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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > February

Roundtable on African Issues

Secretary Colin L. Powell
New York City
February 6, 2004

(12:15 p.m. EST)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the U.S. sent troops to Liberia, and now you are leading the daughter of reform. You have not taken criminal action for all the African crises, such as the DRC.

SECRETARY POWELL: Such as?

QUESTION: The DRC. Democratic --

QUESTION: Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, DRC.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SECRETARY POWELL: Sorry.

QUESTION: What makes Liberia so special? And will you be similarly committed to all the African nations in the future?

SECRETARY POWELL: Liberia is somewhat unique in that it was established by American slaves, as you well know, in the 19th century, and there has always been this historically cultural connection to the United States. Monrovia is named after an American President. Liberia means liberated from slavery in the United States. So there's always been this connection. And Liberia was never a colony of one of the European powers, so we felt a certain connection to it.

This doesn't mean, however, that we are indifferent to other crises in Africa. We have financed a great deal of the work in Sierra Leone. We are now looking for money to assist with the peacekeeping operation in Cote D'Ivoire. We have been deeply involved in the DRC and helping it to resolve its conflict. We've stayed in touch with President Kabila and President* Nsibambi in Uganda. We are deeply involved in trying to resolve the conflict in the Sudan and we are trying to play a good role in the problem between Ethiopia and Eritrean border.

So I think the United States' record of this Administration is quite good. And it is not just a matter of resolving conflicts. It's the money we're putting into HIV/AIDS, which is the greatest conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the new organization that we just created and I've chaired the first meeting of, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is putting huge amounts of money into undeveloped countries. So I think the United States' record in Africa is quite good in this Administration, and I think it will get better as these new monies start to flow.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Administration has made clear that there's a concern about al-Qaida and terrorist links in various parts of Africa, and one of those places, Somalia, there's been some discussion about U.S. efforts to possibly make a push to create a functional government. Where does that stand, at a high --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, there was some progress recently on coming -- Somalians coming together and to form a government. We would very much like to see a government formed, a responsible government that can govern this ungovernable country that's been ungovernable for a long time. I have more than a passing interest in this. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we sent peacekeeping and rescue forces in there in late 1992 to stop the starvation, end the starvation, which we did, then it turned into a more tragic situation when we weren't able to solve the political problem.

So we would be willing to play a role in moving this forward, and I think we have been playing a helpful role. But ultimately the Somalians have to figure out whether or not they're going to rally behind this new political arrangement or continue to allow conflict to take place based on clan and sub-clan loyalties. And I hope this new initiative will be a success.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of Nigeria. What would be your assessment of the current democratic situation in Nigeria with the second term of the new president, just as an example, are you impressed? Do you think that the Nigerian Government participated in the democratic process?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you've had two elections. I monitored the first election, the election that brought President Obasanjo into office. Myself and President Carter were part of that election, election group. I think that President -- the President has made progress but I think there's much more to be done with respect to ending corruption, with respect to transparency in government. And we have spoken openly and directly to our Nigerian friends about it. We have good relations with Nigeria.

We would like to see better conditions for attracting trade and investment in Nigeria. And Nigeria still has a long way to go. But I think that the President knows what he has to do, and he has made progress during his first term. And I'm confident he will make progress during his second term.

QUESTION: You've spoken about the importance of peace in Liberia, for the region, as you were saying, but I just wondered in particular about the Ivory Coast. It appears that there is strong opposition from the United States about (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not the concept of peacekeeping. We know that has to be done. And we know that the UN should play a role and there should be a UN peacekeeping force. We are discussing with the UN peacekeeping authorities, as well as our friends in the UN, other countries in the UN Security Council on how large that force should be. There are limits to how many peacekeeping forces we're able to support at any one time, and there are other demands that we know are coming our way.

In addition to Cote d'Ivoire and what we're doing in Liberia, if we get a settlement in Sudan, which I think is likely if we can solve the problem of Abyei, which I think you're all familiar with, then there will be another requirement there for 8- to 10,000 UN monitors, so another bill. And we have finite -- believe it or not -- we have finite resources. So we want to make sure that we are sizing these missions properly, and that's what the discussion is.

QUESTION: Are you committed to sending some amount, or are you sending people too?

