Over the past couple of months, AFJN staffer, Phil Reed, has been working with other DC based Africa advocates to engage the 2008 presidential candidates on African issues. Several meetings have been held, chaired by Greg Simpkins of the Leon Sullivan Foundation, to reflect on the best ways to compel the candidates to think about their eventual Africa policy. Some of the groups around the table include the International Rescue Committee, the US Institute for Peace, the Africa Society, Save Darfur, Constituency for Africa and many more.

The plan is to hold a Presidential Forum in the month of October 2007, inviting the candidates to an evening dedicated to Africa policy. At this point, a questionnaire with ten rather substantive and detailed questions is being drafted by the group. When the questionnaire is finalized it will be sent to all the presidential candidates that are registered with the Federal Elections Commission. They will be asked to respond to the questions by the end of August. The questionnaire will be posted on the AFJN website as soon as it is ready.

The working group will study the answers of the candidates and then publicize those answers, but without taking a stand or endorsing any particular candidate. The Forum, to be held in Washington, will be a chance for the candidates to elaborate even more on their answers and to respond to further questions to be asked by the audience members.

The questionnaire could act as a guide for AFJN members across the country to engage the candidates as they travel about over the next few months. If we can make sure that, in their meetings with voters, they are always asked a question about their Africa policy and attitudes, then perhaps we can eventually see more positive attention paid to the many issues that have their roots in US policy and that cause difficulty for the people of Africa. Keep checking the AFJN website for the questions, and eventually the answers, of the candidates.

All of the candidates are being questioned in multiple venues and forums. Recently in DC, Phil Reed attended the Sojourners event in which three major Democratic candidates were asked how their faith influenced their politics. In that discussion, issues close to AFJN’s heart such as Darfur, HIV/AIDS and poverty were necessarily voiced. Let’s keep them thinking, talking and eventually acting