LiveAtState: Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub Saharan Africa
MR ZELTAKALNS: (In progress) the State Department’s virtual interactive press conference. Thank you for joining us. And a special hello to those viewing at our watch parties today in our embassies in Angola, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Zambia. I’m pleased to welcome back to the Live At State stage Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Commander of U.S. Africa Command General David M. Rodriguez. They’re here today to take your questions on U.S. foreign policy and security cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa. You can start submitting your questions now in the bottom of the window titled “Questions for State Department Officials” or email them to Live@State.gov. We are also providing simultaneous interpretation in French and Portuguese today. You can find those numbers at the bottom-left of your screen now.
With that, let’s get started. Assistant Secretary, thank you very much for joining us.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much. Good morning, Michael, and good morning, General, and good morning to – or good afternoon to all of our colleagues following us across Africa. I’m very delighted to share the stage, even at a distance, with you, General. We have done this before, and I look forward to having this discussion with your participation again today.
Before we begin, if you would allow me, I’d like to just say a few words about what we have been doing and to talk about what our priorities are on the continent of Africa. Let me start by saying that promoting peace and security in Africa is one of our top priorities, and it’s vital to all of the efforts we make in partnership with people and the governments of Africa, whether we are supporting democracy and good governance, deepening our economic ties, or promoting opportunity and sustainable development.
Working across the U.S. Government, our peace and security efforts focus on three broad components: It’s peacekeeping and the prevention of additional conflicts, strengthening the security sector in partner states, and countering terrorism and other international threats. And like most of you, we are concerned that growing extremist violence undermines the peace and stability that Africa needs to thrive and to prosper. We are committed to assisting African countries as they build their capacity to counter terrorism. AFRICOM, of course, as you know, is key to providing such assistance. I’m pleased that you will hear from General Rodriguez today as well.
Also you may have heard this is going to be a busy summer for us. There are a lot of exciting things going on. President Obama just signed the legislation that extends AGOA for another 10 years, so we’re very, very pleased about that. We’re looking forward to welcoming President Buhari of Nigeria to Washington later this month, and we’ll be talking to him and his advisors about our partnership going forward. And then the President will travel to Kenya and as well Ethiopia, and he will attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi while he’s there. Here in the United States, our next crop of Washington Mandela fellows of the Young African Leaders Initiative are already participating in their training programs at universities across the United States. And I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the group that is here in Washington from Howard University. And then we will be welcoming the entire contingent to their summit in Washington in August. So with that, I look forward to answering your questions.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Assistant Secretary. General Rodriguez, hello and welcome.
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. Greetings from Stuttgart, Germany. It’s an honor for me to join Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas Greenfield for another Live At State webcast.
Let me echo the assistant secretary’s comments on promoting peace and security in Africa as a priority effort of the U.S. Government. This defines the reason U.S. Africa Command exists as a command. We support comprehensive U.S. Government efforts led by the Department of State with our African partners and regional organizations like the African Union and other allies and partners to address threats to security, support peacekeeping efforts and the prevention of conflict, and to strengthen the security sectors and build the defense capabilities and capacity of our African partners. Our path to success is paved by the strong partnerships we forge and the hard work we put in along the way. I strongly believe a cooperative approach will make enduring and positive change possible in Africa.
I know our time here is limited, so I’ll turn it back over to the moderator to take your questions. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. Our first question comes from Sossou Kouamivi in Togo: “What does the United States do to put – to help an end to the jihadist problem in the Sahel and to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin?” Assistant Secretary, we’ll go to you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. That’s an excellent question, and as I mentioned in my opening statement, peace and security on the continent of Africa is our highest priority. And we are working closely – and I’d like General Rodriguez also respond to this question. We have been working very closely with our partners in the Sahel, in Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin countries, and that I would as well mention in the Horn of Africa dealing with al-Shabaab, to help build their capacity but also support their efforts and to contribute to their efforts to fight against extremism on the continent of Africa.
This has had a tremendous impact on the continent. Every single day I read in the paper that dozens of people across the continent of Africa are being killed by extremists. So we know that this is something that requires all of our efforts to address, and we’re working closely with our African partners to do that.
MR ZELTAKALNS: General Rodriguez.
