MS. JENSEN: Hi. Welcome to LiveAtState, the State Department’s interactive web-chat platform for engaging international media. I’m your host, Holly Jensen, and I would like to welcome all of you joining us today. I would like to send a special shout-out to those of you joining us at our 20 watch parties in 18 countries hosted by our embassies and posts around the continent.
As you know, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield is here today. She will be discussing U.S. policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. But what you don’t know is she is joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has come by to say a few words about our U.S. policy and the importance of our relationship with Africa. He’s also graciously agreed to take one question before he departs. As you know, he’s a very, very busy man.
So Mr. Secretary, thank you for being the first ever Secretary of State to join us on LiveAtState.
SECRETARY KERRY: Wow. I didn’t realize that. I’m very excited by that. Thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Great.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, Holly. I’m very – I’m really happy to be here. And I’m very happy to be joining all of you. Thanks for being part of this incredible network of watch parties. And it’s my privilege to be here with our terrific Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is firefighting in lots of different places. She’s doing an incredible job of reaching out and trying to help us to end some conflicts where they exist and prevent them where they might be starting. And there are huge challenges.
But what is happening in Africa is so exciting overall. And we are really deeply engaged. And the President has instructed us to really try to light our fire under our efforts in – throughout the continent. When you look at it, and you think that over the course of the next 20, 30 years half the workforce or a quarter of the workforce of the world, I guess it is, is going to wind up coming from Africa, being in Africa. And 60 percent of the population under the age of 30 presents us not just with an enormous challenge, because we need to provide education, we need to provide opportunity, but it also provides us with the chance to really define the future. And that’s what we’re trying to do with our programs like Trade Africa, with our Power Africa initiative, with the Young African Leaders Initiative. All of these things are exciting. The President is very committed to trying to build on this through the African Summit that’s coming down the road.
I’d just say very quickly that I’ve been personally involved in the issues of the Central African Republic, where we are trying to build the capacity to deal with the violence. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we got Special Envoy Russ Feingold, who’s done a superb job working with Mary Robinson. We’ve been able to secure the framework agreement that recently came out of Kampala and that will now reduce the violence, we hope, with the disarming of M23 and hopefully create an agenda going forward around which we can develop and build capacity.
And then of course Sudan, South Sudan – an enormous challenge. We’ve been deeply engaged there. Again, we have a special envoy. We work with very, very hard. I’ve personally been on the telephone with President Kiir, with former Vice President Riek Machar, with the Ethiopians, with the Ugandans, and others in efforts to try to prevent the deterioration, which only impacts the people of the South Sudan. And we want to avoid going back to what was once the longest war in the history of Africa.
So there are many, many challenges. And I can just say to all of you on a personal level – I think many of you know – my wife was born in Mozambique, in what is now Maputo is where she lived, and she was educated in South Africa, in Johannesburg and Durban, actually. And I recall myself going back there with her and just visiting up in the mountains a school where we were engaged in trying to prevent AIDS and deal with people who had it. It was a very moving experience for me. We’ve made enormous progress, a huge reduction in the incidence of AIDS. We may be able to have the first generation of children born AIDS-free as a result of our efforts. There’s been a 40-fold increase in the provision of antiretroviral drugs.
So it’s an amazing story, and I think it’s a measure of the full engagement of the United States and all of us in trying to help Africa to define its own future in the way that it wants to, but to give the lift necessary to do that.
So my privilege to be here with Linda, and apologize that I can only stay for one question. But we have the French President Hollande visiting, and I need to go over to the White House for our meeting. So thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Great. The first question – and only question – comes from Latif Mukasa from Record TV. And he would like to know: “What is the U.S.’s interest in South Sudan? And what’s the way forward for peace to prevail?”
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the United States has always been interested in South Sudan, regardless of administration label, Republican or Democrat alike. Former Senator John Danforth spent a great deal of time, at President Bush’s designation, to help create the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the CPA. And I personally became engaged there because I was struck by the fact that so many people had died, maybe as many as 2 million people in what was Africa’s longest war.
