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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Keynote Address: Maritime Safety and Security - Gulf of Guinea Ministerial Conference

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Cotonou, Benin
November 15, 2006

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning. This is my first time in Benin and I am honored to be here.

Thank you, Ambassador Brown for that warm introduction. The United States and the American people are well served by your appointment as our Ambassador to Benin.

Minister N'Douro thank you for your gracious welcome and for the Government of Benin hosting this excellent conference. I also thank you personally and your Government for the strong collaboration you have forged with Ambassador Chaveas and his team at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies to put on such an impressive gathering.

Minister Agossou, thank you for your wonderful hospitality. We all enjoyed the fantastic dinner last night and I now consider myself welcomed home as part of the diaspora population that falls under your portfolio as Minister for Regional Integration and Diasporan Affairs.

Admiral Ulrich (Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa) thank you for your vision, passion, and persistence to advance Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea. I know that working together in partnership with our Gulf of Guinea partners at this conference, and with our colleagues, General Ward (Deputy Commander in Chief, European Command) and Ms. Whelan (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, African Affairs), we are sure to raise the awareness and create the regional network necessary to enhance maritime safety and security.

As someone with a keen interest in regional security issues, I am especially pleased to be here in Cotonou and to have this opportunity to engage with such distinguished experts, especially the military officers participating in this conference.

Today, I would like to discuss the United States' policy toward Africa and how Maritime security fits into our larger vision of working in partnership with the nations and sub-regional organizations of Africa.

We understand that we are dealing with an issue that affects economic, political, and security affairs. For this reason, we must adopt a holistic approach that includes improving governance and the economies in the Gulf of Guinea region as a foundation for stability.

Most importantly we know that success depends on partnership, working together, sharing information, even conducting joint operations in time.

The foundation of U.S.-Africa policy is best understood by examining briefly President Bush's vision and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's strategy to more effectively pursue American national interests, in a world where non-state actors, and illegal trans-border activity, can pose essential threats to even the most powerful of countries.
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At the beginning of his Administration in 2001, President Bush's National Security Strategy avoided ranking U.S. national interests according to the traditional hierarchy of regions - where Europe was considered a vital national security interest, Asia and the Middle East were important, and Latin America and Africa considered mainly of humanitarian interest. We no longer operate according to this hierarchy.

Instead, President Bush defined his priorities as combating the global war on terror and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and especially in his second term, he emphasized promoting democracy as key to advancing peace and prosperity. Over the past 6 years we have pursued these goals globally. Yesterday a reporter asked me what are U.S. interests in the Gulf of Guinea? Achieving coastal security in the Gulf of Guinea is key to America's trade and investment opportunities in Africa, to our energy security, and to stem transnational threats like narcotics and arms trafficking, piracy, and illegal fishing - we share these interests in common with our Gulf of Guinea partners.

TRANSFORMATIONAL DIPLOMACY

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seeks to realize the President's vision through her strategy of Transformational Diplomacy. The goal is to develop a network of well-governed states able through responsible sovereignty to protect themselves, contribute to regional security, and thereby protect the international system. Africa is part and parcel of the Secretary's Transformational Diplomacy agenda.

Secretary Rice characterizes her approach as "doing things with people, not for them." The primary principle of Transformational Diplomacy is partnership. This policy supports African leadership and seeks to build Africa's institutional capacity. And as Secretary Rice said, "We seek to use America's diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives, and to build their own nations, and to transform their own futures."

We believe this approach dovetails with Africa's own growing emphasis on the values of freedom, the rule of law, and collective security, as embedded in the African Union's New Partnership for African Development. The NEPAD Peer Review Mechanism reinforces African leaders' own efforts to promote democracy and good governance among their peers.

We recognize that there are new, rising strategic powers, including nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria and South Africa are among the most prominent African nations that have used their diplomatic, economic, and military power to shape the continent for the better. Mali, Mozambique, Liberia, Lesotho, Botswana, and Benin, and many other African nations are leading the way in showing the world the power of democratic freedom.

U.S. Africa policy seeks to nurture relationships with such strong, capable, and well-governed African partners. We also seek to help build the regional and sub-regional organizations that can further institutionalize progress on the good governance, economic, and conflict resolution fronts.

REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Over the last five years, one of our top priorities has been ending conflict in Africa. In line with Secretary Rice's Transformational Diplomacy approach, we are pursuing this goal by backing African conflict mediation and strengthening Africa's capacity to carry out peace support operations and to fight terror.

