Meeting With Staff of Embassy Juba
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR PAGE: I would ask our staff to stand, but they’re always standing. (Laughter.) It is my great pleasure to introduce to you our boss, the Secretary of State. Most of you know that he was sworn in back in February of 2013 as the first Secretary of State in about a hundred years who had come from serving as the sitting head of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we’re very pleased to have a former senator who has a lot of experience in South Sudan. As many of you know, he was here for the referendum vote. He also was here for independence. So South Sudan has a very, very special place in his heart. And it gives me great pleasure to introduce him to you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Ambassador. Thank you all. How you all doing? Everybody good? (Cheering.) All right. I’m glad to hear that. Sounded like you were all very (inaudible). (Laughter.) Sorry, guys. Not yet.
Ambassador, thank you for your great leadership here. We – I got to know the ambassador really well during Christmas holidays, which were not Christmas holidays, obviously. But I think it was about 3 or 4 in the morning that she’d be on, and we had some late-night meetings during that period of time.
I understand a lot of you here (inaudible) the embassy personnel now refer to each other by your radio monitors or something. Is that true?
AMBASSADOR PAGE: Call signs, yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: By your call signs. Is that a fact? Everybody’s kind of into that. And I heard she is Cool 1. Is that right? (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR PAGE: Ice 1.
SECRETARY KERRY: Ice 1? Not Cool 1, Ice 1?
AMBASSADOR PAGE: No, Cool 1 is the radio. Ice 1 is the vehicle.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, Ice 1 is the vehicle. (Laughter.) I like that. The – I’m not going to share with you any of my nicknames. (Laughter.) That’s dangerous. But – and where’s John Thomas? Is he here? Not here right now?
AUDIENCE: I don’t see him.
SECRETARY KERRY: I understand there’s a USAID driver, John Thomas.
AUDIENCE: He’s driving.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, he’s driving? (Laughter.) All right. (Inaudible.) Well, tell him I mentioned him here, because I gather he was our first employee. He was here when this area became converted from USAID into our consulate, and then ultimately into the embassy. So I just wanted to pay tribute to him and say, “Thank you.”
Let me just thank all of you here. This is a post that has been living as complicated a life as you can live in the context of the Foreign Service. And I’m very grateful to everybody for putting up with the tension that surrounded the question of whether or not the embassy would stay open, not stay open, and so forth. I was very strongly in favor of keeping it open, I want you to know, and the ambassador was very strongly in favor of keeping it open. And in the end, I think we all made the right decision.
AMBASSADOR PAGE: Absolutely.
SECRETARY KERRY: We did the right thing. And I’m very, very glad that we won that argument. But you can understand that people were concerned. Particularly, the President was worried about not having another American outpost that became the source of violence, the victim of violence. And I want to thank all of you, particularly those of you (inaudible) the departure – the ordered departure you’re living under even right now, where we have a reduced presence here as a result.
I very much want to thank all of you who are Sudanese, South Sudanese, who work here and help us. We cannot do this job without you. (Applause.) And as the ambassador mentioned, I became fascinated by the struggle for the creation of South Sudan, because I knew that the longest war in Africa’s history took place here, and almost two million people were killed. And it seemed to me that the struggle for recognition and against the oppression of Sudan and this division between people was best – that it was best dealt with and best represented through the creation of the nation.
So I was here a number of times. I’ve been to Darfur; I’ve been to Khartoum many times. I’ve been to Juba several times. I’ve been able to stay here, spent the night in the compound, and so forth. And I believe in the possibility, as you do.
The last months have been terribly disappointing for everybody. And I hope that the meeting I had today with President Kiir, and the meetings I’ve had in Addis Ababa, and that the meetings that will take place in the next days will give all of us an opportunity to be able to try to grab the future again, and define the future where the people of this country are being served in full by all of the governing process. President Kiir today committed to work on a transition government, and we’re going to work to hold him to that. And we will work with him and with you to help make that a reality.
The road isn’t easy. I know it won’t be. But at least there’s a clear direction in which we know we can move. And we’re going to work very, very hard to build capacity in this government going forward. But we need all of you. We need your good faith. We need you to talk to your friends and your family and people, and help them understand that in the days ahead we have an opportunity to create something different, providing we can get the leaders to follow through. I believe there will be additional UN forces coming. I believe there will be additional international support. But a lot of it depends on our ability to be able to create the governing process. So everybody, not just you, but we also have a government that we can work with, that can be responsive, and that will help to make things happen.
Not everybody gets to help give birth to a nation. What you’re doing is a unique experience, and I hope that working together – for those of you who live here and are South Sudanese, and this is your life, we hope that one day you’ll welcome back somebody who was here in the embassy, who comes back with their family to show them all the changes and all the progress and all the things that you’re doing, and we’ll be able to celebrate together the creation of the great nation of South Sudan. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
Before I say hello, I want to recognize our Marine detachment that’s here. We have an augmented Marine force here, but I want – these guys just won the Marine detachment of the year for last year, 2013. Give them a hand. (Cheers and applause.)