Events

Director's Forum: The United States – Africa Partnership: The Last Four Years and Beyond

January 16, 2013 // 2:00pm3:30pm
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ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Thank you very, very much. I want to thank Michael for his opening remarks and his very, very kind introduction. He’s right; we have known one another and have been friends for many, many years, and it’s a pleasure to have him introduce me today.

I also want to acknowledge the longstanding friendship and collegiality of Steve McDonald, who has taken the opportunity to organize this session. I also want to thank all of the distinguished guests in the audience, including the dozen members of the diplomatic corps, the ambassadors who are here, and colleagues from the think tank community. I also want to pay special recognition to Congresswoman Karen Bass for her dedication and leadership on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the work that she is doing with respect to Africa.

I also want to take this opportunity to recognize a friend of long standing, someone who knows deeply my roots on the south side of Chicago, and that is Aaron Williams, the former director of the Peace Corps. Aaron and I went to the same boys’ high school in a tough neighborhood of Chicago many, many years ago. And while we share many, many stories together, the bonds are deep and long. Aaron, it’s good to see you and good to recognize the work that you’ve done for many years at the Peace Corps. Good to see you, friend.

It’s an honor to speak to such a distinguished group of leaders who, like me, are so committed to Africa. Let me also thank my wife who is not here today. Anne and I have spent most of our lives living and working on African issues, and nothing I have done over the past four decades could have been done without her support and assistance. My interest in Africa started in the mid-1960s when I had a chance to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania. The 1960s was a time of great promise for Africa as newly independent nations struggled to face what many regarded as the insurmountable challenges of democracy, development, and economic growth. Newly independent people look forward to embracing an era of optimism and opportunity.

This promise also inspired me to enter the Foreign Service. After more than 40 years of experience in Africa, three ambassadorships, and now four years as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, I have experienced firsthand Africa’s triumphs, its tragedies, and its progress. And despite Africa’s uneven progress, I remained deeply and profoundly optimistic about Africa’s future. This optimism is grounded in expanding democracy, improved security, rapid economic growth, and greater opportunities that exist for all of Africa’s people. It is clear to me as well as to many others that the 21st century will not only be shaped in Beijing and Washington, but also in Pretoria, Abuja, Nairobi, and Addis.

Let me start today by highlighting two places where no one believed, just four years ago, such optimism would have been possible: Somalia and Sudan.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton's strategy for Somalia has turned one of Africa’s most enduring, intractable, and seemingly hopeless conflicts into a major success story and a potential model for the resolution of other conflicts on the continent. Since the fall of the Siad Barre government in 1991, more than one million people have been killed in Somalia. The United States and other international partners largely turned their back on Somalia following the tragic Black Hawk Down incident on October 3, 1993. Somalia provided refuge to some of the terrorists who destroyed our Embassy in Nairobi in August of 1998, killing Americans and Kenyans alike, and who tried unsuccessfully to do the same in Dar es Salaam on that very tragic day.

Early on in this Administration, Secretary Clinton and I traveled to Nairobi to meet with then-president Sheikh Sharif, the president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, or TFG as it was known. Sharif previously served as one of the leaders of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, and we were uncertain, unsure of his ability to combat terrorist groups like al-Shabaab or to lead Somalia’s unfolding democratic transition.

After meeting with President Sharif, Secretary Clinton told me just two things: “Don’t let the TFG fall,” and, “Don’t let al-Shabaab win.” Well, as you all can probably imagine, I did not sleep much that night. But since that moment, August 9, 2009, the State Department has partnered with the African Union Mission in Somalia, called AMISOM, to train African peacekeepers from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, and now Kenya and Sierra Leone to rebuild the Somali National Army and to defeat al-Qaida, East Africa, and al-Shabaab. The United States also joined with East African partners to advance a political track that, in the summer of 2012, enabled President Sharif and the TFG to hand over power to a democratically elected Somali president, who happens today to be visiting Washington, DC.

This effort was led by Africans, but it enjoyed significant U.S. support. Its success is remarkable. Just four years ago, al-Shabaab controlled most of Mogadishu and also most of south and central Somalia. Today, AMISOM and Somalia’s national security forces have rolled back al-Shabaab from Mogadishu and every other major city in south and south central Somalia.

