Africa UpdateJendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks at Press Conference
June 21, 2006
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you all for being here. What I will do is just give a very short statement, then open up for questions. We donít have too much time, maybe, a half an hour or so. I will try to keep my remarks short.
First, it is a real pleasure to be here in Kenya. This is actually my first official visit to Kenya as the Assistant Secretary of African Affairs. I have been through Kenya many times on my way to Sudan and to Tanzania and Ethiopia, but it is the first official visit. I had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Tuju and discuss our bilateral relationship, discuss issues throughout the region, Somalia and Sudan. I also had an opportunity to meet with the leader of the opposition, Uhuru Kenyatta, and some of his colleagues to discuss the state democracy, particularly the role of the Parliament and democracy, and the primary purpose of my visit to the region, I just came from Uganda and Iím on my way to Djibouti tomorrow, and then I will end up in Ethiopia, so also address, discuss and coordinate on Somalia. So I had a chance while I was here in Kenya to meet with the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government, with the Speaker Sharrif Hassan, President Yusuf and Prime Minister Gedi, to bring to them a message from the International Somalia contact group which met last week in New York, and that message was essentially that we support the Transitional Federal Government. We support the strategy of the Transitional Federal charter. We will try to mobilize more resources and support for the government, as well as in support of the people of Somalia. We think itís of urgent importance for all parties to stop any hostilities and to begin a dialogue, and I was very much encouraged that all three men are on their way to Khartoum to have their first meting with a delegation from the Union of Islamic Courts. And so I think they heard our message.
They are taking the initiative to bring peace and stability to Somalia. And also I brought them the message that we continue to be concerned about the state of security in the sub-region in the Eastern Horn of Africa that the threat that in some ways Somalia poses in terms of criminality and arms coming out of there as well as the issue of terrorist safe haven in Somalia. All indicated their commitment to working together, and they shared objective with those of us in the international Somalia contact group in their support for the TFG. Support for the people of Somalia, addressing the terror threat and working to support regional stability. So with that, I very much look forward to any questions you might have.
Question: Ms. Frazer, does the U.S. Government have any regrets over its former the policy of supporting giving warlords in Mogadishu cash for snatching suspected terrorists in Mogadishu?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Our policy continues to be the same which is that, as a matter of priority, we are concerned about Somalia becoming a safe-haven for terrorists. I mean, we are particularly concerned about individuals in Somalia today who were responsible for attacking Kenya and Tanzania, by bombing our embassies in both places, for planning attacks against Kenya, the hotel in Mombasa and against the Israeli airliner. So we will continue to pursue that objective to bring to justice those individuals responsible as well as to build the regional network. We have in East Africa counter terrorism initiative which we launched back in 2001-2002 to work with all the regions to prevent the region as a whole from becoming a base for Al Qaeda operatives. So we will continue to work with, especially in a country like Somalia which has been a classic failed state. We have to obviously help build the institution of the governmente. We will also continue to work with it and others to try to gain knowledge about these particular operatives to prevent others from taking root. This is a policy that we hold globally. Part of the global war on terrorism is a sharing information, the seeking of information with other countries and individuals who have that information to again bring to justice those who are responsible for terror acts. So our policy remains and continues to be to focus those priorities. Counterterrorism, clearly, support the Transitional Federal Institutions, provide assistance to the people of Somalia and to strengthen our regional cooperation both against criminality, arms and terror.
Question: Can I just follow-up, because Iím not sure I understood? Just so I understand so there has been no change in the U.S. Policy, the policy of paying Warlords for their assistance in tracking down suspected terrorists continues to this day?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: There is no change in U.S. goals that I just outlined to you. From what I hear there are no Warlords left. So there is no change in U.S. goals. You have characterized our policy in a way that I wouldnít characterize it. I think I just characterized our policy fully than the way in which you characterized it. So, what Iím saying is that there is no change in the goals and the character of the policy as I stated it.