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. Well, as you know, we’ve got a long-term effort to both build the partner capacity of those nations involved in the fight against violent extremists. We also, of course, continue to support our French partners who are working hard in Mali, Niger, and Chad to help defeat the scourge of terrorism in that region. And we continue over – around the Boko Haram region we have great long-term capacity-building successes in both Cameroon and Chad that have helped to take that fight to the enemy, as well as over in Niger.
With the Nigerians we continue to share intelligence, and that has continued to help them push back and open up some of the areas that had recently been held in the Boko Haram’s hands, and we continue to look forward to building those capacities even better so that they can take care of that situation by themselves. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. Our next question comes from Mr. Kokou at TOGOMEDIA in Togo: “What is the U.S. position with regard to African countries whose constitution does not limit presidential terms, allowing the outgoing president to effectively run endlessly?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Our position on transition and the importance of transition is very clear. We do believe in a democracy, that it’s important that countries go through transitions, that they actually have votes that allow for there to be a change in government. We are certainly very strong on governments not changing their constitutions to encourage the restrictions on term limits. But for those countries that have constitutions that do not require term limits, we are engaged with those countries with their heads of state to encourage that they allow there to be change. People want change. We have seen polls that have been taken across Africa that indicate that broadly African citizens want there to be term limits. They don’t want to have presidents for life. And we support those efforts.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Assistant Secretary. The next question is for General Rodriguez from Kevin Kelley of the Nation Media Group: “General, how do you assess the military strength of al-Shabaab in light of its continued attacks inside and outside of Somalia? U.S., UN, and Somali officials say it has been weakened, but just last week al-Shabaab overran an AMISOM base and killed several Burundian soldiers.”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Since al-Shabaab’s height of its strength several years ago, it has decreased in strength overall, but that does not mean it is anything less of a threat. As they lost more territory in Somalia that they controlled because of the great efforts of the AMISOM troops, they have taken to the asymmetric attacks back in the homeland, those nations – and the worst you can see recently being Kenya. But they have – they can also at any time focus their energy on an isolated place like they did against the Burundian contingent here recently. The AMISOM efforts continue apace and they continue to do a good job decreasing the overall effect or the overall strength of al-Shabaab, but that does not mean that al-Shabaab is not still dangerous, as you can see by the recent days’ attacks.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. Our next question is for Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield from our embassy in Burundi: “What is your reaction to the elections taking place in Burundi on Monday? Can the U.S. stop President Nkurunziza from running for a third term? How about DRC and Rwanda that have elections coming up too?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GREENFIELD: Good. We have expressed our extreme disappointment with the decision of President Nkurunziza to go forward with the elections that took place on Monday and as well his plans to go forward with presidential elections in mid-July. We have also expressed our view that we do not believe under the Arusha accord or the constitution that the president should be seeking a third term. President Nkurunziza has had 10 what I would call relatively stable years as president of Burundi. He has a legacy of having established this country in a time of peace and that legacy should also include turning the government over and not running for a third term. We think that has contributed to the violence that we see taking place and it is contributing to instability in the region. We all think that his decision, against tremendous pressure, to go forward and running for a third term sends a bad signal, a bad message across the continent and other countries where we have encouraged their heads of state and leaders not to seek third terms but to allow for transition, to allow the people’s voices to be heard.