Now, for the first time in more than two decades, Somalia has a representative government with a new president, a new prime minister, a new parliament, and a new constitution, and the Somali people have, for the first time in two decades, an opportunity for a better future. I personally witnessed this renewed sense of opportunity and optimism when I traveled to Mogadishu in June 2012, becoming the first U.S. Assistant Secretary to visit Mogadishu in more than 20 years. The United States will continue to partner with the Somali people as they rebuild their country and as they normalize their relations with the region, and I look forward to the day when the United States can re-establish a more permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in downtown Mogadishu to better support the new Somali Government’s efforts to provide security, humanitarian assistance, and basic services to the Somali people.

A second major accomplishment of this Administration was helping to see through the peace process that resulted in the creation of Africa’s newest state: South Sudan. Building on the work of prior administrations, President Obama continued U.S. efforts to fully implement Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, and to end Africa’s longest-running civil war. Under the leadership of President Obama’s special envoys, first General Scott Gration and now Ambassador Princeton Lyman, the United States led international efforts to reinvigorate the CPA. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Ambassador Susan Rice’s leadership kept the 2011 referendum on South Sudan’s independence on track, and led to South Sudan’s independence in July of 2011. Special Envoy Lyman continues to work with Sudan, with South Sudan, the African Union, and many others to ensure long-term peace and stability between these two important countries and neighbors.

Such remarkable progress in Somalia and in South Sudan highlights the success of this Administration’s overall policy towards Africa. This policy, described in the U.S. strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa published in June of last year, is comprehensive. It focuses on building partnerships with governments, civil societies, and populations across the African continent to strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.

Partnership is particularly important for advancing the first pillar of this strategy: strengthening Africa’s democratic institutions, improving governance, and promoting human rights. Dedication to democracy and human rights is a shared value, a shared value that links the American people with the populations throughout Africa. And President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s focus on these shared goals has had a deeply positive impact across the continent.

In Nigeria, when the late President Yar Adua became ill, then passed away, the United States spoke out. We sided with Nigerians who insisted that Nigeria’s constitution must be followed, and that the Nigerian military should stay in the barracks. I personally traveled to Nigeria to encourage Nigeria’s senior leaders of the past to follow the constitution, and to urge that no one attempt to hijack the country’s political process or democracy. After a momentary false start, Nigeria’s elections went very smoothly. And during the first round of the 2011 elections, I remember observing dedicated Nigerian poll workers counting presidential ballots using only the light from their cell phones. The commitment of Nigeria’s young poll workers, the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who waited in line for hours to vote, and all those in Nigeria who worked to keep Nigeria’s political process on track ensured the success of the 2011 elections and encapsulated Africa’s newfound opportunity and optimism.

I witnessed the same commitment to democracy in Kenya in 2011. The United States worked hand-in-hand with Kenyans across the country to ensure a peaceful constitutional referendum designed to reduce the drivers of political conflict that so many Kenyans – that resulted in so many Kenyans being killed after the disputed 2007 elections.

Our message to those across Africa who have attempted to derail the democratic process has been very clear. The United States will stand on the sidelines when – the United States will not stand on the sidelines when legitimately elected governments are threatened or democratic processes are manipulated.

When Senegal’s democratic tradition was threatened, I urged then-President Abdoulaye Wade to live up to his democratic principles and to defend strongly the Senegalese constitution. When he chose to put his own interests above those of his people, we sided with the Senegalese people. Senegal subsequently held another peaceful, democratic election and a very easy transfer of power.

When a military junta in Guinea-Conakry committed massive human rights abuses, we spoke out, and we acted. Working with the Governments of Morocco, Burkina Faso, and France, the United States confronted the junta leaders, and I personally met with General Konate in Rabat. Our diplomacy helped to pave the way for Guinea’s first free, fair, and peaceful election since achieving independence in 1958.

When military coups struck in Niger and Mauritania, we worked with local leaders, with regional partners, and the international community to restore democracy to both countries as quickly as possible.

And in Cote d’Ivoire, when President Gbagbo disregarded his country’s election results, President Obama reached out to President Gbagbo, not once but twice, to encourage him to step down. When the situation on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire became intolerable, we actively encouraged the United Nations to act. Mr. Gbagbo is now in The Hague, and democracy has been restored in Abidjan.

Of course, democracy and human rights are about much, much more than holding elections. As President Obama said in Ghana in 2009, “Africa doesn’t need strong men; it needs strong institutions.” This means independent courts, legislatures, and election commissions. It means a free press, rule of law, and local civil society organizations with the room to operate and to speak freely without intimidation from government authorities. And it means respecting the views of opposition political leaders and political parties. And it means allowing peaceful protests and others to criticize in the media.