Question: Just following up on Marcís question: Some of these warlords are said to be in Elbour region at the moment, and also are said to be having close contacts with U.S. officials, for possibly flying out to Djibouti. Could you comment on the relationship at the moment and whether thatís correct or not? And secondly, if I may: Whatís the U.S position, please, on the accusations from the Islamic Courts side that Ethiopian troops have entered into Somali Territory?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: On the first question, I have no information on that. That is all news to me. So I canít confirm or deny it because I simply have no information at all about that. On the second issue, we heard those concerns and accusations from this weekend before I even departed on this trip, and we did reach out to the government of Ethiopia which denied having any troops in Somalia at this time and at that time. Our Chargť in Ethiopia continues to talk to the government and they continue to deny having any forces in Somalia. And in fact, theyíve said like the rest of us, as the IGAD community has said, the critical step is for the Union of Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government to begin a dialogue which is taking place I hope today Ė or is at least the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government went to Khartoum to start that dialogue. And also for all parties should stand down. That the Union of the Islamic Courts should not continue to expand into Somalia. That they need to stop in their tracks where they are right now. And thatís extremely important because their movement out makes all of us question their intentions, their motives and it also threatens the neighborhood, it threatens their neighbors. So I think it is important for them to show a signal that they are not intending any aggressive action by stopping their expansion.
Question: Given the current situation in Somali, there have been increased fears of the struggle of transnational Islam and the future of nation states in the Horn of Africa. Does the U.S. Government have a policy for this region and if so, what is the policy for Somalia?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Our policy for Somalia, as I stated our principal objectives there. But in terms of the Union of Islamic Countries (sic), we have said that we will reserve judgment. They have certainly reached out to us. They reached out to the Somali International Contact Group -- the Chairman has. They indicated that they want to work positively for the future of Somalia. They do not intend to be a replacement government. They are not trying to threaten the Transitional Federal Government. In that regard, we are sort of in a wait and see posture. We have called specifically on them to enter into a dialogue with the Transitional Federal Government. Itís our understanding that this is a very heterogenous group. That there are moderates as represented probably best by their chairman. There are hardliners so that the Union itself is just an umbrella with different elements. So the important thing is for them to talk to the Transitional Federal Government to make their intention known.
Question: Can you clarify on what you mean when you say what kind of support you are ready to offer to the Transitional Federal Government? Because the President has been very clear that he wants foreign troops to back up his government since it has little or no authority outside of Baidoa and does support the TFG mean that youíre taking sides, and are you worried that it will be perceived that you are taking a side against the Islamic Court Union if these negotiations fail?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Well, from my travels around, you know when you are up in here with the International Somali contact group, is very clear and with IGAD and the AU, that there was tremendous effort put here in Eldoret, in the negotiation of this Transitional Federal institution in Transitional Federal charter and government and that the UN has backed it. The international Somali Contact Group which represented the AU, the UN, the EU, US, Norway, Italy, Tanzania and others. It will include the Arab League and the IGAD representatives. All have said that we back the Transitional Federal Government and we need to support it. So, clarifying that the international community stands together in support of the Transitional Federal Government is a clear indication of where we stand, and itís the product of tremendous effort over years to constitute. So, yes, we do back it. The side we are taking is that of the Somali people who are demanding to live in peace and who are seeking greater development and assistance, and they are looking for whomever and whatever entities will provide that. And Iíve heard that they see the transitional charter as the legitimate way ahead and the transitional federal institutions as implementing and representing that charter. So we are pushing and urging for that legitimacy to continue. So Iím not concerned that weíre taking sides, because weíre taking the side of the international community. Weíre taking the side of the Somali people. I think it is the right side to take, and weíre also urging dialogue for the Union of the Islamic Court which, as I said, is a heterogenous group. Our understanding is largely started as an effort by the business community and civil society to provide some form of order in Mogadishu. No one can argue with those objectives. If the Union of Islamic Courts have been successful in doing that, thatís a good thing. The expansion out of Mogadishu is questionable. What is the intent there? And thatís where we are saying, link up with the Transitional Federal Government and continue to provide that order and services to the people of Somalia, but in the context of what is the legitimate existing institutions.