So we will continue to apply pressure. We are encouraging that there be dialogue moving forward. We would like to see the election that is scheduled to take place in mid-July be delayed so that there can be dialogue. And our ultimate goal is that Burundi achieves peace for its people. We do not want to see the violence that is taking place there continue. We do not want to see the instability that is taking root continue to spread across Burundi and possibly across the continent as – at least Central Africa – as we are seeing refugees move from Burundi to Tanzania, to Rwanda, and to DRC.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Assistant Secretary. The next question is for General Rodriguez: “Does the U.S. Government intend to restart its program of military training in Mali?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: The U.S. Government continues to coordinate our efforts through the State Department and we have small programs going right now to help in a couple of fields like engineering and medical, and we will continue to support the State Department as they lead our efforts to further our engagement in Mali as that government continues to grow in effectiveness.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General Rodriguez. The next question for Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, from Angola: “Why does the United States – why has the United States reduced its human rights and democracy-related programs in Africa? This is because governments in Africa are used to rule well only under foreign pressure? And we saw that both U.S. and EU intervention on these domains have helped Africa’s development.”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I fully agree with your statement that we need to continue to focus on democracy and governance across Africa. It is one of the highest priorities and it is part of our mission for the Africa Bureau to continue to support those efforts. So we do support democracy and governance, as you saw in the recent intense and robust involvement that we had in supporting civil society, in supporting the electoral commission to do its job in Nigeria, and we will continue to support those efforts. The African continent is extraordinarily large and we’re not always in every place that we would like to be, but we have our embassies and our ambassadors engaging with governments to ensure that they understand the high priority that we give to their supporting the movement of democracy and civil society in their countries.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you. Next question is for General Rodriguez from Anne-Marie Capomaccio of Radio France International: “The U.S. positioned 800 troops in the south of Spain to be able to intervene on a shorter delay in Africa. Will the United States intervene more now on the continent?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Those forces in Spain are there to be a little closer to respond when the indications and warnings are there that threaten Americans in the missions across Africa. So their primary purpose and their sole purpose is to protect U.S. personnel and facilities such as the challenges that we have in security as we had in Libya. So when we – when we moved the Libyan embassy out of Libya and temporarily moved it, that’s what that force is and that’s what it’s for. It supported that movement. And thank you very much.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. Our next question comes to us from Abuja, and it is from Fidelis from Punch newspaper: “In the last administration, the U.S. refused to sell arms to Nigeria, citing human rights abuses allegedly committed by security forces as the reason. With a change of government, has that position changed?” General.
GEN RODRIGUEZ: That’s a policy decision led by our State Department in Nigeria, and right now we are continuing to engage with the new government to see how effective that is as it moves forward. And we are prepared to move at the pace and rate that the State Department leads this as we rebuild those relationships in Nigeria.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. Assistant Secretary.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just add to that. As you heard in my opening statement, President Buhari is going to be in Washington later this month for meetings with the Administration, and we will have discussions with him moving forward on what we can do to continue to assist the Nigerians in their efforts to fight against Boko Haram. And part of that discussion will be how we can provide the equipment and support that the Nigerians require. Human rights are an important value for the United States, and in any place where we are providing lethal weapons, we want to know that the militaries that we are providing those to do not use that in a way that violates the human rights of ordinary civilians. So we will have that discussion moving forward, and it is our hope that as we discuss these issues with the Nigerian Government, we will also have a discussion with them on how to better prepare their military to support communities and build confidence in communities and not be part of the – not be victimized in the efforts of the military to fight against Boko Haram.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Madam Assistant Secretary, next question for you as well. This comes from Gaelle in Senegal: “What has been done in terms of progress in Sub-Saharan Africa in the field of fight against corruption?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question coming from Senegal. As you know, one of the initiatives that came out of the historic Africa Leaders Summit last year was an initiative on illicit finance and fighting corruption. And your country, Senegal, volunteered to lead that effort, and just this past week, Senegal hosted a meeting on how we fight illicit financing and they invited countries from across the continent.
This is something that is extremely important. The AU just completed a study last year where they looked at illicit finance and determined that billions of dollars of hard-earned capital across Africa is being siphoned off and being taken away from efforts of governments to build capacity, to build infrastructure, and to provide services to their people. So this is something that we are working regularly with our African counterparts on. We have commitments from governments that they want to be involved in this fight, that they want to stop corruption. And as you know, a number of the programs that we have to support Africa’s progress such as AGOA do have benchmarks on corruption. The Millennium Challenge Account has benchmarks on corruption as well. So this is something, again, that we look forward to making progress on in the next few months.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Our next question comes from our Embassy in Zambia. Francesca asks: “How can you describe Zambia’s political landscape, especially that the country is going to the polls again in a few months’ time?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I find it interesting. I was in Zambia earlier this year for the inauguration of the president – the new president. And we were also there before that following the funeral of their last president. So the fact that you’re going to have a third election in almost three years is extraordinarily complicated for the people of Zambia, and it’s our hope that as you move forward you will continue to have the kinds of elections that are free and fair and transparent and that are reflections of the will of the people. You’ve had smooth transitions so far and we’re confident that that will continue.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Madam Assistant Secretary. The next question is for the general and it comes from our embassy in Abuja, Nigeria: “The Multinational Joint Task Force was recently formed. What support will the U.S. provide to support the effort?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: (Inaudible.)
