Voice of America (Washington, DC)

11 February 2014

Africa: U.S Working to Strengthen Peace, Security - Kerry

Dakar, Senegal — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States continues to work toward obtaining and maintaining peace and security in Africa, as well as promoting development initiatives.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States remained committed to supporting African countries.

"There are huge challenges, but what is happening in Africa, is really so exciting overall. And we are really deeply engaged and the president has instructed us to really try to light a fire under our efforts throughout the continent," he said.

Speaking in Washington Tuesday, Kerry said the United States was trying to build the capacity of security forces in the Central African Republic to deal with the violence that broke out following a March 2013 coup by Seleka rebels.

He said efforts to disarm militant group M23 continued in the Democratic Republic of Congo and that a special envoy has been sent to South Sudan, where thousands of civilians have been killed since fighting broke out between government and rebel forces in December 2013.

Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said while such peace building was important, Africa was more than sporadic violence.

"I think that it is so clear that there is so much to be optimistic about on the continent of Africa. Yes, we have some countries where violence is taking place ... but there are 40-plus other countries in Africa where there is not fighting and there is not war, and we need to build on the successes of these countries and help those countries that are having problems get out of trouble," she said.

Kerry said that it was important to keep Africa's growing "youth bulge" in mind.

"When you look at it, and you think that over the course of the next 20, 30 years, a quarter of the workforce in the world ... is going to wind up coming from Africa, being in Africa. And 60 percent of the population under the age of 30 presents us not just with an enormous challenge, because we need to provide education, we need to provide opportunity, but it also provides us with the chance to define the future," he said.

Kerry said President Obama would build on various initiatives in Africa, including those dealing with trade, electricity and youth leadership, when he hosts African leaders at the White House this August.

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