SECRETARY POWELL: Money. No, our -- no, in Cote d'Ivoire, I think it's, for us it's a matter of finance, not troops.

QUESTION: I mean --

SECRETARY POWELL: It's just that I don't think anybody's asking for or is in need of U.S. troops. There are troops available. It's a matter of financing them.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it seems that when his country was picked up, not only it's like a (inaudible) dimension, I mean, when there is a conflict there is conflict everywhere, it seems like that.

But it seems, also, to me that "democracy" is a word that still we do not understand or the head of government. And they don't have a vision of what a state can be and corruption. I'm sorry to say that, but it's really the big problem. So how do you expect to address those problems? Because you're giving money to Liberia. But should not it be the head of government who should take care of, I mean, Africa and whatever, and not foreign government take care of, you know, ourselves?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have to help Liberia with foreign assistance right now. We'll make sure we know where the assistance is going. We are no longer in an environment where I can just go to the Congress and say, give me $200 million and we're just going to give it to Liberians to do what they want with it. So we will watch where the money's going.

But this is a country that, at the moment, almost has no income. The bureaucracy, you know, they're in buildings that have no desks, offices with no phones. So a lot of money is required right now to get Liberia up and started, and I'm very impressed by Chairman Bryant and his commitment to get this going. We knew it would be difficult.

We, in our foreign policy, are making it clear to all of the nations that we work with that we will start holding them to higher standards of accountability, not just in Africa -- the Eastern European nations that come to see me, the Central Asian nations, the nations from my own hemisphere, in the western hemisphere, we say to them, "If you want to have good relations with us, but more importantly, if you want us to help you, you have to show us the rule of law, you have to show us fair elections, you have to show us the end of corruption."

Corruption destroys democracy. You cannot have a democracy if the people see that their money is thrown away. And one important tool we're going to have is the new Millennium Challenge Account. Everybody now wants to be in line to receive money from the Millennium Challenge Account.

I'm going to have a billion dollars this year, and every year it's going to go up so that when it's fully funded -- in about three years, I think it is -- $5 billion every year will be available. And guess what? You don't have the rule of law, you can't convince us that you are running your country in a non-corrupt manner, or you are throwing the media in jail, or you are not allowing companies to operate openly and freely and with some expectation that their property and their investment will be protected, you won't be eligible.

I've already had many countries come to us and say, "We know we're not eligible now. What, what do we have to do? Tell us what we have to do to get eligible." We tell them. "This is what you have to do. Let me see a commercial code. Let me see you protecting human rights. Let me see you protecting women's rights. Let me see you getting rid of trafficking in persons. We want to see if you have any child soldiers on your side. Are you allowing terrorists to use your country," all the things that are destructive and corrosive to democracy, we will be measuring that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, just generally to -- how do you make the case to Africa as a continent that, with the amount of money that's being spent in the rebuilding of Iraq that you can now say, "I'm sorry. We can't afford X number of thousand peacekeepers in your country," whether it's Ivory Coast or elsewhere on the continent? How do you make that case?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's not a hard case to make because it is not as if there are not peacekeepers around. It is not hard to find peacekeepers in a number of countries in the world if they can be equipped and financed and transported and sustained in the field. You don't need American soldiers to do this. American soldiers are peacekeepers right now in Iraq. American soldiers have been helping to keep the peace in Korea for the last, almost 50 years.

But for the kinds of peacekeeping missions that are taking place in Africa right now, we find countries that are anxious to do it and willing to do it. And we provide assistance, and as you know, some of the Nigerian troops that initially went into Liberia were trained by American programs, where we helped these countries that are willing to provide peacekeepers to gain the capability and the training needed, and the equipment needed and we are looking at expanding those programs to help other nations.

But we don't believe that it is the -- it's always the correct choice to ask Americans to do the peacekeeping when others are ready, willing and able. We have peacekeepers in Bosnia. We have peacekeepers in Kosovo. So we are doing a fair share.

QUESTION: Specifically, as regards to the numbers of the Ivory Coast?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, there's an issue. Some people think as many as 6,400 to 7,000 might be needed and others think a lower number might be adequate. That's the debate that's taking place. It's a financing issue, of course.

