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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2008

Press Briefing by Ambassador Jendayi Frazer
Aboard Air Force One
En route Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

     Fact sheet Africa Trip 2008

1:17 P.M. (Local)

MS. PERINO: All right, we have now left Benin and we are on our way to Tanzania. And the President and President Yayi gave you great readout of their meeting, a very comprehensive readout of all the different aspects of what they talked about. And, actually, I don't think there was anything in there that they didn't mention.

So I think what I'd like to do, at the recommendation of Secretary Rice, I've invited Ambassador Jendayi Frazer to come back and to provide you a little context and texture for some of the questions regarding conflicts in Africa, both current and also ones that we have helped resolve in the last six-and-a-half, seven years.

So I'll turn it over to her. She will also be able to provide you a little bit of a preview about tomorrow in Tanzania, and then I can wrap up with any other questions.

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Thank you. I wanted to talk about the President's initiative for addressing conflict on the continent and give a bit of the record and the strategy.

I think that it's important to know that our -- that we have a major initiative that's intended to build the capacity of Africans, themselves, to respond to conflict. That's the Global Peace Operations Initiative. It's called GPOI. And that was an initiative that the President pushed the administration to develop. It started in 2005. It provides $660 million over five years to train 75,000 peacekeepers worldwide, with a focus on Africa. To date, we've trained about 39,000 Africans in peacekeeping, and also equip them. And of the Africans deployed around the world in peacekeeping operations -- of which the majority are, again, Africa -- 80 percent have been trained by the United States. So we think that this is a major contribution to conflict resolution on the continent.

In addition to building capacity as one of the key strategies for addressing the conflict, the President has also developed an approach to working with African mediators. And so we work very closely, for example, with South Africa to resolve the conflict in Congo. President Bush in 2001 met with President Mbeki to bring together President Kagame and President Kabila, to try to help resolve that. That started in 2001, and he's been directly engaged since that time.

If you recall, in 2001, there were at least five or six different African countries involved in the civil war that was taking place in Congo. Today, they are no longer in Congo and we've been -- just to bring it up to date, we were heavily involved in the signing of the Goma agreement, which is the final step to finally disarm the various militias and especially the Interahamwe, the genocidaires, from Rwanda, to finally bring to an end the Congo conflict. But the President started that process in 2001, when he pushed for Rwanda and Uganda, Zimbabwe and Namibia and all the rest of them to get out of the Congo.

Another example of the President's direct engagement in conflict resolution is, of course, Liberia. On the eve of his trip in 2003, it was the President in June, I believe -- or May -- who called for Charles Taylor to step down. He worked very closely with Ghana as a mediator, as well as with Nigeria as the major peacekeeping force that went in with the U.S. Marines to try to resolve the crisis in Liberia, to stop the civil war that was taking place there.

We, of course, followed up with pushing for a U.N. operation to immediately get into Liberia -- UNMIL -- and we see the results of that today with the election of the first woman President.

We can also go to Burundi, where the United States pushed the regional countries to respond to what was then a possible genocide in Burundi. We stopped that from occurring and we, in fact, supported South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia, which was the first AU-peacekeeping mission that had ever been deployed on the continent with those three countries. And we financially backed in and then actually pushed those countries to deploy that peacekeeping operation in Burundi.

And so the third part of the strategy, in addition to building their capacity and working with African mediators, is to work multi-nationally with the United Nations and the subregional organizations -- ECOWAS, in particular -- to deploy peacekeeping forces on the continent. And so we think that we have a very robust strategy of conflict resolution. Again, it's the principle that the President stated, of providing the capacity, the leadership to the Africans, themselves, and then us getting them behind them and backing their effort. It's worked in Congo, it's worked in Liberia, and we believe that it'll work today in Kenya, where we early on backed the mediation of President Kufuor who then turned it over to Annan. Annan is basically sanctioned by the African Union. And Secretary Rice, when she goes to Kenya, will be there to bolster the Anan effort to deliver the President's message directly to President Kibaki and the Honorable Raila Odinga, as well as to meet with civil society groups, both the press, civil society and the private sector groups who have played a very positive moderating voice in trying to end the crisis in Kenya.

But with think that, again, the approach has worked and it's backed by this initiative, GPOI, which is $660 million. But of course we also are the major contributor to all of the U.N. operations, and this administration has supported every single U.N. operation in Africa. So we're engaged and the President is directly focused on it.

In terms of the visit tomorrow in Tanzania, the President, of course, will meet with President Kikwete, who is the new incoming chairman of the African Union. And as he stated, when he's talking to these world leaders he obviously deals with conflicts on the continent. And so we would expect that the subject matter of the President's meeting with Kikwete would include the issue of Kenya; it would include the crisis in Chad; it would also include discussions of Zimbabwe and some of the other crisis areas on the continent.

He will also go on to -- after his meeting with President Kikwete, he will go on to visit a hospital that's a major initiative of his PEPFAR initiative that is being carried out at this hospital. It's the Amana District Hospital, to address and meet with some of the recipients of the PEPFAR initiative on HIV and AIDS.

After that he will greet and meet with the families of the victims of the 1998 embassy bombing. And he will also do a U.S. Embassy greeting. And then finally round up with a dinner with President Kikwete with his delegation.

