U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE BACKGROUND BRIEFING
Senior State Department Official, Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya
MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Great to be back with you. We are in Nairobi, Kenya. Here to give us a readout on the meetings with the Kenyans and also with the Somali TFG is [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: [Moderator], thank you very much. Let me start by saying a little bit more about the great success that has been achieved in the last 48 hours as a result of the governments of South Sudan and Sudan achieving oil agreement.
The Secretary went to Juba in order to use her diplomatic influence and credibility to strongly encourage President Salva Kiir and the leadership of the South Sudan Government to embrace an acceptable and reasonable agreement that would bring to an end one of the most difficult and thorny issues left unresolved prior to that government's independence from Sudan. She achieved that.
And it should be seen as her achievement; it should be seen as a major diplomatic success. This is - the issue of oil revenues has been one that has deeply divided South Sudan and Sudan since independence and was one of the issues unresolved in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
All of you know that when South Sudan achieved its independence, it, in effect, took somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all of the oil revenues that were formerly going to the Government of Khartoum. And this was a whole - I should say 75 to 80 percent of all the oil that was being produced in Sudan. This meant an enormously large loss for the Government in Khartoum. As a result of the lack of an agreement here, there were ongoing political tensions, sequestration, illegally, of oil, and finally a decision on the part of the South not to ship any further oil through the North.
When that happened, it, in effect, closed down 98 percent of the foreign exchange of the new Government of South Sudan. And after the fighting in Heglig, the destruction of the oil wells there probably shut in the 50 or 60 percent of the remaining oil that South Sudan had in its territory. Both of these countries were in a downward economic spiral that was accelerating at a rapid pace that would have led them into major economic destruction. Ninety-eight percent of the revenues of South Sudan lost 95 percent of their budget - lost. And from all indications from the World Bank, from the IMF, and from independent economic analysis that we've done, would've shown that the South would have probably run out of foreign exchange sometime between the end of August and the first of October. Others say they might have been able to last up until December of this year or January, but this was a major disaster waiting for a new government.
In the North, you can see what was also happening. For the first time probably in a decade, we were seeing on the streets of Khartoum daily an increasingly vocal and violent demonstrations against the government. We saw a large rise in inflation; we saw spiraling high fuel prices and fuel shortages and higher food costs in the North, demonstrating that they were in economic trouble as well.
So what the Secretary was able to do by convincing Salva Kiir and key members of his cabinet who were with him, was to bring an end to one of the five contentious points that divided those two countries. We are hopeful that this agreement will signal the beginning of a new era in goodwill that may translate into being able to resolve some of the other issues that remain. But it certainly helps to remove the issue that was most worrying to us, and that was looking at economic collapse in the South and looking at increasingly difficult economic problems in the North. We did not want to see that happen.
So we congratulate Salva Kiir, and we congratulate the Government of Sudan for acting wisely in this. And again, we have to acknowledge that the Secretary who, in going to Juba, was in fact a wise, and in this case, prescient diplomatic move that has made significant contributions to bringing these countries a little closer together, where they had, in fact, been drifting widely apart.
Let me stop right there on that little segment and say a little bit about the trip here. The trip here to Kenya is just as profoundly and significantly important as the stop in Juba. And the Secretary's diplomatic efforts here, quite frankly, have been focused on trying to ensure that the forthcoming presidential elections here - scheduled for March 4th, 2013 - do not end up the way Kenya's last presidential and parliamentary elections ended in December of 2007, where those elections were close, highly contested, and resulted in nearly three months of widespread violence, bloodshed, and retribution. We saw Kenya nearly split in two in February and March of 2008. And if it were not for the diplomacy of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, this country could've easily slipped over the precipice.
The Secretary in coming here was intent on meeting all of the political forces in the country - the members of the coalition government, led by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga - to encourage them to support free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections, to speak out and use their voices against those who would promote ethnic and tribal divisions, those who would promote hate speech, and those who would undermine the process of having transparent and credible elections.
In her conversations with President Kibaki and members of the Cabinet, including the Vice President Musyoka, she made this a clear point: Kenya must have good elections. The consequences of not doing so are both political and undermining the country's democracy - they can be violent and destabilizing for the citizenry of this country. And it also can undermine the country's economy. Not too many people realize that in '07 and '08, as a result of the violence, this country lost $1 billion in revenue. The number of tourists coming into the country over the next 18 months dropped precipitously. The amount of new investment coming into the country also dropped, and the GDP of the country collapsed from some 7.5 percent down to under 3 percent. All of this was as result of those elections.
So in those conversations with President Mwai Kibaki and Vice President Musyoka and then later with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, making the points that it was important to complete the reforms which came out of the Kofi Annan political and diplomatic exercise, to have elections that were similar to the referendum on the new constitution; to complete the reform process and to implement it; and to support the integrity of Kenya's independent electoral commission.