MR ZELTAKALNS: We lost him. We got to go back to you. We’ll go back to you, (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Okay. I’ll try to answer.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Looks like we lost the general. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, do you have an answer?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. And I – the general was the appropriate person to answer that question, but we have been working with the countries in the region to support the Multinational Joint Task Force, and during my recent trip to the AU in Johannesburg, we announced the contribution of $5 million towards the setup of the Multinational Task Force and we will continue to work with the governments in the region to support that. I think the general’s back, so I’ll turn it over to the general to talk more about some of the more specific support we’re providing.
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Okay, thank you. We have a coordination cell in N’Djamena that is part of a French and British as well as the partner African nations – all four of them that are participating in the Multinational Task Force. In that coordination cell we share intelligence with each of the respective countries. We also have people in their tactical headquarters at both Maroua in Cameroon, in N’Djamena in Chad, and then over in Diffa in Niger who are advising and assisting the countries of the Multinational Task Forces in their struggle against Boko Haram.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General, and hopefully we can maintain your connection.
Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, this question comes from Phoebe at NTA International: “The issue of refugees and migration appears to be on the increase despite efforts by governments to address the challenge. What best do you think this issue – how best do you think this issue can be addressed?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As you know, my background before coming back to the Africa Bureau was in the bureau of refugee and migration programs – PRM – Population, Refugees, and Migration. And I was just distressed to hear that in Africa a million new refugees were added to the numbers this year alone. Many of those refugees have come out of Nigeria into neighboring countries, but also the recent refugee flow from Burundi to Tanzania and to Rwanda and DRC. We think there’s close to a hundred thousand refugees just from that flow.
And the solution is to end fighting. The solution is to bring peace to these countries. And I didn’t mention even the situation in South Sudan where more than a million people have been displaced as refugees and displaced in their countries because of a man-made crisis.
So we do have to deal with the issue of conflict. We have to deal with the issue of providing the institutional capacity in governments to support their people and do the right things for their people. We are deeply engaged in trying to find the solution to the situation in South Sudan with our special envoy out in the region relentlessly meeting with both parties and with the countries in the region to bring the two leaders to the negotiating table and encourage them and urge them to do the right thing by their people.
So it’s still a work in progress. In the meantime, the people of Africa continue to suffer.
MR ZELTAKALNS: The next question is for General Rodriguez from Anne-Marie Capomaccio of Radio France International: “According to Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, discussions are ongoing with China for a potential military base in Obock. Are the United States welcoming this first Chinese base in Africa?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: The United States has a great relationship with the Djiboutian leadership. We understand that they are under – they’re having negotiations to do that and we’ll continue to work with our Djiboutian partners so that we continue to build and strengthen that relationship. And that’s their sovereign right, and we’ll just continue to work with and cooperate with all the bases there. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. And this next question comes from Angola for Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield: “How is the United States looking at the challenges that some African nations such as Burundi, DRC, and Sudan are facing?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are worried about what is happening in these three countries and how decisions made by their politicians will affect the people of these countries. And we are in regular discussions, particularly in DRC, with the government and with the president on the way forward to finding solutions and dialogue, and hopefully stability as we move forward. We are also concerned about, again, the impact that this will have on their neighbors, and hopefully we will be able, with our partners in the region and with our partners on – from the UN and the EU to get these governments to do the right things that will lead to peace and a stronger democracy, and most importantly, prosperity and jobs for their people.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you. And Assistant Secretary, we’ll stay with you for the next question, which is on Ebola: “As you’re well aware, another Ebola case was found in Liberia this week. Are you concerned that Ebola is coming back, or has the tide turned against the disease?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I do think the tide has turned against the disease. But these – this new case in Liberia is just a warning to us that the job is not done, that we have to continue to remain vigilant, and to continue to message and communicate with populations about doing the right things when they find that their relatives or neighbors are ill. And our hope is that this battle will eventually end for the moment, but again, we will continue to remain engaged with the governments in the regions and their communities to ensure that Ebola does not take hold again in the way that we were dealing with it last summer. The numbers are down again, but the fight is not over, and there’s still a great deal of work that needs to be done.
