Assistant Secretary Frazer at the FPC: Upcoming Elections In The Democratic Republic Of The CongoJendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Washington Foreign Press Center
October 27, 2006
3:00 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: I’m going to be brief in my introduction. Thanks, everyone again, for coming on a Friday afternoon. It looks pretty gloomy outside, so I appreciate everyone coming out. As you know, this is Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer. She's going to be doing it on the record, here with us to talk -- brief you a little bit about the upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And if time permits maybe a couple of other issues if there are some regional issues that are of interest to you. But without further ado, let me turn it over to you, Assistant Secretary.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Thank you very much. And I'll open with a brief statement and then we can get into some Q&As. The determination of the Congolese people to exercise their right to vote is truly inspiring and I personally witnessed that national determination when I observed Congo's July 30th presidential and parliamentary elections. I look forward to a successful presidential runoff and provincial elections this Sunday as well as successful local elections early in 2007.
Congo's transition from conflict and devastation to democratic government and economic recovery is a work of the Congolese people, assisted by many African nations led by South Africa and supported by the international community to rebuild a nation. We hope for a high turnout on Sunday to provide broad support for a new era of democracy in the Congo. This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Congolese people to invest in the future. This is a chance to impress upon all aspiring leaders that in Congo as in our democracy the power of a government comes from the consent of the electorate.
The violence that brought Kinshasa to a halt August 20-22 was a harsh lesson to both presidential candidates of how quickly events can get out of hand. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and we hope the two candidates' agreement to a code of conduct for the runoff will lead to a peaceful, prosperous Congo in which everyone recognize that there is no substitute for a democratic process. In that regard, we welcome the decision of the candidates to accept a code of conduct that we welcome the decision of both candidates to accept the results of the elections and we look forward to continuing to work with the Congolese high media authority and the Independent Election Commission and commend them for their special efforts to enforce the campaign code of conduct and to guard against the use of hate speech or insight violence. So far we're quite happy that on the eve of this election there's calm through out the country.
Thank you very much. And I'm happy to take any questions.
MODERATOR: Very good. If we could just open it up to questions now.
QUESTION: According to what's happening in this country and --
MODERATOR: If you could just identify yourself and your news organization right before the question. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I'm Louis Oulon from the National Radio of Burkina Faso. Do you think that all -- they got all the condition for election there before they start?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Do we think that there's -- that the conditions are for a free and fair election are there?
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Yes, so far, definitely. The Congolese people in government and especially the Independent Election Commission has now conducted two to three very successful elections: the referendum on the constitution, as well as the first presidential election leading to this runoff. So we think that they've gained significant experience in conducting free and fair elections. There are going to be many electoral observers there as well, both national and international observers. And so certainly we think that they have the basis for a free and fair election. The concern has been that there not be any violence, particularly in Kinshasa, given what has happened last month or in August.
QUESTION: When are you going to take --
MODERATOR: If you could just identify yourself.
QUESTION: I'm Tarek Rashed from the Middle Eastern news agency of Egypt. You were a part of the observation mission before in July, I think. Are you going to take part in the observation mission in -- in the (inaudible) and from what you observed during the first mission, did you -- what camp do you expect that weigh in favor of the government?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, I won't take part this time in going out as an election observer but my deputy, Don Yamamoto, my Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa will be going. He has in fact left this afternoon so that he would be in place for observing the election. What I expect, given my experience in July, is again as I said there was tremendous calm amongst the population and a determination that after 40 years the public's voice would be heard in this election and so I expect it to be quite fair. I hope that it will be an election that takes place without any violence. And again, the candidates, the leaders themselves, have to set that example.
QUESTION: I mean, because in the first round the opposition cried foul that Mr. Kabila's camp has breaked (ph) or something like that (inaudible). Did you observe any such events?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: No. I didn't observe any such events during the first round and I was in Kinshasa. I did most of my observation at polling stations throughout the city and then a little bit outside of the city. And I didn't see -- it would be difficult to -- in the voting itself to have cheated because there were so many observers at each of the poll stations and we as observers stayed there throughout the night and counted each ballot with, you know, national and international observers watching each count. And so it would have been difficult to cheat in the process. I don't know what -- you might have changed the tabulation afterwards but I saw nothing during the first round that would suggest that anyone had cheated.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Speak into the mike, please.