The Secretary also during the day met with the Chief Justice of the High Court - Doctor Willy Mutunga who is probably one of this country's leading jurists and lawyers - and he heads that part of the reform process, which has gone tremendously well. The judiciary has been reformed, and they have, under the new Chief Justice, one of this country's best lawyers and a person who is known for his credibility and his integrity.
The Secretary wanted to demonstrate our support for the independence of the judiciary and wanted to encourage him to use the court to defend the constitution and the rights that people have under the constitution and not to allow impunity to reign either in political excesses or in business and commercial activities. So it was a clear signal that we believe that the court here I probably the strongest element of this country's current democracy, and she wanted to give support to that court.
The Secretary also met with the chairman of the election commission along with its executive director and one of its members as well as members of civil society. And in that meeting, she was able to hear the concerns of the election commission, and also to hear the concerns of the Kenyan civil society as well. The Secretary wanted to again impress upon the election commission the need to run a process, which is free, fair, transparent, and credible. And we heard some very, very good things from the election commission and from civil society about the integrity of the election commission.
The message that we want to hear is that the politicians should not try to undermine the integrity of the independent election commission, that the election commission should be outside politics, and that it should not - in its activities, should not be politicized.
The election commission is doing some things, which they hope will prevent a repeat of '07 and '08. They will allow a parallel vote count from civil society groups. They will have an electronic posting results from each of the constituencies, and when those results are posted to the election commission here in Nairobi, they will be simultaneously given to the media of this country, which will have stations at the election commission to be able to have those results as well. And they will also allow these reports, these election reports results as they come in, to be given to a number of NGOs so that the public will have the same information that the election commission is having from each of its polling places at the same time, so there can be no data manipulation.
These are all very positive things. We are encouraging the election commission to go out and do more in terms of civic education and voter education, and we're encouraging them to have as transparent a voter registration process as possible. Some of you may recall that in the 2007 elections, those elections didn't end in disaster because of the vote counting in the various constituencies, it ended badly because of a lack of transparency when the numbers actually arrived in Nairobi to the old and now disbanded election commission. There's a new election commission. It's independent, has an independent budget, broad set of new members, and we want to give encouragement to that commission to maintain its independence, to remain outside of politics, and also to say to the political politicians, don't try to influence or undermine the work of the election commission. But again, it's a mission here on the part of the Secretary to help stave off a process, which would lead to a repeat of '07 and '08.
Finally, the Secretary had a meeting with the key signatories of the roadmap, leading to the end of the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. That roadmap calls for a new constitution; a constituent assembly to approve that constitution; a constituent assembly to select, indirectly, 275 members of parliament, which would make the parliament half the size as it currently is today; and then the selection by direct election of a new speaker of parliament, and then the indirect election of a new president.
All of that is to culminate on August 20th. We have been heavily invested in making sure that this roadmap is completed. The Secretary participated on February 23 in a conference in London hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron on Somalia, and we have pushed the TFG very hard to complete this roadmap on time on the 20th. A lot has been done. A constituent assembly has been convened; a new constitution has been written and adopted unanimously. The constituent assembly is now in the process of selecting members of parliament. Those members of parliament will select - will elect a new speaker, and the members of parliament then will select a new president.
We think that we're optimistic and think that this will be accomplished by the 20th. If it is, it will be a significant step forward in helping to end two decades worth of civil strife and unrest in South Central Somalia. The Secretary met with President Sheikh Sharif here in Nairobi at our embassy in August of 2009 -- he had only been President for approximately five months at that time. We made a significant political judgment to work as hard as we could to ensure that the transition would end at this period and that a new constitution and a new government would be put in place. Three years of diplomacy in this area looks like it is taking off, and that diplomacy has also been aided quite significantly on the ground by the AMISOM peace force that is here.
We have been significant contributors to the AMISOM effort. And three years ago in August, the TFG controlled probably one to two square miles of Mogadishu. We all know today that AMISOM has effectively defeated and driven al-Shabaab out of all of Mogadishu. They have taken significant parts of the country back to the North. They are en route to moving against Merca, Kismayo. And we have an AMISOM force of some 17,000 people on the ground, all-African contingent, and they have had enormous military and security success.
Again, it's been a part of our policy effort to stabilize Somalia, move both the security and the political process forward. Approximately three and a half weeks ago (inaudible) went into Mogadishu for the first time an assistant secretary had been there in two decades, the first time since Black Hawk Down that a senior State Department officer had been on the ground in Mogadishu. That testifies to what is, in fact, happening there. We have seen enormous change as a result of our policy of pushing for political reform and greater security on the ground.
