Elections in the Democratic Republic of the CongoJendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks to Congolese Media
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
July 29, 2006
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you very much. I'll read a short statement and then take your questions.
I was sent here by Secretary Rice and President Bush to support the people of Congo in this decisive step towards peace and democracy. We are on the eve of an historic opportunity and a positive development in Congo's future. The July 30 election will mark the culmination of a long effort by numerus African countries led by South Africa, and supported by the international community, to bring a sustainable peace to the Congo and the Great Lakes Region. July 30 also marks the beginning of the Congolese people's taking firm control of their destiny.
The fact that some 25 million out of 28 million eligible voters have registered demonstrates the people of Congo are ready to choose their leaders and set their own national course. The 300,000 Congolese poll workers and 50,000 national observers ensure that the outcome will be decided by the Congolese people. I view the 33 presidential candidates and 9,709 parliamentary candidates as representing the enthusiasm of Congolese to lead this great country. I commend Reverend Malu Malu and his team for channeling this enthusiasm and organizing what has to be a most historic day for the Congolese people.
The United States' support for the people of Congo has been and will remain constant. I thank you, and I'm happy to take any questions you have on Congo, or any other regions of Africa.
Question: Assistant Secretary, what is the financial contribution of the United States to the electoral process as a whole? And my second question is, what is the position of the United States towards the elections? Is that a relation, which is state-to-state, a relation between sovereign states, or do you have a specific profile in mind for the next DRC president, have you defined a specific profile for the next president of this country?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you. You asked about our support, our financial support for the election as a whole, and you can interpret that in many ways. We are providing assistance to many of the international observers. We're paying for 14% of the international observers. We have also provided assistance for party training for all of the political parties; we have also provided assistance for support and training for the Independent Electoral Commission, that all constitutes part of our support for the election. That's about $3.1 million.
We are providing 27% of the budget for MONUC, which is also a key element of conducting this election and providing the security. We provide about $270 million annually to MONUC. And then we are also providing assistance for strengthening of the regional cooperation, making sure that Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo all work together, and that comes to close to about $1.5 million.
I'd say that our total assistance to Congo is about $342 million, and that would add humanitarian and development involvement and assistance in other areas for fiscal year 2006.
Question: Assistant Secretary, I have two questions. The first one, you've just talked about transparency regarding the electoral process. I wish to underscore something, in fact, political observers -- observers from the political parties -- will have to observe the vote, but there seems to be a problem regarding the size of some polling stations. So some observers won't be able to be permanently, I mean, tomorrow, to be permanently from morning till evening, they won't be able to stay in these polling stations because of the size thereof. And can there be any actual transparency given this difficulty?
The next question is that, I think you are aware that recently 19 presidential candidates asked for pre-electoral consultations, and I'd like to know what is your feeling about this?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you, and I should go back and answer the second question of the first questioner as well. The question was, did we support a particular candidate profile, or was our support nation to nation, and our support is to the Congolese people, nation to nation. We don't have any particular candidate. The United States doesn't support any particular candidate. We support the choice of the Congolese people.
Secondly, I was asked about the transparency. Can there be transparency if you, if the political party witnesses don't have space to sit in the polling stations. This doesn't surprise me because the logistical challenges for this election are tremendous, probably more than any place in all of Africa. With 50,000 polling stations, there's bound to be great variety in the facilities available, and especially so given that this is the first national election in over 40 years.
I would expect that the polling station workers will try to find the best way to accommodate, to allow the political party witnesses to be part of this process and oversee transparency. With over a hundred or so political parties, it may be that one, two, or three will take shifts so that you have more than one political party in a polling station, but they have to take shifts rather than all of them being present all of the time. It would be the Independent Electoral Commission officials themselves, who will make those judgments. I have just seen in past elections in other countries that they sometimes have to look at innovative ways to deal with the limited facilities.
And as for the 19 political parties asking for further negotiations, the time for negotiation is over. I think the Congolese people themselves have called for elections, so that they can have an elected government, rather than a transitional government. The international community, the United States included, is one of the guarantors of the Sun City Accord, and through that process and then the people of Congo choosing their new constitution in February sets a time framework for carrying out these elections.
