5 November 2003

Djibouti is "Staunch" U.S. Ally in Fight Against Terrorism

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Washington, DC — Djibouti is a "staunch ally of the United States and a key partner in the global struggle against terrorism," the U.S. ambassador-designate to that country, Marguerita Dianne Ragsdale, told the U.S. Senate November 5.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ragsdale told the lawmakers that Djibouti hosts the only U.S. military base in sub-Saharan Africa andthus serves as headquarters for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. That task force, she said, directs coalition counter-terrorism operations in East Africa and Yemen, and is working diligently to stabilize the Horn of Africa.

Ragsdale praised Djibouti's role in promoting reconciliation in Somalia and helping to defuse tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

"Achieving stability in the Horn of Africa not only requires ending tensions between warring factions and neighboring states. It requires overcoming internal economic challenges that breed discontent and promote discord," she said.

Ragsdale said Djibouti will receive "substantial" development assistance from the United States, directed toward the country's health and education sectors.

She also expressed hope that a Peace Corps presence will be in Djibouti "in the not-too-distant future."

Following is the text of Ambassador-designate Ragsdale's statement, as prepared for delivery:

Statement of Marguerita Dianne Ragsdale

Ambassador-designate to the Republic of Djibouti

Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

November 5, 2003

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,

I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to appear before this Committee today.

President Bush and Secretary Powell have selected me as their nominee for United States Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti. I thank them for their trust and am cognizant of the broad responsibilities this trust demands.

I also would like to recognize in this great forum, with the Committee's indulgence, my father, Vernon Ragsdale, a World War II veteran, and my late mother, Lillie Coley Ragsdale. My presence here is a true consequence of their sacrifice and selflessness.

Mr. Chairman, in my career as a Foreign Service Officer I have had the privilege to represent the United States with great pride in embassies in both the Middle East and Africa. I believe that this breadth of service makes me especially suited to advance the policy objectives of the President and the Secretary of State in Djibouti -- a country with cultural and ethnic ties to both regions.

Djibouti has proved that it is a staunch ally of the United States and a key partner in the global struggle against terrorism. It hosts the only U.S. military base in sub-Saharan Africa, is headquarters for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which directs coalition counter-terrorism operations in East Africa and Yemen, and is working diligently to stabilize the Horn of Africa. We note particularly Djibouti's efforts of reconciliation of the failed state of Somalia and [lessening] of tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia, fellow members of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

Achieving stability in the Horn of Africa not only requires ending tensions between warring factions and neighboring states. It requires overcoming internal economic challenges that breed discontent and promote discord. It requires denying opportunities to those who would exploit economic vulnerabilities for evil purposes. It requires promoting a culture of deep respect for democracy and human rights.

Earlier this year, President Ismail Omar Guelleh conveyed to President Bush during their Oval Office meeting that economic development was highest among the agenda items for his impoverished nation. President Bush has responded positively; Djibouti will receive substantial development assistance from the United States. The United States Agency for International Development, which administers our aid programs and has an office in Djibouti, will focus on the country's health and education sectors in keeping with President Bush's goal of making the advantages of health and literacy widely available across the African continent. We also hope a Peace Corps presence will be possible in the not-too-distant future.

Djibouti's earnest efforts at democratization, political transparency, accountability, and good governance mandate United States support. Djibouti is eligible for trade benefits under AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act], which offers Djibouti -- a low-income country almost devoid of natural resources -- an opportunity to develop its trade and investment sectors, generating employment and revenue. President Bush has pledged to increase development assistance to countries that govern justly, invest in their people, and promote economic liberty. It is a sound complement to the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), an African development initiative mandating an inclusive government, an open electoral process and a fair judicial system.

If confirmed by the Senate, I will work to advance these initiatives, in support of the President and our partnership with Africa.

Mr. Chairman, if the Senate confirms my nomination, I will also promote the safety and emotional well-being of the men and women who are Foreign Service officers and locally engaged staff at the United States Embassy in Djibouti. While we are fortunate to have attracted talented and enthusiastic employees for the Djibouti mission, feelings of insecurity and uncertainty can prevail where the transnational threat of terrorism is at a critical level or where hardship is a part of daily life. I will take maximum steps to ensure the safety of employees and their families. I will work earnestly to enhance employee morale. Good leadership is key, employees will rightly expect it of me, and I will be obliged to do no less than deliver to be an effective representative of the President.

Thank you and I invite your questions.

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