QUESTION: But the French would love to switch from what, you know, (inaudible) to the UN --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I understand that. I mean, it's -- the United States has an armed force and France has an armed force that is expeditionary in nature. It has to be stationed in certain places like Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, but it has to be ready to go other places. And you can't tie it down for long periods of time in peacekeeping activities.

Troops are also expensive, and for this reason, I'm sure that the French are anxious to spread the burden in Cote d'Ivoire. But I'm pleased that the French took the lead in solving the problem initially. And of course, as the United States has historic connections to Liberia, France has historic connections to the nations in Francophone Africa.

QUESTION: Talking about corruption, Mr. Secretary, an American company Haliburton, but as just (inaudible) the Nigerian Government about its (inaudible). How do you think this affects the kind of image that America is showing (inaudible) Nigeria, the way that other people look to America, as they once did. And we have a situation where an African company has cheated the government of (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: Has what? Cheated?

QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible) about $2.5 million. How do you think that, you know, reconciles with the (inaudible) U.S. (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we don't want to see any of our countries* cheated by a country in which they're investing. And we don't want to see any of our companies take advantage of a government of a country in which they are invested or located. We want to see no corruption and total transparency, not only for the government, but for our companies as well.

And so in this case, I don't know what the facts are, and because it is a case that is in litigation, I won't comment on it. I don't know who's right or who's wrong. Our Justice Department handles such matters. But we do not want -- we will not tolerate bad behavior on the part of American companies, just as we would not want to see bad behavior on the part of the government.

In this particular case of Haliburton, I'm not making that judgment because I don't know anything about the facts and it's for our Justice Department.

QUESTION: What does the U.S. think should now happen to former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor? Do you think he should face sanctions? Should he go straight to trial? And do you think it's more important for him, for example, to face justice rather than (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think he is still subject to justice of the type expected by the international tribunal. We supported the international tribunal and he's under charges, and it's a matter now between him and the tribunal.

Because of the crisis we were facing last year, Nigeria was willing to take Mr. Taylor with the understanding that Nigeria would then not find itself in difficulty from the international community or from the tribunal. And everybody accepted that at the time because we needed to end the violence in Liberia and it worked. And Mr. Taylor is isolated in Nigeria but he has not escaped the desire of the court to see him stand before the court. But right now, it's a matter between Mr. Taylor and the court.

QUESTION: What about sanctions?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't -- the sanction of him?

QUESTION: Sanctions against Taylor, exactly.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I know that the Liberian Government and other governments are checking into his, his well -- his wherewithal, and to the extent that we can be helpful to the transitional government, we will do so.

QUESTION: But would you say that -- this is just a follow-up, sir. Would you say that you agree then with Mr. Klein that the rebuilding can go ahead without too much trouble, even if he isn't brought to justice?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think Mr. Taylor is a spent force, and we want to keep him a spent force in isolation in Nigeria. He is still subject to the court and there are occasional reports that he might be meddling in Liberia politics. And every now and then, you'll read a report that he's trying to raise forces in Nigeria. But I have no reason to believe that that's an accurate report.

And so I don't see any reason why the rebuilding can't go ahead. It must go ahead. The rebuilding and the reconstruction and the disarmament will not be held hostage to Mr. Taylor's personal fortune, or lack thereof.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, talking about NEPAD, you know, had a lot of comments on (inaudible) in NEPAD. What is it that you don't support?

SECRETARY POWELL: We support -- we think NEPAD is a good program, and we have tried to demonstrate in every way we can that we will provide the political support and as it, as it structures itself and gets further into its work, there will be other forms of support we can provide. But I think that we've tried to express to the originators of NEPAD, especially the South Africans and President Mbeki, our support of NEPAD.

QUESTION: Do you think -- talking about -- talking about (inaudible) in the conflict, do you believe that the two-year mandate is not (inaudible) for the economy, (inaudible) with nonmilitary (inaudible) elections; in another word, to put the country in the right track, it is not easily going to show?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, you have to put deadlines on things. You have to have action-forcing deadlines. And two years is not a long period of time, but in my conversations with Chairman Bryant today he did not ask for more time. He is anxious to move. And he is anxious to have that deadline out there so that he can generate support for what he's doing now, and the kind of support that's being generated here at this meeting today.

Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

2004/133


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