Across Africa, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I have worked to strengthen the capacity of legislatures to play more effective oversight roles. We have partnered with African media and civil society organizations to promote and protect press freedoms. We have supported the rule of law programs to strengthen African courts and the national human rights commissions that are so vital for eliminating impunity and ensuring justice for all people, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, religion, race, or sexual orientation.

To give prominence to the importance of the judiciary, last fall we invited a dozen prominent African supreme court justices to the United States, where they had an opportunity during a two-week-long visit here and in Chicago to meet with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy and Ginsberg.

In Sierra Leone, we supported the special court charged with trying former President Charles Taylor and others accused of perpetrating atrocities during that country’s decade-long brutal civil war.

And in Uganda, Secretary Clinton presented the Secretary’s Human Rights Defender Award for 2011, which is the Department of State’s most prestigious international human rights award, to a coalition of Ugandan LGBT NGOs and activists. Our partnership with Africa on democracy, governance, and human rights is vitally important, but it is just one of our areas of partnership. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I also have focused on promoting Africa’s economic expansion.

African economies are among the fastest growing on this planet, and are increasingly attracting foreign trade and investment. And technology change is sweeping across Africa. Today, women in rural markets in Nigeria are using cell phones to move money and to check prices in markets in several villages and towns away. Bankers in Dakar are trading with stockbrokers and bankers in New York, in Paris, and London. These are exciting, these are revolutionary changes.

According to The Economist magazine, seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are located in Africa today. One thing this statistic means is that Africa is beginning to catch up with the world economy. If you look at the list of seven countries, several of them, such as Zambia, Ghana, and Ethiopia, are increasingly complex economies where inclusive growth and middle classes are taking hold. Non-oil related growth has averaged over 5 percent in Africa over the past five years, and over the next five years, Africa’s average growth rate is likely to surpass that of Asia.

These trends are permanently changing Africa’s economic and political systems by opening the continent up to the world and Africa to the world as well. Yet not enough American business executives know that if you want to make a good investment today, you should look to the African continent to do so. This is why, for the past four years, the Obama Administration has worked to expand U.S. trade and investment with Africa. We extended the third country fabric provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has helped to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the continent. We held AGOA forums in Kenya, Zambia, Kansas City, and Cincinnati, connecting a broad cross-section of U.S. companies and investors with African partners.

The trade mission that Secretary Clinton led to South Africa in August of last year was the first ever trade mission led by a Secretary of State to Africa. A separate trade mission that I led last year to Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana increased the interests of U.S. energy companies in the huge need for generation, distribution, and transmission of power across the continent. And one of the participants in that trade mission has already signed an agreement with a Nigerian company that is expected to produce tens of millions of dollars worth of U.S. exports and also to provide much needed electrical power to Nigeria.

We are also facilitating more and more reverse trade missions and delegations from Africa to the United States. Just last month, our Ambassador to Nigeria led Nigerian business executives to major trade shows in New Orleans and Orlando, Florida. And since 2009, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, has supported private sector investments totaling over $2 billion across Africa, an all-time record, and OPIC also opened a new office in South Africa to promote green energy projects.

And we continue to build on all of this work. In November, Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Blank visited the region, the first time a U.S. Commerce Secretary has traveled to sub-Saharan Africa in more than a decade, and she announced that we would be launching a new initiative called Doing Business in Africa. This new Doing Business in Africa Campaign will encourage U.S. companies to seize the enormous opportunities that exist across Africa, and we are intending to help them do it.

But since democratic and economic growth go hand-in-hand with security and stability, this Administration also has expanded partnerships focused on training African peacekeepers, supporting African efforts to establish an African standby force, and responding to transnational threats like piracy, drug trafficking, and terrorism. I have already noted the extraordinary success of AMISOM as a model for an African-led peacekeeping operation.

In partnership with Uganda; the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Central African Republic; South Sudan; and the African Union, the United States is also supporting regional efforts to eliminate the threat posed by the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. In Mali, the United States supports the French military action. We support an accelerated ECOWAS troop deployment and the provision of assistance to African forces. We support also the creation of a strategic roadmap and a timetable that will restore democratic governance, and we will continue to support the efforts to address the humanitarian needs of both refugees and displaced persons throughout Mali and the Sahel.

In the eastern DRC, where more than 5 million people have been killed during 15 years of violence – and let me say that again: In the eastern DRC, where more than 5 million people have been killed during 15 years of violence, the United States is working with the UN, the European Union, and regional partners to identify immediate and long-term solutions to end the eastern Congo’s cycle of instability, violence, and conflict. In November 2012, when the M23 rebel group took control of the city of Goma, I traveled to Kimpala, Kigali, and Kinshasa with my British and French counterparts to deliver a common message to Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC. After that mission, the M23 withdrew, and Presidents Kagame, Kabila, and Museveni initiated talks. We want to see more enduring progress in the Great Lakes. It is in the interest of all of the regional states. It is in the interest of the international community. But most importantly, it is in the interest of ending the enormous suffering that has gone on there for far too long.