QUESTION: Tosan Aduayi (inaudible) international. I just want to know given the substance of this process, what level of amenities do they have for the election? I mean, do they have an up to date ballot system or do they have modern computers, systems to check?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: I had a chance to go to the electoral commission's headquarters and they had a very up to date computer system to receive the results of accounting from each of the polling stations. So the actual ballots were -- during July -- were quite complicated to say the least, because there were so many candidates, 33 presidential candidates, that the ballot was very long and very thick and very difficult to get through. This now being the runoff, especially at the presidential level, it should be much easier since it's just between two candidates. The transparency was that each ballot was accounted for, everybody, you know, had their thumbprints so they could vote one time. The ballot boxes were transparent so you can see the ballot go in. And when they were counted, they're accounted, you know, in the room where the voting took place with observers present. And then the sheets, you know, the detailed counting -- not only are there official sheets but the observers themselves kept their own records so that once those sheets were transmitted to the independent electoral commission and would be inputted into the computer you had a paper record of what took place. And many records, for that matter, of each of the observers. So they do have the computer systems necessary at headquarters to count the votes, I think rather quickly.
QUESTION: Secretary Frazer, this is James Butty. I'm host of Daybreak Africa. When we talked the last time with the Chairman of the Congolese Election Commission, I think one of the things he mentioned was that the real work for Congo will begin after these elections. He outlined a number of things including how do you get the military together economically. Also how much is the United States willing to support the Congo after these elections no matter when? I mean, how much are we willing to help them with to make sure that the democracy there working towards -- is solidified?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Right.
QUESTION: And on a more related question, there was a vote -- I think it was yesterday -- within the United Nations on the small arms sale to Africa. The Congo is being affected as much as other countries in Africa and I thought we learned that the United States was the only one that did not vote in favor of this. Can you explain to us why?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Sure. I can -- first, on your first question, let me just say that we had been supporting the Congolese people throughout this long period of ending their civil war from 2001 when President Bush came in office, including trying to get the neighboring countries to leave Congo -- Rwanda and Uganda -- and through the Tripartheid Plus mechanism building confidence between the neighboring countries and trying to create the space with the Congolese people to decide the future for their country. So certainly we will continue to be a strong partner with the government.
We also will continue to work with them on economic development, on military integration, on post-conflict reconstruction. Our USAID mission in particular has a lead in trying to assist the Congolese people in restoring their economy by reaching out at the local level. So we will continue with that assistance and support. Congo is a priority for us, like Liberia, Angola, Burundi. We had been working very hard to try to help countries move from war to peace and certainly move from the ending of their wars to consolidating a democratic governance as the basis of sustainable peace and so we will continue there.
The issue of the small arms -- I don't actually have information on the nature of that vote and why the United States would have opposed a particular resolution on small arms, so I'm afraid I can't answer that question directly.
QUESTION: So can I follow up, Madame Secretary?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned Liberia and how you continue to support Liberia after their elections. The President -- President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in I think in her speech at Georgetown she said something that I thought was in reference to the United States that the last time she was here in March $50 million was promised to her but she said she's still waiting for that money. What's gone wrong?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, nothing's gone wrong. We have -- she raised this with Secretary Rice as well when they met at the UN General Assembly. And we have been distributing -- or obligating the money that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been promised. There was I think some $20 million or so more than she was expecting that was tied up with our contracting rules and so we had to work through those contracting rules at the end of the fiscal year. But she should be seeing the results of that money now. It was internal contracting issues. The way in which we give out our money we have to make sure that we, you know, meet our rules, our laws. That you have to bid -- you know, different contractors have to bid. You have to have competitive bidding process, et cetera, and so we needed to just work through some of the contracts. But I think that that money has been released now, so she should see the benefits of it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the most important in the Congo is after elections and I think there is a big issue. Because before we have the arms results in Congo there were (inaudible). And do you think that both parties -- I mean, the power (inaudible) are ready to be good loser.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, they both have promised. We will see. Secretary Rice had an opportunity to meet with President Kabila at the UN General Assembly in September and he made the point that democracy requires losers. That it's in the nature of democracy. (Laughter.) And he was prepared to lose if that's what the electorate decided. So we will see. We certainly will see. We certainly have seen that in the first round. There were 31 candidates who accepted that they lost, you know, because only two have moved forward to the runoff. And so I do think that the Congolese people have a good chance and that both candidates have committed to a code of conduct. They've committed to accepting the results of the election. And I think that they've done the good work of creating the alliances that are necessary to govern. And so I think that we, you know, we would hope one is going to be in the opposition and one is going to be the President.
