LiveAtState: U.S. Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
This video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.
MODERATOR: Welcome to LiveAtState, the State Department’s online interactive video program for engaging with international media. We’re delighted to welcome guests from all over the world today, and particularly, we’d like to give a shout-out to our watch parties joining us from our embassies in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. We’re fortunate to have with us today the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She’s here to talk to us about U.S. policy in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Now before I turn the time over to Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, we would like to go through a couple housekeeping items first. To start, if you notice at the bottom of your screen, on the bottom right-hand side, you’ll see a little box titled “Questions for State Department official,” so go ahead and go down now and you can start typing in your questions, and we’ll get to as many as we possibly can over the next couple minutes.
If for any reason you have problems entering the questions or with your system, you can go ahead and send an email to Live@State.gov, and you can just send your questions there and we’ll also get to those as they come in. If you want to continue with the conversation after this program, you can always follow the State Department on our Twitter feed, which is @StateDept, but you can also follow the Bureau of African Affairs, @AfricaState. And also, on top of that, they have a Facebook page and you can follow them on Facebook, which is at Facebook.com/dosafricanaffairs.
All right. And with that, we’ll go ahead and get started, and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, thank you for joining us today. We’d like to open it up with any opening remarks you may have.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you very much. I am really excited to be here. I have been in the position of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs all of two months. I’m delighted to be working on Africa issues again, having served for four years as the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and previously as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau. It’s really, really exciting to meet the press in Africa, and I think it says a great deal about our policy on free press and encouraging press freedoms, so I look forward to getting to know all of you, talking about issues in Africa, and at some point, visiting the countries you’re calling in from and meeting you face to face. So again, thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. As we get started, we’ll start pretty broadly. How would you define U.S. interests in Africa, and how are they changing?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. Let me just start by saying that our interests in Africa are in the people of Africa. Every policy initiative that we have taken over the past few years focused on Africa’s people. And as we look at the four pillars of our U.S. foreign policy, it’s strengthening democratic institutions that, again, focus on people. We want to promote regional peace and security. We want to engage young African leaders like all of you who are sitting in the room. And we want to promote development, trade, and investment.
So those are the core policy pillars, but for those of you who followed the President’s visit to Africa a few months ago, he announced three major initiatives. And again, these are initiatives that focus on people. He announced Power Africa, which will look at the possibility of working with some of our African colleagues to bring electricity to 80 percent of the population who have never had electricity. He announced Trade Africa, which is an initiative that will look at trade in East Africa to start, how African countries can better trade among themselves, but also to encourage the trade with the United States. And then third, and one of the most important initiatives, is YALI, the Young Africa Leaders Initiative, which will have us work with young leaders all over the continent.
As you know, more than 60 percent of Africans, almost in every country – and this figure might be quibbled with a little bit – but about 60 percent are ages 35 and below, and we really want to focus on helping to build the leadership skills of those young people so that they can move into positions of authority in the future.
So I look forward to hearing your questions and having this discussion. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Getting us started, we have Bridget Mananavire from the Daily News, Zimbabwe. She starts off with a very current affairs issue. She asks: How will the U.S. Government shutdown affect its policies in Africa, including investment and funding?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an excellent question, and it’s a question that we’re getting a lot across the world. The State Department and USAID are major, major funders on the continent of Africa, are national security agencies. And because of that, we are able to continue operations, albeit sometimes at lower levels as we move forward. But most of our funding right now is 2013 funding, and that funding will continue. We’re hoping that this is short-lived and we will be able to move forward, but I think most of you will not see any difference in what we’re doing in Africa on the development front or on the investment front.
MODERATOR: Ajong Mbadpndah from the Pan African Visions, he asks – or he explains: Terrorist acts seem to be on the rise in Africa with recent attacks in Kenya and the continuing chaos in Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram. In what concrete ways is the U.S. assisting African countries to cope with the threats of terrorism? With all its atrocities, it appears that the U.S. does not consider Boko Haram in Nigeria a terrorist group. It has bombed a United Nations building, killed people in churches and mosques, and most recently, students. What definition of a terrorist group is missing from the activities of Boko Haram, or why is the U.S. reluctant to label it as one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me start with that question. We do consider Boko Haram a terrorist group. We have sanctioned all the top three leaders of Boko Haram. And we are working very, very closely with the Nigerian Government as they address this security threat. We believe that terrorism anywhere affects people everywhere, and we want to be involved in assisting our colleagues, whether it’s in Kenya or Somalia or Nigeria, in addressing this threat.
