Clinton Promises Unwavering U.S. Support for Democracy in Maghreb

Secretary Clinton receives flowers while visiting the Red Crescent in Tunis in March 2011.

By Phillip Kurata
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
October 12, 2012

The secretary said it is a “strategic necessity” of the United States to support democratic transitions in Arab countries.

“Instead of letting mobs and extremists speak for entire countries, we [the United States] should listen to what the elected governments and free citizens are saying. They want more freedom, more justice, more opportunity, not more violence. And they want better relations not only with the United States, but with the world, not worse,” she said.

With regard to Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, Clinton said the $20 million Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund is stimulating investment in the private sector, while the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is offering $50 million in loans and guarantees. She said she is particularly proud of the new $10 million scholarship fund, which was launched in August, to help Tunisian students study at U.S. universities and colleges.

To help Libya’s democratic growth, Clinton said the United States has trained hundreds of lawyers and civil society activists on election laws and is encouraging them to be fully engaged in drafting a new constitution that will protect the equal rights of all Libyan citizens.

Regarding Morocco, the secretary praised King Mohammed VI for answering his citizens’ calls for change by enacting constitutional reforms, followed by early elections and expanding powers for parliament.

“An Islamist party leads the new ruling coalition … after 13 years in the opposition, and we’ve been encouraged that its leaders have sought to engage all Moroccans and have focused on creating jobs and fighting corruption,” Clinton said.

The secretary said that Algeria has made “some progress” toward democratic reform when it held parliamentary elections in May and invited international monitors to observe them for the first time.

“Still, Algeria has a lot of work to do to uphold universal rights and create space for civil society,” she said.

To deal with extremists operating throughout the region, the United States is launching the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership to train and support 10 countries to work together to disrupt terrorist networks and prevent attacks, Clinton said.

“We are expanding our work with civil society organizations in specific terrorist hot spots, particular villages, prisons and schools,” she said.

Clinton said it is too soon to predict how the democratic transitions in the region will play out, but it is certain that the United States has a big stake in the outcome and is using every tool at its disposal to helps its partners fight extremism.

“Across the region, diplomats, development experts and military personnel are working hand in hand. Across the regional also, we’re partnering with the security officials of these new governments who are moving away from the repressive approaches that helped fuel radicalization in the past, and we’re trying to help them develop strategies grounded in the rule of law and human rights,” she said.