QUESTION: But what do you plan in case of bad losers?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, we will continue to put pressure on them. And I think that the international community has done quite well to stand together in that regard. And then in particular, we have this committee to accompany the transition, the CIAT, which is basically a local committee that has been working with all of the candidates for several years now since Sun City, since they signed an agreement. You know, South Africa's a member, the U.S., the U.K., the European Union, the UN and others, and those ambassadors and representatives have worked very, very closely with all candidates and they will continue to do so.
MODERATOR: Tarek, maybe we could have you follow up.
QUESTION: I've got a question on Sudan.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Yes.
QUESTION: Given the stalemate in the situation with Bashir swearing not to let in any UN forces and kicking out Mr. -- UN envoy, and the Arab League stepping in to augment his position, and the U.S. vowing not to enforce any forces, in your own words, any forces on Sudan, so what's next in this situation?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, I think that the Arab League isn't really stepping up to reinforce President Bashir's refusal to accept the decision both by the African Union, which has repeatedly called for a transition of its forces the African Union Mission in Sudan to a UN mission, as well as the UN Security Council and its, you know, Resolution 1706 which calls for that transition to occur. I think that the Arab League has said that it wants to try to find a way to achieve that result. So I don't think that they've reinforced President Bashir at all. And I think that what we need to do is continue to put the pressure on them.
I know that Egypt has taken a leadership role to try to also work with President Bashir to help him to understand that there is no ill-intent against his government with this proposed transition mission. What we're talking about is having the core forces be from African and Muslim countries. We already have 7,000 forces there from African countries. They would be the core of any UN mission.
What we need the UN to do is to provide the financing through assessed dues, to provide the organizational expertise and capacity that the UN uniquely has as a body that can do peacekeeping, that can do the humanitarian assistance and that can support implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. And so I think that the diplomacy is continuing to try to reassure on the one hand, and pressure on the other hand, President Bashir to accept the decision of the African Union and the United Nations.
QUESTION: I just want to trace the Arab League role because the Arab League announced it already that they will provide money, financial support and even troops. Some countries are ready to send troops. So isn't the U.S. open to a proposal to put all this process under an African leadership and by providing logistics to these troops without involving international force that make the Sudanese regime a concern.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, first of all, African forces and Arab forces are international forces. Their part of the international system as well, and they're part of the United Nations as well.
We welcome the offer of troops and financing. We haven't seen the reality of it. And you know, there have been numerous donor conferences, and the Arab League and others have not contributed. Arab countries have not contributed to the financial support of the African Union. So if they're going to do so, certainly the United States welcomes that support and that assistance, but it has to be concrete.
But it's not simply a matter of more troops and more money; it is also the organizational capability of running a peacekeeping operation of a force from 7,000 to 20,000. That takes tremendous experience and expertise, and the African Union has said it doesn't have it at this point. It's a new organization. It's done extremely well. But it has asked to turn over its obligations and its role to the United Nations of which all of the AU members are also members of the United Nations. And so they, I think, don't understand why President Bashir is standing up against an organization that he, at one time, aspired to lead and some would say still aspires to lead. The AU repeatedly in its communications has called for that transition.
What's next? I think that we have to continue the diplomacy, as I said, on the one hand to give him the assurances, and on the other hand to continue to put the pressure on him. We currently think that the Arab countries are important, are critically important. I think that there is some discussion within the African Union, particularly between countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with their North African brothers and sisters to say why aren't we standing together? We need to stand together to stop the atrocities which are taking place in Darfur. And after all, they're taking place against primarily Muslim, you know, innocent civilians. And why wouldn't we all stand together to stop that?