I want to offer my condolences to the people of Kenya following the Westgate terrorist attack, and I want to announce again that in Nigeria, we are horrified by the attack on young people at this college, and we do see that as a terrorist act. And I offer my condolences to the people of Nigeria as well.
MODERATOR: Speaking of Westgate, Kevin Kelley, the USUN correspondent for the National Media Group in Kenya, asks: How does the Westgate mall attack affect U.S. relations with President Kenyatta, and will there be a modification of your predecessor’s warning of consequences should Kenyatta be elected? And how have those consequences been manifested to date?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we – the Westgate event was an event, again, that affected many, many people, not just the Kenyan people. There were nationals from many other countries who were affected by that. As you know, President Obama called President Kenyatta to express our condolences and offer our assistance to the Kenyan people. So we will continue to support the Kenyan people as they deal with terrorism, as they have dealt with the fire at the airport, and as they move forward to provide security for all of their people. The position of the U.S. Government, as I started out at the beginning, we work with the people of Africa. And the people of Kenya are important to all of our policies.
MODERATOR: Scott Stearns from VOA asks – he has two questions on Mali, and he asks: What is your assessment of the new government’s control over the military? In his speech at the UN last week, President Keita said that there has to be a regional approach to fighting terrorism in the Sahel because it’s bigger than the resources of any one country. And how is that going?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. One of my first trips as Assistant Secretary was to attend the inauguration of President Keita in Mali, and it was really an amazing event. There were 20 heads of state from around Africa, as well as the President of France and the King of Morocco. All of that says how much we, as an international community, support Mali.
The election, I think, happening 18 months after the coup d’etat sent a strong message to those who would use coups to overturn governments that that is unacceptable. We are looking forward to working with the Government of Mali as the government moves to address many of the issues that resulted from the coup d’etat. And we are very, very – we have made very, very strong statements that the military must be subordinate to civilian leaders. And we will work with the Mali Government to ensure that that’s the case in Mali as well as in other locations where the military might be looking to do the kinds of things that were done in Mali.
MODERATOR: Moving along to Miriam Kaliza of Matindi FM in Malawi, and she asks: In terms of conflicts in Africa, how much is the U.S. doing to ensure that people resolve whatever is wrong – for example, the lake wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania, the conflicts in Madagascar, and others?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. We are actively involved in Africa. And of course, conflicts in Africa are not beneficial to the people of Africa. One – again, my very first trip as Assistant Secretary was to the Great Lake regions to meet with the Government of Rwanda and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as tensions were rising in that region. We’ve been proactively involved in the situation in CAR to ensure that that conflict does not spread, but also to help that country address the issues that have resulted in the conflict. We’re working very, very closely with the Government of Somalia to ensure that conflict there does not occur again.
So again, I think all of this is to say that we are concerned about conflict. We want to ensure that African countries benefit from prosperity, that they take advantage of the opportunities that are there so that Africa can move smartly into the next century.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Rebecca Chimjeka from Joy FM in Malawi. It says: Malawi has not taken a clear position on gay rights and same-sex marriages, which countries like yours have been campaigning a lot for. What is your stance on this and the dilemma that Malawi has found herself in coming from a conservative society background?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. The United States believe that all people are created equal. I’m an African American. I have gone through the experience of being in a country where there were questions about that. So for us, it is unequivocal that regardless of people’s sexual orientation, regardless of their gender, we want all people to be treated with all the rights and protections of human rights that we expect in all countries. So we are prepared, as the United States with very strong values in this area, to work with countries in Africa to help them develop the legislation that will provide human rights to all of its people.
And in the case of Malawi, we’re prepared to work with that government. We’re prepared to work with other governments that have issues in this area. But I think I can say without any doubt that human rights are a core value of the United States, and that plays into all of our relations with every government we’re involved in.
MODERATOR: Jenny Clover from Reuters Rwanda asks: Are you convinced that Rwanda is no longer supporting the M23 rebels?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have had meetings in the region with the Government of Rwanda, with the Government of DRC. As you know, Secretary Kerry appointed Senator Feingold to work on conflict in that area. We have made it clear in our discussions that any support of any rebel group, whether it’s M23 or FDLR, any support of those rebel groups is seen as contributing to conflict in the region. So we have expressed our views to the Government of Rwanda, to the Government of DRC, and we’re working closely with partners in the region to ensure that groups like M23 are demobilized, disarmed, and held accountable for all actions that they have taken against the civilian population in DRC.