So we, again, wanted to reinforce. The Secretary took this opportunity to say we're two weeks away from the 20th, we've got only three major things to do - new parliament, new speaker, new president - and we will have achieved a great deal in advancing the political agenda there. It will close a chapter and open a new one, but we will have seen quite substantial changes on the ground, which, in fact, will result, we believe, in a major policy success.
I'll stop right there.
QUESTION: Is there anything really standing in the way of that at this point, of (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. But the Secretary wanted to reinforce the need for everyone to remain focused and to remind them of what she said in London on February 23rd. We will be looking for spoilers, and if there are any spoilers, we will take action against them bilaterally, and we will encourage the international community to take action against them on a multilateral basis.
Thus far, we have not seen those spoilers. Thus far, we have seen cooperation from all of the key players in South Central, including the leadership in Galmudug and the leadership in Puntland. They've all played responsible and thoughtful roles. But it's still two weeks out; it's still Somalia. If, in fact, we're able to get a government in place there, it will probably be the first time in 22 years that we've seen this. And so it marks a very significant step forward.
Again, a lot has happened. The British have reopened an office in - an embassy office in Mogadishu. The Italians have reopened an office there. The Turks have reestablished and have an embassy and an ambassador on the ground there. These are all indications of the enormous progress that has been made. That's also an indication of the enormous amount of solidarity and cooperation among key states working with IGAD, the states in the region, and key players in the international community to push this forward.
MODERATOR: If I may, [Senior State Department Official], she also stressed that it doesn't all end on August 20th, that they - the current members of the Transitional Government - have a responsibility to ensure that the new leader should stand up. And then they talked also quite a bit about what Somalia is going to need in the next stage as it moves towards self-sustaining security, increasingly we hope. But that's going to take a lot of help from the international community.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Absolutely. We also recognize that AMISOM can't do it all and that as AMISOM continues to expand the liberated spaces throughout South Central Somalia, it puts an enormous amount of responsibility on the new government after August 20th to begin to stand up a Somali security force that is responsive to and subservient to civilian authority, but is disciplined and is able and capable of providing security in areas where AMISOM is not operating, but equally a responsibility on the part of the government to provide services as well as security to its citizens. Reopening schools, reopening health clinics, helping to revive agriculture and livestock rearing, putting in wells, doing microfinance and microcredit projects - these are all very important elements that are going to be a part of the next stage. And those are just as important going forward as the progress that we've made over the last three years.
QUESTION: Was there anything specific that the Secretary told President Kiir in terms of - I mean, the "carry a stick" metaphor is used a lot in Sudan, but was there any sticks that were used, maybe in terms of the deadline or (inaudible) strike a deal or these consequences --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary did not threaten Salva Kiir. She pointed out the enormous advantages of moving ahead, preventing a further economic decline and deterioration, and noted, as she did in one of her press conferences, that a percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing. And right now, the South, without the oil, had nothing. They'd lost 98 percent of their revenue. Their foreign exchange is dwindling rapidly. They've had to cut their budget by some 35 percent. They are having to reduce significantly money going into education, into healthcare, into construction of new roads, and infrastructure.
And so the Secretary did point out very clearly that the prospects of the situation getting worse economically were very, very apparent. But she also said to President Salva Kiir and his leaders that the global economic community, which has helped South Sudan over the last several years with large infusions of money, is going through a tough time itself and that it could not expect an international bailout of the type that would be needed to be able to provide for all of the lost revenue and assistance that it was losing as a result of the oil shortages.
But again, it was an appeal to Salva Kiir to look at the consequences of this continuing to drag out and saying that he had a responsibility to his people, and he also had an obligation and responsibility to listen to those who have been most supportive of the SPLM and their right to self-determination over the last several years.
QUESTION: The fact that this deal mean - or does it - will it open the door to any sort of new or adjusted U.S. approach to Khartoum? I mean, (inaudible) that Sudan feels very hard (inaudible) about it. They didn't get the material benefits out of the deal that they thought they would out of the sort of allowing the succession to happen. Do you now see them being more cooperative, or have you offered them any new incentives to make them more cooperative that might resolve some of these broader tensions?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We did not offer any incentives to the Government of Khartoum to strike this deal. We focused our efforts mainly on the South. But we have and continue to recognize the significance to both states of ending the political tensions that exist. It is in Khartoum's interest, as much as it is in the interest of the Republic of South Sudan, to end the political tensions that have existed since independence on July 9.
