IT was not a coincident that the political stability in Africa was on the top of the agenda in the UN General Assembly where there was significant discussion and debate on issues related to the situation in Mali and the Sahel, Somalia, Sudan, and the Eastern Congo.
Last week was an extraordinarily busy week at the UN on African-related issues. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosted no less than four regional conferences on Africa - on Sahel, Somalia, Sudan, and the Eastern Congo. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in two of those sessions, one that was dealing with Sahel and Mali and a second one dealing with Somalia.
The US Government was represented at senior levels in the Sudan discussions and in the Eastern Congo, DRC, Rwanda discussions. In addition, the Secretary of State met in a trilateral meeting with President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and also participating was President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
On Friday afternoon, the Secretary also met with Sudanese officials, including Foreign Minister Ali Karti from Khartoum. The Secretary also participated in sessions on HIV/AIDS hosted by the head of UNAIDS and also a session on food security, where we are also very much engaged.
In a recent teleconference with reporters across the African continent the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, ambassador Johnnie Carson held a briefing at the New York Foreign Press Center during which he discussed the situation in Mali and the Sahel, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and answered questions from journalists.
In this article we will deal with the second major issues under focus which was Somalia and DRC. Secretary Clinton also participated in this meeting. In his remarks ambassador Carson said that Somalia was a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself.
"Over the past 12 months we have seen the completion of the transitional roadmap ending the TFG and creating a new Somali Government. For the first time in nearly two decades, Somalia has a new provisional constitution. It has a newly selected parliament which is half the size of the former parliament and comprises some 18 percent women and whose membership is comprised of some 60 percent university graduates."
There's been a new speaker selected and a new president elected in Somalia. Great progress has been achieved in Somalia, and this is in large measure because of the combined efforts of IGAD, the African Union, the UN and the international community, and especially the United States. At this meeting, the US top diplomats heard from Somalia's new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and it was broadly agreed that the international community would support the new emphasis in priorities of the government.
"For our part in Washington, we are determined to do three things," he said. One is to help the new government put in place the infrastructure so that it can run effectively. This means helping to create effective government ministries, have those ministries staffed with effective civil servants and advisors so that they can carry out their government functions.
The second is to help to create a new Somali national army, an army that is subservient to civilian and constitutional control, an army that is able to work alongside of AMISOM and take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do.
But the US says that creating a new strong Somali army, to eventually replace AMISOM is a second priority. And third priority is to provide assistance to the government so that it can deliver services to the people so that it can rebuild and refurbish and re-staff schools, hospitals, and medical clinics, provide assistance so that it can begin to deal with some of its smaller infrastructure issues, providing clean water to populations, helping to restore electrical power and also opening up markets.
The ambassador said that "We also want to help in developing small enterprise and microcredit operations to help the government as well." We do agree with the US diplomats that Somalia has made enormous progress. We also believe there has been significant military progress against al-Shabaab. Ambassador Carson said that AMISOM deserves an enormous amount of credit in driving al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and its environs and also moving against the city of Kismayo.
He added much credit for the operations in Kismayo go to the Kenyan forces who were a part of AMISOM, but we must praise the leadership of the Ugandan commanders who have led the AMISOM mission over the last four years. He further said that Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya all deserve credit, and they will soon be joined by forces arriving literally today and tomorrow from Sierra Leone to help strengthen AMISOM.
But the international community has been in unison with IGAD and the AU, and the U.S. has been a significant and major contributor to this effort. Sudan was also brought up and hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The world has seen very great progress there in the last three days. On Thursday evening in Addis Ababa, we saw an agreement signed by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Bashir of Sudan to help resolve a number of outstanding issues related to oil, to revenue sharing, to citizenship, to pensions, and to debt.
According to ambassador Carson the US recognizes that there are a number of issues still outstanding related to Abyei, related to political consultations with respect to Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and to the important issue of humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, particularly in the Nuba Mountains. He added that progress has been made there in reducing tensions, reopening the borders, and getting those countries back to a position where we can see two viable states living in peace internally as well as with one another.
"There is so much discussion on Sudan. We were represented a high level at those meetings by Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and we think progress has been forged there," he said. The Eastern Congo was the last issue that was of great focus in New York last week. There was a meeting that brought together all of the regional Great Lakes states, including Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, but most importantly Eastern Congo with President Kabila and the DRC and Rwanda with President Kagame.
The US objectives and the objectives of that conference were to do everything possible to reduce the tensions that exist between Rwanda and the DRC, and to restore trust and confidence between the leaders there, and to do as much as possible to help in the recurring violence that persists in the Eastern Congo, largely as a result of the incursion and the rebellion of the M23.
There was a joint call on all states not to support the M23 rebels; to denounce their activities publicly and to contribute as much as possible to the resolution of the problems in the DRC.
"We believe that it is absolutely critical that the countries in the region respect the sovereignty and the borders of their neighbours, that they not engage in supporting rebel activities across the borders, and that everyone take responsibilities for their action, the protection of their citizens and their resources, the protection of those people who are in their countries, and that they not, in effect, undermine the sovereignty and stability of regional states," said the ambassador Carson.