Our approach is to work with lead African mediators and multilaterally with the United Nations, African Union, and sub-regional organizations like ECOWAS. Evidence that our approach has worked is the success we've achieved together in ending wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Burundi, and Sudan (north-south). Darfur continues to shame us all, for our failure to date, to stop the killing and hold the Government of Sudan accountable for the death of more than 300,000 African Muslims and the displacement of more than 2.5 million from their homes. We have more work to do in Sudan, but, today we are focused on the Gulf of Guinea.

The United States will expand on our peacekeeping work with sub-regional and regional organizations to also help build African maritime capacity, since we know African countries working together can better address threats to security as they arise-including off the African coast.

MARITIME SECURITY: A REGIONAL AND INTERAGENCY ISSUE

Currently, the lack of Maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea has had a negative impact on stability, human security, and economic development in the region. Countries in the sub-region continue to lose millions of dollars to fish poachers, rampant criminal activity, drugs, arms, trafficking in persons, inadequate safety, pollution that degrades the environment, and oil theft that plagues petroleum-producing nations.

Through maritime security, African countries can better manage the natural resources for the benefit of both present and future generations. African countries' collaborating on issues related to their shared coastal waters will have a significant impact on future prosperity and job growth on the continent.

For example, seafood is a major issue for Africa's coastal communities. Illegal fishing costs the region significant revenue every year. Stability in the fishery sector will enhance food security, and provide income-earning opportunities to millions of individuals in the Gulf.

Let us consider oil. If African governments cooperate to protect their oil reserves and shipping lanes, they will significantly reduce the risk of doing business in the Gulf, and encourage investment by multinational corporations.

Experts estimate that over the next 10 years, oil production in the Gulf of Guinea will grow by 40%. By 2020, the Gulf of Guinea is expected to be one of the world's top oil-producing regions. Yet, private companies are the vast majority of operations in the Gulf of Guinea. If kidnapping of their workers and attacks on their facilities continue, they are unlikely to make the necessary investments to increase production, or even maintain current levels.

Lastly, there is the troubling issue of trafficking. There is a need to develop an efficient system to monitor, deter, and punish such illicit activities on a regional as well as a national basis. Illegal drugs, armaments, and human traffickers are constantly moving through the Gulf of Guinea's waters and often make their way onto shore.

I would like to underscore that political will is needed to address maritime safety and security as a trans-boundary challenge. It also requires interagency collaboration in order to improve regional capacities to conduct maritime surveillance, reporting, and interdiction. We understand that accomplishing these goals will take time just as it did in the United States. Our Navy and Coast Guard operations did not spring up overnight. It will take time and we are therefore committed for the long term to work with Africa to realize this era of improved maritime security. What we hope is that everyone here will be galvanized to return home and impress upon your government the importance of Maritime safety and security, including the economic and governance issues that are at its very foundation. What concretely will the United States do as a partner?

DONOR INTEREST

Let me be clear, the purpose of American involvement is not to impose our policy vision, but rather to alert you to our willingness to support well-conceived plans reflecting your government's policy commitment and resources. Toward that end, the United States and other donor partners are committed to providing support for this initiative in the form of seminars, training, and equipment. The U.S. government intends to support African institutions as they develop political buy-in for regional maritime security cooperation, whether that involves the AU, ECOWAS, CEEAC, Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), the Gulf of Guinea Commission, or any others.

The U.S. is already stepping up support to some of the regional member states, as they make marine resources management a priority. We hope that this Ministerial will help us all focus on the challenges ahead and the tools available to meet them. We hope to be part of a coordinated effort that seeks to address these challenges.

CONCLUSION

In closing, I would like to reiterate that the United States is most interested in following the vision and the lead of African nations. We believe that the best solutions to issues facing the continent stem from those most affected.

Our goal is to nourish strategic partners, whether they are individual nations or regional and sub-regional organizations. The State Department is committed to doing all that we can to provide the resources, training, and support the governments in the region might want, but our involvement will be at your request in response to your vision and priorities. And our response will be in close collaboration with the many elements of the U.S. Government represented at this conference, including especially our embassies in your countries and an active European Command and Naval Forces Europe, led by General Ward and Admiral Ulrich respectively.

Much work remains to be done and we look forward to working with you in partnership in building the institutions that will sustain our nations progress across generations.



Released on December 5, 2006

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