Media Conference with Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, with Ambassador Steven A. Browning, September 5, 2007.
Media Conference with Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, with Ambassador Steven A. Browning, September 5, 2007.
Statement by Assistant Secretary Frazer:
Thank you for coming and I would like to thank Ambassador Browning for holding this event at his home, and to thank him and his team for all their excellent efforts here in Uganda. I especially want to introduce to you Tim Shortley, who’s sitting here. He’s my Senior Advisor for Conflict Resolution. He was appointed on July 30th to ensure that we support the Juba Peace Process and to respond to the LRA conflict in both a comprehensive and regional manner.
So he will travel, he’s been to Kampala already in his new capacity, he’s been to Northern Uganda and Juba about two weeks ago. He’s going to travel again to Juba after our meetings here and he will go on to Kinshasa next week to meet with senior Congolese officials to discuss how the US can help ease tensions in eastern Congo as well as address the LRA problem with their basing in Garamba Park. And then he will come back to Kampala to address the Tri-Partite-Plus meeting here. So if you want to talk to Tim you will have plenty of opportunities. He will be a regular visitor to Uganda.
Of course, it’s good to be back here in Kampala. I’ve had a chance today to meet with President Museveni. I’ve had a chance to meet with leaders from northern Uganda. All to discuss how the U.S. can further support the peace process in the north and support reconciliation, reconstruction and development. We very much support the Juba talks, under the mediation of the Government of Southern Sudan and under the mediation of President Chissano. We applaud the progress that has been made so far in terms of addressing the cessation of hostilities, the comprehensive solutions and dealing with the principles right now of accountability and reconciliation and that consultative process. We’re looking forward to the conclusion of this process in a timely manner to address formal cease fire, demobilization and re-integration of the former fighters. We don’t believe that this should be an open-ended process, so we’re hoping that these current consultations will be the beginning of the end of this Peace Process. We’re providing about $110 million to emergency and development assistance in northern Uganda. We’re also providing, that’s within the context of about $450 million that we provide to Uganda as a whole. So we have a very strong partnership with the country and again we’re very supportive of peace.
I’m quite happy now to take any questions you might have about my specific visit here or the issues in the region – eastern Congo and other places as well.
Tim Cocks (Reuters): Hi, I’m Tim Cocks from Reuters. I have a question about Somalia. We had reports that the U.S. was unhappy about the negative media coverage of the recent Somalia Reconciliation Conference. Being on the face of it, it looks like it wasn’t a huge success, the violence got worse, it was attacked with mortars, you had daily fights between insurgents and the government. And none of the clan leaders that you need to stop this violence were on board. How do you think it was a success and how?
Frazer: I don’t know why would think that we’re unhappy with the media coverage. We’re not either happy or unhappy with the media coverage. Media coverage is what it is. What we are happy with is that they actually held talks and that people felt the commitment to their country to come to Mogadishu to be part of that, those talks, the delegations that came to Mogadishu under the threat of violence. So that was an important process. We were hoping that the Reconciliation Congress would stay open longer to give more opportunity for more of the opposition leaders to be part of those discussions, but we also understand that it is not open ended, especially when you’re facing a violent environment. And so, I think it’s a mistake to say that there was either failure or success. It was a part of a process – an ongoing process. We’re certainly – I should have said before, also important to highlight Uganda’s role in helping with the UPDF serving as the first contingent of the African Union forces and we think that really the end result, the success of Somalia won’t be a single Congress.
The success of Somalia will be a process that includes further dialogue, further reconciliation, whether that’s through the National Reconciliation Congress or under the framework of the Transitional Federal Charter. We believe that is clearly important with the outcome being elections in 2009. We think that success in Somalia will be the AU further deploying forces so that the Ethiopians can withdraw. That’s part of success in Somalia and ultimately we would hope to see a major reduction in the violence, but it’s not going to be completely non-violent because we know that there are elements, particularly terrorist elements, that have no interest in dialogue. So, I think that the point of your question is – we think that their National Reconciliation Congress did a good start, it’s an incomplete job, but the whole success of ending violence in Somalia doesn’t- never rested on the Reconciliation Congress alone.
