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Press Conference at the AU Summit in Ethiopia

Dr. Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
January 30, 2007

We are all very proud by the unanimous decision made by the members of the AU in selecting President Kufour as their new Chairperson. He is a man of great experience, great standing on this continent, and we are looking forward to the year ahead working with the AU. The United States has been a strong supporter of the AU, and we are demonstrating that most concretely in President Bush's selection of Ambassador Cindy L. Courville as our new Ambassador to the African Union. She is coming from the staff of the President, she was the President's Special Assistant for Africa, and we are especially pleased to have her here now, serving the US government in Addis Ababa at the African Union.

As the head of the U.S. delegation here to the AU Summit, I have had excellent consultations on Somalia, on Sudan, or Cote d'Ivoire, and on Guinea. We have also had good consultations on our partnership on regional peacekeeping, on economic development, and on elections support. West Africa alone has eleven elections coming up this next year so we will be quite busy working with regional entities like ECOWAS, SADDC and IGAD, as well as with the African Union.

On Sudan, the focus of our consultation was on speeding up the three phases of the "Addis Ababa package" - the light assistance package, the heavy package of enabling forces, and the AU-UN hybrid force. The United States has a lot at stake in trying to speed up the deployment of this hybrid force, because we spend about $1.3 billion annually in Sudan; half in Darfur, half in Southern Sudan.

On Somalia, we spent much of our time here talking about the deployment of the AMISOM force, and we are very happy with the news of this summit that Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Burundi, and of course Uganda are going to provide forces for AMISOM. As you may know, Secretary Rice announced a down-payment of $40 million, of which $14 million will be to support the AMISOM force, $10 million will be to provide support through development assistance - we especially need to build the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government, and another $16 million on humanitarian assistance. Last year we spent about $90 million in humanitarian assistance for Somalia. But deploying the AMISOM force, encouraging the inclusive dialogue which when I met with President Yusuf -- he again committed to that inclusive dialogue and to reconciliation. Supporting the TFG's capacity will be the key to the Somali people being able to take advantage of this window of opportunity that has come about by the actions of Ethiopia and the neighboring countries, particularly Kenya, as the chair of IGAD.

On Cote d'Ivoire, I had a chance to meet with President Campaore, and we discussed his new initiative to try to bring about direct dialogue between President Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro within the context of UNSCR 1721. The United States will commit its support to his effort as the new chair of ECOWAS.

On Guinea, we felt that it was very helpful; the agreement that has been reached between the unions and civil society with President Contë and the government to try to appoint a new Prime Minister that has the respect and the acceptance of all the key parties… that Prime Minister being the head of the government to try to manage the affairs of state for the people of Guinea.

We are looking forward to learning about the AU decisions on regional peacekeeping --the stand-by brigades, as well as the other decision that will be taken by the heads of state in their sessions for the rest of this afternoon.

With that, I would welcome any questions that you might have.

Question: As you have urged an inclusive dialogue. If the TFG will not talk to [Sheikh Aweys], what does the US have to say about this? …

Dr. Frazer: Thank you that is a good question, and it is important to clarify. The US government has never asked the TFG to negotiate with terrorists. That is not our position. What we have said is that there are individuals who were members of the Council of Islamic Courts, who were members of the Union of Islamic Courts, who come out of the organic Islamic courts, who should be part of an inclusive dialogue as individuals. But we do not support the reconstitution of the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). I cannot name the individuals that the TFG should negotiate with. We have been saying all along that this is an internal Somali process; this should be a Somali dialogue, that should take place in Somalia. But as you know, Aweys is on our list as a terrorist, as well as on the UN Security Council's list as a terrorist, so there has never been a point at which we have asked President Yusuf or Prime Minister Gedi or anyone else to negotiate with Aweys. We did of course, push for negotiations in terms of the Khartoum dialogue with the CIC, but it was the CIC that refused to continue that dialogue in Khartoum -- they started very promisingly on June 22nd -- but most of the actions thereafter were counter to the spirit and the reality of dialogue.

Question: Do you have any idea when peacekeeping forces will be on the ground in Somalia?

Dr. Frazer: Well. we have been working most closely with Uganda. We started working with Uganda as far back as November and December when the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 1706. I understood from President Museveni that Uganda's Parliament would meet today and take a decision on deployment. Of course the deployment would have to come after that decision, hopefully, they have decided positively, and we can get the Ugandan forces deployed in the next week. But we have to of course coordinate with the African Union. The African Union clearly has the lead on the planning for this AMISOM force, so our Ambassador will be sitting in on their core group, looking at all of the contributions, as well as the partners, at what will be necessary to get the entire force deployed.

