Stopping Genocide in Darfur: Ongoing U.S. Efforts and Working With the UN Security CouncilJendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
August 24, 2006
1:00 P.M. EDT
MR. BAILY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. This afternoon, there's a slight change in our program in that our only briefer will be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Jendayi Frazer. Unfortunately, Assistant Secretary Silverberg couldn't make it. But she will be giving a short opening statement on the continuing situation in Darfur in Sudan and then be happy to take your questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Good afternoon. I will depart for Sudan on August 25th and the purpose of my trip is to consult the Sudanese on our shared objective of ending the violence in Darfur and supporting the Darfur Peace Agreement. I will stress the United States commitment to ending the suffering of the people of Darfur. We cannot let the violence and atrocities continue. We cannot let humanitarian workers and peacekeepers continue to come under attack and we cannot let the DPA fail. We believe that President Bashir and the Sudanese Government want peace in Darfur. They signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in May, making good progress. And I plan to discuss with them how we can work together to deploy a credible and legitimate UN force.
Darfur is on the verge of a dangerous downward spiral. The parties are rearming and repositioning to renew their fighting. Every day that passes, more innocent men, women and children suffer in Darfur. Every day women and young girls are raped as they venture from the camps to find firewood. The IRC reported in its August 23rd press release that more than 200 women have been sexually assaulted in the last five weeks alone around the largest IDP camp in Darfur, Kalma camp.
Nine humanitarian aid workers were killed last month. Aid workers are making plans to evacuate their staff and to prepare for the needs of more civilians attempting to flee the crossfire in Darfur.
The African Union Mission in Sudan, AMIS, its mandate ends on September 30th, 2006. A transition must take place by October 1st to address the deteriorating security situation and the pressing need for the continued and complete implementation of the DPA. A re-hatted force on October 1st can make a difference, bringing quickly to bear the UN's long history of peacekeeping experience and an infusion of additional resources: 5,200 UN-qualified troops will be ready for re-hatting this fall.
The AU has recognized its readiness to transition to a UN mission. The African troops in Darfur want the UN's presence and leadership which will enable them to protect civilians, improve humanitarian access and implement the Darfur Peace Agreement. We cannot allow foot-dragging at the UN or be held hostage to the Sudanese Government's refusal to allow UN peacekeepers to keep us from taking morally just and humane action in Darfur. We must stop the genocide. We must protect the people of Darfur. The UN force must go on and buy time for the DPA to take hold.
The United States and Britain have introduced a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur who are seeking the support of the rest of the Council to adopt that resolution before the end of the month. There is already agreement at the Security Council that only a large, mobile, fast-reacting and robust UN force with African forces forming its core and to include Africans in key leadership positions can legitimately and credibly protect civilians, ensure humanitarian access and fully implement the DPA.
We continue negotiations on the precise timing of the re-hatting of the AU Mission in Darfur into a UN mission. Consultations by Security Council members with DPKO continue on the size of the force. There is however agreement that this will be a very large mission that will likely include a range of 15,000 to 18,000 peacekeeping troops and up to 3,500 police.
The Security Council invited Sudan's Foreign Minister to a meeting in New York on August 28th, along with the AU, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Arab League. The Government of Sudan, however, has refused or declined, citing its preference for a postponement.
We believe fully that we must act now. Stopping the genocide in Darfur remains one of the highest priorities of the Bush Administration. The UN, by its own admission, has called it the greatest humanitarian crisis today. The world is watching and the people of Darfur are suffering. We cannot delay. So we are calling for action and I'm going to Sudan to discuss with the government how we can move forward together.
I am willing to take any of your questions. Thank you.
QUESTION: Are you taking a letter from the President or a message from the President?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: I will be taking a message from President Bush. President Bush has been, as you know, a strong voice. He's been very forceful on the need to stop the killing in Darfur. He has worked with President Bashir on the North-South Peace Agreement. They worked successfully together to end the suffering and the killing that was taking place between the North and the South and he hopes to work cooperatively with President Bashir again to end the suffering of the people in Darfur. So yes, I will be taking a message from the President.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, nice to see you again. We have talked a lot about the situation in Sudan, but there doesn't seem to be action. I was wondering, as you said, you're taking a message from President Bush, is there a political will or military will? You are talking about sanctions in other areas but there doesn't seem to be a movement. The government in Sudan continue to defy the international community. Is there a political will?