Cocks (Reuters): How did the Islamic Courts manage to do it then, because they seemed to have brought a period of stability and what we had before was rumors that they were harboring terrorists. Now what we have got is total chaos, and they are – they’re the ones who were rumored to be terrorists and now setting off car bombs Iraq style.
Frazer: Look that’s not a serious question -- that is absolutely not a serious question. The Islamic Courts did not bring peace and stability to Somalia. It’s the same violence The violence that’s there today was there before. They were spreading violence throughout the country as they moved militarily and aggressively forward. We have named specific terrorists that were being harbored or were part of Islamic Courts and so to suggest that there were rumors, is not a very serious question.
So I will go on to the next person who has a question. Yes.
Charles Odongtho (Uganda Radio Network): Thank you.
Frazer: I was reaching there but you can go next since you’re next in line.
Odongtho: Thank you my name is Charles Odongtho and I work with the Uganda Radio Network News Agency. Secretary, I have two questions, one on Somalia and one on the LRA talks.
On Somalia you talked about the fact that other countries, the need for other European countries to deploy faster so that the Ethiopian Forces can pull out. But what comes to my mind is the question of funding. This has been one of the major problems facing the AU mandate, the mission in Somalia and I know that the U.S. as well as the European Commission are some of the major funders of this. What’s the problem, why does it take long for the U.S. to give money that can be used to fund other countries so that they can deploy rapidly?
And then on the LRA, the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and we know that ICC is one, perhaps one of those reasons that make the LRA perhaps have reasons to talk peace with the Government of Uganda. Isn’t it a contradiction in terms of the US policy that you are now pushing for a faster peace talk and yet, the ICC question the U.S. cannot talk so much with authority about it. Thank you.
Frazer: Thank you. On the first question about funding for contingents of the AU force – AMISOM, we are providing support and assistance. We are the major funder of the Ugandan troops that have gone in. We’ve asked our Congress for about $40 million to fund others. Congress has given us that money, so we actually have it. What we have said to every country that has offered to deploy that we will provide them at least $2 million just to get the deployment under way. We are also providing training for many of these countries and that’s actually what is the holdup. For instance, with the Burundians, is that we’ve been doing more training with them. It’s not an issue of money, it’s an issue of training.
The other issue that we find is that countries are hesitant to deploy because of the violence that’s taking place right now in Mogadishu. So it’s not so much a lack of funding as it is the environment makes country rightly think twice about sending their forces there. But we are prepared to support anyone who’s prepared to deploy. And we’ve been encouraging AU members to do so. We’ve been working very closely. Burundi has offered for quite a while, but we needed to do further training. I think that training has been completed and then they were supposed to send a reconnaissance team to Mogadishu so that they could see for themselves where their forces would be based- located, and we were waiting for that reconnaissance team also to go in. We’ve talked to Uganda as well and we’re working with their planners right now and we’ve been working and talking to the Nigerians as well. But, I don’t think the failure is on the part of our funding.
On the question of LRA and the Rome Statute, you’re right, we’re not signatory to the Rome Statute. We are supporting the Peace Process, we believe that it is one way to end the conflict in northern Uganda and it is the preferred way of the Government of the people apparently of northern Uganda as well as the southern Sudanese. And so, in that light, we are supporting basically an internal process and an African-led mediation. It is not the only way to solve the problem and the ICC has indictments on four leaders of the LRA-- only on the four. We certainly believe that there needs to be some accountability. As I said when I was here in June of last year, we put a priority on peace and we’re prepared for that accountability to be done through local justice, through national justice systems which is consistent with our position throughout about the International Criminal Court – which is that when countries have national justice and they hold their people accountable – that’s an acceptable route. But, I think that in the case of the – what I understand from my consultation and what Tim and the Ambassador has also helped me to understand and others that I’ve spoken to here – is that the ICC will require that there be some type of trial. If it’s done – we believe that this is what the ICC will require. That there needs to be some type of accountability – credible accountability which may include going through a national justice system to satisfy the ICC. You know, but I don’t know. I can’t speak for the ICC, but they do have indictments on the four. The LRA is saying that for them to come out of the bush, they would need those indictments to go away and there has to be a process by which that can happen and I think there is a process under the Rome Statute for that to happen. That will have to be worked out between Ugandan officials and the ICC. But I think we can speak with authority in that we support this peace process.