The fourth pillar of this Administration’s engagement with Africa, alongside democracy, security, and economic growth, is promoting opportunity and development, with a particular focus on women and youth. Women comprise half of Africa’s population, but often are excluded from Africa’s formal economy. To address this imbalance, we have increased diplomatic and development efforts designed to empower women and girls through programs like the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, called AWEP. And we have partnered with the next generation of Africa’s leaders through the President’s Young African Initiatives program, or I should say, more correctly, the Young African Leaders Initiative.

The President and First Lady have personally hosted events in the United States and Africa focused on developing and supporting young African leaders, promoting entrepreneurship, and building partnerships between Africans and Americans. We also have seen impressive results across our development agenda. Through the President’s Feed the Future Initiative, we have partnered with 19 African countries to reduce malnutrition. The Secretary and I had the pleasure of meeting with farmers in Malawi who, with the support of the United States Government, contributed to a 500 percent increase in milk production in that country over the last decade. And President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition here in Washington under the G-8, which aims to raise 50 million Africans out of poverty over the next ten years.

Through the President’s Global Health Initiative and Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, known as PEPFAR, we have supported health system reform and life-saving treatments that have kept nearly 5 million people with HIV in Africa alive today. And through our Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC compacts, we have invested nearly $6 billion in 14 African countries that have demonstrated their commitment to strong democratic institutions, accountability, and transparency. And Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Niger – three countries that have recently restored democratic governance and are rapidly emerging as regional leaders on development, transparency, accountability, and growth – were recently selected as eligible to develop new MCC compacts.

And I note, just yesterday, that Secretary Clinton received at the State Department President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in which there was much discussion about the new MCC pact, in which we signed a new U.S.-Liberia partnership dialogue and framework.

U.S. development assistance also has focused on improving child and maternal health, fighting malaria, and improving access to quality education in Africa. And when disaster has struck in Africa, the United States has acted to save lives. In fact, we have provided more humanitarian assistance to Africa over the last four years than any other single country in the world. Across the Sahel, the United States has delivered emergency aid to many of the more than 18 million people affected across that region. And we provided food, shelter, and healthcare to nearly five million people in the Horn of Africa last year during the height of the drought.

We also have found innovative ways to leverage the rapid expansion of mobile and internet technology. The State Department funded the Apps4Africa competition. This competition encourages the creation of mobile phone applications to promote economic growth, development, and opportunity. One recent winner of this competition was an app from Kenya called iCow, which helps Kenyan farmers better manage the breeding of their cow herds. To promote opportunity through stability and growth, this Administration also has partnered with key regional organizations. We have significantly expanded the size of our mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa Secretary Clinton became the first Secretary of State to speak at the African Union in August of 2011, and she has hosted the African Union Chairperson here in Washington for the last three years, including most recently the newly elected AU Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Zuma. And the United States rejoined the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa to help cement our commitment to economic growth and partnership with the continent.

And while we have partnered with Africa across these four areas, we also have focused on elevating Africa in our foreign policy and in global decision making. As Secretary Clinton said in Cape Town last year, “Some of our global problems need African solutions.” This is why we have worked with African countries on issues from climate change to the crisis in Syria. Yet despite how far Africa has come and how optimistic we are about Africa’s future, we recognize serious challenges remain. Let me mention very briefly some of them.

While Somalia and South Sudan have made significant progress, they still have a long ways to go. Mali and the eastern D.R.C. pose serious threats to regional stability and the futures of millions of civilians in those conflict-affected areas. In Kenya, the United States already has provided over $30 million since 2008 for elections preparation and voter education programs, and we continue to engage Kenyans at the highest level of our government to underscore the need for peaceful and credible elections that are scheduled in that country on March 4th of this year.

In Zimbabwe, we remain steadfast in our demand for a free and transparent constitutional referendum, followed by national elections. We also must continue to seek out creative ways to spur trade and investment, to promote opportunity, and to advance development throughout Africa. And in helping to address all of these challenges, we must continue to strike a balance between achieving our diplomatic goals, and protecting our people as best we can.