And if I may follow up, just another question I would like for you to address for me. You observed the elections in the DRC. Your comment on the conduct of the first round and whether there is possibility for a successful run-off?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes. On the first question on political will, there certainly is political will on the part of the United States. And that's why we with the UK have tabled a resolution at the UN Security Council asking for quick action now. We believe that there should be the political will on the part of all UN Security Council members as well as the UN Secretariat itself, UN DPKO, to move quickly.
The African Union also has to demonstrate that political will and we are quite fortunate to have three members on the Security Council -- Ghana chairing as the president of the Security Council; Congo-Brazzaville, which as you know President Sassou met with President Bush recently to talk about Darfur in its capacity as chairperson of the African Union; as well as Tanzania -- and President Kikwete also had an opportunity to talk to President Bush as well as President Kufuor about Sudan and the AU Peace and Security Council has made clear repeatedly since March of 2006 that the AU mission must transition to a UN mission by October 1st. It's in each and every one of their communiqués. They have not wavered on that point.
So I think that their political will has been expressed over and over again, and it's important for now all of us to act together to talk to the Government of Sudan to ask it to act responsibly towards the people of Darfur. And I think that the Government of Sudan believes that somehow it can solve this problem on its own, and that's not the case. Any military action on the part of the Government of Sudan in Darfur is seen as a partisan action. The people of Darfur don't have confidence in the ability of the government to protect them so you need an impartial, credible, multilateral UN force with the sole purpose of helping to implement the DPA and providing an environment of security. That is not an occupation force. It's a force intended to do what the international community set up the United Nations to do, which is to protect innocent lives and to protect international peace. And that is what is at threat in Darfur today. So yes, we do have the political will.
And on Congo, thank you for the question. I had the honor to observe the elections for the United States. It was a very, very good election and I do believe that you can have a credible run-off election. I think that it's important for all of the political parties to give the people of Congo the ability to decide their leadership through their vote.
It was historic. It was awe-inspiring to see the people peacefully going about carrying out a vote. It was also -- I think one has to give a lot of credit to Reverend Malu, who was the head of the independent electoral commission, for the way in which they conducted that election. It was -- given a country the size of Western Europe to be -- and one without a history of carrying out elections, it really was a testament to the will of, I think, the Congolese people and the government and the international community to be able to conduct this election.
QUESTION: Mohamed El-Settouhi, Nile News, Egypt TV. You said that it will not be an occupation force. But as you know, the Sudanese Government, at least so far, they are very much opposed to the deployment of these forces. This could lead to the impression that it actually will be an occupation force. So are you ready to deploy these forces even against the will of the Sudanese Government?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: No, we're not prepared to deploy against the will of the Sudanese Government. But we think it's the will of the Sudanese Government to end this crisis, to end this conflict and to have the DPA implemented and so we think we have shared purpose. And that the Government of Sudan has to recognize that this multinational force which would be -- the core of it would be the African Union forces, which are already deployed in Darfur, re-hatted to give them the capability to carry out their mandate.
Right now you have Rwandans and Nigerians and South Africans and Ghanaians and others -- Senegalese -- who are sitting ducks. Two Rwanda peacekeepers were killed just last weekend. Why would the Government of Sudan not allow for the United Nations to come in and give them the command and control and the capability to implement the DPA. It is African forces which are the core of this UN operation and we're talking about re-hatting forces which are already on the ground. And so it doesn't make sense to talk about an occupation force. You know, the UN is already in Sudan. The mandate would be under the UNMIS which is the UN Mission in Sudan which is already there, so you're not talking about a new force as such. It's re-hatting and giving and giving capability to the Africans.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for this. You are talking to Sudanese Government and they are rejecting and people from Darfur do not have confidence on Sudanese Government. And the situation's been there for almost now four years. Kids are not going to school, people are dying every day inside the refugee camps, more than 700 villages are empty. The life there has stopped, nothing moved. And yet they are under the mercy of the disagreement between the international community and the Sudanese community. And this Administration moved quickly to stop the war in Lebanon and now people are getting back to their home, getting some aids.