I hope I answered your question. Sort of, maybe, not exactly. You can come back at me if you like.
Felix Osike (The New Vision): Thank you very much, I’m Felix Osike fromThe New Vision. First, I would like to know what you discussed with the President.
Secondly, while meeting the U.S. Senator recently the President said he supported the U.S. based on information that Sadam was linked to al-Qaida, but after some time he has realized that, he actually said he regretted that position because there is no link to al-Qaida at all. So what is your response to this? Secondly, there are some Ugandans who are deployed there under some arrangement which you are aware of. We’ve got some information that those people are being exploited. Actually, they signed agreements here, but when they get there they are paid differently and at different times. What is your response to that? Thank you.
Frazer: What did I discuss with President Museveni? We talked extensively about the Peace Process for the LRA. We also discussed, I asked him about Congo – eastern Congo in particular. We had an opportunity to discuss – what else did we discuss? We did Somalia, of course. We talked about Somalia and a process for ending the conflict and the President talked a lot about economic development in Somalia. So those are the three major issues that we discussed. We touched on the African Union and strengthening its capacity as well.
On the issue of Iraq and President Museveni saying he supported the United States on the basis of a link with al-Qaida, I don’t know what the basis of his support was. We certainly appreciated it. I think that President Bush had, was very clear that we believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And that that was the fundamental interest of the United States in what was taking place in Iraq and that, he had violated many Security Council resolutions and he had attacked our forces when we were implementing the “no fly” zone. And that those were all basis for the President’s decision and the U.S. action in Iraq- not a single linkage with any al-Qaida. So President Museveni may have made his decision on that basis, but the case was a broader case than a link to terror, particularly with al-Qaida.
On the issue of Ugandans going into Iraq, I frankly don’t know anything about that, because I don’t cover Iraq and I didn’t, hadn’t heard this before that Ugandans were going there and were going under contracts that were not being honored. I know that it has nothing to do with the U.S. Government’s official position or role as far as I know because…
Osike: It was Department of Defense.
Frazer: Well I don’t know anything about that.
Ambassador Browning: It’s not about the Department of Defense.
Frazer: Yeah, please, go ahead Ambassador.
Ambassador Browning: If you don’t know, these are private contractors and the connection between Ugandan citizens who are in Iraq and U.S. Government is removed by several steps. They are contracted first and primarily, actually exclusively, by Ugandan companies. And from my reading of the accounts in the newspapers, the problem is between the relationship between Ugandan guards and the Ugandan contracting companies. They are the ones who are offering salaries of a thousand a month and delivering only 300 or 350. The contractors in Iraq have contracts with Ugandan contractors. So I would recommend that you direct your question for those companies and individuals who have the contracts here. That would be where the answer to your question lies.
Charles Mwanguhya (Daily Monitor): Thank you, my name is Charles Mwanguhya, I work with the Daily Monitor newspaper. From your discussions with President Museveni and the Kinshasa authorities are you concerned that there could be a renewed flare up of regional conflict in eastern Congo?
Frazer: Well, yes, I am. But not because of the countries, I’m concerned about the situation right now in Ituri and North Kivu. I’m concerned that the Nkunda factor, I’m concerned about the FDLR, but I’m pleased that the heads of state and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs are in diplomatic discussions, including the upcoming meeting between President Museveni and with President Kabila that’s scheduled or that will take place in Arusha. So, I think the dialogue is open. Foreign Minister Murigande just traveled to the Congo as well. The Rwandan Foreign Minister has just traveled to the Congo. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to now President Kagami, President Kabila and President Museveni. And all have stated that they want to work together diplomatically to try to reduce the tension in the region. And so I think that the diplomatic dialogue is good. But I am concerned about the continuing activity of negative forces, particularly in the Congo – whether that be the FDLR or the Interahamwe, the LRA, as well as the need for some type of political solution to the situation with Nkunda. And I think that in talking with President Kabila his effort to deal with an intercommunal dialogue between different ethnic groups in eastern Congo is extremely important. His continuing to reach out diplomatically to the neighboring countries is important, as well. And certainly, at some point, his army needs to be properly trained and integrated so that they are able to maintain territorial integrity and sovereignty, i.e., deny the use of their territory to these negative forces and I think he has a challenge on his hands in terms of that, building that national capacity that hasn’t been for, if ever, in the Congo. So he really does have a big challenge, but we are concerned but we think that there is a process underway to address the problem.