Just on the embassy bombings -- obviously, the President has mentioned several times so far on this trip and in his speech leading up to this trip that the United States sees the support for African countries as both a moral obligation as well as in our vital strategic interests. It doesn't take much then to go to Tanzania to be reminded of how our embassy was bombed by al Qaeda in 1998. And we're continuing to try to work with African countries to build their capacity and to build their partnership in responding to these terrorist threats. So it's not only civil conflict, but also the global war on terror that is in our vital national interest to engage African countries robustly, as the President is doing.

Q Specifically about Kenya, the senior administration official who talked to us on background back in Benin seemed to be indicating that President Kibaki Washington at real problem, and that the real mission -- the real intent of the mission, going there is to make it clear to him that the U.S. is not going to sit by and simply allow him not to compromise the power sharing agreement, that he may be too comfortable in his view of American support.

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, President Kibaki from the outset when I was there said that he would accept a government of national unity and power sharing. Kofi Annan is now in the midst of the serious negotiation. And so the message is to both sides, that they have to find a deal that's credible and that will lead to reconciliation over the long-term. The power sharing is only item three on Kofi Annan's four-point agenda. And so they also have to move to the broader issues of constitutional reform, electoral reform and land reform, which will be the true source of ending what was a breakdown in Kenya's democratic institutions.

Q Do you feel like President Kibaki feels too comfortable in his U.S. support, his support from Washington, and that might make him less likely to make compromises that he might otherwise?

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: I think that both President Kibaki and Raila Odinga appreciate the strong support that the United States has provided to Kenya, and they see the United States as key to helping them to resolve this crisis. And so I think that both have heard our message that it will not be business as usual, and that any individuals who are seen as obstructing the effort towards a peace process, a power sharing agreement, as the President stated, will be subject to possible further sanction by the U.S. We've talked about a visa ban, but there are other issues and ways in which we can try to encourage them to negotiate in good faith.

Q Do you have a concern there's an impression -- perhaps a misimpression -- that the President is not engaged in solving conflict?

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: I think that there's some people who don't know what the true record is. And especially when you're in Washington, we need to step outside of the politics and look at the record.

When President Bush came into office there were, by the Heidelberg Institute of Conflict Resolution, an independent source, there were seven major wars going on, on the continent. Today, on the 2007, they've classified two major wars as going on, on the continent. That's Darfur and Somalia.

So we have clearly played a -- the President has clearly played a very positive role in ending the wars in Africa. Now, there are still severe crises. Eastern Congo, for example, is one that we're playing a role in. Kenya -- Kenya is not in war; Kenya has had a severe political crisis that led to a lot of bloodshed and displacement of people. We're engaged in trying to resolve that crisis.

So I do think that there is a misperception about the, you know, "Africa in flames." The President's message that there's been tremendous progress -- and I think the record shows, even in the area of conflict, that the wars that were there have been significantly ended and are on their way to resolution, in terms of the severe crisis.

Let's just take Angola, for example. When the Angolan war ended, it certainly ended not necessarily by our direct intervention, in that Savimbi was killed on the battlefield. But President dos Santos met with President Bush the very next weekend after that, and it was President Bush who insisted on a process in which he did not try to end the war through a total victory, but rather by bringing in the UNITA people into some type of negotiated end to that conflict.

And so I think that people are not both aware of how much has happened, in terms of resolving Africa's conflict, and because of our approach of backing African leadership they don't often know the hand that we're actually playing.

Q But Secretary Rice, she's just going to Kenya for a few hours. What can anybody actually accomplish in a few hours on the ground? Why didn't the President go?

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Secretary Rice's engagement on Kenya has been much longer than a few hours. She has been talking to President Kibaki and Raila Odinga before the election, right on the eve of the announcement, immediately after that. And so she's been very much engaged over the last three or four months on dealing with electoral crisis.

She's also had numerous conversations with Kofi Annan.

And so she doesn't have to go there to be engaged; she's been engaged on Kenya. And again, the purpose of her going is to back Kofi's mediation, it's not to take over that mediation.

President Bush does not need to go to Kenya at this point. At the right moment in time, the President will engage, but right now it's occurring in a very systematic way to back Annan's mediation, not to try to supplant Annan's mediation.

Q When you say "the President will engage," are you suggesting that he might actually go to Kenya --

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: No, I'm not saying that at all. As I said from the outset, you don't have to go there to engage. And as I say, he has already been engaged; there have been many presidential statements that the President has made about the crisis in Kenya, including most recently in his speech, when he gave a direct message that he's now asking his envoy, Secretary Rice -- so he's been engaged.

But what I mean is if there's some other effort that we need the President to take, it will occur at the right moment. But right now we don't want to supplant Kofi Annan's mediation -- that's not the intention.

Q How close are they to a breakthrough?

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Well, there's been many breakthroughs. (Laughter.) There have been many breakthroughs. You know, a breakthrough is for the government to say that they can negotiate politically, that this is not going to be resolved through their courts.

But Kofi has a four-point plan: first, stop the violence; respond to the humanitarian crisis that's come as a result of that, that's the second agenda item; the third agenda item is power sharing, which they're now on, they're working through the power sharing; and then the fourth agenda item is dealing with those broader, longer-term constitutional -- electoral and land reform issues. They haven't started on the fourth item.

So if you mean a breakthrough in terms of a total resolution, I think that they haven't gotten to agenda item four. But if you mean a breakthrough in terms of negotiating, rather than fighting in the streets, I think -- I would say that they've gone quite far. We can't rule out that there wouldn't be some type of violence in the future. But I think that clearly there's an evident commitment through the negotiation. But Secretary Rice will learn more about that from Kofi directly when she meets with him.

Q Thank you very much.

END 1:33 P.M. (Local)