What should take the international community to understand that there are more than half a million people are just living their daily miserable life; it's in a miserable situation. Kids are not going to school. The geographical and the situation on the ground completely has been changed for almost four years, yet there are no result and it's still under the mercy of disagreement with -- disagreement between the international community and Sudanese Government. What is the way out? Do you feel the sense of urgency here? It's about humanitarian suffering; it's not about the political will here or there.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: I think you've said it better than I could ever say it, which is that this is at -- it's fundamentally about the people of Darfur who are suffering. As you said, half a million are displaced from their homes, 200,000 are refugees in Chad. We have reports every day that the Government of Sudan is preparing to launch an offensive against the non-signatories. That's not acceptable. Both the non-signatories are also rearming, trying to advance on a military ground. This is a humanitarian crisis that requires international action.
And so I don't think it's really a disagreement between the Government of Sudan and the international community. I think that the Government of Sudan thinks that it can solve this crisis by itself, but it's too complex and they're not considered a neutral force. They're not -- the people of Darfur do not feel that the Government of Sudan launching a military offensive will be anything more than adding to their misery. And so it's for the international community to act.
On the one hand you have in the UN Jan Egeland on the humanitarian side saying it's a crisis and the international community has to act and act with urgency. On the other hand you have UN DPKO Guéhenno saying that we can't be there until January; that's unacceptable. We need to do and move rapidly. October 1st is the preferred transition date of the African Union. It has called for it repeatedly. We can re-hat these forces, get some capability and protect those innocent people who are threatened every single day.
So I couldn't agree with you more. We have to act and we have to act with utmost urgency.
MR. BAILY: Right here. Use the microphone.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you.
MR. BAILY: Please say your name and organization.
QUESTION: Yes. Kay Maddox with the Voice of America. I have two questions. They're pretty short.
You sound very confident that this will happen and this will take place, but yet just last week Bashir introduced a resolution for his own force of 10,000 troops to take care of it. So what evidence do you have that you're going to be able to convince the Khartoum government to accept a UN re-hatted force? That's my first question.
The second question is you've been out there in the last couple years, and around town many experts have called for a special envoy for Darfur similar to the one for the North-South Agreement. Why hasn't the Bush Administration appointed a special envoy? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: You're from Voice of America?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: On the very first question, why do we think it's -- we're going to succeed? Necessity and past history. The past history is the Government of Sudan also opposed the African Union bringing a force to Darfur. Eventually they saw the wisdom of that action. The African Union, of which the Government of Sudan is a member, has said repeatedly that there will be a UN force in Sudan, in Darfur. They have called for in three of their communiqués, the very last one in June, saying that that force should be re-hatted, the AMIS force should be re-hatted into a UN force by October 1st. I would think it would be very difficult for a member-state to stand up against the entire African Union, an organization which President Bashir aspires to lead in January of 2007.
And so I think both past history and necessity. I think the international community will come together. We cannot allow future Rwandas to happen. We have to act together in concert. That is the point of multilateral diplomacy and multilateral action is the entire reason that the UN was created. And so it's time for the UN to step up and to move forward with re-hatting these forces.
The Bush Administration is fully engaged on Sudan. Secretary Rice over the past week has called her counterparts in China, in France and in the UK. President Bush, as you know, I'm going out with a message from him to President Bashir. We have been fully engaged. The National Security Advisor has been working this issue. I myself have been working this issue. We have a new Sudan programs director, Lauren Landis, who is coming on board and has been working fulltime on this issue.
We want all hands. We've reached out to NGOs. We've reached out to the Congress. So a Sudan envoy can help, there's no doubt about it, but it's not that there is a lack of effort, that there is not engagement at the highest level of the U.S. Government. The point is that a Sudan envoy is not a silver bullet. We have a strategy. We have a Sudan strategy. If we have more hands to try to help us implement it, all the better. But certainly we should not be under the mistaken view that somehow an envoy will increase the level of engagement or will be able to solve the problem. It's only through the U.S. Government's collective action working with the international community that we can solve this problem.
