Remarks at the African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
George C. Marshall Conference Center
Washington, DC
October 5, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I need a copy of that so I can – (laughter) – read it when times are tough, and – but I greatly appreciate those very kind words, but really, this is for me a labor of love. And I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for being a tremendous leader and a great partner in our efforts to rebuild the Africa Bureau.

It’s probably well known to all of you that when I became Secretary of State, the view was that the Africa Bureau had been starved of resources and attention, that it was not given the support it needed within the highest levels of our foreign policy establishment, that it unfortunately didn’t have the kind of support that was required to meet the challenges that we face throughout Africa. And I was very determined to recruit a leader who could begin to help turn that around. And I had known Assistant Secretary Carson when he had been an ambassador in Africa, in Kenya, and then Zimbabwe, and I knew that he had continued his professional and public service on behalf of Africa. So I was very pleased to be able to recruit him away from the DNI and bring him back to the State Department.

We have made progress and I’m very proud of that progress, but we have a long way to go. And those of you here today as our chiefs of mission bear not just the usual responsibilities that come with being the chief executive officer of America’s presence in a country, but the added responsibility to help us chart this new course and to institutionalize and systematize it so that all the work that we’ve been doing, all the budget increases, all the increases in personnel, all the attention paid doesn’t fade away when there’s a change in administration in the future sometime. So I’m really looking to you to carry on this work, and I believe that in so many ways, what happens in Africa has a very direct and growing impact on what happens in Europe and what happens in the United States.

So when I look at sub-Saharan Africa and I see the challenges that we are facing with development, with the fight against poverty, with an effort for inclusive prosperity, the efforts that we are a part of to try to stand against corruption and conflicts, and then you layer on top of all of the existing problems the challenges that terrorism poses and the very real conflicts that are taking so many lives for so many years.

I know that you’ll be meeting later today with Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Under Secretary Kennedy, the Chief of Staff for the National Security Council Denis McDonough, and they will be talking with you as well about our priorities and the role that President Obama wants Africa to play in our diplomacy and development strategy. Sometime later this month, we’ll be rolling out the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the so-called QDDR, and in it we will be setting priorities for the entire enterprise.

Could I have that coffee, please? I am sorry. I have to have some caffeine. (Laughter.) I tried to grab it on my way down. It’s been already a very long day and it’s not even noon. Thank you, (inaudible).

Excuse me. So I want to take a few minutes to highlight what I see as the important work that we are doing with your leadership. We are continuing to try to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law; countries such as Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone have risen from conflict. But they have a long road to go. And I have visited two out of the three of those countries thus far and I am heartened by some of what I see and I am very frustrated by other of what I see.

We know that the challenges of staying on a course of open, transparent government, with moving away from the sort of big-man theory of governance, to move away from our relationship, as President Obama said in Ghana, from one of patronage to partnership takes time. And that’s why we have to embed these principles and values in our approach to Africa and stay with them. There’s no quick fixes here at all.

But I want to tell you a little story. Johnnie and I went to Kenya last August and it was a very tough visit with the leaders of Kenya, because they had not yet resolved the aftermath of the violence following the election. And we had some of the most straight-talking meetings with the president, the prime minister, and cabinet members that you could imagine. And we, of course, carried a message from President Obama because of his personal connection with Kenya. We kept hammering on them, we kept calling them. We didn’t give them much rest. And we had a very able, experienced ambassador who was constantly in their face, if you will, and I see him right there.

And two things happened in the last several months. One is I was in Krakow, Poland at the Community of Democracies, and there were a number of countries represented and Kenya was there. And the prime minister and the foreign minister couldn’t come because it was right before the time of the referendum vote. A young deputy foreign minister was up on stage and he was sitting there with the foreign ministers from Indonesia and Japan and other places of vibrant democracies. And when he began to talk, he said, “I see Secretary Clinton in the audience. She and America just kept telling us to quit killing each other, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

So old-fashioned diplomacy, constant engagement began to make an impression. At the same time, USAID, working with other – both NGOs and I think with the UK DFID – I’m not sure, right – UK DFID – began to put together an election system that was truly technologically advanced. So when the August 4th referendum occurred, by computers, results could be put up immediately and there could be no question about the outcome. So we worked really hard for 15, 16 months to get those kinds of changes in place. Now, there still is a lot to do, but we could see the result, and we’re beginning to see Kenyans themselves taking responsibility for their own future.

Now, we’ve also been working, as you know, to help train more than 120,000 peacekeeping soldiers, 77,000 of whom remain active. African countries have been extraordinarily willing, from Senegal to Ghana to Burundi, to engage in peacekeeping. But it is important that we continue our training and our oversight, and those of you in countries where the training takes place or where the peacekeepers are sent from, the host countries, have to work with us. We also have to do a better job of working with the UN so that their peacekeeping presence of non-African forces, such as in Eastern Congo, are more responsive and better able to meet the needs of the civilian population for protection and security.

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity.

We have committed an additional $6.3 billion to public health projects in Africa to end deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and to eradicate polio from the continent. We’ve paid particular attention to Northern Nigeria because as you know, that is where polio reemerged, and it reemerged in part because of these rumors about the polio vaccine sterilizing young Muslim boys. So we’ve worked really hard to turn that around.

But we need to make sure – and this is one of the signature principles of our development approach – that we use this money to help build the capacity of African institutions themselves, to treat these diseased, to have more of a systematic approach to healthcare, to address the brain drain that deprives the continent of medical professionals.

In our effort to reduce the threat of extremism in Somalia, we have introduced a new dual track to help expand the Djibouti peace process, contain Al-Shabaab, and grow governance and development efforts. This is one of our hardest problems, and we welcome any ideas that any of you might have, because Johnnie and I worry about it all the time. Simultaneously, we are encouraging Somali communities here in the U.S. to increase positive engagement with their homeland. And in Sudan, as Johnnie said, we are working to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the completion of the January 2011 referenda.

We are doing – we have a full court press between our Special Envoy, retired General Scott Gration, called back Ambassador Princeton Lyman to work, we have a very experienced ambassador in Juba. It is going to be hard, and it is difficult to deal with Khartoum, try to figure out what they want and how they are intending to go forward. But we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can. And I could go through every country and talk about everything that you’re doing and all of the issues that we’re facing, but I guess at bottom, I really believe not only in Africa’s potential, but in the potential of the State Department and USAID and our entire government to have a more productive, constructive, sustainable engagement with Africa into the 21st century.

And I am happy to take your questions and I also invite any suggestions, criticism, ideas that you might have about how we can do our jobs better. But I really came to thank you for helping us make real our commitment to rebuilding the Africa Bureau and charting a new course for African engagement for this government far into the future. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2010/1417