Engaging the Horn of AfricaJendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Windsor Victoria Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda
June 20, 2006
Public Affairs Officer Alyson Grunder : This is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Jendayi Frazer. Because we have limited time, we will begin right away with your questions. Thank you very much, Ambassador Frazer.
Question: Ambassador Frazer, you said in London that the Bush Administration was going to insure that the LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] rebellion ends by the end of the year. How do you think that is going to happen?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: What I was saying is that is our goal that seems to be a good time frame in which we can focus our actions and that of other international partners and countries to try to end what are clearly the atrocities of the war. Particularly, we are focused on three key elements. One is obviously to put an end to the war itself by capturing or bringing to justice or -- through some type of negotiated mediation -- ending Kony's terror against the people of northern Uganda , the people of southern Sudan , and now, in his location in eastern Congo . So that's one part.
Secondly, to try to promote reconciliation at all levels between families or within families, within communities, between the north and the south of Uganda . Basically, clearly, when you have had a 20-year war like the one in which you have such an insurgency, there needs to be reconciliation, rehabilitation of the community.
And then thirdly, to work with the UN to bring international assistance to the people of northern Uganda who have been so affected by this. And so the strategy is really to work with the government of Uganda, the UPDF, to work with the neighbors, the government of Southern Sudan, the Government of National Unity in Sudan, and to work with the Congolese government and President Kabila, as well as the UN Mission in Congo, MONUC, to try to keep the military pressure on Kony, so that he either is defeated in the bush, he is apprehended in the bush, or he decides that the military pressure is too much, and he will try to negotiate some type of peace deal which is hopefully what we're seeing mediated right now with the government of Southern Sudan.
Question: How does the President's offer to protect Joseph Kony if he surrenders square with the International Criminal Court's indictment of him in Washington's view? And would it be fair to say that the U.S. at this stage is supporting the efforts at talks by the government of Southern Sudan ?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: What we are doing is continuing our three-pronged strategy, which I just mentioned: reconciliation, military pressure, and international humanitarian assistance. We believe that the priority has to be peace. And so, as for the pursuit of that peace, we are quite open on how we achieve it. But that is the priority: to stop the war. And if the government of Uganda can come to some agreement with the LRA that has to be the priority.
Clearly, accountability is extremely important in situations, as we have in northern Uganda , with all the atrocities which have occurred. And I have also said very clearly that this is not simply a case or an issue with the government of Uganda and the LRA, because the LRA has also killed citizens from many other countries. They have killed Sudanese; they have killed Congolese; they have killed Guatemalans; they have killed citizens of the United Kingdom , of Britain .
So, the ICC indictment is extremely important, and it is part of the process of accountability and ending impunity, but yet the priority has to be on getting him out of the bush however one does it -- whether they capture him, or they talk him out through a negotiation. We had a similar case, as you'll recall, with Charles Taylor in which to end the war in Liberia , there had to be a point at which you could get him out of Monrovia , and he took up asylum in Nigeria . But now, today, he is on his way to the Hague . So, I think that you can achieve peace and accountability.
Question: If I could just take you a little farther afield to Darfur . The government of Khartoum seems to be dragging its feet again on trying to resolve the crisis, refusing to allow in peacekeepers. What the heck is the next step for this government?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Well, it's clear that the UN is going to go in. And it would be in the interest of the government of Sudan , I believe, to be seen to be proactive, rather than having been pushed into a situation that is inevitable.
The people of Darfur deserve to live in peace. The government signed the Darfur Peace Agreement for that to occur. The next step is to enhance the AMIS force, the African Union force. I think that the AU has made a request to NATO for that enabling assistance and to prepare for the transition, so that that force becomes blue-hatted under a UN mandate.
So, I think that the government of Sudan is again involved in tactics of delay, when the inevitable result is apparent, and they don't get the benefit; they don't get the credit for having allowed the UN. You will recall that even before the African Union came in there, they resisted African forces. Now they're saying they only want African forces. So this is a pattern that is not helpful either to the protection of their own citizens, or to the reputation of the Government of National Unity.
Question: You have been to the ground. You've met a number of people down here. What is your assessment of the situation? What specifically do you think the government of the U.S. is going to do to assist Ugandans?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you for that question. My assessment of the situation is two-fold. On the one hand, I'm rather optimistic because I have seen the quality of the leadership and the quality of the community response. I had the opportunity to meet with the Paramount Chief of Acholiland . I had the opportunity to meet with religious leaders and World Vision and [to observe] the work that Ugandans are doing to reintegrate many of the abductees. I had the opportunity to meet with the division commander of the UPDF. So, I was quite impressed with the quality of leadership and the commitment of the people to resolve this crisis and to respond to the needs of the population.