Katy Pownall (Associated Press): I am Katy Pownall from the Associated Press. You mentioned that Tim had been appointed as a regional Conflict Resolution. Are we expected to see much greater involvement from the U.S. Government now in the Juba Process and if so, why now?
Frazer: Well, we’ve had significant involvement from our Ambassador here and the U.S. Mission. We have a person from USAID who’s based in Gulu, so we’ve been involved and we’re going to continue to stay in a supportive role, because we think it is extremely important to focus on all of our conflict resolution efforts, to situate them behind regional efforts because those are more sustainable over the long term. My appointment of Tim as the Senior Advisor for Conflict has to do with both with a clear recognition that, especially with Somalia, my own ability to get around is limited. I spend a lot of time now these days working the Somalia account, working the Sudan account, and I want to give as much attention and devotion to dealing with the LRA in eastern Congo as well. These are also very discreet challenges. I think that we clearly have an opportunity for peace with the LRA, and so his focused attention and his ability to move between the countries I think is going to improve the U.S. effort in this regard. And I also think that with the eastern Congo, that’s an intractable problem and it needs real devotion of attention.
And so again-- Tim comes with a background that I think makes him especially qualified. A background from USAID which means that he’s looking at the big picture, the long-term picture and the necessity for development which I think is the key. Secondly, he spent, his last job was at the National Security Council. And what’s important about the National Security Council is he worked directly with the President, the National Security Advisor. He’s been responsible for coordinating the interagency. (Unintelligible.) I see. He’s been responsible for coordinating the U.S. Government interagency so that he can work with USAID, with State Department, with Defense Department, with the Justice Department and others and so he brings the capacity to do what’s necessary to really give us the opportunity to bring decades old conflicts to an end.
Daniel Kalinaki (The East African): I’m Daniel Kalinaki from The East African. You talked of President Kabila’s army, the Congolese Army needing to build the capacity in order to control the whole country. Is there any role the U.S. government is going to play in this?
Frazer: Yes. Yes. One of the things that Tim will do when he leaves here is he’s going to Kinshasa to consult with officials there including hopefully President Kabila, if he’s available, but others, to find out more what more the U.S. can do to help build the capacity of the Congolese Army, to help increase the professionalism of the Congolese Army as well. Because, as I emphasize the solution to eastern Congo, especially the Congolese part of it, is the inter-communal dialogue, is some type of political solution. Clearly, the negative forces that are coming from Rwanda, from Uganda and other places is territorial integrity and sovereignty. And so that military has to be able to deal with that security at the same time protect the human rights of the civilian population, and so we definitely believe that further training and security sector reform and professionalism will be a benefit. But I’m saying that, yes we’re prepared to play that role, we need to consult with President Kabila and his government about what they would want us to do and whether they think we can be value-added to them.
Kalinaki: Do you believe that the suggestion that the neighbors to Congo, say Uganda and Rwanda, can participate actively in helping the Congolese solve some of these problems that they have.
Frazer: I think it’s only a regional solution. So I think that there has to be working together. That is not to say that I think that the Rwandans or the Ugandans need to deploy into Congo. That’s not what I’m saying. But I do think there needs to be a regional effort. That’s the diplomatic – but that’s also could be some type of coordinated operations, if necessary, as well. And not just the three countries, but MONUC as well, which after all has as its mandate addressing the negative forces. In the Congo, and we were promised by the Special Representative to the Secretary General, Bill Swing, that after Congo’s election he would turn his attention to addressing the negative forces in the eastern Congo and we certainly continue to expect that.