Here we had a young nation that – or an aspiring nation at that time – that wanted its independence. That’s part of the American story. It’s something we respect, the democracy, the opportunity to be able to define your own future. And so we were very supportive of that. I personally visited. I was personally involved. I was there the day of the referendum. We feel invested.
We also feel deeply committed, given past lessons, to try to prevent the chaos and the genocide that too often comes of the violence that can occur if things break down. We all have an interest – and everybody has an interest – in not letting that happen.
So here we have this new nation that is already in extremis, and we helped give birth to it. We feel this is the part of our responsibility. And we don’t want this to cascade into a more violent repetition of the past. So that’s why we’re committed. We believe this is part of the defining of the future of Africa, and we will remain deeply committed and personally engaged in an effort to try to help the people of South Sudan define their own future in peace and prosperity, hopefully.
MS. JENSEN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
MS. JENSEN: I know you have to make your way out.
SECRETARY KERRY: I do have to run. I apologize. Have fun.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much for joining us.
SECRETARY KERRY: You’re going to have a great time.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. I don’t know how I can follow you, but thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Don’t forget to cut your mike off.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Take care. Thanks.
MS. JENSEN: Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks.
MS. JENSEN: As the Secretary makes his way out of the studio, I would just like to remind you, if you’d like to continue this conversation, you can do so by following the Secretary on his brand new Twitter account @JohnKerry using the hashtag #USAfrica.
And before I turn it over to Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield, I’d just like to remind you you can start asking your questions now in the lower left-hand portion of your screen, titled “Questions for State Department Official.” If you have any problems, you can always email your questions in to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get to as many of your questions as we can in the time we have.
So with that, I’ll turn it over to you, Assistant Secretary. Thank you so much. You are very, very popular.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much. I think my popularity has diminished, having the Secretary participate. I think I join all of the audience in thanking him for joining us today. The Secretary’s presence is an indication of how strong his interest is in Africa and on the African continent. So, again, I look forward to taking your questions and hearing what your concerns are.
MS. JENSEN: Our first question is from Horizon.news: “President Barack Obama has invited 47 African presidents for a high-level meeting next August in Washington. One, what kind of subjects will be discussed during that meeting, and two, what are the opportunities that await Sub-Saharan Africa for the remainder of President Obama’s term?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. That’s a great question to start with. The President did announce a couple weeks ago the heads of state summit that we will be hosting here in Washington in August of this year. We are in the process of consulting with our partners on the African continent to determine what issues they are interested in discussing during the summit.
I was in Addis last week for the AU summit and I also met with African ambassadors here in Washington prior to going out to Addis, and we have heard a number of issues come forward. Peace and security is high on their agenda and is likely to be one of the subjects on our agenda. We also heard an interest in talking about issues related to democracy in governance, and of course, it goes without saying that one of the issues that we intend to have on the agenda – and I think there’s a lot of excitement on the continent – is the Young African Leaders Initiative and how we deal with the youth bulge that is taking place on the African continent. I think it goes without saying, and you know as well, how significant the youth population is on the continent. I’ve seen figures as high as 60 percent of the population under the age of 25. So that’s going to be a topic for discussion that the President is excited to share with his counterparts on the continent.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Korka Bah: “During the AU summit in Addis, Ethiopian prime minister called for urgent action to avoid the further escalating of violence between Christians and Muslims in Central African Republic. What actions does the U.S. take to help Africa end this conflict that has led to a humanitarian crisis?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are deeply concerned about the situation in CAR. As you may have heard, I visited CAR with Ambassador Samantha Power back in December, and we were horrified by what we saw there in terms of the intensity of the hatred and the killings that are taking place. We met with government officials, we met with religious leaders, and we met with ordinary people to talk about how we might better address this issue.