MODERATOR: I just want to make sure we cover all the bases on the DRC issue, so people --
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, this is James Butty, host of Daybreak Africa, back to the Congo elections. Given that a country is coming out of war, and we know -- okay, this is democracy, the fact that they're having elections. What do you prefer that after this election that whoever wins makes some effort towards reforming a government of some kind of national unity, or do you believe it should be winner take all like we do here?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: I think it's up to the people of Congo and their leaders to decide how they're going to move forward. I don't have a preferred outcome. I think that the alliances that have been established to win the election are a good basis of democracy. You know, there are many people who lost, and now they have been attracted into the party's support for particular candidates. And I think that that's the way to do it. Any politician knows that they have to reach out to other factions to govern well. Whether they govern -- they reach out to, you know, on certain issues being what we call here bipartisan on an issue and trying to reach across the aisle to gain support for issues or actually taking people into their party, either way I think in many ways Congo has had a transition government of national unity, governing one president, four vice presidents. I think you don't need four vice presidents. It's a lot of overhead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can I follow up? And this would be a lead-in to, you know, this week -- I think it was yesterday -- the commission in Ethiopia, the commission of inquiry that looked into the post-election violence last year, released its report. You know, is the United States satisfied with the report? (Inaudible) of the report?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, we've read it, we've taken note of it and we're very concerned about the findings, you know, that there's been this violence and the people who -- the government forces that have carried out this violence need to be held accountable, and I think we've said so publicly, you know, and we certainly have expressed our concern as well through our chargé there, our ambassador, to also say to the government, you know, this is a real problem. You know, so we continue to express concern about the findings of that commission.
QUESTION: Has anything changed between Ethiopia and Somalia the last time we've talked here?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, Somalia has changed a lot since the last time we talked. They've got a lot of concerns, yes.
QUESTION: Any other DRC questions before Charles goes? Okay, please, Charles.
QUESTION: Charles Smith, Media 24, South Africa. Just in general, are you happy and the United States happy with how Africa's leaders are handling Africa's problems? Because it always seems like the international community must jump in and then help out -- the United States -- and say to Bashir, President Bashir, stop it and all this. But there's sort of a feeling among some international people, not to say leaders, that, you know, African leaders are silent in it. What's your view?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: No, I don't think that African leaders have been silent on Sudan and Darfur, certainly not in terms of the diplomacy that's taking place. Perhaps in terms of public diplomacy they could speak out more, but in terms of their action they certainly are carrying the burden of the conflict in Sudan right now. And I say that insofar as South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal and others have the main forces on the ground, so they're putting, you know, their military might and their -- the lives of their citizens on the front lines of trying to stop what's taking place in Darfur. So I think that that's very positive.
Certainly the ministers, the foreign ministers who are part of the AU Peace and Security Council, have repeatedly and systematically worked to try to bring pressure on the Government of Sudan in terms of the communiqués that they've issued and I know that many of them have received and have dealt with the foreign minister of Sudan as well and they've been unequivocal about the need to stop the military offensive and to allow for a transition to the UN. So -- and then I know that there are many of the African heads of State -- President Obasanjo is one -- and others who again have spoken out very clearly on this issue.
So no, I don't think that they're not doing their part. They certainly are doing their part. And I don't think Africa is unique. Problems throughout the world are solved by a combination of local, regional and international engagement. And so, you know, we're doing the same in North Korea, in -- you know, with Iran. The Security Council is involved, the neighbors are involved, and certainly domestically there's, you know, tensions within the societies themselves trying to address the challenges within their countries.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I have an Africa general question. I think based on -- I think I was reading this morning a number of African countries are going to be going to China. I think there's a conference happening there.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Yes.
QUESTION: I understand about 30 or so African countries.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Right.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned? And if I may follow up on Uganda, there's a peace conference that's been going on but it seems to be the sticking point is whether the International Criminal Court's decision to indict the leaders of the LRA can be removed. Does the United States believe, if this is a stumbling block, that this should be taken out of the process so that we can move forward?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Right. We are not concerned about the conference that's going to be held in China with African countries. This is what other nations do. Japan has their, you know, conference. You know, France has their Francophone African conference. Japan has a conference. We have the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which is an opportunity at the ministerial level to have a conference with certain types of African countries -- well-governed, you know, open economies. And so no, we're not concerned about China having -- convening a conference with African countries and developing its Africa policy and agenda.
