Last month, 80 African studies scholars based in the U.S. joined me in writing to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to defend and uphold the Leahy Amendment. United by concern that a vital human rights law was being undermined by top Pentagon officials, who publicly complained that it presented an inconvenience to counter-terrorism programs in some countries, we urged America’s top diplomat to “resist any efforts to weaken the Leahy Amendment and, rather, to ensure that rule of law and accountability for human rights abuses remain core principles guiding U.S. policy toward Africa.” Click here to read a copy of our letter and see the list of signatories, which continues to grow.
Secretary Kerry has responded with a letter dated August 12, thanking the scholars: “Support for the rule of law and accountability are cornerstones of U.S. policy toward Africa, and the Leahy laws will continue to be essential tools for advancing them.” He brought much the same message to a congressional appropriations hearing earlier this summer. Apparently, tepid implementation of Leahy runs deeper than merely some corners of the Pentagon, with the State Department’s regional bureaus sometimes holding back information on human rights violations, and occasional disputes between embassies and Foggy Bottom. So a new message from the top, reaffirming Leahy, will generate some ripples.
Click here to download a copy of the letter from Secretary Kerry, which emphasizes that Leahy is more than merely a putative tool for denying aid to security units that violate human rights. It is also a tool for holding human rights violators accountable and strengthening the rule of law.
I also want to thank the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars for helping to publicize the letter.
“Support for the rule of law and accountability are cornerstones of U.S. policy toward Africa, and the Leahy laws will continue to be essential tools for advancing them.”
Kerry’s words to the African studies professors