Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. Today we have for you Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Johnnie Carson. He’s going to speak to you about Secretary Clinton’s upcoming trip to Africa. He’s – Assistant Secretary is going to make some brief remarks and then take your questions. But before asking your questions, if you could just identify yourselves and your news organization, we would greatly appreciate it. So I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Carson. AMBASSADOR CARSON:
Robert, thank you very much. A pleasure to be here with you this afternoon to talk to you a little bit about Secretary Clinton’s forthcoming trip to Africa. Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde, starting on August 4 and returning to the United States on August 14. The trip will start at the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, known mostly as the AGOA Forum, in Nairobi, Kenya, where she will deliver a speech at the ministerial opening ceremony of the forum on August the 5th.
The Secretary’s trip comes just three weeks after President Obama’s successful trip to Accra, Ghana, and will highlight and underscore the Obama Administration’s commitment to making Africa a priority in U.S. foreign policy. This is the earliest trip by the Secretary of State and the President to Africa of any previous administration.
The Secretary will underline America’s commitment to partner with governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and private citizens to build societies where each individual can realize their full potential. The Secretary’s trip follows the themes laid out by President Obama during his visit to Ghana: supporting strong and sustainable democratic governments; promoting sustainable economic development; strengthening public health and education; assisting in the prevention, litigation, and resolution of conflicts around Africa.
The United States wants to partner with African leaders to advance the President’s vision which is also a vision shared by many African leaders as well.
Secretary Clinton will stress also the importance of facilitating social and economic entrepreneurship, encouraging a new generation of young African scientists, small business leaders, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders who are trying to seek real solutions to Africa’s challenging problems. The Secretary will also discuss ways to foster good, regional governance, partnering with regional leaders to ban together to prevent conflict and violence, including gender-based violence, democratic erosions, and transnational threats that challenge Africa. The Secretary will also meet with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the President of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government. That meeting will occur in Nairobi, Kenya.
Let me say briefly a little bit about the seven countries and the Secretary’s schedule in those countries. In Kenya, as I mentioned, she will be attending the AGOA Forum, speaking at the ministerial opening ceremony. She also intends while she is in Kenya to meet with President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga. She will encourage both of those leaders to move forward with their efforts to rewrite the country’s constitution and to prevent a return to the kind of violence that erupted in that country in January and February of 2007 following the very difficult and flawed presidential elections there.
From Kenya, the Secretary will move on to South Africa, where she will have an opportunity to meet the leadership of South Africa’s new government. She will meet with President Jacob Zuma, and she will also meet with South Africa’s new foreign minister, Ambassador Mashabane. This will give us an opportunity to talk with South African leaders about issues such as Zimbabwe and HIV/AIDS. The United States and South Africa have much in common. The Secretary will use this to strengthen an important relationship in South Africa with a country which is the engine of that region’s growth.
From South Africa, the Secretary will move on to Angola. Angola is one of the largest energy producers in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a major supplier of both petroleum and LNG to the U.S. market. The Secretary will meet with President Dos Santos, and she will also renew her acquaintance with the Angolan foreign minister with whom she met here in Washington approximately a month ago. It is the desire to strengthen that relationship with one of Southern Africa’s emerging countries, a country which has enormous economic potential.
From Angola, the Secretary will move on to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the Congo, she will have two stops. She will go to Kinshasa first and then will proceed the next day to Goma in the eastern region. She intends to meet with President Kabila and the Congolese foreign minister. During that stop, the Secretary wants to put a great deal of focus on the issue of sexual- and gender-based violence which is occurring in the eastern Congo.
As many of you know, the eastern Congo has been torn by civil strife, a great deal of conflict since 1994, 1995, largely as a result of the movement of ex-genocidaires from Rwanda into the eastern Congo. The Secretary is deeply concerned about the gender-based violence, which is occurring in the eastern Congo, will underscore America’s commitment to try to end this gender-based violence, and will meet with some of the victims who have suffered from it.
We will also – the Secretary also intends to encourage and push the Congolese Government as well as MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force there, to take a much more aggressive stance against gender-based violence. The Secretary will also encourage the Congolese Government to continue its democratic progress, and will also encourage the government to take action against corruption and to improve its economic and fiscal management so that it can – its country’s resources can be used for development.
From the Congo, the Secretary will fly to Abuja, Nigeria. Nigeria is probably the most important country in Sub-Saharan Africa: 140 million people, 75 million of whom are Muslims. It is also a major source of petroleum imports for the United States. It provides approximately 8 percent of America’s petroleum and the largest supply of our (inaudible) sweet crude. Nigeria has also been a major contributor to stability and peacekeeping in West Africa.
The Secretary will discuss with the Nigerian Government a range of issues, including West African security, the need to continue to move forward in strengthening its democracy, dealing with corruption, and also promoting stronger economic development.