Follow-up Question: Are you suggesting from that that you could have a scenario where you would have troops deployed bit by bit, rather than have the entire force of 4 or 5 thousand deployed at once?

Question: I am not the AU planners or decision makers, so I am only speaking on what my concept is. My concept is that they would be phased in as they become ready, just as the Ethiopians are phasing out. I think we all hope to avoid a scenario in which there is a gap, where Ethiopian forces have left and no AMISOM forces have come in. So yes, I would expect that they would be phased in.

Question: When Bashir meets with UNSG Ban Ki Moon, do you think that will he accept the agreements on Sudan (Addis agreement, Abuja 3-phases?)

Dr. Frazer: I have not had a chance to hear the results of that meeting directly from either participant. I understood that President Bashir had already accepted in principle the three phases of the Addis Ababa agreement and the Abuja agreement as he wrote in a letter to Kofi Annan. So we would hope that he hasn't gone back on that letter that he wrote. Certainly Ban Ki Moon will be looking for a firmer commitment from him, particularly on the hybrid force and the size of the hybrid force (for Darfur). But I think the international community is united behind the Addis Ababa package - the three phases the heavy support and the hybrid force being the key elements now. I think that the African Union in the selection of its leadership clearly demonstrated that the time has come to end the crisis in Darfur.. The African Union and the UN will be the implementors of this hybrid force in Darfur. I hope that President Bashir has heard the message loudly.

Question: For the stabilization force to be really effective in Somalia there has to be security on the ground. They need to be safe from the danger of being targeted by mistake by US or Ethiopian counterterrorist attacks. Does that mean that America will put an end to its attacks?

Dr. Frazer: The stabilization force is going to help provide security on the ground. So the first part of your statement is not exactly accurate. The second part is also not exactly accurate, insofar as I think you are referring to the two air strikes - which occurred in very a remote part of Somalia towards the border with Kenya, and was targeted towards the first time, a convoy of about 20, and the second time, of about eight, with terrorists in those convoys - they were targeted towards fighters. So, the stabilization force would be deployed into Mogadishu, probably as a fist step. And so I don't see the relevance frankly of the question in terms of the air-strikes in the past.

Follow-up questions: But how could you ensure that the stabilization force itself would not come under attack by future US airstrikes?

The real planning that we have to do is a stabilization force that would come under attack from what the attacks that that we are seeing taking place in Mogadishu today. That would be the prudent planning that the AU would be conducting.

Question: Is the US planning to provide logistical support for the deployment of peacekeepers for Somalia?

Dr. Frazer: Yes, we have offered that. We have offered to airlift in with contract air the Ugandans, to provide some equipment and financial assistance. But again, the actual coordination of this assistance is going through the AU. So we will work very closely with the AU Peace and Security Commission to figure out what support they actually need from the United States.

Question: Associated Press about half an hour ago released a story that Islamists have posted a message on a jihadist website in which they say that they will attack and kill any peacekeepers that enter Somalia. Do you have any comment on this?

Dr. Frazer: As you said, the situation is difficult and has been for quite a while. It doesn't surprise me that you would find that type of extremist message on a website. It's been there throughout. Clearly, the Council of Islamic Courts made such threats against the Ethiopians and against the Transitional Federal Government. That very same Council of Islamic Courts was thoroughly defeated militarily. And so these types of threats have to be, obviously, built into any planning for peacekeeping force but the real message behind it is to try to intimidate the African Union and the international community not to assist the people of Somalia. We have letters from the Prime Minister, the President, the former Speaker, civil society groups, and clan leaders asking the international community and the African Union to send a peacekeeping force there, a stabilization force. And so, those extremists clearly are not reflecting the will of the Somali people as represented by civil society and their government. And they are not reflecting the will of the African Union as reflected by President Konare or the international community as reflected by the Security Council resolution authorizing such a force. And so, we will not be intimidated. Obviously, whenever you're going into a dangerous situation, its prudent military planning to expect someone to attack your forces. You have to do that, and so we will.

Question: Has the US discussed, and could you comment on the long term commitment of the United States to assisting Somalia?