I began this speech by noting that I am deeply and profoundly optimistic about Africa. In May of 2000, the very venerable and respected British magazine The Economist ran a cover with a map of Africa and a picture of a child holding a rocket launcher, under the headline: “The Hopeless Continent.” In December of 2011, the same magazine published a different cover, this time with a young child flying an Africa-shaped kite under a blue sky, with the headline “Africa Rising.” There is no doubt in my mind that Africa is rising, that Africa is on the move, that progress is being made in all sectors. Africa is moving forward. American businesses, elected officials, NGOs, and lest I forget, American diplomats who realize this now will have a significant advantage over those who have yet to realize that the 21st century will belong to Africa and the African continent.

I’m going to stop here and thank you all for your patience, and I will take some questions. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Johnnie, for that wide-ranging and very comprehensive tour d’horizon of the continent. I thank you on behalf of the audience in the Woodrow Wilson Center and all of us who follow Africa carefully.

I think one of the one of the most important things that I think you said – while I share your optimism, and you know how long I’ve been involved and how much I care about Africa, one of the most important things you said was, quoting Secretary Clinton’s remarks about bringing Africa into the global policy dialogue, letting Africa take its global place as a member of the global community, which it not only deserves to do, but we would we would be wise to have it do so, and because they have many, many lessons to teach us. So I’m really happy to hear that as one of your closing points.

I – we are going to open it to questions. The only housekeeping we need to say is that we are being webcast live, and, of course, recorded by several commercial media, so please wait for a microphone and then identify yourself when we recognize you.

We normally don’t go by protocol, but I think it’s appropriate today, if you would agree with me, Johnnie, that we give Congresswoman Bass maybe the first right of a question or a comment. You will be allowed a comment; no one else will. (Laughter.) I’m going to be far stricter, far stricter than I normally am in this room in making sure that we hold to short questions and keep it at a question.

So if you would, Congresswoman Bass.

QUESTION: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. McDonald. But let me begin by really thanking Ambassador Carson for your service over all of these years. And I know for me just coming to Washington, it’s a disappointment that you will be leaving, but I’m sure you won’t be going too far, and we won’t be shy in calling on you in the future.

Would like for you to comment a little bit about your advice that you would give to us, especially in Congress, about how we might move forward with AGOA.

MR. MCDONALD: Yeah. Go ahead. We’ll bundle questions in the future, but go ahead and respond.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Yeah. Congresswoman Bass, thank you very, very much for your comments about my service, and I appreciate having the opportunity to work with you as well.

It would be a little presumptuous of me to suggest what the Congress should do about AGOA, but if you offer me the liberty – (laughter) – I would like to say the following. AGOA has been a remarkable benefit to the people of Africa, from Ethiopia to South Africa, from Uganda to Nigeria, across to Tanzania and Kenya. Many, many countries across the continent have benefited from the opportunity to export their goods into the United States duty-free.

We were extraordinarily pleased that the Congress signed on to and extend the Third-Country Fabric provision. But AGOA is slated to run out in 2015. It is important to begin the discussion and the process of renewal now so that it doesn’t come down to October or November of 2015 before a decision is made.

So the one thing that I would say is renew AGOA, renew it as early in 2015 or as late in 2014 as possible. It will provide certainty to investors, reassurance to African businesses and workers across the continent that the economic opportunities opened up by AGOA over the last 15 years will remain strong and steady. Any notion that AGOA is likely to go away is going to serve as a disincentive for new investment coming along in 2013, 14, and 15. It’s going to serve as a disincentive for companies ordering large numbers of products, because they know that the price will go up as a result of the duties.

It’s equally important to think beyond the current provisions of AGOA and look for new and innovative initiatives that will help to bring Africa increasingly into the global economic community. And just as AGOA was, 12 years ago, an innovation, I think there are innovations that can be brought to bear in expanding AGOA and making it even more relevant.

I’ll stop right there, but I think you’ve allowed me to a little bit presumptions. I won’t go further.

MR. MCDONALD: Again, thank you very much. One note of apology to the diplomatic corps in the house, I normally recognize the ambassadorial corps by name and individually, but we have such a wide representation here this afternoon, almost a third of the corps in the house, so I’m not going to do it individually, but thank you and welcome all of you. And also to point out that we have quite a larger crowd then what you’re looking at here. We have two overflow rooms, and so we do invite them to present us with some questions if they will.

Okay. With that said, we’re going to take three questions at a time, this one first, that one second, and that one third.

QUESTION: Ambassador Johnnie Carson, mine is not a question but just a comment. When I was coming – distinguished – I hope I’m allowed to make that comment. When I was coming here, I had a call from my minister, and I told him where I was coming. And all he said is that please tell Johnnie that we in Nigeria – oh, sorry. I’m Ambassador Adefuye from Nigeria – I – please tell Johnnie that we had a (inaudible) Nigeria and Africa will not leave him and to say, convey, to him that has been (inaudible) judging by the excellent courageous service he gave to Africa within the past four years.

