Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at AU Headquarters in Addis
By US Dept of State
May 25, 2013
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. It’s my privilege to be here at this special celebration of the 50th anniversary of the African Union and its predecessor organization. And I’m very, very pleased to have just met with Prime Minister Hailemariam, and I’m happy to be here with the Foreign Minister Tedros who we have met previously and had a chance to talk. And I think there are several key components of our relationship that I want to highlight.
First of all, we are working very closely on economic development, economic issues, bilateral trade issues. And the Prime Minister expressed his hope appropriately that the United States will in fact become more engaged,
The second area is the area of peace and stability, in the region particularly. Ethiopia has been a very strong partner, a very important partner in efforts with respect to Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. I worked very closely with former Prime Minister Meles, who – I came here to Addis Ababa, we worked on the issue of the comprehensive peace agreement and the referendum and moving South Sudan to independence. And we worked on the questions of Abyei and the two areas. We talked about that now and we both agreed that the situation between South Sudan and Sudan remains tense. There was work to be done, and we are going to continue to work in order to do – to address those challenging issues of Abyei, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and the relationship between the North and the South.
I’ve mentioned previously, but I haven’t necessarily said it to the press here, I will be appointing a special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan shortly, and we look forward to engaging with our friends here in Ethiopia on efforts to try to bring greater stability to the region.
We are particularly grateful to Ethiopia for their initiative, a very important initiative in respect to Somalia. It is fair to say that the Ethiopian initiative, together with American help and support, has helped to reduce the threat of ultraviolence, and it has helped significantly to be able to produce a new opportunity for governance. And it is governance now that is the greater challenge, rather than the al-Shabaab threat.
Finally, I just raised the question – the third pillar of concern and of relationship is that of building democracy and of protecting human rights. This is a critical component. As everybody knows, we believe very deeply that where people can exercise their rights and where there is an ability to have a strong democracy, the economy is stronger, the relationship with the government is stronger, people do better, and it’s an opportunity to be able to grow faster, stronger, by rule of law. We want to continue to work with our friends in Ethiopia as they work hard to try to improve any number of initiatives with respect to those concerns.
So I’m delighted to be here. This is a very special moment. Ethiopia is not only the host, but the Prime Minister wears the hat of president of union and we’re honored to be here with him sharing this very important moment. And Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you. Appreciate it.
FOREIGN MINISTER TEDROS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you so much, talking about this very important day for Africa in general, and for Ethiopia in particular. And I would like to also share with you that we have had very useful discussions on the areas that the Secretary already had mentioned – on the economic front as it had say, that should be the focus, especially in our future relationships. And we’re very grateful for the AGOA summit that will be conducted in Ethiopia August 12-13. We hope that will strengthen the trade and investment relationships between the U.S. and Ethiopia.
And in addition to that, we have had, as many of you know, relationships on social, political, defense, and security points. If we take, especially the social one, Ethiopia is the beneficiary of their foreign (inaudible). And that opportunity has been using Ethiopia in a unique way. Not only we have used the three foreign (inaudible) opportunities to save lives, but we used it to build our system also to better fight for the future. And I would like to express how grateful we are for this very generous support from the government and people of the United States. It’s really made a difference in Ethiopia.
And we had also we had (inaudible) very frank discussions on either issues, and Secretary said democracy is our priority. We’re committed to democracy, but as a national democracy. We really need strong cooperation and working together with the U.S. And we had, as we have said, discussed on regional issues – regional peace and security, Sudan and South Sudan. And on Somalia, I think he said it well, so I don’t want to add on that. But I would like to thank the Secretary for his decision to assign an envoy (inaudible) working (inaudible).
So finally I would like again to thank to the historic and very strong partnership we have with the U.S., and I hope it will grow even stronger in the future and look forward to working with you very closely as it does so much good.
SECRETARY KERRY: Likewise.
MS. PSAKI: The U.S. question will be from Scott of VOA.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Nigerian Government says its broken up some Boko Haram groups in the North, yet there are concerns remaining about gross human rights violations by Nigerian security forces. What’s your message about striking a balance there? And on Sudan and South Sudan, the oil is flowing again, but there remain the other issues between Khartoum and Juba, so how do you help resolve them?
And Mr. Minister, in light of the attacks in Niger, what is the African Union doing along with the international community to try to come up with a strategy to secure the broader Sahelian region against the spread of terrorism? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Well, Boko Haram is a terrorist organization and they have killed wantonly and upset the normal governance of Nigeria in fundamental ways that are unacceptable. And so we defend the right completely of the Government of Nigeria to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists.
