Howard Wolpe Gives Testimony to US Senate Subcommittee on Africa

Apr 22, 2009

On April 21, 2009, Howard Wolpe, Director of the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity and the Africa Program, gave testimony to a panel of members of the US Senate Subcommittee on Africa. The theme of this meeting was to explore urgent needs and strategic shortfalls facing current US diplomatic efforts across the continent. Dr. Wolpe presented alongside Ambassadors Princeton Lyman and Thomas Pickering, both Africa Program Advisory Council Members.

In his remarks, Dr. Wolpe asserted that America needs to rethink its approach to peace-building in Africa. "America's conventional approaches to peacebuilding are deeply flawed because they seldom involve direct engagement with the key leaders of the belligerent parties, and virtually ignore the mistrust, suspicions and fears with which they enter the reconstruction process," Wolpe said.

The current U.S. approach to peacebuilding is focused on installing Western-style institutions, such as multi-party electoral systems. But the principal challenge to African societies, Wolpe said, is not to strengthen competitive capacities, but to strengthen collaborative capacity. "Leaders that have been through years of conflict and war simply find it difficult to get beyond a 'winner take all,' zero-sum mindset, to identify common interests.... We need instruments and processes that are less focused on imposing Western institutional structures than in assisting nationals in divided societies develop a recognition of their interdependence and of the value of collaboration, even with former enemies."

Ambassador Wolpe's testimony is available here.

Ambassador Pickering's testimony is available here.

Ambassador Lyman's Testimony is available here.

Experts & Staff