For us in Nigeria, remember the critical intervention you made during the time (inaudible) you mention about former President (inaudible) and the insistence and the support with U.S. gave us where we had to invent what we call the strategy of intervention that’s made us to make sure that the (inaudible). We so much appreciate your contribution during the elections and the quick interventions made, support you give to democratic process in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, and many of the rest African countries, so much so that we are now much stronger in terms of strengthen democratic institution, which is the basis – which is very important for us to have sustainable economic growth.

As you leave us, our message to you, Johnnie, is this: Thank you for the service. You have come, you have served, you have delivered, you have exit. The Good Lord (inaudible) to be with you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. MCDONALD: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Ambassador Carson, I first also want to – my name is Melvin Foote. I’m with the Constituency for Africa here in Washington. I want to thank you and thank the Administration for an outstanding four years, first term. You’ve done everything that you said you’re going to do. And from your speech, it clearly indicates that Africa does matter to the United States and that the Obama Administration is fully engaged in the future of Africa.

My question has to do with militarization in Africa. We talked about this over the last four years about the increasing presence of U.S. military in Africa, some of it clearly warranted. We talk about a drone policy; we talk about intervention in Mali, the many cases where many of us feel the need to be an intervention of some sort. And I would just like to get your thoughts on whether or not you see this as a growing trend over the next four years. Do you see an increasing Obama Administration militarization policy toward Africa? And what can be done – what can we expect over the next four years? Thank you very much.

MR. MCDONALD: Okay. And then I recognized the gentleman there.

QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) Mbow and I’m with the African Studies Consortium. I join all the (inaudible) to thank the Ambassador, whom I had met quite a while ago in Kenya and Tanzania.

I am fundamentally speaking from an African civil society, and what I mean by that is Africans on the continent, to see if there could be ways in which our view of the issues, of strengthening democracy – it is very paradoxical today to speak of regular votes as a manifestation of a democratic system in Africa. But we believe that in strengthening the institutions in Africa, there are some fundamentals that are pre-required, and one of which is the fight against corruption. In Senegal, we have already started to invoke the Stolen Asset Recovery treaty. We believe that more than anything, the President – the second term of President Obama could do – not to inject more fund in Africa. That would be fine. But it is to help for – once for all we could now establish, we could move, because every 20 years we have to at least not to relitigate the same battles.

So we think that it is time that an initiative from the Administration be put forth, clearly after collating the means that are put at the disposal of the researchers, the legislations, and also the possibility – because the treaty exist already – to assist African governments in recovering the stolen assets of the African people. Because that, in itself, is almost enough for any project of development.

Thank you.

MR. MCDONALD: Thank you. Because of the Nigerian Ambassador didn’t ask a question, I’ll throw one in from one of the rooms. This comes from Marie Claire Agondo from the DRC, who asks if you could elaborate on the M23 position now, because they, of course, are still in the eastern Congo, and you alluded to them earlier but didn’t talk about their position now, and many people are worried about that. So maybe we could start with those three questions.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Okay. Let me say thank you to Ambassador Adefuye for his very kind and generous thoughts, and also to Mel Foote as well for his words of congratulations for my service.

Let me start with Mel’s question. The most important aspects of our activities in Africa today remain as they always have been, and that is to do as much as we possibly can to promote long-term sustainable development. It is to strengthen democratic institutions and to provide the people of Africa with greater opportunities within their own countries and greater opportunities for trading and investment and movement across the continent, and across the globe.

We also have security concerns. But those security concerns do not fundamentally outweigh our concern about sustained economic development and progress and about political stability and the growth of democracy. We are not seeking in any way to lead with the military. We are not seeking the militarization of our policies in Africa. And we’re not looking for the military to supplant the work that we do in development, in political stability, and in conflict mitigation.

Today, you see military actions in certain parts of Africa, and that is in response to a global phenomenon which Africa has not been immune, and that is the threat of transnational terrorism. It can happen anywhere in the world – in New York City; Washington; Shanksville, Pennsylvania; Pakistan; India; Malaysia; the subways and the buses of London; and also downtown Mogadishu; and today, in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. We have to recognize that there are transnational threats that require not just a domestic or a regional response, but an international response.

