SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. I’ve just come from a productive, good meeting with President Kabila and Foreign Minister Tshibanda. We spoke candidly about the enormous opportunities and the challenges that are faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we spoke very candidly also about the ways in which we can make progress going forward. I congratulated the president on the accomplishments that he and his government have achieved, together with the work of MONUSCO, but we also talked about the steps that now need to be taken to provide further stability; increased, broader democracy; greater justice; and a greater amount of economic development for the Congolese people.
The president expressed his vision and his commitment to each of these efforts, and I think it’s fair to say that he leaned forward on his commitment to make sure that the accords – the Kampala accords as well as the peace and security agreement are well implemented over the course of the days ahead.
The suffering in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo really continues to trouble all of us. The eastern D.R.C. has been the scene of some of the most horrific crimes of violence against women and girls that are imaginable. And it’s a powerful reminder of the obligations that we all face, that we all share with respect to not only ending the killing and the fear, but in order to work for the birth of a new generation of stability and of hope.
Achieving a lasting peace in the D.R.C. is a priority of President Obama and a priority of mine. And that is why we appointed a close colleague of mine from the Senate for 18 years, Senator Russ Feingold, who is here with us today, as the United States Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Russ brings enormous intellect, passion, commitment to this issue. And already, he has been able to have an impact on the ground. He has been working with the UN Representative Mary Robinson, with the leaders in the region, and we are very pleased that the Nairobi Declarations were achieved, as well as a reduction in violence.
But he would be the first to say that we have further steps to take in order to complete this task, and we all understand what they are. The efforts to disarm, to demobilize, to reintegrate – these are the priorities of the moment. I want to commend the Congolese military and MONUSCO for defeating the M23 and for taking the fight to the Allied Democratic Forces – the ADF, as we know them – and many other Congolese armed groups. The United States welcomes the Kabila government’s commitment to focus on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, and we discussed with President Kabila the steps that need to be taken with respect to that.
But I need to be clear: Military force alone will not deliver stability to the D.R.C. Lasting peace will not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It will come from restoring state authority and state services, and providing the capacity building that is necessary in those areas that have been recaptured from armed groups. It will also come from demobilizing the combatants and returning them to civilian life. I welcome the government’s initial efforts on this front, and we look forward to working with them as we continue programs that will advance that initiative.
The United States also strongly supports the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework peace process. Now I can’t emphasize enough how important that process is in identifying and resolving the root causes of the conflict in the D.R.C. as well as in the entire Great Lakes region. It’s imperative that all of the signatories fully implement their commitments and support the ongoing broader process of bringing peace to the region. Peace cannot be delayed or deferred or denied, and I think the people of Congo – of the Democratic Republic of Congo made that clear.
It is not enough just to focus on the military side of this equation, and it’s not enough to focus only on the political stability or economic development side of it. We need to work on all of these at the same time, and we need to keep the pressure on the FDLR and the other armed groups. We need to support the parties as they try to implement the framework agreement. So we must provide partnership and leadership as we urge all of the parties to come together to create a political solution.
And that means free, fair, timely, and transparent elections. I encouraged President Kabila to work with his government and the parliament in order to complete the election calendar and the budget. And they need to do so in accordance with the constitution. The United States is committed to supporting the Congolese people, the government, and other donors as they work towards decisions that are credible, timely, and consistent with the current constitution. And obviously, it is very clear that the dates and the process need to be set and fully defined, and the sooner, the better.
As a sign of our commitment, I am pleased to announce that $30 million will be immediately made available from the United States in additional funding in order to support transparent and credible elections as well as recovery and reconstruction programs in the eastern D.R.C. This contribution comes on top of already substantial U.S. assistance for economic development for the Congolese people. USAID plans to invest $1.2 billion over the next five years in the D.R.C., focusing on improving political and economic governance and on promoting social development. Our programs will strengthen Congolese institutions and improve their ability to respond to the peoples’ needs, and that includes the delivery of critical healthcare and education services.