From Nigeria, the Secretary will move on to Liberia. Liberia is one of our historically most important relationships in Africa. The Secretary wants to reaffirm U.S. support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the only female African president. Liberia, before Johnson Sirleaf became president, had faced 20 years of intermittent and often very violent conflict. The Secretary wants to use this visit to show and demonstrate U.S. support for the democratic progress that has occurred in Liberia, support and reaffirm U.S. commitment to helping in the development assistance area, and in security sector reform.
And the final stop on the President’s trip will be in Cape Verde.QUESTION:
The President’s trip?AMBASSADOR CARSON:
Sorry, the Secretary’s trip.QUESTION:
Almost. (Laughter.)AMBASSADOR CARSON:
That may have been a Freudian slip. But the Secretary’s trip, she will end it in Cape Verde. Cape Verde is an African success story. It is a country which is democratically run, well managed, and a country which has used the economic assistance that it has received from the United States, including a large Millennium Challenge Account Grant, extraordinarily well. It will reaffirm our friendship with Cape Verde.
I’ll stop right there, no Freudian slips, and take a few questions.QUESTION:
Okay. Matt Lee with the Associated Press. I want to ask about the meeting with the Somali president in Nairobi and what the Administration’s thinking is right now as to how to deal with this. Ambassador Rice was on the Hill yesterday, had some very strong words for Eritrea and is warning Eritrea about, you know, the role that it’s playing in Somalia. But I’m just wondering what the thinking is right now on how to deal with this. Are you considering sending more ammunition and military supplies and providing more training to the Somalis?AMBASSADOR CARSON:
The United States strongly supports the Djibouti process, the Transitional Federal Government, and the government of Sheikh Sharif. We think that this government, which has the support of IGAD, which is a regional organization, as well as the AU, offers the best possible chance for restoring stability to southern Somalia, which has been troubled over the last 20 years by enormous violence and civil conflict.
We think that the problems in southern Somalia have started to bleed regionally and internationally. We see in neighboring Kenya to the south some 270,000 refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp, five to six thousand Somali refugees flowing across the border each month into Kenya, putting enormous stress on that country’s infrastructure and also a burden for the UN.
Largely, in the international arena, we’ve seen the emergence of piracy as a major issue, in large measure because of the continuing instability in Somalia. We think that the support for Sheikh Sharif and his government offers an opportunity to be able to restore some stability, fight against the Somali Islamic extremists of al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the two groups that are working against them.
Yes, we are prepared to provide additional assistance to the TFG government. Yes, we are prepared to continue to support AMISOM, which has Ugandan and Burundian troops on the ground. And yes, we are prepared to work with the IGAD states and the AU in finding solutions to the problem of Somalia. And yes, we believe that the Eritrean Government has not played a positive role in helping to resolve the problem. Somalia is a place where they have been spoilers. We would hope that they would cease and desist their support for al-Shabaab, that they would not allow their country to be used as a safe haven or a conduit or vehicle for moving people, munitions, or money into the hands of extremists in Somalia.
They have an opportunity to play a positive role in the region. We would hope that they would do so. I think Ambassador Rice made our position quite clear. Time is running out on Eritrea. This is not just an opinion of the United States, this is an opinion of IGAD, this is an opinion of the African Union.QUESTION:
In terms of specifics and aid, do you expect anything new to be announced in terms of – AMBASSADOR CARSON:
I do not think so. This meeting between the Secretary and Sheikh Sharif will give the Secretary her first opportunity to meet with President Sharif, and we’ll – hopefully, we will get an opportunity to hear from him how he sees the situation on the ground.QUESTION:
Sue Pleming from Reuters. You said that part of the reasoning behind the Secretary and the President going so soon to Africa was to show Africa as a – you know, a key foreign policy priority. How are you going to be able to do that when the Obama Administration has so many other foreign policy priorities; for example, it’s dealing with Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, Middle East, Iran, and North Korea? What do you plan to do to make it a foreign policy priority? Are you going to look more to investment? The African continent as a whole is quite cynical in many ways about, you know, the U.S. making promises and not coming through with them. AMBASSADOR CARSON:
The Administration is committed to Africa. The Administration is capable of handling multiple foreign policy issues at one time. I think that you will see it demonstrated not only in the presence of senior U.S. officials who visit the continent, I think you will see it unfold in terms of support for old initiatives that remain valid, but also new initiatives that the Administration is committed to pushing forward. One of these initiatives which is starting to take place is in the area of food security. The Administration has made that a high priority. The Secretary has made it a high priority. She will talk about it a great deal in Africa, in Kenya, and a number of the other stops. The President has spoken about the need to help Africa deal with its agricultural crisis and concerns. It was a focus of the President’s main initiative at the G-20 meeting in L’Aquila approximately three weeks ago. And we all know that agriculture remains a centerpiece in Africa’s economic fabric. Some 70 percent of all African households depend either primarily or secondarily on agriculture as a source of their livelihood. It is an issue that deserves attention, especially in light of the fact that the green revolution, which has helped to transform much of Asia and Latin America over the last 20 or 30 years, has not yet reached Africa.