We want, as a matter of policy, to see two states living peacefully and amicably next to one another. And we also recognize that the security and stability of South Sudan has an impact on the security and stability of Sudan and vice versa. When one is suffering, the other is also likely to suffer as well. So it's in their interest to make peace, to end the disagreement over borders, to end the political stalemate over Abyei, to resolve the issue of citizenship. And it's really in the interest of the Government of Sudan to open up international access corridors for humanitarian assistance into the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan region. And it's in the interest of Sudan to establish and open a political dialogue with the leadership of the SPLM-North, both in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. This is in their interest.
And finally, the United States has said over and over again that our desire is to have good, normalized relations with both the government in Juba as well as the government in Khartoum. And Khartoum can in fact do things that will help speed the process of improved relations. We have made, over the last two years, a number of overtures. They have to do things as well, and we will respond.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary take up the issue and allegations from Khartoum that South Sudan has sponsored rebels and - on their side of the border? And might it further the discussions between the two if the United States could get - and somehow resolve (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary discussed a whole range of issues with Salva Kiir, but the most important issue that she brought up was the need to resolve the oil issue. But in our ongoing discussions, including the ones that have recently taken place, but especially those between Ambassador Princeton Lyman, who's just been in the region himself, we have told the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan that they should stop all support to proxies operating against one another, that it is not in their interest to do so. We have said to Khartoum, don't support proxies working against the Government of South Sudan; and we have told the Government of South Sudan, on more than one occasion, that they cannot and they should not support, directly or indirectly, proxies working against the Government of Sudan.
The issue did come up. The Secretary addressed it and encouraged there be an effort to resolve these kinds of issues. I'll say that Salva Kiir did tell the Secretary that he wanted to be helpful to the government in Khartoum in helping them deal with the political issues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and that he recognized the importance of having a stable and peaceful neighbor next to him.
QUESTION: Did he make any assertions one way or the other about whether he had supported --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I won't - you've seen most of the public statements, and most of their public statements reflect and mirror the things that they say diplomatically.
QUESTION: Can I just -
MODERATOR: Let's do two more. We're going to have to rush.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. I need to --
QUESTION: The (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is my lunch. I'm drinking my lunch here. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: For the record, it's a Coca-Cola.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. My lunch, my Coca-Cola. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: One more here and then --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And it's not even a diet Coke.
MODERATOR: Go ahead.
QUESTION: They predicted starting the oil again will take like six months and you said government shuts without oil by end of October. So now that a deal --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. I didn't say - I said they would run out of foreign exchange.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Foreign exchange.
QUESTION: But given that --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think they've been very - I think - let me just say, I think people have a very clear understanding of how long it will take to restart some of the oil fields. I'm told that in some instances, it's only a matter of weeks. In some, it is a matter of months. And in some, it may be close to a year or more.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. I just have a general question on the meaning of the trip in Africa. And it's similar to a question, which has been asked by Matt on the plane: What do you have in mind in Africa? Do you have China and India in mind (inaudible) different way of doing business in being more open and transparent? And you have made - you have been forward (inaudible), France and Britain, and Italy, in France, in democracy, the end of patronage and your partnership?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary is here to promote and advance a U.S. partnership strategy and agenda for Washington. The Secretary is - for the United States Government. The Secretary is here to underscore the new U.S. strategy for Africa, which was published in June, and that strategy is quite clear. It has four pillars in it.
The first pillar is clearly to help strengthen democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law across and around Africa. That reflects U.S. values, U.S. policy. The second one, which is quite important, is to help to spur market-oriented economic growth across Africa through trade, through commercial activities, and new investment. And that, too, reflects our U.S. interest and strategy. And thirdly, we're interested in helping to promote peace and stability, as we are doing in Sudan and Somalia. And finally, we're promoting the Administration's economic development agenda, our Feed the Future program, our MCC program, our Global Health program, our extension of PEPFAR. And these are American principles, American values, and this is what the Secretary is out there doing.
People will say that they contrast with things that others do, but that is a reality. Our reality is is that we've got an agenda. We think it is a positive agenda. And it's an agenda of partnership, mutual respect, mutual responsibility, and one that reflects where we are in the United States. If people want to contrast that, they can, but we are promoting American principles and American policy and American agenda, which is, as I say, based on partnership, mutual respect, mutual responsibility, and trying to do everything that we can to make Africa a more inclusive partner in the global community.
QUESTION: Can you say one quick thing about Malawi tomorrow? What's the --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Again, a part - again, it's a part of that pillar one, just as in Senegal with President Macky Sall, the Secretary will be applauding the smooth, democratic transition that has resulted in the second African woman becoming a president of a democratic state. The Secretary wants to underscore the democratic transition, the peaceful democratic transition, that occurred there, recognize the significance of President Joyce Banda as the second female president, and to underscore our support for a very large MCC program of $350 million, our support for the Global Health Initiative and PEPFAR program that we are supporting there, and to continue to encourage the democratization that is moving across Africa.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody. Thanks.