In particular, we have to help these governments build their health infrastructure so that they have the resilience when there’s this kind of event, this kind of crisis, that they can respond in a way that does not cause their health infrastructure to totally collapse, as we saw happen in West Africa. So thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Assistant Secretary. And for the next question, we’ll go to General Rodriguez. Chukwuma of Radio Nigeria asks: “In recent times, what has been the support of the U.S. to the Nigerian military in general?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: We have supported the Nigerian military building capacity in some of their units. So we have a great relationship, for example, with the special boat squadron and the navy. We are also participating in a combined fusion center where we share intelligence with the senior leadership of the Nigerian military and their intelligence services and the police forces. And we continue to be prepared to grow that relationship in the future.
MR ZELTAKALNS: General, if I could stay with you for one moment. I understand the military has a lot of skin in the game in Liberia for the Ebola response as well. Do you have anything you’d like to add on that?
GEN RODRIGUEZ: No, just as the assistant secretary said, there’s still work to be done. There has been some capacity-building efforts already. And I think that just with the initial reports coming out of this individual who got sick, that the things that they had learned in the past that were successful between the isolation and the chain contact, as well as the burial standards that the USAID has helped them build, that they will be able to better handle the situation now so that it doesn’t get out of hand as it had been before. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, General. The next question for Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield comes to use from Ambroise in Togo: “What will be the fate of the YALI program after President Obama’s term? Will the next president interrupt it?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, YALI is legacy. The YALI program is a program that has full support, and I think that any new president coming in will see the benefits of this program, that it’s contributing to Africa’s future. And like AGOA that has survived from one administration to the next administration, we’re confident that YALI will survive beyond this Administration. Because what YALI is about is helping Africa build its leadership for the future and supporting the efforts of young people in terms of giving them the capacity to lead in the future. So I don’t see a new administration coming in and questioning the efficacy of this program. I see the program increasing. It’s in our budget for 2017. We’re doubling the number of YALI from 500 to a thousand in 2017 and 2018. So YALI is here to stay.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Assistant Secretary. You mentioned AGOA, which is a very important piece of legislation for trade in Africa. Can you comment on what that legislation would mean?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What that legislation – the President’s signing on the dotted line on that legislation this week means is that – first, it shows our confidence in Africa and in our trade relationship with Africa. But secondly, what it means to Africa is better business opportunities. It means more jobs. It means jobs on the continent of Africa. And it also means jobs in the United States. And the companies who – that are benefiting from AGOA really welcomed the signing of this legislation. It gave them the confidence to move forward, to sign deals on delivery of goods and services that will take place over the next few years. We will be hosting the AGOA Forum in Gabon in August, and we are delighted that this legislation has been signed and will be, again, a signal of the U.S. commitment and confidence in Africa’s future.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you. And for our next question, we’ll go to General Rodriguez. This comes from Nicolas Champeaux of RFI: “Ansar al-Dine normally stages attacks in the north of Mali, and it’s now staging – or threatening to attack the south. To what extent are these threats a concern for Washington, and what can be done to counter this threat?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. These threats are always a concern not only to the African people, but to the leadership in the United States. And we’re working closely with our partners. There, of course, is the efforts with the French as well as supporting the UN mission there and the Malian military as they continue to grow their capacity. And we do mobility, air refueling and intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance support to not only the French, but all of the international partners that are working there. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just add that we have been robustly engaged in Mali and in Algeria with the peace process, and we will continue to work with that government to find solutions to the situation across Mali. But these new attacks highlight the challenge that we have moving forward, and it also highlights the importance of building the capacity of the Mali Government to address these security challenges. And as the general said, we will continue to support their efforts.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Phoebe from NTA International asks: “The U.S. President has extended an invitation to Nigeria’s President Buhari. What should Nigerians expect from this visit?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. What Nigerians should expect is that this will reaffirm the strong relationship that we have with the government and the people of Nigeria. We will be discussing with President Buhari moving forward how we can support his efforts to address his priorities for Nigeria. He’s indicated that his major priorities are dealing with the security situation, addressing the economy, and also addressing the issue of corruption and asset retrieval. So we will have discussions with him on what we can do in those areas to support him. And I think for the Nigerian people, again, it highlights the importance of our relationship with Nigeria moving forward.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you. General, we’ll go over to you for this question from Ronald from Daily Trustnewspaper: “U.S. intelligence teams were recently in Nigeria to help track the Chibok girls. Over a year after their arrival, the story has not yet changed. What went wrong?”