We don’t want, however, this to be seen as our only engagement and our only response. It is still far, far, far more important for us to be leading through USAID, through the Peace Corps, through MCC, through the Export-Import Bank, through AGOA, and through our economic policies that open opportunity and our shared values of democracy and our shared values of respect for human rights. So it should not be seen as the lead. It should not be.

 

Let me take on the issue of Professor Mbow. We have been very serious about including Africa and African leaders in our global discussions and in our global agenda. I made reference to several things in my speech which deserve to be mentioned again. Secretary Clinton wanted to establish a fundamentally stronger and deeper relationship with Africa’s most important regional organization, the African Union, and therefore said we’re going to do something that no Administration has done before, both to elevate the level of our dialogue and to give greater significance and importance to Africa’s regional organization.

And this is why, over the last three years, she has gone out of her way to make sure that every year, she invites to Washington the chairperson of the AU. For the first two years, it was the former chairperson Jean Ping, and this last year, as she came into office, she invited Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. In fact, it was, I think, the second or third time that she had actually seen Dr. Dlamini-Zuma over this past year.

We met with Dr. Zuma shortly after she won election in South Africa, in Pretoria. We met her in New York at the – on the margins of the UN General Assembly, and the Secretary invited her here in early December. We hope this kind of engagement at a high level with Africa’s most important leaders will continue. And it wasn’t just Dr. Zuma; it’s been with her deputy, Erastus Mwencha; it’s been with the head of the Peace and Security organ, Ambassador Lamamra, and all the commissioners have come. And so this is an important engagement for us.

But beyond that, the G-8 and the G-20, we have tried to ensure that they are participants. If you were here in this building, and I think it was in this building, in June 6th and 7th, you would have seen, as the G-8 was about the unfold on Saturday at Camp David, you would have had the current president of the AU, whose ambassador is here with us today – Ambassador Ogan – but we had President Yayi of Benin here. We had the presidents of Ghana, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and we had the outgoing chair of the African Union.

We have tried to ensure that they are there in on the discussions, whether it is food security or nuclear security where Africa and South Africa play an important role, or whether it is on the talks on climate change a couple years ago in Copenhagen, where key African leaders – President Goodluck Jonathan and President Zuma and others were in the room when key decisions were made. We believe that Africa’s views and its ideas and its interests should be represented at any global forum in which there is a question that has to be answered across transnational lines. So it’s serious. We hope that that will continue, but we have certainly, under Secretary Clinton, pushed that agenda strongly, and we will continue to push it.

Let me say something quickly about M-23 in the eastern Congo. As I mentioned in my remarks, the Great Lakes region is probably the most violent and volatile area in Africa today. More people have been killed in that conflict since President Mobutu’s demise in 1996 and 1997 than any other conflict in Africa, more than Rwanda in April, regrettably, of 1994, more than the million point two or three in Somalia, more than the 2.2, 2.3 million during 20 years of conflict between North and South Sudan. The problem in the DRC, in the eastern Congo, must be at the top of our diplomatic agenda, must be at the top of the international diplomatic agenda. It cries out for attention, but more than that, it cries out for resolution. This will require the leaders – all of the leaders – in the region to act more diligently and more responsibly to bring this to an end.

The M-23 is a rebel group which broke away from the FARDC – the Congolese army. They broke away because they were being asked to relocate from the eastern region to other parts of the country. And when they refused to take those commands, they went into rebellion, regrettably. The M-23 was aided and abetted by countries – or at least one country – outside of the D.R.C. It cannot be that countries aid and abet the activities of insurgent groups in another country. That’s not the way to end a crisis; that’s the prescription for making the crisis worse. And so there were agreements signed in Kampala between President Kabila of the D.R.C., President Kagami of Rwanda, and President Museveni. It is absolutely imperative that those agreements – the two Kampala Accords – be fully implemented and that the M-23 live up to its commitments and that all the states in the region live up to their commitments. It’s time to bring that conflict to an end.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCDONALD: Okay. We do not have very much time, unfortunately, so we will go for one more question here. I have one that I want to pose from the rooms and that comes from Lafayette Barns who works with the D.C. Government. And he just asks you to elaborate on Equatorial Guinea, the situation there, as it’s been of concern to many people. I see one question at the back there.

QUESTION: Fadi Monsour with Jazeera channel. Ambassador Carson, I would like you to shed more light on what’s happening in Mali right now. How far is Washington willing to go in supporting the French intervention in Mali? And what is your government providing in support right now?