MODERATOR: As a quick follow-up to that same question, can you confirm reports that the U.S. has stopped military support to Rwanda and some other countries because of their use of child soldiers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We – under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, we have just announced those countries that are being sanctioned under that act, and Rwanda is one of those countries. Our goal is to work with countries that have been listed to ensure that any involvement in child soldiers, any involvement in the recruitment of child soldiers, must stop. In this case, it was related to M23, and we will continue to have discussions with the Rwandan Government on that issue.
MODERATOR: Going back to the Daily News Zimbabwe, Bridget Mananavire asks: What have seen – or we have seen nations that had previously imposed targeted restrictions on officials and companies in Zimbabwe ease them. Recently, the EU lifted sanctions on the government diamond body Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. What is the U.S. stance on diamond companies, and will it maintain them, and for how long?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I can say to you that, in the case of Zimbabwe, our sanctions continue. We will be reviewing those sanctions on a regular basis, and if there are additional individuals who should be sanctioned, we are prepared to add them to our sanction list. And if there are people who we think can be removed from the sanction list, we will remove them from the list.
I will add that we were disappointed with the election. While it was violent-free, we’re not convinced it provided an opportunity for all Zimbabweans to express their views in the election. And again, we will be reviewing our sanctions in light of that.
MODERATOR: Isaac Ongiri from the national media in Nairobi, Kenya, asks: Kenya is in the process of pulling out of the ICC after parliament passed a motion urging the government to withdraw from the court where the president and his deputy are facing charges. What is the position of the U.S. Government regarding this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The decision by the Government of Kenya to pull out of the courts – and we don’t know that they have, in fact, made that decision – doesn’t have an impact on the current cases against the president or the deputy president. As you know, we are not a signator to the Rome Convention, but we work very, very closely with the member states to ensure that the ICC is able to carry out its responsibilities and its duties. We will look forward to continuing to work on those issues and hear what African governments have to say about this. But our efforts are to ensure that the court is able to continue to function in a way that allows it to deal with some of the issues that are before the court.
MODERATOR: We now have a question from our watch party in – at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. Edmund Smith from Asante Daily Graphic in Ghana asks: What areas of partnership does the U.S. have with Ghana?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I just – I was in New York last week, and I met with your president. We have a very, very strong partnership with the Government of Ghana. We are very, very pleased with the results of the Supreme Court decision where Ghana had a free, fair election and it was confirmed by your senate, and it was accepted by the opposition. I think that says a lot about how far Ghana has come as a democracy and how strong Ghana’s democracy is. So again, we look forward to working with Ghana. We have lots of investments in Ghana. Ghana is a recipient of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. We again encourage the people of Ghana to continue to move forward as a strong democracy and as a model in the – on the continent, and particularly in the region of West Africa.
MODERATOR: We’re going to go to another watch party which is in Abuja. They ask: Corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s economic growth. How can the U.S. assist?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and corruption, as I’ve been quoted saying many times, is a cancer. Corruption thwarts a country’s ability to prosper, and we are working with the Nigerian Government, with its justice sector, and other elements to ensure that Nigeria builds the infrastructure and the capacity to deal with issues of corruption. I think it goes without saying that Nigeria’s prosperity has been affected by corruption. It’s a reputation that Nigeria will have a hard time living down, and we hope that we’re able over the next few years to work with the government to ensure that those individuals who are involved in corruption are held accountable in the legal system of Nigeria.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Manjakahery Tsiresena of the AFP Madagascar: How the U.S. did see the election of October 25th in Madagascar?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are hopeful that this election is one that will allow the Madagascar people to move forward, that the election will allow – the next election will allow all candidates who are eligible to run for president, and that there’s a free, fair, transparent election that, again, will get Madagascar off of the list of countries that have been sanctioned by us and others because of the problems that they have had and Madagascar can start moving forward economically, as well as, as a democratic and a politically stable country.