We have committed to supporting the peacekeeping efforts that are taking place right now in the CAR. We particularly thank the French Government for their efforts and the troops that they have put on the ground. And we’re particularly grateful for the African troops that have been provided by the neighboring countries to help bring a level of security back to CAR. But ultimately, the security situation can only be addressed by the people of CAR themselves. And I use this opportunity to call upon the people of CAR to end the violence, to find a way forward to peace.
I spoke with the new interim president, Catherine Panza-Samba*, after she was selected. I encouraged her to move forward in preparing for elections to take place no later than February of 2015. We have provided more than $100 million in support to the peacekeeping effort. With this funding, we airlifted Rwandan and Burundian troops, we provided equipment and training, and we continue to support those efforts. We have in addition provided this year alone $45 million in humanitarian support and we will continue to support efforts until an ultimate solution is found for the situation in CAR.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from News Agency of Nigeria: “At the just-ended 22nd summit at the AU, President Mohamed Abdel Aziz of Mauritania was elected the new AU chairman. In what ways will the U.S. cooperate with the new chairman to address several ongoing crises on the continent?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have a long and abiding relationship with AU since the creation of the AU, and we actually have an ambassador to the AU, separate from our bilateral ambassador, to further that engagement. Last year we signed an MOU that lays out areas of cooperation that we hope to have with the AU in the future, and we’ve had high-level dialogues, and those will continue.
It is our hope, along with the AU leadership, that we can work together to build the capacity of the AU to respond to the crises that are occurring in Africa, but more importantly than that, we also want the AU to be a voice of reason on the continent as the AU looks to how Africa, with its immense resources, can contribute to the peace and prosperity of the people in the countries that are members of the AU.
MS. JENSEN: The next question is from Radio Victoire: “What is the contribution of the U.S. to the Gulf of Guinea countries, especially Togo, as far as the fight against maritime piracy is concerned?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are very strongly engaged with the Gulf of Guinea countries. And I met with the Togolese foreign minister last week, and that was one of the topics on his agenda. In fact, he talked about the successes that Togo has had in the Gulf of Guinea. And I noted to him that we are committed to supporting the efforts of Togo as well as all the other countries in the Gulf of Guinea to deal with issues of piracy, oil bunkering and oil theft, and also to help support and secure the oceans that surround the countries in the Gulf of Guinea.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from the Daily Monitor: “Does the United States Government support the unilateral deployment by Uganda of its troops into South Sudan to prop up President Kiir’s faltering government, or did Kampala officials consult with Washington as strong allies on regional security?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much for that question. And you know that that’s a very pressing question given the situation that’s taking place in South Sudan today. The – first, let me say that we’re – we were very, very pleased with the signing of the cessation of hostilities. It’s still a work in progress, and one of the elements of that cessation is that all troops from all countries that may be supporting either side pull their troops back to a defensive position.
The IGAD countries who had been supporting the negotiations supported Uganda’s decision as well as the request of the South Sudanese Government for Uganda to come in and provide security for the infrastructure, the important infrastructure such as the airport and the road between Uganda and Juba. And the Ugandans came in at the request of the government and with the support of the IGAD countries.
Now that a cessation of hostilities has been signed, we, along with others, call on Uganda as well as other governments to pull back so that we can move the peace process forward and give the people of South Sudan what they have fought for for more than 30 years. You heard what the Secretary said. We contributed to the efforts to build this new country. We’re vested in this country’s success. We want to see the people of South Sudan who voted for peace three years ago achieve that peace and move forward in prosperity.
MS. JENSEN: Alhassan Sylla of the BBC wants to know: “The American Government played a significant role in holding of both of the presidential elections in 2010 and parliamentary elections in 2013 in Guinea, a feat that now makes Guinea a democratic state. Has Guinea gained any new level in U.S. – has Guinea gained any new level in U.S.-Guinea relationships?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just say that democracy – free, fair, and transparent elections – are a high priority of the U.S. Government. And yes, we were very, very supportive of the efforts in Guinea to have free and fair elections in 2010 as well as in 2013.