Tim Cocks: Do you expect that they will be able to get together on this because some of them have been accused of supporting some of these negative elements against each other and they might have to unwind those positions.
Frazer: I think that there has been a history of that certainly and we have, the U.S. has been facilitating a Tri-Partite Plus mechanism that includes Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Burundi to try to bring the Foreign Ministers and now the Defense Ministers and the Chiefs of Defense Staff or General Staff together to work through some of those challenges and problems to share information and to increase confidence, you know, between them. So I think that yes, they can cooperate and I think that the more they talk, the more likely they will not make charges against each other that they are supporting forces in each others countries.
Charles Mwanguhya: MONUC last night announced that they are going to back the Congolese forces in the fight against Laurent Nkunda. What’s your view of that?
Frazer: What did you ask me?
Mwanguhya: What do you comment on that? And then the other thing is, what is the genesis of these renewed conflicts from your understanding of the situation?
Frazer: Well, that’s a very good question. The first part of it is about time we support MONUC working with FARDC to address negative forces. So, we’re supportive of it. The genesis of this conflict, you know, you have a déjà vu kind of sense. I think that the problem is a political one and again, the issue is how do the communities in eastern Congo feel part of Congo as a whole. Do the minority populations, as one might call them, feel that they have a stake in the Congo as a whole. So, the Banyamulenge and others, you’ve got to make sure that there’s a political process in place – that’s why I keep saying it’s a political solution. But you know when you have a rebellion, you have an army that is not well integrated where you have a rebel, you know, officer, who’s able to pull from the different brigades, that’s essentially what you have. And so, that’s where the strengthening, the security sector reform, the professionalization of that army is important. And, you know, every country has a right to crush a rebellion of former members of their military that go on rebellion. Every country has that right, but you know, that’s not to say they have the right to crush communities that are disaffected. That’s where the political solution comes in.
Peter Ntimba (WBS-TV): I’m Peter Ntimba from WBS Television. Over now to Darfur. I was just wondering whether Washington may have had anything to do with Khartoum’s change of heart or was it just out – did you put a squeeze on them.
Frazer: Yes, we’ve squeezed them. We think our sanctions are having a major impact on their calculations. We’re certain of it. The point is not to squeeze them, but to solve the problem in Sudan, specifically in Darfur, and to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We did have a very successful visit of their State Minister of Foreign Affairs. He met with the Deputy Secretary and others of us. So we’re looking forward to solving this problem so that we can improve our bilateral relationship. But, the key there is ending the crisis in Darfur, both through political talks, which the Government has said it’s prepared to do, as well as by ending the violence, and the Government has had the major role in creating an environment in which that violence is taking place – you know, attacking villages and other things. So that’s a key.
Secondly, implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, where we have real problems with the situation in Abyei and demarcating the north-south boundary there so that the wealth sharing is clear. And also, you know, the state-sponsored terrorism, the Government of Sudan has done a good job in terms of addressing the threat of al Qaeda even recently in Khartoum, but there is lingering suggesting that they may be supporting the LRA so we have to do a serious analysis to see if they have ended all support for the LRA, do they hold the LRA in reserve to undermine Southern Sudan. So these are important questions and so, yes, we will continue our sanctions until we have had a resolution on all fronts of these issues.
Deputy Public Affairs Officer: This will have to be the last question.
Felix Osike (The New Vision): What options are available if the peace talks fail?
Frazer: Which ones?
Oskie: No, the Juba Peace Talks. What is the U.S. prepared to do? What kind of help?
Frazer: Well that’s a good question. First, of course, we don’t want them to fail. But secondly, we have always urged MONUC to take action, and FARDC, the Congolese Army, to take action against the LRA, which is listed as a negative force under the Lusaka Accord, and is listed as a negative force in U.N. Security Council Resolutions. And so we feel we have the basis, especially under the U.N. Security Council Resolution, to assist in efforts to mop up the LRA and to get them out of Congo, out of Garamba Park. And so we will not sit still and just let them live in Garamba Park and cultivate land and kill animals. The Peace Process is their way out, the other way is a renewed effort to apprehend them. We certainly would support those efforts to apprehend them.
Thank you very much.