QUESTION: Irina Akimushkina, Business People, Russia. You mentioned that about 200 women violated in your presentation. In this context I would like to ask you about UN and American policy regarding this issue. Would you do -- how you see the program to prevent violation in Darfur and in context that it was some experience probably negative and positive in some other countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and so on. So what you can suggest in this case particular?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thank you. I think that the key here is to get a UN force in place. That's why we've been putting so much pressure and we've been focused on this, this re-hatting of the African Union force. You need peacekeepers on the ground who have the capacity to respond, to monitor, to protect. The African Union is completely stretched. It's stretched to the point of breaking at this point. And the capability of the African Union is declining every single day, so there is no time to delay.
Our experience has been in Liberia the United Nations said that it couldn't come into Liberia very quickly. As you recall, the U.S. -- but particularly Nigerian and ECOWAS forces were in Liberia. And Secretary Powell said we needed the UN to come in and come in quickly. The UN said we can't get there fast enough. Well, they got there. So we have experience. The UN also very -- did an excellent job re-hatting the forces in Burundi. They did the same in Sierra Leone. Originally you had ECOWAS forces, the Economic Community of West African States, forces deployed in Sierra Leone. Eventually the UN came in and re-hatted those forces. So we have three successful cases of African forces being re-hatted as United Nations forces and creating an environment in which the peace agreement can thrive: Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So why are we looking for a different solution in Sudan when we know we have one that works?
MR. BAILY: Samir.
QUESTION: Thank you. Samir Nader with Radio Sawa. Are you satisfied with the position of the Arab League, because a few days ago the Foreign Minister of Sudan made a statement -- was satisfied by the meeting of Arab Foreign Minister in Cairo last Saturday. He said that they supported the position of the government against deploying -- extending the AU into a UN force.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: We're not sure what the -- we'll have to continue with our consultations to find out exactly what took place in the meetings in Cairo. We do know that we've had extensive consultations with the Government of Egypt and with the Libyan Government and other governments which are members of the Arab League. Senegal is also a member. And we've had extensive conversations with them and all of them have seen the need for the UN to come in, except for Libya I should say. Well, most of them have seen the need for the UN to deploy in Darfur.
What the feeling is is that this should not happen without the consent of the Government of Sudan. And the United States believes that we need to act together to convince the Government of Sudan that it is indeed in their interest that there should be this deployment. We feel that getting the Security Council resolution now expresses the role of the international community clearly, so that then before deployment the Government of Sudan will recognize the need. We're not talking about fighting our way in. And when I say "ours," I'm talking about the international community not the United States. But no one is talking about a UN force going in to fight their way into Darfur. But we do need a Security Council resolution now that expresses the will of the community that there should be this re-hatting of the African Union forces.
MR. BAILY: George.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: You had a follow-on.
MR. BAILY: Sorry.
QUESTION: What do you expect the -- (Inaudible.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: No. We don't expect it. We're calling for a quick decision. We would like a vote as soon as possible. Obviously, there has been, as I mentioned in my opening statement, an offer for the Government of Sudan to come to consult with the Security Council on August 28th, which the Foreign Minister has said they do not want to come and consult with the Security Council. So we will have to figure what the timeframe is. But I'm going to continue these consultations with the Government of Sudan and I think other members of the international community have been consulting. But I remind you that this consultation is not just starting. Before the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in May of 2006, we had consulted with the Government of Sudan in 2005. And they say, yes, yes, a peace -- a UN operation is possible, but first let's get a peace agreement. And we took them at their word and we got a peace agreement and now for the delay to continue we think is not credible.
MR. BAILY: George.
QUESTION: George Gedda of AP. You said in your opening statement that we cannot allow foot-dragging at the UN. Are you suggesting that there are countries on the Council who do not look favorably on the idea of a UN force going into Darfur?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: There are -- we're still in consultations. We think that there is -- that all of the members of the Security Council agreed that there's a need for dramatic action in response to the crisis in Darfur. So we do not think that there's been a significant positive development in that regard. There's still concern about the timing for re-hatting of the AU force. There's some countries that have fiscal challenges if the AU force is re-hatted in October, they're concerned about their budgetary process. There's other countries that are saying, well, UN DPKO says that they can't deploy a UN operation until January of 2007. And that UN DPKO saying it can't happen until January 2007 has led some countries to question the ability to re-hat on the AU timeline which is October 1st.
