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Coffee Break at the State Department: Assistant Secretary Frazer

Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
March 2, 2007

Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer
Department Spokesman Sean McCormack

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MR. MCCORMACK: Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, welcome to Coffee Break at the State Department. Thanks for joining us.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thank you very much.

MR. MCCORMACK: I wanted to start off talking a little bit about Sudan .

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- when Secretary Rice goes to college campuses and speaking engagements, this is the topic that people are most interested in. So can you give us a sense now for where we stand in the diplomacy? Are we any closer to getting UN, AU -- African Union peacekeepers in there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Well, we're certainly working on it and I'm actually pleased that the American public is so concerned about what's going on in Sudan . And it certainly is a priority for the Africa Bureau, for the State Department, and for President Bush. Where we are -- as you know, last November, we have international agreement to an Addis Ababa package, which has three phases. 

First is a light support package, which are basically advisors going to help the African Union force that's in Darfur . Secondly, what is called the heavy support package, which is logistical support, engineers, medical units, communicators, airlift; again, to increase the capability of the African Union force. So we're hoping ultimately to get to the end state, which is a hybrid AU-UN force.

We're right now with -- the light support package has gone forward. There are advisors, primarily, however, coming from the south. We're trying to get agreement from the --

MR. MCCORMACK: They're coming from the south of Sudan , so they're moving from where they are now up into Darfur ?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes, from the UN mission that's in the south. There are certain advisors, about -- the light support package calls for 200 advisors and about half of them have actually redeployed from southern Sudan to Darfur .

MR. MCCORMACK: Has that diminished the capabilities in the south at all?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: We don't expect it to diminish the capabilities. It's a pretty robust force in the south and so we think it won't hurt to pull out about a hundred or 200 advisors, mainly headquarter planning staff. The heavy support package; the UN and the AU have sent a letter to President Bashir asking him to accept the framework for the heavy support package and they're waiting for his reply right now. 

We, the United States , think it's extremely important to get those enabling forces to help the AMIS force, to get the engineers and the medical units there. And then we are trying to provide assistance, building camps to prepare for those new forces to come in. There, you're talking about from two to three thousand forces.

And then finally, the hybrid force; we already have 7,000 African Union forces on the ground. The hybrid force is expected to go up to about 20,000; 17,000 peacekeepers, 3,000 police force. And so we need to increase the size of both Africans and others who would be part of that hybrid force.

MR. MCCORMACK: So what's your timetable here now? We have some of the phase one light support package in there, we're working on getting some of the phase two in there. Where are those people going to come from and on what timeline do you expect that to happen? And then what timeline do you expect that third phase to happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Everything is happening too slowly. Let's be very clear about that. The hybrid force; again, we're hoping in a matter of days, we will get a response from President Bashir. Those forces would come from Africa . Certainly, there are countries that can provide airlift, that can provide medical units, and outside of Africa . Largely, we're hoping for Muslim countries, but beyond, some European, north European countries, for instance, can provide some of the lift logistical support. And so it'll be a universal force, an international force that would be both the enablers. 

And then on the hybrid, President Bashir has made it very clear that he wants it to be primarily African, but we have to be sort of realistic. African U countries are really, really stretched thin right now and to try to get from 7,000 to 20,000 looking solely at African countries is not credible. And so we would again expect those countries, those troop-contributing countries to come from international.

MR. MCCORMACK: So it would be from around the world, then. Would it be limited for this phase three? Would it be limited to European -- just European countries or Muslim countries or Arab countries or would it -- to us and to President Bashir, would it be acceptable to draw them from all around the globe?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: For us, it's acceptable to draw them all -- from all around the globe and UN Security Council Resolution 1706 also says it's acceptable from all around the globe. Problem is, President Bashir has said only African troops and that's not going to work. And so we will have to get over that stumbling block in the future. 

