WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing on United States interests in Africa:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling this hearing.
“As you mentioned, I’m guessing this will be the final hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the 115th Congress, and, Mr. Chairman, your final hearing as chairman, Ed. So this is a fitting subject to focus on, because there’s not a member of this body who has done more than you when it comes to American engagement across the African continent.
“Legislation to expand access to reliable electricity, to provide better sources of food and nutrition, to crack down on wildlife trafficking and the criminal networks responsible for it, to help foster growth, development, and stability. Bill after bill after bill passed through this Committee and the Congress are now law thanks to leadership and vision of Chairman Ed Royce.
“And the Committee’s work on Africa has looked like the vast majority of the work this Committee has done under Ed’s chairmanship. It’s been thoughtful. It’s been bipartisan. It’s reflected the commitment of this committee’s members to push legislation that advances American interests and values, leaving politics aside.
“Ed: let me just thank you for the way you’ve run this committee. If I’m elected chairman by the Democratic caucus, it’s my full intention to handle things with the same sort of fairness and collegiality that you have.
“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you for being our colleague, thank you for being our friend, and we have made the lives of countless people better because of your hard efforts. We always say that the Foreign Affairs Committee is the most bipartisan committee in Congress, and we always say partisanship should stop at the water’s edge, and that’s what you and I have tried to do. It’s been a pleasure working next to you and working with you. Thank you.
“Turning to today’s hearing, I want to welcome our witnesses. It’s been rare in the last few years that we’ve had administration officials before the committee, so we hope this begins a new trend, so we’re glad to see you. We’ve seen a number of promising developments in Africa lately.
“In Senegal, a new Millennium Challenge Corporation compact worth more than half a billion dollars will help meet the growing demand for reliable electricity in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. In Ethiopia, after months of protests and a violent, destabilizing crackdown, a prime minister committed to reform has risen to power. We need to help sustain the momentum of the country’s positive trajectory. Nigeria’s elections planned for February of next year will be massively consequential. The progress Nigeria has made demonstrates the importance of continued American support for Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission and other organizations like it.
“At the same time, we’re keeping an eye on some seriously troubling trends when it comes to human rights: in Uganda, the arrests and torture of opposition politicians, even as that country receives massive American counterterrorism assistance; in Tanzania, crackdowns on free speech and press along with threats to the LGBTQ community; Cameroon’s long-time leader, just elected to a seventh term, continues to cling to power in the face of a growing insurgency; and Zimbabwe, where July’s elections were marred by fraud and intimidation and where the government has shown little interest in enacting desperately needed reforms.
“So there are plenty of areas that demand our continued focus. And I think that we need to work hard to make sure that these things are taken care of.
“After the Nigerian Army massacred 40 unarmed civilians, they tweeted a clip of the President suggesting our own military use lethal force against asylum seekers on our southern border. In August, the President tweeted a white nationalist conspiracy theory that offended our partners in South Africa—a country to which he has nominated an ambassador. And in January, the President referred to African countries in general using a term I won’t repeat here.
“So these words send a troubling message. But our country’s actions are even more important. That’s why I am opposed to the Administration trying to slash funding for global health efforts.
“The ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC’s North Kivu province is the second largest in history. And the region is so unstable that we’ve had to withdraw CDC personnel from the area. This crisis underscores why strong funding for global health is so critical. We want countries to be able to stop epidemics quickly and effectively—hopefully before they start—and definitely before they reach our shores. So we can’t go along with fewer resources, and it troubles me that the Administration seems to be pushing in that direction.
“And broadly speaking, we should not have a foreign policy of withdrawal and isolation, because we leave a void that our adversaries are only too happy to fill. Africa is a prime example. If we fail to stay engaged, there is no doubt that China and Russia will swoop in and exert influence. In my view, we simply can’t let that happen.
“So I’m eager to hear from our witnesses about how we’re going to advance American interests and values in this critical region.
“Mr. Chairman, I thank you again. And I want to point out the wonderful work that Karen Bass and Chris Smith have done in order to get to the point where we’re really making a difference in people’s lives. So thank you again, I yield back.”