MODERATOR: Soafaniry Rakotondrainy asks: How would you involve young sub-Saharan young people in the resolution of conflicts in sub-Saharan countries, as they are numerous here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As I mentioned at the start, the population of youth in Africa is significantly high. I won’t quote the statistic because it changes depending on who’s quoting it, but African youth have been the victims of conflict all over Africa – they have been victims of recruiting, they have been victims of violence – and we want to see young Africans also be beneficiaries of prosperity in Africa. So the Young Africa Leadership Initiative that the President announced in June when he was in Africa is our effort to start addressing the youth bulge and helping develop the capacity of youth to take on leadership roles in the future, whether it’s in politics, the private sector, academics. We are hoping over the next few months to start the recruitment process for a leadership forum for young African leaders that will take place next summer in the United States. They will spend about three months here where they will get – have courses on leadership. And then we hope they go back and they use what they have learned to help build the – build on the prosperity that is possible in the countries that they’re from. And then on top of that, we hope that they develop relationships across borders so that when there’s conflict, they’re able to talk to each other because they know each other.
MODERATOR: We’ll move along to another watch party in the Republic of Congo. They ask – they state: In 2008, when President Obama visited Africa, he spoke on the importance of strong institutions, not strong men. What is the U.S. doing to help African countries build strong institutions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and I’ll use the example of Liberia, where – I know better than any country; I served there for almost four years – and we work very, very closely with that government to help rebuild their institutions after more than 15 years in conflict. And this is a policy that we have across Africa. So we are working in ministries of health, we’re working in ministries of education, we’re working with the justice sector, with the minister of justice to build the institution of justice, we’re working with court systems. So this is an important contribution that we are making to help countries move forward in the future.
Power Africa is an amazing example where we will be working with institutions in that country to build not only the regulations that allow for power to be developed in Africa, but also working with the private sector to help build up initiatives that will allow us to bring electricity across the continent.
MODERATOR: The next question comes from – BelAfrika Media Belgium asks: What do you think about the rape of women in Congo and in general, and what are your plans?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What do I think about the – I think it’s horrible. I think women, whether it’s in Congo or any place in the world, women are greater victims of violence and conflict than any other population. And we have worked very, very closely with the UN, with NGOs, using funding from USAID, from our office of Population, Refugees, and Migration, to deal with women who are victims of violence. It is something that we all have to address, and we also have to work to hold those accountable who are involved in raping women in conflict. And in several cases in DRC, some have been held accountable, but I think more needs to be done. We all have to add our voices of horror to the attacks that have taken place on women across the world, not just in Africa.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in our U.S. Embassy in Ghana, we have a question: The U.S. President pledged seven billion to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa. Has Power Africa already begun, and how was the selection done?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Power Africa has begun in the sense that the initiative is moving forward. We are working with private companies as well. Six countries were selected; I think they are just a start for what we would want to do. USAID is leading the initiative on Power Africa. We’re working, again, with our energy office in the State Department as well, and our economic office, and we’re hoping that we can work with institutions on the continent of Africa to develop this initiative. I think this is going to be an initiative that will have a widespread impact, because with power, companies are able to invest. With power, children are able to go to school. With power, health and hospitals are able to function. So this is major for Africa. And while we will – it will take some years for the results to be felt, it’s going to take a lot of work and we are – we’ve started.
MODERATOR: Elias Gebreselassie from the News Business Ethiopia, who’s coming to us from the watch party in Addis Ababa, asks: What do you have to say about – say to the charge that the U.S.’s new focus on the African continent is countering the influence of emerging economies like China?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I get asked that question everywhere in Africa. And my answer to that question is: we’re not competing with China in Africa. The U.S. has core values that promote the development of Africa, and we have been in Africa since the beginning. And so, our efforts are not in competition with China. Our efforts are in support of the desires of African people. And the needs in Africa are great, so I think African countries can work with the Chinese to work to get what is in their best interest. But they should not see it in their interest a competition between the United States and Africa, because that doesn’t exist.
