Well good morning everyone, and I want to start by welcoming the minister here. I had a wonderful visit to Nigeria a year ago this month and have stayed in close touch with my counterparts there and have been delighted by the creation and operation of our Binational Commission. And this is another example of our close cooperation and partnership.
Before I begin on what I’d like to say about Nigeria, I’d like to offer a few comments about Kenya. Yesterday we watched with great interest as Kenyans went to the polls to cast their votes on a new constitution. This was the first time that Kenyans have participated in a national poll since the violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election. Constitutional reform is the centerpiece of the reform agenda that Kenya has adopted for itself. It is aimed at addressing the underlying causes of violence, and I commend the people of Kenya for participating in large numbers and exercising their right to vote in a peaceful manner.
While the final results are not in, it appears that about two-thirds of Kenyans have voted in favor of their new constitution. This is an indication that a very strong majority of Kenyans have voted for fundamental change. And we were supporters of both sides of the constitutional debate and, in fact, we urge all Kenyans to reach out to each other, to work together after this referendum to support Kenya’s democratic institutions and to move the country forward into the kind of future that Kenyans themselves deserve. And they can rest assured that the United States will continue to be a friend and partner to help build that future.
Now, the foreign minister comes here from Nigeria during a week of meetings and gatherings, starting in Washington and now having gone on to Kansas City. Devoted to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, we are working to expand our business and trade links. We are listening and learning from African leaders, and we welcome this opportunity to build upon one of our most important bilateral relationships.
Today, the foreign minister and I had a very productive meeting. Nigeria is a key strategic partner, not only in Africa but globally. It is Africa’s most populous nation, its largest democracy, a significant contributor to peacekeeping efforts across the continent, a crucial partner for economic growth, trade and direct investment with the United States. About one million Nigerians live, study, and work in the United States, providing important people-to-people connections. So today I want to reaffirm how much we value our relationship with Nigeria and how much we both, I believe, can benefit from closer cooperation.
When I visited Nigeria last year, I saw firsthand the strength and determination of the Nigerian people, their absolute commitment to achieving a stable and democratic future even amidst a lot of challenges. We were saddened by the illness and passing of their president earlier this year, but encouraged by the timely and peaceful succession of President Jonathan. The Nigerian people deserve a responsible government that rejects corruption, enforces the rule of law, respects human rights, and works on behalf of the betterment of the Nigerian people. That is the driving principle behind the U.S.-Nigerian Binational Commission. We are focusing on four critical areas: good governance and transparency, energy reform and investment, regional security and the Niger Delta, and food security and agriculture.
The group on good governance, transparency, and integrity has already begun working together in preparation for Nigeria’s upcoming 2011 elections.
The United States and United Kingdom are jointly committed to working with civil society groups on voter education and election monitoring, and Under Secretary Maria Otero will return to Nigeria at the end of this month to follow-up on election preparations with the Independent National Election Commission.
In June, the energy and investment working group also met to discuss electricity generation and managing Nigeria’s energy resources, including gas, oil, and renewables. Revenue from Nigeria’s oil reserves should be used to promote sustainable, broad-based prosperity for all Nigerians. And today I was very pleased to inform the foreign minister that the United States will provide $1.5 million in technical support to help meet Nigeria’s power sector priorities.
And today I am pleased to announce the next step in our Binational Commission focusing on our third priority.
So this September, the Niger Delta and regional security working group will convene here in Washington to discuss ways to resolve the grievances of people living in the Niger Delta and strengthen our coordination on regional security issues, which the minister and I discussed, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea. Strong institutions and sound strategies for economic development, infrastructure, environmental protection, and the delivery of social services are necessary for progress in the Niger Delta.
So we are making a lot of progress together, and we’ll continue to work with Nigeria. Nigeria will be celebrating 50 years of independence October 1st
. And we applaud the Nigerian people for all that you have accomplished during the past 50 years. We want to work with you to build on the success so that it becomes even more of a success story. And thank you again, Minister, for your leadership and your partnership on these important matters.FOREIGN MINISTER AJUMOGOBIA:
Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. And I’m really delighted to be here, and I want to thank you for a very warm reception and for the partnership. The Binational Commission is an important landmark for us in Nigeria in terms of the relationship between Nigeria and the United States. It, I think, will elevate and deepen the relationship our two countries have.
I have come with a message of open optimism from Nigeria. We are – we have a new government that’s stable, and I think I should also acknowledge the role the United States played in bringing about that stability and President Jonathan. And he has committed to what you described about Kenya. That’s what we want for ourselves in Nigeria, free and fair elections in which every vote counts. And the president has committed to this and has taken steps to demonstrate that commitment.
