Remarks With Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m delighted to welcome the foreign minister back to the State Department to continue our ongoing discussions about our bilateral interests and our shared concerns around the world. Among the chief concerns we discussed today is the unresolved political situation in Cote d'Ivoire. We are in full agreement that Alassane Ouattara is the rightfully elected president of Cote d'Ivoire and that former President Laurent Gbagbo should respect the results of the election and peacefully transfer power to his successor. President Obama is personally involved. He has sent a letter to President Gbagbo urging him to step aside and warning of consequences if he does not.
Nigeria has shown commendable leadership on this issue at an emergency summit convened this week by President Jonathan. The Economic Community of West African States confirmed the election results and echoed the call for Gbagbo to step down, a crucial step that shows the resolve of leaders in the region to respect the will of the people. The United Nations Security Council, Cote d'Ivoire’s own Independent Electoral Commission, the United Nations Special Representative for Cote d'Ivoire have all endorsed this outcome, as well as the African Union.
So the international community is united. Democracy is about more than just holding elections. It is about respecting the outcome of elections and the voice of the governed, upholding principles that are greater than any one person. As President Obama said last year in Ghana, Africa doesn't need strong men, it needs strong institutions. This is an opportunity for Cote d'Ivoire to move past years of crisis, build its institutions, and take steps to ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future.
This is yet another example of why we appreciate greatly the important role Nigeria has played promoting regional stability in West Africa, supporting the Independent Election Commissions in Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea. Nigeria has been a leading voice in calling on its neighbors to respect the will of the majority and refrain from violence.
As Nigeria’s own 2011 election approaches, we look forward to seeing Nigeria lead by example and put into practice in its own democracy the kind of election that will draw universal admiration. This is a critical opportunity for Nigerians to participate in an election that delivers greater government accountability, improved infrastructure and services, and broader economic opportunity for the Nigerian people. The United States stands ready to support Nigeria as it creates a peaceful environment for the elections that will build bridges between ethnic and religious groups and enhance Nigeria’s authority on the global stage.
The foreign minister and I discussed the status of our U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission. It has had several high-level meetings both in Abuja and in Washington over the past months, focusing on electoral reform, preparing for elections, and having productive working group meetings on corruption, good governance, energy, the Niger Delta, regional security, and so much else. Next year we hope to hold talks in Nigeria on agriculture and food security.
Nigeria is a strategic ally and partner. In addition to Nigeria’s leadership in ECOWAS and the African Union, it has been an active member of the UN Security Council, and I wish to thank the minister for Nigeria’s leadership on the Council.
Nigeria’s preliminary report to the Iran Sanctions Committee on its investigation of the illicit arms shipment uncovered in Lagos underlines its crucial role in the international system. And Nigeria will continue its investigation as we work together to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions on Iran.
I want to thank the minister for the active role that Nigeria played in the Security Council discussion on Sudan several weeks ago.
On this and on so many other issues, I see an increasing role of authority and leadership on the part of Nigeria on the global stage. Since I visited Nigeria just over a year ago, the relationship between our countries has continued to grow. Our partnership is rooted in the values our people share and our common belief in the future of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. And I look forward, Minister, to continuing that partnership for many years ahead.
FOREIGN MINISTER AJUMOGOBIA: Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Secretary. I am here again – I was here in September. I’m here again to reinforce the new vigor in the relationship between Nigeria and the United States. Since I was here in September, a lot has happened. We’ve had elections in Cote d'Ivoire, we’ve had elections in Guinea, and I would say we – I guess we won one and lost one. (Laughter.) But we hope Cote d'Ivoire will still be a success.
Nigeria stands united with the international community in endorsing the results announced by the Independent Electoral Commission in Cote d'Ivoire, and identifying with the decision that Alassane Ouattara is the president-elect of Cote d'Ivoire.
The summit was unanimous, led by President Jonathan – it was unanimous in this decision. And as you probably are aware, ECOWAS has suspended Cote d'Ivoire. Under the ECOWAS protocol, the limits on the sort of sanctions that are available to us, the options, the options are limited to sanctions against a country and we’ve done what we can do in that regard. But President Jonathan has made it clear that we will support and the organization will support the – any sanctions regime prescribed by the international community, the UN, the EU, and the African Union.
We also talked about, of course, elections in Nigeria. And I wanted to reassure the Secretary that things are on course. We’re doing everything we can do to ensure that we have credible elections in 2011. And I am reasonably satisfied that in spite of some of the challenges that we still have, we will have credible elections in 2011.
We also spoke about the possibility between now and the elections of more – greater support under the framework of the BNC in terms of engagement of the U.S. private sector in Nigeria through investment in our infrastructure. The details, of course, will have to be worked out, but a framework that gives support and strength to the electoral process that we’re so firmly committed to.
We believe that the framework that – of the Binational Commission which involves not just good governance and elections, but also investment and energy, food security and agriculture and security in the Niger Delta. All these coming together will provide a process to create jobs which, ultimately, perhaps the single greatest threat to democracy in Africa, the fact of the teeming young number of people who are not employed and have no prospects of employment. We believe the United States can assist us in the process of creating jobs in Nigeria, but in a way that provides jobs here in the United States, provides American companies who would supply goods and services to also benefit from the engagement with Nigeria.
We’ve also talked about the – as you all know, we had a terrorist attack on October 1st, our independence day celebrations. I must thank the United States for the support we had in terms of intelligence sharing that helped us in limiting and mitigating some of the damage that might have been caused by that unfortunate incident and resulted in the culprits being caught and who are now being tried in courts in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
So once again, I am happy to be here to try and reinforce this very important relationship with the United States. We believe that we will – we won’t let you down.
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) Jill Dougherty from CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, the Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo is going to be getting the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chinese Government appears to be furious. They say that this is an imposition of Western values on China. How do you answer that?
And then also there’s an incident that took place very recently with the Indian ambassador, who was subjected to a pat-down at a Mississippi airport. I just checked a statement by the Indian foreign minister, exterior minister, who said that it’s unacceptable. They’re issuing a demarche. And in a broader sense, is it time to look at how diplomats – there have been previous instances – are treated domestically as they travel around the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, as to the first question, the United States has made its views very well known with respect to the Nobel Peace Prize. We believe that human rights are universal and that the right to express one’s opinions and to engage in peaceful expression of those ideas is really at the core of what human rights means anywhere in the world.
We have made our position very clear to the Chinese Government. The United States will be represented at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, although neither the recipient nor his wife will be permitted to travel.
And we continue to encourage the Chinese to open up their own political space for greater exchange of opinions and advocacy of ideas. We raise human rights in every meeting that we have between the United States and China, and we will continue to do so.
With regard to the second question, although I was not until just recently aware of the incident, we obviously are concerned about it. I met with the Indian ambassador and other representatives of the Indian Government on Tuesday. It was not raised with me or raised directly with the Department. But certainly, we will be looking into it and not only responding to the Indian foreign minister but also reviewing the policies.
As you know, this matter is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, and all questions about it specifically should be referred to them. But we will be looking into it and trying to determine both what happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future.
MR. CROWLEY: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Okay. My question is for Secretary Clinton. Just recently, Nigerian Government filed corruption charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and I’m aware that Nigeria and the United States signed a – the mutual assistance treaty, and very soon I believe the case will be coming up in court. Should we be looking at the possibility of former Vice President Dick Cheney coming to Nigeria on the request of the Nigerian Government to face those charges?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to comment on any legal matter. Once an issue is in the court system, we will handle it through appropriate legal channels. So that’s got to be the way that we’re going to respond. But of course, we do not believe that there will be a basis for further action, but we will look into it.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.