Remarks With Central African Republic Transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza
Secretary of State
SECRETARY KERRY: So welcome, everybody. I am really pleased to be able to welcome the president of the Central African Republic, President Samba-Panza. She is one of three female presidents on the continent of Africa and has presided over a remarkable transition during very, very difficult times in the Central African Republic. She is known as the mother of the Central African Republic because she’s really presided over a very complicated and important process.
With her leadership, the Brazzaville Accords were reached in 2014. They helped to bring warring parties together in order to try to bring the country to an end of conflict, and later with the Bangui Forum in 2015, where there were further discussions about how to move forward and then a constitutional process and now an election. And President Touadera – President-elect Touadera will take office at the end of March, and we wanted to really underscore the importance to the United States of our relationship and particularly our admiration for the efforts of President Samba-Panza, who has really helped to set an example for stewardship, for responsible transfer of power, for holding good elections, for providing an example that really reaches well beyond the Central African Republic and to all of the rest of the – rest of the continent.
The United States has been deeply involved in trying to help in this transition. We’ve provided over $800 million combined in support, some of it to MINUSCA, which is the United Nations support effort for this, but also humanitarian aid, elections assistance, and long-term development support. And we are very committed going forward now to helping to support the new president in the transition, but it’s very, very clear that President Samba-Panza’s legacy is a very important one to the entire world, and we’re delighted to have her here today to talk about the ongoing United States commitment to the Central African Republic.
So Madam President, welcome. Thank you for coming to say hello, and I look forward to your comments.
PRESIDENT SAMBA-PANZA: (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary of State, first of all, I would like to express my deep emotion, having listened to the words that you have spoken about me. Above all, I would like to express to you and to the United States Government the entire support, the entire help that I personally benefited during the transition. And thanks to that, I was able to complete my mission even though it was very difficult. I felt surrounded by friends, surrounded by people who really wanted to support the people of my country, people who wanted to help the country to recover, and amongst these friends there were, first and foremost, the United States of America. And for that, I would like to repeat – reiterate on behalf of the people of Central Africa, repeat my deep gratitude.
You know my country very well and you gave a very eloquent summary of the journey of this transition. First of all, you said something that has always struck me quite deeply. When we – I was called the mother of the nation – and it’s this position, this posture, that I always positioned myself – when I accepted, agreed, to lead the transition at a very difficult moment in time, it was because that I knew that as a mother, that as a woman, I had great opportunity to reconcile the sons and daughters of Central Africa who had been artificially divided due to religious regions and due to political reasons. And as a mother, as the mother of the nation and as the mother of all Central Africans, I always fought to bring around me all my citizens and all the men and women who had been divided over several years of conflict. I think that it’s thanks to this posture that I was able to help.
Alongside this posture, I had a vision, a vision that I had to put forth. I understood that through force we could not solve the problems of my country. So I put great emphasis on dialogue, reconciliation, consensus, social cohesion, and all of the efforts were geared towards that vision. And we also had to ensure security throughout the country, and in this regard, once again, the United States were of great help via the support that was provided to the peacekeeping forces of the United Nations and through the presence of American military in the zone of Obo to fight against LRA. This was a very important support.
And my main mission during the transition was to organize elections in order to bring back the country to a new constitutional order, and that was a challenge that had to be met. Today, I am proud to tell you that I was able to meet that challenge. We had peaceful elections. We have a new president who was well elected with a – more than 62 percent. And now it is up to all of us to help him rebuild the country. And the meaning of my trips is to be the advocate to ensure that the new government will continue to benefit from the support from our friends, from the international community, and from the United States of America to help us truly overcome this cycle of violence.