MR. MCDONALD: I think actually with our limited time left, those two questions will probably fill the bill.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: (Laughter.) No problem. Let me answer the second question first. We share the same goals as the French and as the states in the region. We support what the French are attempting to do. We think that it is consistent with Security Council Resolution 2085. We see an ongoing threat to the security and territorial integrity of Mali. And we see the threat that the AQIM and the rebels pose to stability not only in Mali but the larger region.

We in Washington have told the key African states in the region that we are prepared to send out advisory teams from our ACOTA office to the region to help those countries which are interested in deploying troops into Mali. We have said that we will provide pre-deployment training, pre-deployment equipment, and some sustainment packages to the African forces that go into Mali. We’ve also said that we are prepared to provide funding and assistance to airlift and move African troops into theater. The kind of support that we would give to the ECOWAS states and others in the African theater is very, very similar to what we have done in support of the AMISOM effort in Somalia, where we have consistently supported and worked with Uganda, Burundi, with Djibouti, and now Sierra Leone as they have operated there.

We have made that clear to the states in the region, and we’ve made it clear to our colleagues in Europe. The French too have asked for our support and assistance in several areas. Some things have been agreed to, others are being reviewed, and I’ll let Defense Department and others speak for themselves about what they have to do with this issue. But from the vantage point of the Department of State, we have clearly let it be known that under our ACOTA package, we are prepared to be of assistance and support.

This issue of rebels in northern Mali is not only an issue of great concern to Mali, but also of great concern to all of the regional states, because this constitutes not just a threat against a sovereign state, but potentially a transnational threat that can move across the borders into Niger, into Burkina Faso, into Mauritania, into Senegal, as well as Algeria and other places. So it is important, and we cannot, in fact, take it lightly, and we’re looking at it seriously. But we also believe that it’s important that the Africans in the region be in a leadership role in resolving this, and we also believe that it’s important to help to try to restore the territorial integrity of Mali, and equally important for us as well, and I think for the people of Mali, is that they move forward in an expeditious manner as quickly as they can to put in place a roadmap and a timetable for the restoration of a democratic government.

One last point: U.S. law does not allow us to support the Malian armed forces. There is a law which states that we cannot support a government that has come to power as a result of a military coup d'etat, and the current government came to power as a result of a military coup d'etat. We will leave it to our European partners, the French and the European Union, to help the Malians. But we are prepared to work with and to support ECOWAS and any of the African troop-contributing countries that seek our assistance. Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea has had a enormously bad reputation for human rights violations over a number of years. It has come under scrutiny because of the large oil discoveries and the large oil production that exists there. Charges of corruption and human rights violations have been – have plagued the country for most of the last three decades. It is important that the government in Equatorial Guinea continue to open up its society, continue to provide political space for the opposition and for civil society, continue to allow the media to come in and to provide greater transparency on how its enormous wealth is being utilized.

Equatorial Guinea has been characterized in a book called Tropical Gangsters by a well-known World Bank representative. That book was written some 20 to 25 years ago. It would be a mistake for those who are analysts and actively engaged in Africa to look at Equatorial Guinea in the light of that book. This is not to say that the problems of human rights and corruption and accountability have been addressed. It is important that the government continue to make sustained progress in dealing with these issues, and must continue to deal with the issues of human rights, expansion of political space, accountability of revenues, and they must avoid – must avoid – allowing their enormous oil revenues and foreign exchange movements to be a cover for money laundering and for the movement and sale of narcotics.

MR. MCDONALD: Well, I don’t often do this, but I’m going to use my prerogative as chair to ask the last question, but your answer may be very short, I realize.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: (Laughter.)

MR. MCDONALD: What is the prospect, as we look into the coming year, and a time that Africa will not be under your stewardship for the United States Government, that we will have a trip by President Obama, a multistate trip, one that includes a visit to the Africa Union or something like the AGOA summit, to come? Is that going to come in the near future?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Steve, I’d like to be able to give you an answer, one that would thrill everyone in this audience. But just as it was a little bit presumptuous of me to try to answer Congresswoman Bass’s question, it would be even more presumptuous of me to try to answer a question about the travel plans and movements of the President of the United States. I’d say --

MR. MCDONALD: My friend, ever the diplomat. (Laughter.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I simply will not go there, and I will end with one of these comments that I have made on a number of occasions. It says that those who spend long, long hours looking into crystal balls and making great and small predictions invariably end up with broken glass in their mouths. (Laughter.) I will not end with broken glass in my mouth. I just simply will not go there.

MR. MCDONALD: Okay. (Laughter.) Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Location: 
6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
 
Event Speakers List: 
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State
  • Steve McDonald // Public Policy Scholar
    Former Director, Africa Program, Woodrow Wilson Center.
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