MODERATOR: Haguma Christine asks a pretty broad question. She says: Do you have some programs in trade and investments in Africa, and how exactly do they work?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just talk about AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act initiative. Ethiopia hosted a very, very successful AGOA forum a few months ago, and more than a hundred representatives from the U.S. Government participated in that. AGOA provides an opportunity for African countries to bring tariff-free trade into the United States, and I think the figure is around $34 million – $34 billion in trade in the past year. And we’re hoping to continue with efforts like AGOA. We have a very strong investment initiative that is being supported by our U.S. Trade Representative’s office, and we work very, very closely with businesses that are interested in investing in Africa. So we have a lot going on on the investment side, and I think those of you who are on the continent right now probably see evidence of that.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Ghana, Issac Aidoo asks: With Ghana’s present economic challenges, donor countries have expressed concerns about government’s reckless spending. What is the U.S.’s concern going forward, and are you willing to still offer support?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are very supportive of the people of Ghana and the Government of Ghana, as the government moves forward. We are working to help countries have more transparent budgets. We’re working with countries to help them deal with issues of spending. I don’t have the exact information that you’re referring to on Ghana right now, but I can tell you that we will continue to work with Ghana to address their requirements, and we will continue to support the government’s movement to help the investment climate, so that there are more businesses coming to Ghana, creating more jobs, and hopefully, creating more opportunities.
MODERATOR: From our watch party in Zambia, Stuart Lisulo from The Post asks: Does the United Nations take seriously President Sata and other African leaders’ call for more representation in the UN Security Council?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an interesting question, because, yes, I think the United States – the United Nations does take that seriously, and I know that there are efforts of reform that are – and discussions about reform that are taking place. African countries are members of the General Assembly, and they need to make their views known as we move forward and have those discussions.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Addis Ababa, Birhanu Fekade, the reporter from the newspaper in Addis Ababa, asks: The recent attack in Kenya by the al-Shabaab and the attack in Nigeria by Boko Haram are taking place in Africa while the U.S. and allies are watching it happen. Could something have been done to stop these events prior to their happening?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: My answer to that question is simple: If something could have been done to stop those events, it would have been done. We, in the United States, have been victims of terrorist acts in the United States. We’re working very, very closely with the security services both in Nigeria and Kenya and across Africa. In Mali, for example, to address terrorism, to work to thwart terrorist efforts to attack countries, and I think, many terrorist acts that might have happened have been stopped. So if we can stop terrorism, we will do it, and we’re putting a lot of energy, a lot of effort, and a lot of resources on the continent of Africa and elsewhere to stop these horrible acts that lead to the deaths of many civilians – innocent civilians, such as those who died in Westgate Mall.
MODERATOR: Staying at U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Elias M Eseret from the Associated Press and Afro-FM radio asks: The new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, has set out that one of her priority will be promoting the rights of the LGBT community, which is mostly not approved of by both the government and the society. Does her stance show a change in policy by the government towards the African continent in general and in Ethiopia in particular on that issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is a U.S. Government policy. It is a U.S. Government’s value that we believe in human rights for all people despite any laws that might exist that would deny people their human rights. We strongly believe in the rights of people to choose their partners, to choose the person – as President Obama has said, to choose the person they want to love, and not have laws that deny them those rights.
So our Ambassador in Ethiopia is following the policies of the U.S. Government. It’s a broad policy; it’s not a change. It is a policy that reflects our values in – across the United States.
MODERATOR: Going back to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka. Stuart Lisulo, The Post: When will Zambia receive the next U.S. ambassador to replace former Ambassador Storella?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. We do a have an ambassador in line to come to Zambia, and I hope that he or she will be there soon.
MODERATOR: Okay. Jason Straziuso says: This is Jason Straziuso from AP in Nairobi. FBI agents have been on the scene at Westgate Mall for several days now. What can you tell us about what they have discovered, particularly as it relates to any evidence the hostages were held by the attackers and many have died inside? Also, is there any progress being made on how many, where from, and who these attackers were?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t answer those specific questions. We do have FBI agents there assisting the Kenyan security authorities in investigating what took place in Westgate mall. They’re providing forensic support. They’re providing other investigative support, and the results of their efforts are being shared with the Government of Kenya. I don’t have access to that information nor do I think it would be appropriate to share it with you here. But I just want to confirm that we’re there to help the Government of Kenya, to help the people of Kenya determine what exactly happened there so that we can find those who were involved and also prevent this from happening in the future.
MODERATOR: Georg Otumu, the NigeriaStandardNewspaper.com, asks: Does the U.S. Government think African Union and ECOWAS leadership – leaders are doing enough to abate the spread of terrorism through various leadership virtues or defects of African leaders in the African continent?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have a very strong partnership with the AU and with ECOWAS to deal with terrorism and other security incidents throughout the continent. The AU has been a strong partner in Somalia, in Mali, in other countries in Africa. ECOWAS has been amazingly supportive in Mali. ECOWAS was very much involved in the situation in Liberia. So we think that both of those organizations have been strong partners and have had a tremendous impact on providing a – security for Africa.