That said, I have raised the issue of human rights with the government, with the Foreign Minister. We have talked directly about the imperative of Nigerian troops adhering to the highest standards and not themselves engaging in atrocities or in human rights violations. That is critical. And the balance comes by having strong leadership – leadership from the civilian government, leadership that flows through the forces that are there. We’ve talked about it directly.
To their credit, the government has acknowledged that there have been some problems and they’re not – they’re working to try to control it. It’s not easy; very complicated, and wide open spaces, very ungoverned, very, very difficult – very complex territory and terrain and very challenging enterprise. But always, we all of us try to hold the highest standards of behavior. One person’s atrocity does not excuse another’s. And revenge is not the motive; it’s good governance, it’s ridding yourself of a terrorist organization so that you can establish a standard of law that people can respect. And that’s what needs to happen in Nigeria.
With respect to --
QUESTION: Sudan and South Sudan.
QUESTION: On the Sudan-South Sudan, you are absolutely correct. There are very significant border challenges, but they’re bigger than that. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, you have people who for a long time have felt that they want their secular governance and their identity respected. And they don’t want independence. They are not trying to break away from Sudan. Unfortunately, President Bashir is trying to press on them, through authoritarian means and through violence, an adherence to a standard that they simply don’t want to accept, with respect to Islamism and a rigidity with respect to their identity. So that’s the fundamental (inaudible).
And what is critical here, in my judgment, is for President Bashir to respect what the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are trying to achieve. Now it’s more complicated because you have the SPLM-North that has received support from the South, and that makes the North feel like the South is instigating some of what is taking place. So we need to resolve those differences. And that’s the work of an envoy and my work over the course of these next months, working with our friends here. We’ve always been very focused on and helpful in trying to reduce the violence.
Abyei presents a special challenge, obviously. And I think we agreed that it was critical that Abyei be able to have a referendum with the appropriate Miseria – that is the Miseria who actually live in Abyei and have residence there year round, not the migrant Miseria – that they be able to vote together with residents and then to decide the future.
I think North and South are in a very delicate place right now. It is important to build on the peace process, the comprehensive peace agreement, to build on the new independence of the young state, and to put the focus and energy on the people and on developing the future, not on fighting the issues of the past. That’s our challenge, all of us, and we are certainly going to continue to work at it.
FOREIGN MINISTER TEDROS: Thank you. On the terrorism issue, especially Niger and the Sahel, as you know, we have now experienced terrorism. It is now serious threat to Africa, and we had experience in this region and certainly (inaudible). And what’s happening in Niger is not isolated incidents. We have to see it in relation to what has happened – what’s happening in Mali and the whole south of Niger. And when it’s experienced in Africa on how to tackle that, we support of course from governments like U.S. and we will address it within that framework based upon the experience we have. But have to consider it as a serious issue, and fight it aggressively.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) now it is (inaudible) question to the Ethiopian side. Let me invite (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. From (inaudible). It is understood that Ethiopia (inaudible) 12 years. How do you comment this? How can (inaudible) this success you have got to (inaudible)? Another question: The peacekeeping process is very difficult. What will be your assistance to this process?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me begin on the peacekeeping first. Yes, it is expensive and we know that. And we are providing assistance and we will continue to provide assistance. I think Ethiopia feels as if it needs more assistance. We understand that. Let me express my gratitude on behalf of not just the American people but everybody who benefits and cares about peace is grateful to Ethiopia. Ethiopians have put themselves on the line in order to fight against terrorism and to fight for peace. And I believe that we owe Ethiopia support and assistance in order to help them do that.
With respect to the economic growth, we would love to have Ethiopia’s economic growth. Ethiopia’s one of the ten fastest growing countries in the world. It’s up in the double digits in growth. It’s really quite an extraordinary story. And so I think the United States needs to – our private sector businesses need to focus on Ethiopia and recognize the opportunities that are here and hopefully we can encourage more companies to come here and be engaged and help take part in this.
But I think the future’s being defined by countries like Ethiopia, the future of Africa, which we are celebrating in this 50th anniversary meeting today. There’s been an enormous transition in the last 50 years. There are many more democracies and many more transitions to democracy, and many more peaceful places than there are violent ones and dictators. It is changing, and it is changing in a way that is strong so that lots of countries – Russia, Brazil, China, Japan, others – are investing and moving to take advantage of the economic possibilities of growth and development in Africa. The United States has been behind on that, and we need to change that.
QUESTION: We have time for one last --
QUESTION: Excuse me.
FOREIGN MINISTER TEDROS: What time is the Secretary (inaudible) – for second time there (inaudible) and we apologize for that because we have to run.
SECRETARY KERRY: We have to run. Seriously, the Foreign Minister only has about 68 countries to deal with. (Laughter.) Thank you both.
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