But as I said, if you're talking about lessons learned from past successful missions, we know that the UN can re-hat on October 1st. And that then it can build out that force over time, phase in new forces coming in, which we would expect again to be from African countries primarily as well as Muslim countries. And we're not trying to deploy, you know, Western domination here. We're talking about Africans who are on the ground, 5,000 or more who can be re-hatted immediately and given the capability to protect those women, to protect those innocent people. We're talking about deploying in over time and so that's the sort of foot-dragging, bureaucratic foot-dragging. And then some concerns on the part of individual countries.
The other concern, frankly, that some Security Council members have expressed is that the Government of Sudan hasn't agreed. But we had never, ever, in the UN Security Council allowed a Government to tell us that we cannot pass a resolution. It's -- no country has ever had a veto over the Security Council expressing its will. And so that can't be an excuse for not passing the Security Council resolution.
Clearly, we're not going to fight -- the force is not going to fight its way in. After all, they're already there. We're talking about re-hatting forces that are already on the ground, giving them capability. Right now they're sitting ducks. The African Union forces are sitting ducks, which is why two Rwandan peacekeepers were killed last weekend.
MR. BAILY: The last question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador, I'm afraid I'm going to have actually two questions. Talha Gibriel from Asharq Alawsat newspaper. Are you planning to go to Darfur yourself during this trip? And the second question: Are you going to discuss with the Sudanese officials or the Sudanese Government the sanction against Sudan from USA? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thank you. Right now my trip is not intended to go to Darfur. My primary purpose is to consult further with the Government of Sudan. When we were in Brussels we had an opportunity to talk to the Foreign Minister Lam Akol and talk about how we can work together to end this crisis in Darfur, including having the UN re-hat the African Union forces which are there. I want to continue that discussion and I am carrying a message from President Bush on that issue.
On the question of sanctions, as you know, we have multiple sanctions against the Government of Sudan. They have taken very positive action as far as the North-South Peace Agreement is concerned in signing that peace agreement. Our sanctions had to do with terrorism, they had to do with regional destabilization and they had to do with humanitarian and human rights violations. As long as you have the crisis continuing in Darfur, the humanitarian and human rights violations continue. They're ongoing. And so we cannot remove sanctions without resolving the situation in Darfur.
MR. BAILY: Just one last quick one.
QUESTION: Hi. Hanan El-Badry, Rose Al-Yussef magazine Egypt and Al Khaleej, the Gulf newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. I do have a question regarding the flood happened to be in the eastern of Sudan. Since you are already concerned about supporting the human and Sudanese, are you planning to send kind of support for the victims of the flood since you know there are hundreds of villages and destroyed a new people.
Second, I would like to ask since I have been working Sudan issue for many, many years, just an inkling who is supporting the resistance or the rebel in Darfur.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Sure. As far as the flood are concerned, our Chargé Cameron Hume in Sudan will be our first responder on the floods and he has, under chief of mission authority, the ability to call in an emergency and get more assistance. Right now the United States is the main provider of assistance to the people of Darfur. We spend total for Sudan about $1.3 billion annually including about $700 million or so in Darfur.
And so certainly we will be there to respond to their needs, but if humanitarian workers are coming under threats of attacks and if you have the Government of Sudan rearming, preparing for an offensive, as well as the non-signatory rebels preparing for an offensive, then humanitarian workers can't be there to provide assistance to the people of Darfur in these floods. So yes, we will do all that we can and we are a major contributor and we certainly would not turn away from that particular crisis of the floods.
On the question of who is financing the rebels, I said that we have three issues of sanctions against the Government of Sudan: the terrorism; the destabilization regionally; and human rights and humanitarian violations. On the regional destabilization, the Government of Sudan has actually made good progress recently, but the biggest challenge that still continues is between Chad and Sudan. The governments -- you know, the rebels are moving back and forth between their border areas and we hear reports of the Government of Sudan funding and arming rebels against Deby's government and President Deby doing the same against the Government of Sudan, and members of his family doing the same against the Government of Sudan.
So you have -- we believe that there is some arming of forces from -- support, if not arming, material support for rebels coming between the two countries, Sudan and Chad, as well as Eritrea perhaps with this National Resistance Movement providing assistance to non-signatory forces
.MR. BAILY: Thank you very much.
Released on August 25, 2006