The Addis Ababa agreement says from all over the world as well and the Addis Ababa agreement is the agreement that was made with the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, countries like Egypt, China, the UK, the U.S, South Africa, Ghana, and others were there. And so I think it represents an international will that these forces come from all over the globe.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Before I get to the actual situation on the ground in Darfur , let me ask you a quick question. Are you satisfied with the level of international support that we're getting? I know the United States is out there every day working on this issue trying to generate the troops. But are we happy with the response that we're getting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Well, it's really difficult, I must say. We have, I think, a template as such for what works and we've -- you know, solved six wars in Africa in the last six, seven years. I mean, I think that it's very clear that when the U.S. works with the region and other international partners and then back the regional response and then work with the United Nations, it's a recipe for success.

That -- the problem here in Sudan is that we have to go outside of the region. The region has done its response, which is to the AMIS force. But we've had to go beyond the African Union force, so we have a government that's not willing to have the international community help it solve this problem and it continues to look for a military solution. And so the multilateral diplomacy is very complex. You have the Arab countries, African countries, you have, obviously, a bit of a divide between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. You have China , which is a major partner of Sudan .

So you have a whole number of coalitions, I think, that has to be built. Secretary Rice has done a great job and I think that the job that she did leading -- coming out of the UN General Assembly last year helped to create the momentum to get the Addis Ababa agreement, which reflects all of these disparate groups and regions coming together. So it's been very difficult. We're not completely satisfied, certainly. You know, the United States , Canada , the UK , and the Sub-Saharan African countries have a very strong and determined will.

Some of the others have been on-again, off-again, and that's been a problem. And so the multilateral diplomacy in this context has been extremely difficult. Also, our two major institutions that we're working with, the UN and the African Union, frankly don't have the capacity that we bilateral countries or -- you know, countries are expecting it to have. The Security Council has spoken in 1706. We say we want this peacekeeping force there. It doesn't require the consent of the Government of Sudan. Yet when you try to implement it practically, you do need to cooperate with the Government of Sudan to get those peacekeepers on the ground unless you're going to go to a straight Chapter 7, which is authorized by 1706, but not desirable.

So you know, the UN is constantly asking the permission of the Government of Sudan, which then takes two months to answer a letter, to allow, for instance, the enabling force, the phase two of the Addis Ababa agreement to go forward, the heavy support package. So it's been difficult. The African Union, likewise, has capacity problems. Yes, they have 7,000 forces deployed, but I'm trying to keep those forces paid, and so the morale high -- I'm having the planning support. It's not there. 

We, the U.S. Government, offered NATO assistance, you know, and we worked with our NATO allies to try to provide assistance to the AU and the AU didn't accept it, you know. So the two major institutions for implementation have limitations themselves, so it's been a very difficult road.

MR. MCCORMACK: So we've heard a lot of talk about Plan B.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: So are we any closer to getting into Plan B to increase our diplomatic leverage on the Government of Sudan? Because part of the -- as I understand it, part of the problem is that they have not responded quite as though we had wanted them to.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: There's also a problem on the international side, but are we going to increase the diplomatic heat on them at this point?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: I think we have to. Now, let's be clear; Plan B is to get to Plan A. That's the point of Plan A. Plan A is the Addis Ababa agreement, which frankly, the Government of Sudan agreed to in principle a long time ago. It's just that they delay that agreement, so it's on-again, off-again. But Plan B is to increase pressure on the Government of Sudan as necessary to move towards solving this problem via peacekeeping forces.

And so certainly, we will increase the sanctions that are there. We already -- the U.S. Government has bilateral sanctions. The UN has some sanctions. We will look to increase them and to increase multilateral sanctions and to increase our pressure more generally, yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: I've heard a lot of stories about what's going on, on the ground.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: How do you assess the situation? Where are we? Is it getting worse? Is it staying the same? How -- what is it like for the people on the ground and the NGOs that are trying to operate there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: I think the situation has gotten worse. Certainly, over the last year, the situation has deteriorated. And I think that you can talk about the humanitarian access, you can talk about NGOs working on the ground that have been subjected to greater harassment. It's a less secure environment. The African Union force, again, is major challenged in terms of its capacity to even do patrols on the ground. And most importantly, you have the splintering of rebel groups.