GEN RODRIGUEZ: The U.S. has continued to share intelligence with the Nigerian leadership with those Shabaab girls as well as other people who have been taken by the – by Boko Haram, and we continue to do that. As far as the effort, I think it – while it didn’t yield getting back all the girls, there have been many of the people that were held by Boko Haram that have been freed over time, and we continue to pursue efforts to get the Chibok girls back.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just add that this has been an extremely high priority for the U.S. Government to assist in bringing these girls home, but also in bringing the hundreds of other girls and young boys who were forcefully taken by Boko Haram. We have seen that about 700-plus have recently returned, and we are supporting efforts of the government and NGOs to provide support to those young girls who have – who have fortunately been freed. We will not let up on our efforts. We will continue to work with the government. We commend President Buhari and his wife for visiting the families of the Chibok girls and letting them know that we have not forgotten about them.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you. And we’ll start with you for the next question. It comes from Mabvuto ofNew Vision newspaper: “How does the U.S. Government interpret the action of South African Government acting against a court order not to allow Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir to leave that country during the African Union summit and hand him over to the International Criminal Court?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We were actively engaged in Johannesburg with South Africa and with the AU to express our concerns about the fact that they allowed Bashir to come into South Africa. We know that this is working its way through the South African courts, and so the South African Government has to address this within their own legal system.
MR ZELTAKALNS: And the last question for the afternoon is for Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield: “Why does President Obama – why will President Obama visit Ethiopia? There have been many incidents in the country against human rights and violations that have occurred like ethnic profiling and intimidation and jailed journalists and other problems. The government jailed members of the opposition party and is controlling 100 percent of parliament seats. Does the U.S. Government know this, and what can you do to combat these atrocities?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, our policy is we must engage with governments. And to engage with governments, even those governments where we have disagreements, allow us to express our concerns, to urge those governments to do the right thing. And in the case of Ethiopia, that is exactly what we do. This issue of the arrests of journalists, the blocking of the opposition, is an issue that we discuss on a regular basis with the Ethiopian Government. We have urged that they release journalists who have been held on the – under the anti-terrorism law, and we have pushed for a more even playing field for the opposition.
That said, we do continue to have discussions with the Ethiopian Government in areas where we have mutual concerns. The Ethiopian Government has played a key role in the negotiations in South Sudan. They are playing a key role in Somalia. And they have had some tremendous success on the Millennium Challenge Goals. So we will engage with them on the full range of issues including making sure that we press them on human rights and push them to do the right things for their own people.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Thank you, Madam Assistant Secretary. That is all that we have time for tonight, so I’ll go over to General Rodriguez. General, thank you for joining us. Do you have any closing remarks?
GEN RODRIGUEZ: No, thank you very much. We appreciate all the questions. Thanks to Assistant Secretary of State Thomas-Greenfield and the whole Africa Bureau team who work together with us. Thank you.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Again, thank you for joining us. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. I would just like to thank the audience for your questions and reiterate again that our goal for Africa is Africa’s peace and its prosperity, and we want to promote democracy. We’re excited about the President’s trip to Africa that will highlight those goals in the two countries that he will be visiting. Thank you very much.
MR ZELTAKALNS: Again, thank you for joining us, Madam Assistant Secretary. And General Rodriguez, to you as well, thank you for joining us. Audio and video files of today’s program will be available shortly, and if you’d like to continue the conversation I’d encourage you to follow us on Twitter @StateAfrica and @USAfricaCommand. You can also follow the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs Facebook page at DOSAfricanAffairs and visit AFRICOM on their website at AFRICOM.mil. Thank you for joining us today and we hope to see you again soon on LiveAtState.