Democracy is a process. It’s not an end-state. We all have worked every day to continue to improve our democracy, and we’re working with the Government of Guinea to move forward in progress as a democratic state. This is key to prosperity. It’s key to the success of this country, and it’s key to the future of the people of Guinea. So we will continue to support those efforts. I will note that there are 14 elections taking place on the continent of Africa this year alone, and we look forward to working with governments and working with people to ensure that those elections are free and fair and they represent what the people of these countries want to achieve. And Guinea is one example, Madagascar is another example. And Mali is a great example where elections have been achieved and we look forward to seeing the successes of these three countries be shared with the 14 other countries that will have elections in 2014.
MS. JENSEN: Wow. Kevin Kelley wants to know: “Why do you think so much violence is occurring now in Africa? South Sudan, CAR, East DRC, Somalia, Mali. Does this suggest that the Afro-optimism rests on a shaky foundation?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely not. I think that it is so clear that there’s so much to be optimistic about on the continent of Africa. Yes, we have some countries in Africa where violence is taking place, but we also have seen some success in the countries that you listed – Mali, for example, in just a matter of a year, was able to have free and fair elections and start to move that country forward and have reconciliation that we hope will cement the peace that the people of Mali deserve.
I think the same situation in Somalia. Somalia has almost been in a state of disrepair for almost 20 years, and we’re seeing that country move forward. CAR, of course, is a country where we have serious concerns. South Sudan is a country where we have serious concerns. But there are 40-plus other countries in Africa where there’s not fighting and there’s not war, and we need to build on the successes of these countries, help those countries that are having problems get out of trouble, working closely with the AU, with regional organizations, and with our partners across the world we hope that all of Africa can achieve peace in this decade.
But at the same time, we also have to work with those countries where we’re seeing success – Ghana for example. And I know that Ghana is on camera today, and we look forward to working with Ghana. We look forward to working with Liberia, where I served as ambassador for almost four years; a country that went through 14 years of war, and a country that is now at peace. So I don’t think violence is the descriptive word that we can use to describe Africa. I think optimism is where we are, and we hope to build on that optimism so that all of the countries in Africa is infected with it.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from L’Express de Madagascar: “What are the criteria to be fulfilled to normalize the cooperation between the U.S. and Madagascar? And what is meant by the U.S. mantra of a democratic government?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I met with the President of Madagascar at the AU and I also called him after the election, and they have taken Madagascar and the people of Madagascar have taken the first step to normalizing the relationship with the United States. And that is that they had a peaceful, free, and fair election and that they’re moving forward to take Madagascar into the countries where there are democratic governments. It is our policy that we do not support governments that have been overthrown in an undemocratic way as the Government of Madagascar had been overthrown.
But the election, I think is a step in the right direction. We look forward to working with the government as the new president builds his new government, his new cabinet. We have encouraged him that this new government should be one that is inclusive and that reconciliation takes place in the future so that Madagascar does not experience the kind of setback that it experienced over the past five years.
MS. JENSEN: Moses Walubiri from New Vision says: “It’s been over three years since President Barack Obama sanctioned the deployment of U.S. elite forces to help in the hunt for the remnants of Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels in CAR. Has the Pentagon set a definite deadline within which to accomplish the mission or is the operation open-ended?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think there is no deadline; there is a commitment. There is a commitment to seeing this to the end. And I think we’ve had tremendous progress. How often are we reading on the news about some of the atrocities that Kony was committing a few years ago? They’re on the run, and they’re on the run because we’re achieving success there. And we will be there until total success is achieved, and there’s no deadline on that.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Innocent Odoh from Blueprint: “Since the U.S. designated Boko Haram as Foreign Terrorist Organization, the group has become rather more daring and killing more people. Is the U.S.-Nigeria strategy to combat this menace really working?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think Boko Haram has always been daring. They are not more daring because we made a decision to sanction them. We are working very, very closely with the Government of Nigeria to address the issue of violent extremism in Nigeria. We’ve had a number of meetings with the government. We’re encouraging the government to continue its efforts and we’re supporting those efforts. We think that to address extremism there has to be a multifaceted approach, one that brings in not only security and military elements, but also brings in civilian elements to deal with what might be issues that people have in this area that has led them to perhaps be more tolerant of Boko Haram.