We would hope in that conference that the African countries emphasize their own commitments to the principles of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, principles that focus on holding the countries accountable for human rights, holding them accountable for good governance and holding them accountable for transparency -- you know, anti-corruption. These are certain principles that the continent itself has adopted and, you know, sometimes China takes a stance that, well, they don't care really about those principles, right, that that's not the basis of their decisions on engagement. That seems to undermine the way in which the continent is developing in its own decision making.
So that's the only issue that I would raise insofar as that conference is concerned, but I'm not at all concerned about China's engagement in Africa. But I think they have to be held accountable to what the continent is now asking in terms of the principles of engagement.
And then on the --
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: The question of Uganda. I don't think that you can just put on the ICC and take off the ICC. I just don't think you can do that. A case is a case. I think that Uganda -- you know, I think that we are watching with interest the peace negotiations. We hope that they work and the Ugandan Government will have to talk to the courts, to the ICC, about the process of bringing a case to fruition, right.
And the Ugandan Government will have to decide what's the timing if Koni, Otti and other leaders turn themselves in, what's the process of turning them over to the court, what's the timing of turning them over to the court, or indeed if the government is going to provide them an amnesty and not turn them over to the court. I think that that's an issue, frankly, between Uganda nationally and the ICC.
You know, the United States position is we will try our own citizens who are accused of any particular atrocities anywhere in the world. We want a right of first trial and that's why we have taken the position that we've taken vis-à-vis the ICC. But that's really going to be between Uganda and the ICC and we don't have a position pushing one way or the other. We think that there needs to be -- the priority has to be to bring about peace, but there also has to be some system of accountability. Whether that system is the ICC or not is between the Government of Uganda and the ICC.
MODERATOR: Okay, let's go to one last question. Charles, to you.
QUESTION: I'd like to jump to Zimbabwe please, if possible. What's happening on that front? You know, a lot has been talked in the last year about Mr. Kofi Annan is going to visit Zimbabwe and nothing happened and it sort of just seems like Zimbabwe is falling apart as far as its -- just what's your views on that?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Zimbabwe is falling apart in silence. (Laughter.) That's my view, which is that unfortunately I think Zimbabwe's neighbors have failed the Zimbabwean people.
QUESTION: South Africa as well?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: All of the neighbors. The Southern African Development Community as a whole, which considers -- probably is the sub-regional organization that has the strongest democratic governments as members, but yet have not been able to bring the pressure necessary to support the people of Zimbabwe to hold their own government accountable, and so it's quite ironic that these countries that have repeated good elections would have within their midst this aberration, which is Zimbabwe.
I'm more hoping that by 2008, when the term of President Mugabe comes up, that they will have -- we will have found both -- (inaudible) will have found as well as we internationally will have found a process by which you can put in place the foundation for real democratic transparent, free and fair elections. So we have some time for that process to unfold.
It's also disappointing, quite frankly, that within Zimbabwe that the opposition has been fairly beat down. It has not been able to remain unified at the political level. So there is work to be done internally as well.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. You yourself, did you have any phone calls or anything contact with Mr. Mugabe?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: No, I haven't had any contact.
QUESTION: What's your message via diplomacy (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: The only contact I had with President Mugabe was frankly during Presidential Kikwete's inauguration and I found it ironic that you had President Mugabe there in a country attending inauguration of a president who has had now three successful successions where presidents have chosen to go just to their term limits and then allow the people to decide on a new President. And so, you know, here is Tanzania that's a world democracy, and with all of the, you know -- being at that ceremony and seeing all of the symbols of democracy and peace and stability in this country. But that's the only interaction I've had with just seeing him there, but I haven't had any other interaction with him. Many presidents were represented at that election, and I think it was important for them to see how peaceful that transition and handoff from President Mkapa to President Kikwete occurred.
I think we're going to have to --
MODERATOR: We're out of time. I really apologize, but she does have to go off to other meetings.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Sorry.
MODERATOR: I do want to thank everyone for coming on a Friday afternoon. Thank you, Assistant Secretary Frazer.
AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Thank you very much.
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Released on October 30, 2006