On the other hand, I was quite distressed. Because the crimes [that I heard about] when I met with the abductees and young kids it is outrageous, it is inhuman, it is unacceptable. And for people to live in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps even the one that I went to, which was one of the most, I understand, well-managed of the camps -- people shouldn't live in those conditions. And it is unacceptable that they would be living in those conditions in this century, frankly. So, I'm torn between both feelings of optimism and despair.
I hope that you don't ever become comfortable with what is going on in northern Uganda , in terms of the atrocities that the LRA has committed and the impact that that has had on that community. I feel very angry, frankly, about it. And I think that in terms of assisting the government of Uganda President Bush has been trying to do that since 2001. I was sent here by Secretary Rice to look into the conditions in northern Uganda , so that I could come back with additional recommendations on how the president and she can assist in bringing this war to an end.
Question: [inaudible question]
Assistant Secretary Frazer: I think that the government is committed to AGOA and its goals which are to further trade open trade between countries, especially trying to import into the United States under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides duty-free access to many, many products over 6,000 tariff lines. So yes, I think that the government of Uganda sees the opportunity that is provided by that Act.
I think that clearly in implementing AGOA, we have learned many lessons over the last six or seven years, since its enactment. We have to do more to get investment, to bring foreign direct investment to countries. We have to do more to link up entrepreneurs and traders to give information on the U.S. market so that people can benefit from the trade. We are trying to work on [inaudible] requirements so countries can qualify. There is quite a lot more that needs to be done to implement.
And we just had our AGOA forum our sixth annual AGOA forum in which we had trade ministers, foreign ministers, commerce ministers, finance ministers discussing how to move forward, so that countries can benefit even more from AGOA. But I don't doubt the commitment of the government of Uganda in terms of AGOA.
Question: You and the U.S. government were critical of the successful move to remove term limits out of the Ugandan constitution. Have you changed your position on that and can you give us your take on the state of democracy in Uganda today?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you for that question. As you know, we continue to have a position that we encourage countries to maintain the term limits, and if they're going to change them, to do so constitutionally. And we felt that Uganda did do so constitutionally, but we still had urged the government not to change the term limits. And the reason for that was the feeling that there needs to be institutionalization of new leadership and succession. And that there are many, many capable leaders of Uganda , including the president, but that there are others, who should put themselves forward to serve the people.
And so this policy wasn't directed only at Uganda , but is our policy it's my policy across Africa . Which is that part of the democratization process has to be succession of presidential leadership, so term limits are extremely important in that regard.
As far as the progress on multiparty democracy, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting with many members of Parliament at dinner at Ambassador Browning's house last night. Many of them were opposition party leaders. The quality of debate was extremely high, and the commitment to this country and the commitment to working with the governing party within the parliamentary system. And so I was quite impressed with the debate and the issues that were being debated.
Clearly this is a new experiment for Uganda . I think that this new crop of leadership is going to help define the nature of multiparty democracy. And to the degree to which they can reach across the aisle and work together, yet hold very distinct positions, because it helps to have contestation for improving the quality of governance. So, I think that the state of democracy in Uganda , from my impressions over the last two days, is quite healthy.
Question: The situation in Somalia is probably one of those things that is at the top of your mind right now. What does the U.S. think is the best solution in terms of that country?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Part of the reason I'm here is to meet with the governments in the region to have further consultation. As you know, we held an International Somali Contact Group meeting in New York , in which the U.S. , Norway , Sweden , Tanzania , Italy , the AU, the EU and the UN met. From that meeting, Secretary Rice asked me to come to the region.
I've come to Uganda which is one of the IGAD leaders I'm going tomorrow to Kenya, then I'll go on to Djibouti and to Ethiopia to meet with the IGAD countries and to understand better their communiquι, their decisions about the way forward in Somalia. So we're in a mode of consultation. Based on these discussions, I will then go back to the Secretary with certain recommendations.
Clearly what came out of the International Somali Contact Group, and what I've heard so far being in the region, is that we need to give strong support to the Transitional Federal Government, that we need to increase the assistance to the Somali people, and that we need the Islamic Courts Union and the Transitional Federal Government to enter into a dialogue about the way forward in Somalia. And for all parties to stop any aggressive moves or actions, but rather to sit around the table and decide a future for that country. So, I will know more at the end of my trip than I know at this beginning leg.
Question: Mine is also on Somalia . This debate has been going on. Do you want to say that there is no position by the U.S. government about the deployment of foreign troops there?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Yes, there has been debate, and I've learned more since coming here about the deployment of foreign troops. You're talking specifically about IGAD and its decision that Uganda and Sudan will go in to support the Transitional Federal Government.