So we want to continue to work with the government to ensure that Boko Haram does not continue to terrorize the people of northern Nigeria, and in fact they are terrorizing people all over Nigeria, because every individual that they attack is also a member of the citizens of the country of Nigeria. So everyone is impacted by what they are doing. And we are hoping that as we continue to work with the Nigerian Government, that eventually we will bring this terrorism to an end.
MS. JENSEN: The journalist from Full-news.info would like to know: “How would the U.S. assess the Islamic and fundamentalist threat affecting Nigeria and the Sahel? What is the guarantee that the threat will not affect the rest of West Africa in the coming years?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think we have, again, a multifaceted approach to this issue. We believe that countries that are strong democracies, countries that respect human rights, countries that provide opportunities for their people, countries that are economically prosperous and create jobs for their people can resist the threat of extremism. And so we are working through our own policies to address these issues across Africa, and I think we are achieving a great deal of success even in Nigeria.
I was recently in Nigeria and I was very pleased with the level of progress, particularly in Lagos, as I saw new businesses sprouting up, young people who were excited about the future. And we just need to continue to build on those successes throughout the continent so that extremism does not take root.
MS. JENSEN: Next we’re going to stick with Nigeria. Godwin Amunde from Liberty Radio wants to know: “Don’t you think that pressurizing Nigeria on the same-sex marriage act that has just been signed into law by the president, which represents the aspiration of 90 percent of Nigerians, could amount to interference in Nigerian affairs?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely not. As a government, it is one of our highest priorities and our strongest values that discrimination against anyone based on their sexual orientation, based on their gender identity, based on any identification, is wrong. We believe that human rights are – should be available to all people. And as a policy, we will continue to press the Government of Nigeria, as well as other governments who have provided legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community.
Again, this is very much a work in progress, but I think you will agree that the law in Nigeria really went quite far in discriminating against this community, but also discriminating against people who are associated with this community. So we will continue to press the government and to press the legislature to change these laws and provide human rights to all Nigerian people regardless of their sexual orientation.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from Edmund Asante from the Daily Graphic in Ghana: “Having followed the recent AU summit, do you think Africa is doing much in managing its own affairs? And how would you rate Ghana’s performance in keeping the peace on the African continent, and what more does it have to do? And are there any plans from the American Government to help Ghana rescue its fallen cred?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not sure what the falling cred is, but let me just say that, as I said earlier, we’re working very, very closely with the African Union to address its own commitment to Africa’s future. The AU summit this year focused on agriculture. We are very connected and very involved in agriculture throughout the continent, because this is about building a future for Africa.
Ghana has played a key role in the AU. Ghana continues to play a key role in the region. Ghana provides peacekeeping troops across the continent. They are in the neighbor, in Cote d’Ivoire. Ghana has recently provided troops that are in South Sudan. So again, I don’t know what the falling cred is about, but I think –
MS. JENSEN: It’s not. It’s the falling cedi. Is that their money?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Oh, cedi. Okay yes. This is – again, we’re having economic issues in the United States, but we’re certainly supporting countries to help build their economy so that their economies can address some of the many issues that they have. So again, we’re working with Ghana as well as other countries on that issue, so thank you for clarifying.
MS. JENSEN: I totally misread that. Sorry about that. Our next question comes from the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja: “How many African leaders have been invited to the African-U.S. summit in August, and why did the U.S. Government withhold an invitation to President Mugabe of Zimbabwe?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Here’s what our decision was: We invited all of the countries that were in good standing with the AU and good standing with the United States Government. So that’s the reason that invitations went out to certain countries and did not go to other countries.