Question: How long do you think itíll be before America has to meet with the ICU, because there seems to be a dawning realization on the part of the AU, the EU and many others that they are now the people who will control access, at least in Mogadishu. I mean, you say you will work with the TFG and other groups, but, obviously you are going to have to deal with them now in some form and IĎm just wondering how long you think it will be before direct talks take place at some level and also how big a change does the U.S. believe has taken place in the last two weeks in Mogadishu. How would you characterize it?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you. I think that a critically important next step is the dialogue within Somali society. The Transitional Federal institutions Ė itís leadership, itís the Islamic Court Union, Civil Society, the various clans, thatís really where the dialogue needs to occur, and that for us is a priority. Direct talks with the United States doesnít have any meaning. What would be the purpose of those direct talks with the United States? Our goals are clear. Work within the existing institutions, work within the existing framework, work together to provide peace, order and development to the people of Somalia. Our message is absolutely clear as well as the message ďprevent Somalia from becoming a source of instability in the region and a haven for terroristsĒ. And we have been very clear about that with all parties. All parties. We have the same message to the Transitional Federal institutions that we have to civil society and that we have to the clans, that we have to the Union of Islamic Courts. And so thatís really the issue. If they write to us, or reach out to us, we will respond. We respond to all elements within Somalia thatís my point, thatís been our policy. We will work with all elements on these common objectives. Now, the question of change.
Question: How big a change do you think has taken place?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Well we think itís a constant change. It is very, very dynamic, itís not at all settled. We donít know where it is going to come out. We think it is a very positive step that there is a dialogue taking place. So, there is in this dynamic movement itís helped to bring to the fore-front what has always been there, which is the united international community support for the establishment of a government in Somalia and that those are the institutions being the Transitional Federal Government. So I donít know where, you know, who is going to have what city, what neighborhood, will eventually come out, what I hope what will come out is a unified polity in Somalia.
Question: According with some warlords, that I talk to there is a list of terrorists wanted by the U.S. I would like to know how many are they and if you can describe some of the most important of the wanted in Somalia, and can you provide the list to the press?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: I think we can provide the list to the press and I think thatís what we will do. We can provide the list. Obviously, there are more than three, but the three that are of the very highest priority are those who are responsible for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and in Kenya, and also for plotting the bombing of the hotel in Mombasa. Iíve given those names before -- Harun Fasul, who is a Comoran, Ali Salleh Navan, who is an ethnic Somali from Kenya, Abutaha Alsudani, who is Sudanese. Those are the three that are the highest, highest priority for us in terms of capturing and rendering to justice. And theyíre all foreign, theyíre not Somalis and weíve asked all parties in Somalia to work with us to render them to justice.
Question: You have said several times this evening that you will continue to work with all groups, but you have come, America has come under heavy criticism from the Union of Islamic Courts and other groups that you have taken sides in the past and have supported specific warlords. Maybe, you would like to clarify that to us a bit: Did America support some specific warlords, especially those allied to the anti-terror group? And then, there was the question of deployment of foreign troops. What is Americaís position on the deployment of foreign troops in Somalia?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: What I have said on support for elements in Somalia, is weíve supported everybody there who can provide us with information. It doesnít matter whether you are in alliance or not in alliance in the government, not in the government. What we are trying to do is to reach out to those who have information and develop relationships to get the information. So, that is just a matter of the global policy that United States has, which is to reach out and work and establish contact with individuals with information. So there is no difference in the Horn of Africa in our efforts than there is anywhere else in the world. On the issue of foreign force, thatís the second time I am asked a question on foreign forces in Somalia. We havenít taken a position. As you know, America in the past has been very clear, that there needs to be an arms embargo and there shouldnít be external forces going into Somalia. We have taken note of the IGAD and the AU communications, once again asking for IGAD forces, not the front line states, but rather Sudan and Uganda to go in to support the Transitional Federal Government as well as the call for a relaxing or ending the arms-embargo to allow the Transitional Federal Government to get the resources to provide security and to establish authority. This is a very dynamic period and we donít want exacerbate with external intervention that would prevent the dialogue within Somalia from taking place. So, at this point, we are not taking a position for or against that IGAD call. What we are saying is that we are watching, we are consulting. Iíam half-way through my trip here. I havenít had a chance yet to consult with President Gele, of Djibouti and his government, I havenít had a chance to meet with Prime Minister Meles and his government and so we are in a process of consultations. Iíve heard from the Somali leaders, Iíve heard from Kenya, and we are hoping to convene another meeting of the International Somali Contact Group in Sweden and this issue will certainly come up at that time as it will in the UN Security Council. Americaís in a position of consulting and trying to figure out where we should come down on this question. Clearly we know that the best way to keep external forces out of Somalia for those who donít want them to come in, is to stop the expansion of the Islamic Courts, because then it would not threaten their neighbors or threaten to create the need for IGAD and the AU to feel that there needs to be some type of external force to support the Transitional Federal Government.