And so it's much more difficult politically to try to get an agreement amongst the rebel groups so that then they can negotiate with the government. And let's be very clear, the Government of Sudan has contributed to that splintering of rebel groups. They are actually doing the same types of divide-and-conquer tactics that they used against the southerners. And so they're not without fault, the Government of Sudan, but certainly, we have to put pressure particularly on what we call rogue rebels; you know, rebels who we believe would never intend to sign a peace agreement, have another agenda at hand.

And so those groups -- we won't support them and they're not very helpful, like some elements within the Government of Sudan. Again, it's a divided government as well, so it's very complex. The situation is very, very complex.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Let's turn to another neighboring country --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- where there's also a long history of trouble, Somalia .

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Now recently, the Ethiopian Government has gone into Somalia and they have driven out the Islamic Courts, which had imposed an order, a kind of order over Mogadishu . Now you're hearing press reports about a slideback. What's the situation there and what are we doing as part of an international community to try to bring Somalia out of this terrible past that they've had for the past 20 years or so.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Right, yeah. Somalia is, again, a difficult one, but I think that quite frankly, Somalia has more hope than it has in those last 20 years or so. And I say that because for the first time, you have a transitional federal government that is in Mogadishu . That's important. And that transitional federal government is representative, in terms of its clan composition, of all of the clans and sub-clans in Somalia . The problem is that they need to become even more representative, insofar as going beyond sort of a 4.5 formula of a distribution amongst the clans to having members of the government that truly reflect the desires of the various clans and sub-clans. 

And so on the political front, national reconciliation, a national dialogue is necessary. And we're quite hopeful because President Yusuf at the African Union Summit in January called for a national congress of reconciliation. So that's positive.

On the security front, there's been a bit of a slideback, but in Mogadishu primarily. Most of the rest of Somalia has been relatively more stable since the Ethiopian counteroffensive against the Council of Islamic Courts. You have to remember, from the time that the Council of Islamic Courts took over in, say, summer of 2006 till December, there was turmoil in Somalia . What was different is that Mogadishu was seemingly more secure and safer under the Council of Islamic Courts, but the rest of Somalia was not. You had thousands of refugees leaving out of Kismaayo going south. 

And this was both because of war, as the Council of Islamic Courts was expanding militarily throughout the country, as well as obviously, the pullouts which were taking place. And so it was a bit more turmoil in Somalia , but Mogadishu was secure. Today, that's flipped. Mogadishu is less secure because some remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts or some other group, it's not very clear who this is, are launching mortar attacks, you know, against the airport and the seaport and some of the Ethiopian forces and transitional federal government forces.

But the rest of Somalia is relatively more secure and stable than it was over those times when the CIC, the Council of Islamic Courts, were in control. And so it's difficult. We were hoping to get the African Union, AMISOM force in there. It's been authorized now by the UN, 1744 -- UN Security Council 1744. We're hoping that the Ugandans will deploy quickly, hopefully next month, early next month. I won't give a date. I don't think that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Are the Ethiopians still in there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: The Ethiopians are still there. Some have left, but -- you know, you still have Ethiopian forces there. We all want the Ethiopians to withdraw, but it needs to be orderly and in a phased process as African forces come in.

MR. MCCORMACK: To make sure there's no vacuum there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: That's right, no vacuum.

MR. MCCORMACK: Got you. I have -- we're out of time, but I'd like to see if you can come back at another point. There's so much to talk about in Africa --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- and not just the troubled spots. There are a lot of great stories --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- in Africa, West Africa, what's going on in the Great Lakes region.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Absolutely.

MR. MCCORMACK: So maybe we can have you back at some point.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: I'd be happy to.

MR. MCCORMACK: That would be great. Well, thanks for joining us, Jendayi. I appreciate it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thank you very much, Sean. I appreciate it as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thank you.

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