Interview With Jacques Aristide of Voice of America's French Service

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 28, 2014

(Via translation)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for answering VOA French’s questions in French. We don’t have much time, so I’ll get right to the subject at hand: the Central African Republic. MISCA troops will not be deployed in the country until September, and, in the meantime, the chaos and killings continue. Apart from financial and logistical contributions, what can Washington do to save the Central African Republic?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s very difficult. I myself don’t have the magic answer at this time. We need – I would like to visit – I would like to speak with all those who are tasked with the decision-making. We will see if we can be of further help with a military force that can prove that the government can function. At this time, people do not believe that, that we can find a—

QUESTION: —A solution?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, a solution. But it’s very difficult, yet I would like to speak with the – with everyone.

QUESTION: When you refer to a military force, are you referring to U.S. troops?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no. I’m talking about African forces, from the African Union and then also from the United Nations.

QUESTION: There are some concerns that this conflict between Muslims and Christians could lead to a partitioning of the country. Or even that partitioning could be the solution for the Central African Republic. Would Washington support a potential partitioning of the Central African Republic?

SECRETARY KERRY: We hope not. I cannot tell you at this time because I need to hear from everyone – I want to speak with everyone. I don’t have an idea right now, but we do not want to divide, no. That is not the preferred solution.

QUESTION: Isn’t it urgent to do something there right now? Because the United States was one of the first countries to speak of a pre-genocide situation. Isn’t it necessary to prevent a repeat of the Rwandan genocide, in the Central African Republic?

SECRETARY KERRY: Let’s truly hope not. After Rwanda, we said: never again. I hope not, and we will do everything possible to prevent that

QUESTION: The presidents of the Congo and Burundi, Joseph Kabila and Pierre Nkurunziza, may run for another term as president in their countries, which would mean constitutional amendment. Are you concerned? Amending the constitutions of their countries, if Joseph Kabila or Pierre Nkurunziza were to run again for president: are you worried about that situation, if…?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, certainly, but I hope that, that Kabila will see that the Constitution must be upheld. The law needs to be supported. I hope that he will now see that it may not be advisable to try to change that to serve himself. We’ll see. I would very much like to speak to him about that.

QUESTION: How does Washington perceive the role of Rwanda, and, in Eastern Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo? And how do you view this role? The eastern region of the D.R.C. is still very unstable. So how do you perceive the role of Rwanda in this part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t know to what you mean when you say “role.” I mean, we very much wanted there to be peace. A way to live together must be found, without forgetting the history that happened there. There are times when I think that either Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that it is forgetting history, that it doesn’t – it’s not recent enough in its choices. It seems that the history that occurred fifteen years ago, something like that now, that they are not sensitive enough in decisions right now, to not have a repeat. And I’m sometimes afraid from time to time, that this will fall into, that this will get into a—

QUESTION: — So even with the drawing back of the M23 rebels.


QUESTION: But what can Washington do?

SECRETARY KERRY: We are trying with our envoy, with Senator Feingold, with the United States. Work needs to be done to change the situation on the ground. And right now, that is what we are trying to do.

QUESTION: One last question: the Sahel, the most dangerous region. Mali, the most recent victim to date of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its associates. How can Washington help tackle the major security-related challenges in the Sahel?

SECRETARY KERRY: We need to train, we need to assist, we are doing quite a bit right now to work with the French to give planes that carry the troops, the military personnel, who are driving out Al-Qaeda. And then we need to work with them to provide more assistance, more equipment, all of that. And intelligence as well, we need (inaudible), they need to know where the enemy is. So we are working with them, we are doing everything we can right now. But it’s quite difficult, but the French have done well and we are proud to work with them to do everything that we can.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.