MS. JENSEN: Okay. Our next question comes from our very own bullpen member, Jo Biddle from the AFP: “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday spoke with French Foreign Minister Fabius about increasing the number of European and African troops from MISCA forces in CAR. Would the U.S. support such a move and even consider sending any American forces? And as French President Hollande meets with President Obama in Washington, how important has the French role been in both CAR and Mali and in the Sahel region?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me start with your last question. The French role has been key to achieving success in Mali and the French role in trying to bring about security and peace in CAR are very, very important, and we are very supportive of their efforts both in Mali as well as in CAR.
We agree that the number of troops in CAR need to be increased to address the very complex security situation that is existing in that country, and I commend the African governments who have committed their troops to those peacekeeping efforts. Right now we are at close to 6,000, and we think that additional security forces are required, including foreign police units that will help secure Bangui in particular but also will get out into communities so that people feel safe in their communities.
So we hope to continue to work with the troop-contributing countries and will continue to work with the French Government and our partners in the European Union to ensure that we bring about a level of support that will bring peace and security to CAR.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Rwanda TV: “Rwanda says MONUSCO and the UN Intervention Brigade are slow to attack FDLR in East Kivu. What do you make of this assertion?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I have heard this assertion and we have worked closely with MONUSCO and its leadership to address this issue. We agree that all of the forces inside of DRC who are bringing about instability need to attacked and need to be brought to justice. And we’re encouraging MONUSCO as well as the IB to address that concern of the Rwandans. But it’s not just FDLR; there are other insurgencies inside that also need to be addressed.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from Carolyn Madoshi from The Guardian: “African society is mostly rural communities depending on mainly agricultural activities. By improving the agriculture as well as agricultural economy, the basic African society can be elevated from poverty and hence enjoy the rest of the inputs. How can the American Government or people help put our country – Africa – in our country Africa to acquire utilities such as electricity, water supply, and transport roads via the Millennium Challenge Account?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, more than just the Millennium Challenge Account because the Millennium Challenge Account will go to a single country. But let me talk about Power Africa, where the President announced that we are committed to bringing electricity to 80 million people across the continent of Africa who have not had access to electricity. And we are very, very committed to working with the six countries who are now a part of Power Africa, but we’re also looking at how we address power requirements in other countries in the continent. And we think if power is available, that we will see other areas rise as well, other infrastructure. We’ll see more investments, we’ll see education improve, we’ll see healthcare improve if there’s electricity in rural areas.
So we are committed to ensuring that we assist African countries and we work with the private sector to bring electricity across the continent of Africa. MCC is just one component of that, but there are other elements that I think are equally important that will see us to success in this area.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from QFM Radio in Lusaka: “What tangible benefits has AGOA brought to African countries, such as Zambia? And are there any plans to extend it beyond the 2015 deadline?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that’s the question that everybody has. We are working diligently here with our Congress to extend AGOA in 2015, and I’m optimistic – in fact, I’m confident – that we will extend AGOA. And we have worked with a number of African countries who feel very, very strongly, including yours, that AGOA has brought tremendous benefits to Africa by encouraging the production of products that can be brought into the United States duty-free.
We’ve seen a significant increase in the level of imports to the United States through AGOA, and it has, I think, been one of our success stories for the United States. It has bipartisan support, so I’m hopeful that before 2015 expires, we’ll have the AGOA extension completed.
MS. JENSEN: We’re going to stay within the region for Zambia. Mark Sumuuwe at the African Union, he says: “At the African Union Summit recently held in Addis, African leaders reportedly resolved not to attend the European Union-AU Summit scheduled for Brussels in April if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will not be invited. What does the U.S. think about this common resolution by African leaders?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not aware of that resolution. I did hear while I was at the AU that Zimbabwe would be invited to the EU-AU Summit and I was pleased that they were able to resolve the issue.
MS. JENSEN: Okay. Tami Hultman wants to know: “Can you please comment on the discussions in Washington last week with President Mbeki — ” is that how you say it – Mbeki? Sorry, Thabo Mbeki? (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Oh, okay. Yes.
