Interview With Daniel Danis of Eye Radio

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Rosa Kempinski Hotel
Nairobi, Kenya
August 22, 2016

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, first of all, it’s an honor to speak to you. Thank you for finding the time to speak to Eye Radio. For formality purpose, please introduce yourself to our listeners.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. I’m delighted to be with you. I’m John Kerry, the Secretary of State of the United States, and delighted to be in Nairobi.

QUESTION: While giving the press briefing a short while ago, you spoke of – you differentiated between an intervention force and a protection force, which is something our listeners would like to know much about. Could you tell us currently what is going to be the specific role of the protection force apart from what the government is telling its supporters?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the protection role is one that has to be fully worked out and agreed on with the government, but it basically, according to the UN resolution, will be to protect people in their access into and out of Juba and around Juba; it will be to protect facilities – critical facilities; and it will be to engage to protect people if forces take people under fire – innocent civilians, to provide protection to those innocent civilians. That’s the fundamental purpose of it.

It is not an intervention force that is somehow challenging the sovereignty of the country. It is – provides stability and protection against some of the things that made it very difficult for even government people, foreigners, others, embassy personnel, to be able to move around the city of Juba during the conflict. So this force is one that hopefully will restore stability, will help the country to move faster to reconcile, will help by its presence alone, not being engaged in any offensive maneuvers or anything, will simply help provide assurance and confidence to people about the future.

QUESTION: What do you say to people who say that such force will not be effective looking at the fact that there is already UN force – peacekeepers in South Sudan?

SECRETARY KERRY: It has a different mandate. The UNMIS folks who are there working now are not, in fact, empowered to go out and do the same kinds of things. So there’s a difference in the mandate. That’s why I’m confident it can be effective.

QUESTION: In 2014 you said that when you came to Juba and you talked about the issue of the hybrid court, you promised that the United States would give some money in order to help facilitate this process. When is that money coming forth?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we gave $5 million to it. We’ve contributed $5 million, but there’s no process in place to put the hybrid court in place, because the hybrid court was part of the peace agreement, and the peace agreement has not been implemented. So as the peace agreement is implemented, the money will be expended and the process will be assisted.

QUESTION: Would the United States like to see that happening soon?

SECRETARY KERRY: Tomorrow. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And how will you ensure that happens?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I, this is something where we’re going to work very, very closely with Kenya, with Uganda, with Ethiopia, with the neighborhood, with Sudan, in order to make sure that the South Sudanese are taking every advantage of this opportunity now to implement the peace agreement. It’s really up to the people, the leadership of South Sudan to lead and to do the things that they’ve promised to do. If they don’t, then obviously it may be that the UN and arms embargo and sanctions are going to be the tools of last resort. It’s not what people wanted to have to do, but our hope is that the government, the transition government will seize the bull by the horns here and get the job done.

QUESTION: I would like to read to you a message from one of our listeners, called Dorgo (ph), who said that: “Is the United States aware that the South Sudan population is divided? There are those who are in agreement with the deployment of a protection force, and there are those now who are not in agreement with it.”

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, of course we’re aware that there is a disagreement, and in fact some of the people who are on the other side of the disagreement were at the table today talking to us about it. But I think when we explain to people that this force is a force that will help South Sudan, this will help it to attract investment, help it to get its economy moving, helping to provide a sense of confidence and stability about the future, which will help attract companies, we hope, and investment; all the things necessary to provide jobs and build the future. This is something that can be very, very constructive, and we’re urging the people of South Sudan to look at it very carefully. And if the leaders will sell it to their people on the basis of the facts and not distortions about what it is, I’m very confident that people in South Sudan will welcome this protection force.

QUESTION: Okay, talking about the economy, it’s – another listener said: “Is the United States going to help the Transitional of Government of National Unity with the economic recovery?”

SECRETARY KERRY: We will help them with economic recovery, providing they are helping themselves by implementing the peace agreement and doing what is necessary to provide for the stability of the country. If they choose not to do that, then we, who have been the largest donor in the world to the Government of South Sudan, will have to rethink what we’re doing, because we cannot work with a government that is not willing to work with itself and with its own people.

QUESTION: Final two questions: What is your reaction to new reports of rape and also victimization of UN agencies and also eight organizations in South Sudan?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re very disturbing. These reports are reports of behavior that is criminal, that is unacceptable. It’s a violation of human rights. It’s a war crime or a crime against humanity, and it is very, very important that people understand that people are going to be held accountable, and that accountability is part of the implementation of the peace process.

QUESTION: Final message to our listeners.

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re very proud of what Kenya has been doing to move forward both economically and in terms of its fight against terrorism. We know that it’s been difficult, but I think your government is working hard to take advantage of the global marketplace and economic opportunities.

QUESTION: Sorry, sir, it’s on South Sudan.


QUESTION: Message to South Sudan.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, message to South Sudan. I thought you were talking about Kenya. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry about that.

SECRETARY KERRY: Since I’m here in Kenya, I thought you were saying --


SECRETARY KERRY: My message to the people of South Sudan is: Put the country in front of the sectarian divisions and ethnic divisions. South Sudan should not be defined by whether you are Dinka or Nuer or some other tribe. It has to be defined by being South Sudanese, by caring, and seeing a country that is national in which everybody is included and everybody has equal rights and everybody has an opportunity to be respected and take part in the governance and in the life of the country. That is imperative. And I hope that the people of South Sudan will demand of their government the transition and the implementation of the peace process that they deserve, and I thank the people who have put up with extraordinary hardship and with far too much loss and sacrifice. But hopefully, those of us working with you, with the people of South Sudan, can help see the promise of a day that I shared when the independence was voted for and when I witnessed this incredible enthusiasm. That promise has to be fulfilled and the people are the folks who can make it happen by demanding of their leadership that they stop this squabbling and this fighting on an ethnic basis and get to the business of governing the country in a responsible and inclusive way.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thank you so much for speaking to Eye Radio.

SECRETARY KERRY: Delighted, thank you. Take care.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir, for your time.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, my friend. Good luck. Thank you, sir.