governmental partners to support peacekeeping, humanitarian, and democracy efforts in the country.