There’s a lot more work to be done, but we continue to support their efforts through training and providing equipment and support so that African troops can be deployed throughout the continent.
MODERATOR: Elita Nkalo, Capital Radio Malawi, asks: America has increased its military visibility in Africa, and this is leading to speculation that it intends to establish its U.S.-Africa Command Military Base whose current headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. How true is this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have always had a military presence in our embassies and we’ve worked closely with African militaries across the continent. AFRICOM is in Stuttgart, and as far as I know AFRICOM will remain Stuttgart. There are no plans at this time that I’m aware of that would move AFRICOM to the continent of Africa.
That said, we will continue to develop our military-to-military relationships with African countries and continue to help build the capacity of African militaries to address security issues across the continent. We will continue to work on training African troops so that they can participate in peacekeeping operations, and all of this is being done by our military with AFRICOM’s involvement. But as far as I know, they will continue to operate out of Stuttgart, Germany.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the watch party at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville: Regarding the Central African Republic, it seems as though the United States is absent. What is the United States doing to support a peaceful future in the CAR?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re not absent. We have been very, very actively involved with the neighbors and with our partners to address the very worrisome situation in CAR. We are very concerned that the conflict there has turned this country into a place where terrorists might look to operate, and we want to work closely with the civilian government in CAR to ensure that the Seleka rebels are disarmed and that they are no longer terrorizing the population.
We have a special advisor who has been in the region, has been involved actively in the discussions, and we’re working very, very closely with the AU to support efforts to build up an African force there.
We participated in meetings in New York. I met with your Prime Minister in New York as we looked at ways that we can continue to be actively involved. But we are actively involved, and I want to make sure that that’s understood.
MODERATOR: From the U.S. embassy watch party in Ghana – from Sandra Manu, a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism asks: How is the U.S. combatting racism against African living – Africans living in the U.S., in other Western countries, in relation to access to equal opportunities? Are there any policies?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I think we have strong laws in the United States that provides equal rights to all citizens, whether it’s based – discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, region – I think it goes without saying that those laws are on the books. We are – and we address any complaints in our court system. So I don’t think that there is an issue that the U.S. Government is not supportive of populations that are different.
We are a country that is extraordinarily diverse, and we see diversity as strength. And we have seen many individuals who have come from Africa who are now American citizens who are contributing to the growth of our country but also contributing back to their countries of origin. And this is something that we support as a government, and it is something that we’re proud of as a government. So if individuals are experiencing discrimination, there’s a way to address that in our legal system.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ve got time for about two more questions. We’re going to take the next one from the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, from Eric Goguillot, the TerrAfrica Newspaper: Will the Republic of Congo expect you to visit and meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am sure that the Republic of Congo will expect me to visit, and I think all countries in Africa will expect me to visit, and I will do my best to do that. It might take some time: remember how many countries there are in Africa. But as the Assistant Secretary, I represent the President and the Secretary to every country in Africa. We have ambassadors that are there to represent our interests, and as the Assistant Secretary, I would like to, at least once, visit every single country in Africa. So if the Republic of Congo is expecting me to visit, I encourage them in their expectations. I can’t say when it’s going to happen, but I can say that I plan to make that trip.
MODERATOR: And our final question will come from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa from the watch party. Birhanu Fikade – for The Reporter newspaper asks: Will AGOA extend for 15 years ahead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I can’t say that AGOA will extend for 15 years, but I think I can say categorically that we are working on the extension of AGOA, and I’m confident that we will get an extension. How long that extension will be will be determined by our Congress. And again, we just know it will be extended. So I think you can feel confidence about that, and we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.
MODERATOR: Well, that looks like that’s all the time that we have for questions. First of all, we’d like to thank you, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us today and taking the time to ask – to answer all these questions.
For our participants, we’d like to let you know that we’re going to send audio and video files to you as soon – and also a transcript – as soon as we can after this program is over so you can go ahead and file your stories.
And again, we’d like to remind you that you can follow us on Twitter @StateDept, you can follow the U.S. Department of State. But you can also follow the Bureau of African Affairs @AfricaState.
Thank you so much for your time, and we hope that you’ll join us again at our next program soon – for another program of LiveAtState.