An American president whose commitment to Africa has outlived his term

Former US President Jimmy Carter. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former US President Jimmy Carter’s desk (98) which has been languid for some time announce that he would no longer seek hospital treatment for his ailments. Instead, he chose to take care of the elderly in his humble home in a rural farming village Plains, Georgianear the place of his birth.

His opposition to racism and support for human rights are legendary, and all the more compelling is his lifelong commitment to living among rural Georgians where segregation was severe and discrimination is still prevalent today. This enduring commitment to non-racism and human rights at home also shaped his interest and involvement in Africa.

We discussed African affairs a lot during the nine years (2006-2015) when I was director of the Carter Center. peace programmes. My frequent trips to Africa for the center were to lead election observation missions, in which he took a keen interest.

His views on Africa can be evaluated from three angles:

  • Africa policies pursued during his presidency 1977-1981

  • Programs in Africa with the Carter Center when he was its Leader, 1982-2015

  • His moral determination is at the expense of racism.

Africa politics

in her book Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race and the Cold War Nancy Mitchell, professor of history at North Carolina State University, analyzes in 900 pages how Carter’s leadership and core values, discussed in Section III, influenced his approach to southern Africa. But Michel reminds us that in the 1970s Africa was the hottest theater in the Cold War.

However, the book’s subtitle highlights a major shift of focus skillfully made by Carter and the key to his success in helping to liberate Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) by dealing with all sides, even the “Communists”, respect. Carter’s behind-the-scenes role in the 1979 support Lancaster House Conventionwhich led to Zimbabwe’s independence, was among his greatest diplomatic achievements.

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Several years later, a close adviser to Zimbabwe’s long-time leader Robert Mugabe told me that if Carter won a second term, he said he would raise American money to facilitate a key element of the peace deal, land reform based on a “willing seller, willing buyer.”

However, the election of Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 led to a very different American policy of “and constructive participationIn South Africa. It was widely seen among anti-apartheid groups in the United States and supposedly in Africa as helping relieve Carter-era pressure against white minority rule.

South Africa Carter’s top priority remained, as Mitchell notes:

Given their expertise, the Carter administration’s Africa specialists would have devoted their full attention to solving the problems of Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa. (p. 253)

Carter has told me many times that he spent more time pursuing peace in South Africa than he did in the Middle East, and having now read the declassified files in the center library, I agree with you.

after the presidency

Africa has captured the lion’s share of resources and energy since President and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter founded it center In partnership with Emory University 41 years ago, to work in poor nations, where colonialism and racism have curtailed growth, opportunity, and a sense of common humanity. In 2015, their grandson Jason Carter, who lived in South Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and speaks one of the country’s 11 official languages, Ezizulu, was elected president of the center.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter stand at the front of the Habitat for Humanity home in 2003 in LaGrange, Georgia.  Eric S. Lesser/Getty Images

Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter stand at the front of the Habitat for Humanity home in 2003 in LaGrange, Georgia. Eric S. Lesser/Getty Images

Africa remains a region Carter CenterIts largest and most enduring commitment, under its motivational motto “Wake Peace, Fight Disease, Build Hope”. According to the Financial report for 2021The Center’s annual fundraising campaign raises approximately $0 million annually. It now operates with a core staff in Atlanta of approximately 230 staff and field staff, mostly in Africa, of approximately 3,100. The center also has an endowment fund of over $1 billion.

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The Carter Center’s most important contributions to development have been in the field of: African public healthTo end, mitigate and prevent six diseases, among them malaria and river blindness.

democracy It is the largest peace program. Observing and supporting elections requires the most resources and personnel.

Carter’s moral compass

Carter’s motivations for Africa are deeply personal. A brief speech to celebrate the staff 90th birthday He revealed his own account with sweat at home. I think this may have been the impetus for his long involvement in Africa.

Having grown up in heavily isolated rural Georgia, he notes that his family was:

Completely surrounded by African American children, with whom I played and worked in the fields and hunted and fished in the woods. And I came to, eventually and slowly, come to know the difference between a privileged group and those around us who were not allowed to vote or serve on a jury or attend a decent school.

he added:

I think that, more than anything else, has shaped my life—partly because of the guilt I still feel for not realizing this disparity between us sooner. I have taken it for granted that if the Supreme Court, Congress, the American Bar Association, universities, and churches say it is good for white supremacists, then God is all right. And I believe that this experience was the most influential factor in shaping my life …

Carter, as I discovered, can be hard to work for. He holds himself and those around him to extremely high moral and ethical standards. As president, he kept the peace, told the truth, and obeyed the law. Carter also promised never to profit from the presidency—a pledge, from my observation, that he scrupulously kept.

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His record should remind all democrats, including those in Africa, to hold leaders accountable to similar standards. Because as announced during his work 2002 Nobel Peace Lecture:

The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the division of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the power to choose.

This article has been republished from Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. The Conversation is trustworthy news from the experts. Try our free newsletters.

written by: John J StremlowAnd University of the Witwatersrand.

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John J Stremlau does not work for, consult with, own stock, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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