There isn't any position from the U.S. , because I'm trying to learn more. In the past, as you know, the United States opposed that, and it was particularly because of concern that one of the frontline countries would deploy into Somalia . This one the IGAD decision takes it away from the frontline countries. And so, we're looking at this.
This was one of the issues that I had an opportunity to discuss with the chief of defense staff here, and with President Museveni, about what is Uganda 's view about deploying into Somalia . And so -- rare as it is [laughter] sometimes America listens to its friends and its partners in the countries that are most affected to get their assessment before deciding for ourselves about what is the appropriate next step.
And so we're still in consultation. I will listen here. IGAD and the Arab League have been invited to be part of the International Somali Contact Group. I'll go back to that group, also to consult, because the point is to coordinate our policy better. So, we have been advised of IGAD and the AU and respect the decision, and we're looking into it.
Question: Dr. Frazer, the Chinese Prime Minister is on a whirlwind tour across Africa . There has been a lot of concern raised about the expansion of China into Africa . They'll do business with anybody, including Sudan and Zimbabwe . They're selling guns to Uganda . They seem to have absolutely no concern for human rights. What is your feeling about the Chinese government's really big expansion into Africa ?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Well, first I think if countries can increase their engagement and bring appropriate investment to Africa , it is a good thing. I think that we all should participate and engage Africa through the principles established by the AU and its New Partnership for African Development, which clearly states a new relationship, a new way of doing business across the continent.
And I think that it would be helpful if China and others would engage accordingly. And that really is a discussion that has to occur between the Chinese and the countries in which they are engaged, as well as the continent as a whole.
It is for the African Union and others to say to them, Look when you come here, we're opposed to corruption. When you come here, we're trying to promote human rights and good governance. Work with us to achieve those objectives. Make that a clear part of your agenda, just as it is part of the agenda that the African Union and the NEPAD plan have established. And so I think that we're trying to find a way to do business with Africa that is mutually beneficial, and I would expect that China would be part of those principles of new engagement.
Question: But I think that they haven't been responsible. I mean, the accusation is that China has not been responsible up till now in their engagement.
Ambassdaor Frazer : Well, if we look at Sudan , for example. China has been part of all of the UN Security Council resolutions on Sudan, including the one that calls for allowing UN peacekeepers to go in, including the one that calls for sanctions against anybody impeding the peace process, including the one that calls for a panel of experts to look into atrocities and crimes against humanity as far as Darfur is concerned, including the one that allows the UN Mission in Southern Sudan.
So, I think that they can be a responsible actor and have been a responsible actor. I think that the talk about China 's role in Zimbabwe may have been exaggerated. China probably looked at that market and said there is no way to do business here either. There is no rule of law. Why would Chinese risk their investment in such an economy that has clearly failed with over 1000 percent inflation? And so, I actually think that China looked at Zimbabwe , but didn't take the plunge.
PAO Alyson Grunder : If the Ambassador is going to have any dinner at all
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Yes (laughter)
Question: One last question. Does the rise of the Islamist Courts Union and the breakdown in the Transitional Government structures represent a failure [inaudible]?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: No, it doesn't. We haven't seen the breakdown of the Transitional Federal Government, and I think it is important that we make sure that there isn't a breakdown in the Transitional Federal Government. I think that we are all learning more about the Islamic Courts Union. They were established, from my understanding, especially in Mogadishu , by businessmen who were looking for the rule of law, as well as they took on a role of providing social services.
And so, there is nothing in opposition for Islamic Courts to come up and our approach, our objectives for preventing Somalia from remaining a haven for terrorists. Now the Islamic Courts Union are, from my understanding, very heterogeneous. There are moderate elements, and there are extremist elements. There are different courts associated with different clans. And so, it is a very dynamic environment right now, and what we are trying to do is reserve our judgment.
But clearly, any partners that we are going to deal with in Somalia, particularly through the Transitional Federal Government, have to have as its objective stability in Somalia, stability in the region, and to prevent Somalia remaining a haven [for terrorists]. There are some terrorists that we believe are in Mogadishu who may be protected by various clans, Islamic Courts Union, warlords.
It doesn't matter what you call them. And it doesn't matter to us what you call them. What we're saying is that they're foreign terrorists. They're in Somalia . They're responsible for the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania , responsible for the bombing of the Mombassa Hotel. They're part of a core element of Al Qaeda.
All of us need to work together to root out these terrorists. We need to work with the region to build a regional network to prevent East Africa from becoming a haven of terrorists. We're going to work very closely with the government of Uganda , Tanzania , Kenya , Ethiopia , Djibouti , and with the Transitional Federal institutions to achieve that objective. Thank you.