We have a new electoral law; the Electoral Law 2010 that’s been passed that provides a new framework that will support free and fair elections in Nigeria. We have a new electoral commission headed by a man of integrity. It’s very unusual to find one individual that no one criticizes. But we managed to do that with Professor Jega who is the new chairman of the – our new independent electoral commission.
We’re on course for the new time table for the elections. That suggests that the elections will take place sometime in January, 2011. It’s a tight time frame and a lot has to be done in that time. But we are on course and I will say again on behalf of our president that we will meet the benchmarks – global benchmarks for credible elections.
The other issue we talked about, the Niger Delta, which is – I happen to come from that region. And so I’m particularly interested in ensuring peace and security and prosperity in the region that produces the commodity that has sustained Nigeria’s economy for 50 years.
I look forward to the meeting in Washington in June. I hope to be able to look in on that meeting and hope that we can make as much progress in that area as we have done with the other meetings on good governance, transparency, integrity, and energy and investment. I hope that our partnership will endure and that we will be able to build on what we have. The elections, of course, are an important milestone and I want to assure you all that we’re committed to ensuring free and fair elections.
Thank you.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you, Minister. (Applause.)MR. CROWLEY:
We have time for questioning (inaudible). QUESTION:
Thank you, Madam Secretary. I want to ask you about two stories that are in the news this week. The first on is UAE. They’ve announced recently that they’re considering banning all Blackberry service. And since then, several other countries have followed suit. It seems like it’s starting to snowball. You’ve spoken out quite a bit about advancing technology, about freedom of information. What’s your reaction to this and are you engaging your counterparts on this?
And then one other story that’s also big this week is the anniversary of Hiroshima. The U.S. is sending a delegation there – an official delegation for the first time. Why now? What’s the significance of this year if you just could talk a little bit about that? SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, we have been in touch with our partners in the UAE on this matter. It involves a very complex set of issues that we’re working on with other countries as well. We are taking time to consult and analyze the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern, but there’s also a legitimate right of free use and access. So I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go forward.
With respect to Hiroshima and anniversary of the atomic bomb, this President, President Obama, is very committed to working toward a world without nuclear weapons. He has said many times that he recognizes this is a long-term goal. It is something that will take years of effort by leaders and citizens who recognize the importance of denuclearizing our planet. It’s one of the reasons why we pursued the outcome that we reached with the START Treaty, why we worked hard on the nonproliferation treaty review conference at the United Nations, why in general this is an issue in our foreign policy. And I think that the Obama Administration and President Obama himself believed that it would be appropriate for us to recognize this anniversary and so has proceeded to do so.MR. CROWLEY:
(Inaudible) from Nigeria TV.SECRETARY CLINTON:
My question is focused on Nigeria’s democracy. And it’s obvious that the leadership desires to have a sustained democracy in Nigeria. But I want to know in what areas the United States really wants to assist Nigeria to make sure that it’s credible and sustained. I’m worried about a sustained democracy in Nigeria. In what area will the United States assist?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, as the minister and I discussed, the United States has offered assistance and we stand ready to be of help in any way that is appropriate. We’re working with the United Kingdom on some of the preparations for the elections. But ultimately, we recognize that the sustainability of democracy lies in the hands of the Nigerian people.
I am very optimistic about Nigeria’s future. I think Nigeria has a tremendous potential. But I do believe over the last 50 years – 30 of which, as the minister reminded me, were under military rule – has undermined the progress that the Nigerian people are capable of making for themselves.
So the appointment of the new election commission, the appointment of a well-respected chair, the steps that he and the commission are taking, the commitment by President Jonathan to a free, fair, credible election, all of those are very important commitments and we’re going to stand ready to assist in any way that we can. Because we want for Nigeria what you have described – a sustainable democracy, elections that are free, fair, and credible, and then strong democratic institutions.FOREIGN MINISTER AJUMOGOBIA:
And if I might add to that, I see elections in Nigeria, free and fair elections in Nigeria, are in Nigeria’s own interest. The commitment is not because the United States has asked us to do this, but because it’s in our own interest to do so. We welcome whatever support in terms of training, training support for those who ad hoc (inaudible) personnel who are going to be conducting elections. We welcome support in logistics. It’s a large country. The United States is a large country, there’s a lot of experience that you have in conducting elections over a very long period. We haven’t had that tradition for much of our – much of the last 50 years.
But I see this in the context of a condition precedent, if you like, for us to deepen the relationships we have with the United States. And so we will do what we have to do to ensure that we are respected and that our processes are respected, and so that our leadership is respected.SECRETARY CLINTON:
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.