MS. JENSEN: Sorry. I’m so sorry. “ — at the ECA panel on illicit financial flows from Africa, and what more the U.S. Government and corporations can do to help curb them?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you for that question. I did meet with President Mbeki and his team when they were here in Washington. And we’re very, very supportive of their efforts and very encouraging of their efforts. And we committed to working with them to help them continue to build the capacity to address this issue across the continent of Africa. They told me that somewhere around $50 billion is lost every year in illicit transfers of money or lack of reporting of income on the continent. So we want to help them address this issue and look forward to seeing positive results from their efforts.
MS. JENSEN: A Brazzaville journalist wants to know: “There is a humanitarian crisis taking place in CAR and the U.S. is fully aware of it. What is the U.S. doing to bring back peace in CAR?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That is the perfect way of addressing that question, because the issue is not the humanitarian, which is the result of a – of the security situation and the lack of peace in this country. And we are working very, very closely with the countries in the region, with the AU, with the UN, to help bring about peace in this country and supporting the efforts of the interim government to move forward to have elections.
I have spoken to leaders in the region on many occasions and encouraged them in their efforts to help find a solution there. And we are working directly with the government and directly with the neighbors to help to find the solution. This is a result of lack of governance over many, many years, and to address this issue is going to require a lot of effort on the part of the neighbors as well as the international community.
We’re committed to finding a solution to the situation in CAR, and at the time, while we’re working on finding a solution, we’re also supporting the humanitarian effort. We – as I indicated, this year alone, we’ve committed $45 million. I think our total since the situation started is around $75 million to address these efforts. We had a team from USAID visit CAR recently and they’re looking at ways that we can provide more assistance.
MS. JENSEN: This is along the exact same lines. It comes from Krista Larson: “The United States and others are placing a lot of faith in the African peacekeepers to stabilize the Central African Republic. In recent days, though, there have been a series of violent lynchings where they have failed to intervene. What more should be done to stem the escalating violence in CAR?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Those reports were horrifying, and it just highlighted for me and others how urgent the situation is there and how important it is that we work with the AU and the French forces and EU forces who are coming to provide stability and security in the country so that they can start building on those efforts and find a solution that will bring peace to the people of CAR.
When we were in CAR back in December, we started to see the rising levels of frustration that people expressed because of the lack of security in CAR. And we know that one of the important elements that we have to work on is how we find justice for those people who have been the victims of the atrocities that have been committed.
So we’re working closely with the African Union and with others to try to build up the security forces there. We, as I mentioned, airlifted Rwandan and Burundian troops. We are bringing in equipment to support those efforts. We’re encouraging a peace process and reconciliation. We have issued messages and spoken with various parties, including those who are supporting the violence to say that the violence must stop. We’re telling them clearly and openly and boldly that they will be held accountable for any violence that is committed in this country. It is still a serious situation. We’re not yet at a place where we feel any level of comfort, but it is not due to lack of effort. We’re all working closely as a community to address this issue.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar: “How far is the Obama Administration ready to go for the respect of gay rights on the continent? And where are people mostly against this issue?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I think you’ve seen in the press where there have been major problems in Nigeria and Uganda and in other locations, but I think if you look at what is happening in the United States, you can determine how far we are willing to go. We strongly believe – we strongly support human rights for all people, and we particularly are opposed to legislation that actually targets the gay community, the LGBT community for discrimination.
So we’re prepared to push this as a arm of our policy, not just in Africa but across the world. We have had issues on – we’ve had concerns on this issue in other places in the world. It’s not just Africa. It’s in the United States. And our laws have been developed so that we can protect the human rights of the LGBT community here, and we also want to encourage that in our foreign policy and our approach to governments in Africa.
MS. JENSEN: Christine Haguma wants to know: “What are the U.S. contributions to strengthen the African Union capacity?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Great question. As I mentioned earlier, we signed an MOU with the AU last year. We have an ambassador on the ground who is engaging with the AU on a regular basis, on a daily basis, at a high level. We have high-level dialogues with the AU. We have created a number of working groups that are working with the AU to address a broad range of issues. And we will continue to consult with the AU as we approach some of the many issues – both positive, such as agriculture, and negative, such as violence in CAR – to seek the AU’s advice and partner with the AU to address those problems and also build on the progress that we see taking place in other parts of the continent.