I also spoke with President Kabila about another issue which has been a concern of late, and that is the question of adoption for families in the United States and friends of mine in the Senate who know that there is important, required attention to this question of international adoption. Here in the D.R.C. since 2009, the number of American families able to provide a house to children who have lost their parents has grown each year. And today, I urged President Kabila to move as rapidly as possible in the review of the situation that raised some concerns, and also to lift the new freeze on international adoption from the D.R.C. We want to enable Congolese children, who seek to, to be able to be matched with parents abroad who are eager to provide them with a secure and happy future. And as someone – I have seen this firsthand. My sister has adopted a young child from China. I know how positive and important this can be for everybody concerned, and I think it’s an issue that’s important to all of us as a matter of basic human decency.
And we have to admit, all of us, we can have no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. But even as we look down a complicated road, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a place of enormous potential. Its people provide enormous potential. And the people of Congo want a better future. The fact is that together, we have an ability to be able to work to support the people of the Congo, to build a more secure and prosperous future, which is a responsibility that belongs to all of us.
I can guarantee you that the United States, through the immediate efforts of our ambassador on the ground, our embassy, and particularly our special envoy, we will continue to work in every way that we know how to be a good partner in this effort, and we look forward to working with the people of Congo in that in furtherance of that objective.
So I’d be delighted to answer a couple of questions if there are a few.
MS. PSAKI: Great. The first question will be from Mimie Engumb from Radio Oakpi.
QUESTION: (In French.)
SECRETARY KERRY: (In French.)
QUESTION: (In French.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think I just mentioned it, to be honest with you. There will be elections in many countries in Africa over the course of the next year or so. I think there are 15 presidential elections and some 37 elections in countries in Africa. And so every election is really critical and important, and it is important for the people to be able to know what the process is, to have confidence in that process.
And the United States position is very clear: We believe that the elections need to be free, fair, open, transparent, accountable; and the sooner the process is announced, the sooner that the date is set, the sooner people have an ability to be able to participate; and we believe that it ought to be done in keeping with the constitutional process of the country.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Nicolas Revise from AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. You just announced your financial support for D.R.C. for its demobilization plan, but is there some conditions to this support? What are specifically these conditions? Did you ask specifically to President Kabila to give this green light to go after the FDLR still active in eastern Congo? And politically, is the U.S. support tied to the respect of the constitution? So did you ask specifically to President Kabila not to change the constitution and not to run for a third term? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me discuss all of that. But first of all, with respect to the conditions, obviously the demobilization is taking place in accordance with the agreement. And that agreement requires people to go back to their homes, where possible, where they sign, appropriately, an amnesty for those who qualify. And I think for those who don’t, it is clear that there remains – that is, people who may have been engaged in crimes against humanity, war crimes – those people remain liable for that. But others who sign the agreement and sign the amnesty are committed to and encouraged, obviously must return to their homes. That’s an important part of this demobilization effort.
With respect to the election process, the constitution, and the FDLR, we want to see the process of providing stability and completing the task of disarming the armed groups in the east completed. So that includes not just the completion of the efforts with the ADF, but also obviously, indeed making sure that the FDLR is held accountable and that the initiative with respect to them will commence.
The president – we did discuss it. The president made it clear that he intends to do that, and I think that there is a schedule. I don’t want to discuss it because I think it would be inappropriate to do so. But the answer is the president gave his word that that is not just on the agenda, but that he has a specific process in mind and timing.
And with respect to the constitutional process, we talked about the election. I believe the president’s legacy is a legacy that is very important for the country, and that he has an opportunity, which he understands, to be able to put the country on a continued path of democracy. And I believe it is clear to him that the United States of America feels very strongly, as do other people, that the constitutional process needs to be respected and adhered to. That’s how you strengthen a country.
I have no doubt that President Kabila’s legacy will be defined by the progress he has made in the – particularly the last year in addressing the security issues of the east, the economic issues of the country. And he’s a young man with an enormous amount of time to be able to continue to contribute to his country. And I’m quite confident that he will weigh all of those issues as he makes a decision about the future.
But clearly, the United States of America believes that a country is strengthened, that people have respect for their nation and their government, when a constitutional process is properly implemented and upheld by that government. And we obviously believe – we’re a country with term limits. We live by them. We had several hundred years of transformation under that process, and we encourage other countries to adhere to their constitution.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.