Dr. Frazer: Our commitment is a long-term one but what we hope will happen and what's been discussed and what is in the communiqués of the AU Peace and Security Council is that the AMISOM force would transition into a UN force over time. So that's the scenario. And certainly, we would continue to support - what do you think, we're going to stop supporting them? I'm not sure what the question is getting at.

Follow-up question: [Unintelligible]

Dr. Frazer: Let me be very clear. Our policy and our interest in Somalia is to support the Transitional Federal Government to establish inclusive governance under the Transitional Federal Charter and that then transitions to an elected government over time; to provide humanitarian assistance to the Somali people which we've done -- $90 million last year. That was a commitment before the CIC. It will be a commitment after the CIC. It is a commitment before the Transitional Federal Government got to Mogadishu. It will be a commitment afterwards. That's a long term commitment. Also, our commitment is to support the African Union in getting that force in to provide the secure environment for all of this to take place, and it's to prevent Somalia from becoming a threat to its neighbors in terms of regional stability, and from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. And so our interests are broad, and long term.

Question: You have said earlier that there will be no imposition by the U.S. on who President Abdullahi Yusuf chooses to negotiate with for the national process of reconciliation. But what about the will of the Somalia people? What about the will of Somaliland, and secession, and the possible recognition of the state of Somaliland as a country - with all of the deliberations this week during the AU Summit?

Dr. Frazer: I'm not sure if the African Union as the members, the heads of state, or the ministerial have discussed the issue of Somaliland. I had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the Somaliland government. I also met with the, as I said, President Yusuf and members of the Transitional Federal Government. I think that the issue of Somaliland is one that the United States has said repeatedly "we will follow the lead of the African Union." We would encourage dialogue between them, now. But we will follow the lead of the African Union on this issue of recognition.

Question: Some say that the U.S. air strikes were a show of power on the part of the United States, proving its military might [while Ethiopian forces on the ground would have been perfectly capable of handling matters themselves]

Dr. Frazer: No, I don't think any one is trying to "one-up" any one. I think we've been partners in trying to address an extremist threat in the Horn of Africa. And as I said, we worked very closely with the Transitional Federal Government, with the Government of Ethiopia, with the Government of Kenya, with the Government of Djibouti, I've had consultations on my last visit with the Government in Yemen. We want to work in partnership. It's never been the U.S. Government's policy to lead the efforts because we have very strong, capable African leadership able to take on the responsibilities of the continent. So we're trying to work in partnership. In circumstances when there are extremist elements who have attacked our mission, who have attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who continue to plan attacks against our missions around the Horn of Africa, we will take action. And a lot of that action is to talk to those who are harboring those terrorists and ask them to turn them over just as we did with the CIC, before the CIC, and we will continue. We are working in partnership with the regional governments.

Question: [unintelligible]
Dr. Frazer: They have been in Mogadishu before that. That's why I'm saying we talked with the CIC. We talked with others before the CIC. We're going to continue to talk with the Transitional Federal Government -- wherever these people are being harbored -- to try to get information about them and have them turned over.

Question: Sudanese leaders openly accuse the US of pressuring African leaders. What do you have to say about this?

Dr. Frazer: My comment is that it is unfortunate that Sudanese officials don't understand yet that African leaders find what's going on in Darfur unacceptable for this continent. And that they do not want to be led by a government that hasn't yet addressed that problem. That was true a year ago. and it continues to be true. It doesn't take external pressure for African leaders and African people to see that the killing of hundreds of thousands of people who've died in Darfur have to come to an end. It doesn't take external pressure for that to happen. So I think it is underestimating the sense of outrage reflected amongst the leadership of the African Union and reflected in the governments across Africa. It's an unfortunate analysis.

Question: How about Ethiopia-Eritrea peace efforts? Also, how confident are you that the "moderate elements" in the UIC will remain moderate?

Dr. Frazer: It's possible. On the government of Eritrea, the government of Eritrea was providing arms and providing fighters and training the Al Shabbab militia of the CIC which was the most extremist arm of the CIC. We would hope that the government of Eritrea would play a constructive role in terms of trying to support the Transitional Federal Government and not continue to support remnants of the CIC that are bent on terror or insurgency. I send that message today. I've asked our ambassador to send the message. As you probably know, our lines of communication with the Government of Eritrea aren't that great. So others will have to send the message as well. But clearly, we would want the Government of Eritrea to act constructively toward Somalia and give a chance to the Transitional Federal Government and the people.