This initiative is aimed at helping Africa meet its food crisis and challenges, as well as helping to stimulate greater agriculture productivity and agro business. The Administration can handle multiple foreign policy issues, and is determined to do so. Six months into the new Administration, it has gotten off to a faster start than any previous administration with respect to its focus and interest on Africa, dealing with the challenges, and hoping to work with African states to open up the opportunities for greater economic progress and development.MR. WOOD:
Folks, we have time – we only have time for one more question. We have to get Assistant Secretary Carson to another meeting. Just a quick one. AMBASSADOR CARSON:
Okay, go – one, please.QUESTION:
You talked for 20 minutes. We got to – there’s a lot – there’s seven countries.QUESTION:
There’s so many countries. QUESTION:
Oh yeah, it’s an 11-day trip and seven countries. I don’t think we can -- MR. WOOD:
We’ll have plenty of time to talk about that. AMBASSADOR CARSON:
And I hope that many of you will be joining the Secretary on her trip. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Can I ask about the -- AMBASSADOR CARSON:
That’s perfectly, perfectly all right. I have nothing against the press, just don’t like to be quoted by it.
Yes. Yes, sir.QUESTION:
Just – I’ll keep it brief. Sean Tannen with AFP. I was wondering if, on Zimbabwe, how much that’ll factor into the trip, the (inaudible) talks with the South Africans and with other nations. Could the trip be a moment to actually have any sort of new initiative on Zimbabwe, either – the Obama Administration has reached out in many parts of the world, say, Cuba, Iran. Could this be a time to reach out and try something new, or could this be a continuation of policies trying to further isolate the Mugabe government? AMBASSADOR CARSON:
The Secretary certainly intends to talk about Zimbabwe with the leadership in South Africa. We’ll seek their views on how they see the situation evolving, encourage the South Africa as a primary leader in SADC to continue to press the government of Robert Mugabe to fully implement the global political agreement that he signed with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. And we will also seek to work with South Africa and the regional states to ensure that the GPA is fully implemented, and that that country is able to return to democratic rule and its people allowed to have some opportunity for economic progress.
We have tried to reach out to the Zimbabwean Government. In the past three weeks, I myself have met with the vice president of Zimbabwe. I’ve also met with President Robert Mugabe – I think the first time that a senior U.S. official has done so in many years – again trying to encourage reform, progress, commitment to the GPA, improved human rights. And we will continue to do so. My meeting was a little bit difficult, but we continue to try to make progress. QUESTION:
Sorry, just --AMBASSADOR CARSON:
Janine Zacharia with Bloomberg. Just really quickly on the oil countries that you’re going to, can you be a little bit more specific about what she’ll be looking for in Nigeria and Angola besides reforms? I mean, obviously, Nigeria’s election was a disaster. I mean, what specifically does she want from those energy-producing countries? And if you could address the China – potential rivalry there in those countries as well, if that’s spurring her to go there?AMBASSADOR CARSON:
No. The Secretary is going there because we have serious political, economic and hydrocarbon interest in those countries.
In Nigeria, U.S. oil companies play a significant role, both in investment and production. U.S. investment in Nigeria in the oil production and service industry is well in excess of $15 billion. We are one of the leading purchasers of South African – sorry, of Nigerian oil. And we think that it’s important to discuss with Nigeria a range of issues. We are concerned about having a good energy relationship with them. We’re interested in seeing them continue to play a positive regional role, including providing peacekeepers to key conflict areas. We also believe it is also important for them to deal with some of their domestic issues. We’d like to see greater improvement in their electoral performance and strengthen – which will help to strengthen their democracy.
We’d also like them to address issues of corruption and transparency. When there is an absence of transparency and when there is a great deal of corruption, it makes the business environment extremely difficult. I think it was a point that the President made in his speech to the parliament in Accra, Ghana. If in fact you have democratic governance, respect rule of law, it is easier to draw in investment and business opportunities because people are certain and assured that they will be treated fairly. These are all issues – the range of issues were there.
The Secretary is going because we have interest in working with Angola and Nigeria in strengthening our relationship with two major countries, oil-producing countries on the continent, working with them on issues in the global environment and the community that are important to them as well as us. Our presence there has nothing to do with anyone else’s operations on the continent. The mention of our colleagues from Asia is a Cold War paradigm, not a reflection of where we are today. QUESTION:
The Chinese are not putting as much pressure on those countries in terms of governance. They are not being – not lecturing the Africans as much as, say, – or that’s the view of some people – as the U.S. is. So – AMBASSADOR CARSON:
I hope the United State is not lecturing anyone, but in effect, having diplomatic discussions and dialogues, respectful and those that are mutually beneficial and important for the United States and the countries that we deal with. I think it’s important to respect African governments and leaders, to work with them to resolve problems and challenges that they have, and to engage and be able to engage on these issues. We have and should encourage countries, wherever they are, to do the same thing. If countries are not paying attention to human rights issues of child soldiers, bad governance, mismanagement, we need to talk to those governments about encouraging them to do the right thing, which is not only right for them, but also the countries that they deal with. MR. WOOD:
Okay. Thank you all very much.