MS. JENSEN: Okay. So we’re going to stay with that theme right now, and Galaxy TV in Lagos wants to know: “What measures are being put in place by the U.S. Government to help the AU tackle security challenges and curb illicit arms trafficking across the continent? And what is the state of the partnership between the U.S. and Africa, and how does the U.S. manage conflicting issues with these partners, i.e. bad governance and corruption, which are the major causes of conflict in Africa as a whole? And what is the U.S. Government doing to mitigate these issues?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Wow.
MS. JENSEN: That’s a lot of questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a lot of questions. (Laughter.) I’m not sure I’m going to remember them all, but I’ll just start with partnership. And when we talk about our partnership with the continent of Africa, we are sincere in that partnership. And it is not a partnership that just started. It’s a partnership that has a historical basis and goes through many, many generations.
I think the President’s trip to Africa this summer highlighted how important that partnership is. We’re building on that through a number of initiatives. Let me just name a few that you’ve heard quite a lot about: Power Africa, Trade Africa, AGOA, the Young Africa Leaders Initiatives. These are all efforts to build on that partnership. We’re working with the continent on health issues, on education issues. And then equally important to us is democracy in governance and ensuring that there are free, fair, and transparent elections that take place across the continent so that this continent, with so many resources, can continue to grow and continue to build on its success.
MS. JENSEN: Next question comes from Vanguard: “China appears to be making inroads in economic sphere where America once was dominant. Is the U.S. worried? And again, most African countries now doing business with China has argued that America’s stance on corruption, unlike the Chinese, make it easier to deal with the Chinese. What’s your view on this?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I’ll turn that back to you. So what I think you’re saying is that it’s okay for corruption to take place to encourage companies to invest in Africa, and we don’t buy that. We think it is so important that countries are transparent, that efforts that take place in those countries provide an opportunity for the people of those continents.
So we’re not going to change our stance on corruption because we think it gives an unfair advantage to Chinese companies. I think those companies are going to come to realize that they cannot operate securely and safety and prosperously in countries where corruption exists. And our hope is that they too will ascribe to our concerns about corruption on the continent.
We know that Africa is not defined by corruption, and we know that there are companies that are investing in the continent who are contributing to the well-being of the countries that they’re working in. And those are the countries that we want to work in. And we are encouraging American investment. We demand a fair playing field for our companies. Having served as ambassador to Liberia, I worked regularly with American companies to ensure that they were able to invest in a warm and welcoming and friendly way on the continent of Africa.
If this continent is going to continue to build the resources that – the immense resources that are available, then the continent’s going to have to open up, it’s going to have to be transparent, it’s going to have to have a free marketplace that allow for all companies to invest.
MS. JENSEN: We have time for one more question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: All right.
MS. JENSEN: It comes from Peter Fabricius from – the foreign editor of Independent newspapers in South Africa: “Do you think that President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of the deputy ANC president and his special envoy to South Sudan will add value to the many mediators and special envoys already in the field? And if so, what value?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There are a number of special envoys that are working on South Sudan. As you know, we have a special envoy, the EU has a special envoy, AU has a special envoy, the Chinese have a special envoy, and the South Africans have a special envoy, and I’m sure I forgot some. And every single one of them have contributed to helping to find the solution for peace in South Sudan.
Again, it’s a work in progress. We’re all working together to help the people of South Sudan achieve peace, so I commend President Zuma for naming a special envoy. It, I think, outlines his commitment to seeing that peace and prosperity is brought to South Sudan.
So thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Thank you. This is number three for you, and we always love to have you. So that concludes today’s program. A full video and audio transcript and download link will be provided to you shortly after the conclusion of the program today. If you would like to continue this conversation, you can do so on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #USAfrica.
I thank you for joining us and I look forward to doing this again.