I don't have confidence or pessimism about moderates in the CIC. What I judge U.S. policy options on is their actual actions. And more important than what the U.S. Government is saying; what the Transitional Federal Government has said, is that it would provide amnesty to all members of the CIC and even the fighters of the CIC who renounce violence and extremism and aren't terrorists, that aren't designated terrorists. I take the government at its word. I hope that those members of the CIC who wanted negotiations -- because we feel that the CIC was hijacked -- that those members of the CIC that wanted negotiations will as individuals, engage in an inclusive dialogue in a process of reconciliation. That's my hope. But I'm not either optimistic or pessimistic. We have to plan against what we actually see.

Question: What do you have to say about President Afewerki's strong anti-US comments, and what is the diplomatic relationship of the US with Eritrea?

Dr. Frazer: We have an ambassador in Eritrea. Eritrea has an ambassador in the United States, so we continue to have our diplomatic relations. As I said, the lines of communications aren't that great right now. But, we are not as concerned about the statements coming out of Eritrea against the U.S. Government. We think those statements have more to do with the Eritrea-Ethiopia border issue than anything else. I think that President Issaias felt that the United States government could somehow solve the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission. It has been fairly aggressive in terms of their government statements towards us since then. But we don't mind. We can manage and for us, where there is a real threat is the fact that the CIC was being highjacked by extremists and terrorists. And that was a threat against our interests and the neighbors' interests, and it was unfortunate that Eritrea's government was funding, assisting and training those extremists and those terrorists. But that's over, hopefully, the CIC is gone, and we ask and hope that the Eritrean Government would act responsibly towards the Transitional Federal Government.

If (Issaias) continues to fund insurgencies, it would be consistent with the funding of insurgencies in other areas as well. It's unfortunate and we as a region have to deal with what role Eritrea is playing. Is it being a constructive country within the Horn of Africa or is it not? And those countries that continue to have open communication with Eritrea should counsel it to play a constructive role in the Horn of Africa.

Question: Does the USA have the same views as Ethiopia in terms of who should be a part of an "inclusive dialogue" in Somalia?

Dr. Frazer: I'm not aware of the Ethiopian Government saying who should be included, and certainly we, the U.S. Government, have said that it should be all-inclusive and we talked about it not in terms of individuals but in terms of constituencies. And we talked about civil society, women's groups, business leaders, all of the clans and sub-clans and sub sub-clans, the religious authorities, organic, local religious authorities. So we hope that his process of reconciliation -- President Yusuf has talked even about the Diaspora being part of it -- we will follow the Transitional Federal Government's lead. Our interests are that the stakeholders that are part of this dialogue will be sufficiently broad that no one feels left out and, therefore, feel that they need to take up arms to become part of the future of Somalia. That's what we're really trying to get at. We do want it to be very, very inclusive but the Transitional Federal Government is the one that is organizing this congress that they're talking about, this national reconciliation congress. And if they share with us their list of participants and we see a major stakeholder or constituency not represented, we would probably raise it with President Yusuf.

Question: For the six months the UIC was in control of Somalia, the country enjoyed a level of security it had not known in decades; while the TFG didn't want to leave Baidoa. Do you really think that the TFG can achieve the same level of peace and security that the UIC did in Somalia?

Dr. Frazer: I think that characterization is false, and I think that we continue to talk about the CIC in a way that is false. The CIC apparently when they were in power, had apparently […] by all accounts gotten rid of road blocks throughout Mogadishu and people felt more secure and were able to walk around in Mogadishu. So let's just state it accurately. We do hope that Transitional Federal Government would be able to learn from what the CIC did in Mogadishu to bring about stability. But Kismaayo was not peaceful under the CIC. Most parts of Somalia were not peaceful under the CIC. The CIC continued to move militarily and aggressively. There was a terror attack against a Parliament building in Baidoa. So I don't accept a characterization of the CIC having brought peace throughout Somalia. But I do accept that they brought greater peace, I wouldn't call it peace, but greater security within Mogadishu. And I hope the Transitional Federal Government can likewise bring that security within Mogadishu. The problem with that, potentially, is that the remnants of the CIC may be attacking people and attacking the Transitional Federal Government and the police. So that's really the problem. And hopefully, those elements that are conducting these attacks, whomever they are, will become part of the process of bringing about that ideal of peace across Somalia, an ideal that has not been achieved in 16 years.

Thank you.

Released on February 5, 2007

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