I think that it's clear that the time for that transition phase is over and that what we really need is to go forward with the elections. Everyone had a chance to participate, to decide to put forward themselves as a candidate, and so those who did, and did so fairly, will be the ones who will have an opportunity to lead the Congolese people.
Question: The Congolese want credible, transparent, democratic elections. Can the United States calm the fears of the population about the organization of credible elections? And I wish to add that these elections might not be credible, like I said, and might also be rigged so what sort of guarantees can the U.S. government give to the Congolese people?
The second question is about another fear that new conflict can be generated by the political leaders that will lose the election. They might start new rebellions to regain the power they lost. What can the U.S. do to prevent this, and what do you have to say to the Congolese people about this?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you. I think that the guarantee of credible elections are the Congolese people themselves. I think that we need to, the United States can say to them that they should have confidence in themselves. The 300,000 poll workers, those poll workers are representing the people, they are representing the community and they have a responsibility to the nation as a whole to conduct the elections in a transparent and free and fair way.
The same could be said for the 50,000 national election observers, the Congolese national election observers. They are going to ensure the transparency and the fairness of this process. And the Congolese transitional government has invited in international observers. There are over 1300 international observers here to support the people of Congo in ensuring the transparent elections.
Finally, I would say to the political leaders, the contestants themselves, that they have put themselves forward to lead the Congolese people, and as leaders, they have to be willing to respect the decision of the people of Congo. If they lose, they lose. If they win, they win. I think that neither the Congolese people nor the international community can tolerate taking Congo backwards towards a period of conflict and crisis and war. So America 's confidence in these elections is based on our confidence in the people of Congo.
Question: I know that you're leading a U.S. observer mission in the DRC. I'd like to know how many observers are there within that mission? And my second question is, where will they be deployed and in how many polling stations and is it going to be, in Kinshasa exclusively, or also in the provinces?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Thank you. I'm here, as I said, because President Bush and Secretary Rice asked me to come. I'm leading a team with Ambassador Meece that will involve, from our Mission here, 40 Americans and 20 Congolese deployed throughout Congo.
Question: Yes, Assistant Secretary, I'd like to know whether there are any true future prospects with regard to bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and the Congolese people. I know that this cooperation was very much intense during the ‘80s, especially during the Cold War, and then there was a chill.
And I'd like to know whether there is going to be any improvement in that bilateral cooperation? I'm talking about economic, cultural and technological issues.
Assistant Secretary Frazer: Yes, certainly. I think that there will be an increase. We are already significantly contributing on a bilateral basis to Congo, around $40 million or so, leaving out our humanitarian assistance, and leaving out the assistance to MONUC.
A significant amount of that is in the health sector, but we're also looking to work as a matter of priority with the new government in strengthening security sector reform as well. Sometime next week or so, I will present the Africa Bureau's budget to Secretary Rice, and in that budget we're going to propose a rather significant increase for the consolidation of democracy for Congo.
Our bilateral assistance these days in Africa is following countries that are doing well in terms of good governance, investment in the health and education of their people, and promoting good economic reform, both macro-economic reform and supporting entrepreneurs. So, as the new government of Congo establishes itself, and establishes a record based on those pillars, Congo and the people of Congo can expect significant increases in assistance from the United States.
We have a Millennium Challenge Corporation which signed a compact with Benin for over $300 million and it's about to sign a compact with Ghana for over $500 million because those two countries were judged as really governing well and supporting good policies. We would expect that Congo, having come out of a war and consolidated its democracy, will be able to compete soon for those very major dollars.
Question: I'd like to know specifically what is the state of relations with the other international observers in the DRC at the present time? According to a communiqué from the State Department, the U.S. government is contributing financially to organizations such as the Carter Center, SADC Parliamentary Commission and COMESA. What kind of contribution, what kind of relations do you have with these organizations?
Assistant Secretary Frazer: As I said, we are providing about 14% of the funding for international observers, and so we support all the groups that you just mentioned, as part of our broader support for these elections including UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and others. So, yes, we are providing financial assistance to the Carter Center, to SADC and to COMESA, and to others.
We think it's extremely important to have international observers. The African Union is also here, and that's all very good in terms of ensuring the transparency of the elections. We would expect all these organizations to make independent judgments about what they are observing. Merci beaucoup.