Remarks With Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe
Secretary of State
We know that the DRC, its government, and people face many serious challenges, from the lack of investment and development to the problem of corruption and difficulties with governance to the horrible sexual and gender-based violence visited upon the women and children in the country. We know these are big challenges, and we are ready to help the government address them. I offered and the president accepted my sending a team of legal and financial and other technical experts to the DRC to provide specific suggestions about how to overcome these very serious obstacles to the potential of this country.
We have offered our partnership and assistance, but as I said yesterday, the future of this country, like the countries throughout Africa, is really up to the people. And we hope that there will be a better future for the Congolese people.
FOREIGN MINISTER: (In French.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. We discussed in some detail with the president what the situation is now. He said that it is better than it was six months ago and a year ago and five years ago, but it is not what it needs to be yet.
I commended the president for his outreach to Rwanda and other neighboring countries, which is an important part of trying to bring peace and stability to the eastern Congo. And we have begun a discussion as to what ways we could be of help to the Congolese military, including enhancing the training that we are doing, trying to professionalize the military, trying to ensure that the soldiers get paid so that they will not feel so undisciplined.
But of course, we raised concerns about the behavior of soldiers, and I sought specifically for an update about the five senior officers who have been charged with rape. And we are going to continue to work with the government as well as our international partners, including the United Nations, to see how all of us could do more to end the reign of violence that has afflicted the people in the northern and southern Kivu province for too long.
MODERATOR: Mary Beth Sheridan –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very concerned about civilian casualties, both deaths and rapes and other injuries from the military action. We talked at length on the flight here with the United Nations representative and his team about what their forces can do to try to protect civilians. They are launching joint protection teams. We are going to be following that closely, offering whatever assistance we can. And I spoke at length with President Kabila about the steps that need to be taken by the Congolese army to protect civilians.
QUESTION: (In progress) ...or insecure?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We do support the efforts to end the militias and the violence they have visited so terribly on the people of eastern Congo. We believe that a disciplined, paid army is a more effective fighting force. We believe there can be more done to protect civilians while you are trying to kill and capture the insurgents. We believe there should be no impunity for the sexual and gender-based violence committed by so many, and that there (inaudible) prosecutions and punishment, because that runs counter to peace and stability for the Congolese people.
And I look forward to returning to Goma sometime in the future and traveling through this beautiful part of your country.
MODERATOR: Janine Zacharia from –
SECRETARY CLINTON: First, with respect to companies that are responsible for what are now being called conflict minerals, I think the international community must start looking at steps we can take to try to prevent the mineral wealth from the DRC ending up in the hands of those who fund the violence here.
Of course, you know that many of the mineral producers are very small operations. They are not corporations even. They are certainly not international, so this is a very challenging problem but we’re going to address it.
With respect to Aung San Suu Kyi, she should not have been tried and she should not have been convicted. We continue to call for her release from continuing house arrest. We also call for the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners, including the American John Yettaw. (Inaudible)
FOREIGN MINISTER: I would like to answer two questions that you asked, the one about China and the second (inaudible). For more than a hundred years the riches of the Congo have served to develop foreign countries but not the Congo or the people of the Congo. Geologists say that, as far as our country’s concerned, it’s a geological scandal. But it’s a geological scandal doesn’t really serve the people of the Congo. (Inaudible) so far with (inaudible) beneficial to other countries and detrimental to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The (inaudible) government to – has asked the government to study the different approaches to work with other partners who are willing and able to cooperate with us and use our mineral resources and, in turn, help us with our infrastructures.
This country is as big as Western Europe. We don’t have a single road that goes from north to south or east to west. So the government wanted to see how we could work in partnership with countries, not only with China, but with other countries that are willing to help us with our infrastructure so that we can solve problems with electricity, water, and poverty in exchange with our mineral resources. So it’s not a matter of numbers, but it’s a matter of working with anyone, any other partner who is willing and able to help us improve our infrastructures.