Question: How is the United States going to deal with the increasingly resentment of its government and people in Somalia, this given the demonstrations that have been going on, apparently coming out against the U.S. government? Two: you earlier spoke about ďthere is no change of policyĒ in the U.S. fight against terrorism. Does it mean that in the future in whichever strategy you choose, you are going to support elements that are guilty violations of human rights like warlords whoíve killed tens of thousands of people, just for the sake of achieving your own goal?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: I am not too concerned about anti-American sentiment, because thatís always comes and goes but what you find at the end of the day, is everybody wants America engaged. Everybody wants America to provide assistance, to provide support, weíre one of the biggest if not the largest donor of assistance to the Somali people, right now. So, that sentiment thatís there right now that can be whipped up quite easily anywhere in the world, I mean, look at the cartoons, you can whip up the sentiment very easily against the government. With our engagement and our positive engagement, I expect that to go away just as rapidly as it was whipped up. As far as supporting, you characterized people as violators of human rights, certainly will not going to support, and try not to support violators of human rights. The best way to get Americaís support to the Somali people in a way that doesnít undermine our interest and their interest, is for them to up these foreign terrorists. Itís very clear that there are foreign terrorists in Somalia, we have reached out all elements. Weíve been working with the Transitional Federal institutions, all along, all throughout this, and members of the Transitional Federal institutions, members of the government trying to better prevent Somalia from becoming a safe-haven. We are making the same call on the Islamic Courts Union. We need to work with all elements, they need to come together within the dialogue so that they can create a polity which terrorists cannot have a safe-haven. We will keep working with Somali people, and I am absolutely convinced that they want us to be there working with them. I have no doubt about that.
Question: Youíve obviously characterized Somalia as a critical background in the world on terrorism but there is a fact that the U.S. has supported warlords, now that warlords have been routed out, does this represent a defeat for the U.S. in Somalia in the global war on terrorism?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: I didnít characterize Somalia as a critical battleground in the global world in terrorism. That was your characterization, that wasnít my characterization. What I said was we have four primary objectives in Somalia. Support for the Somali people, the strengthening of the transitional federal government as the existing government with its charter in Somalia, preventing Somalia from becoming a safe-haven for terrorists and stopping it from being so, and working with Somalia on regional security and instability, in that, in the global war on terror our policy in Somali is fairly consistent which is to try to get information when we know that there are people who have planned and carried out terrorist attacks to work with elements of civil society, elements of the Transitional Federal institutions and all those who have the information to try to gain and bring, and render to justice those who have carried out those attacks. Thatís what I said.
Question: My question is, IGAD has made itself clear that America has not been working in tune. But, we are wondering there is any form of official communication between America and IGAD on various issues affecting Somalia?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Absolutely. I read the IGAD communique and I did not feel that way, but, thatís a matter of interpretation, but, certainly, my visit here is reaching out to IGAD, as I said, I started in Uganda, which is an IGAD member, I am now in Kenya, I am moving on to Djibouti and then on to Ethiopia. The whole point of my mission is consultation with the governments of IGAD. And as I said in term of the international Somali contact group, we are inviting IGAD and the Arab League to be members or to be a part of that international Somali contact group which is intended to share information to coordinate policy in just work together on a way ahead to support the Transitional Federal Government and the people of Somalia.
Question: About the talks in Khartoum between the Islamic Courts and the transitional federal government, those talks are going to be moderated by Omar Hassan Bashir, who is an Islamist himself. How much trust does the U.S. administration put into Mr. Bashir as a moderator, would you say he is an honest broker?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: I hope he will be. I donít think we can pre-judge that, I would actually call him a military leader who became president. I wouldnít necessarily put him in the camp of Islamist, whatever what that is. I would say that he is I assume brokering those talks under the mandate of the Arab League, which is you know Sudan is chairing now and so certainly we donít have any objection to the Arab League working to bring these parties together. The point is the dialogue now whoís convening the meeting. I donít have any reason to doubt Sudan as the convener and the representative of the Arab League and I do hope that the talks begin to be successful. Itís just a starting, it is the first step. Itís the clear indication of an understanding that needs of all elements of Somali society to come together for the positive future for their country.