Consolidating Democratic Gains, Promoting African Prosperity
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Remarks, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, President Ernest Koroma, President Joyce Banda, President Macky Sall, Prime Minister Jose Neves
Panel Discussion at the U.S. Institute for Peace, Washington, DC, March 29, 2013
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Good morning, everyone. I want to start by thanking President Jim Marshall for his very kind introduction, and also the United States Institute of Peace for hosting this very important event this morning. There are a number of distinguished guests in the audience this morning. I will not attempt to identify you all by name, but I welcome you all with great pleasure to this important gathering.
The United States Institute for Peace has long been a center for excellence for preventing and mitigating international conflict. The Institute’s work in the Sudans, its partnership with the State Department’s African peacekeeping training program, and its contributions to Africa are significant, and I would like to acknowledge them this morning.
As President Obama said in front of Ghana’s parliament in 2009, and I quote, “Good governance is the ingredient that can unlock Africa’s enormous potential.” Democracy and good governance not only create free, just, and more stable societies, they also create the traditions for sustainable, broad-based economic growth and development. That is why building strong partnerships to support democracy and good governance has been our top priority in Africa as well as a key pillar of President Obama’s U.S. strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa.
As we all know, democracy and good governance are about much more than just holding elections. What happens before and after elections is equally, if not more important. That is why capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are key to success. Strong parliaments, the rule of law, protections for human rights, independent judiciaries, free presses, and vibrant civil societies and private sectors protect democracy and good governance from those who might weaken or trample upon it.
All four of our very distinguished and honored guests here today, President Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Sall, who we expect shortly, President Banda of Malawi, and the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Prime Minister Jose Neves, are here because of the contributions that they and their governments have made to strengthen democratic institutions in their respective countries. Their decisions have contributed to significant economic development and security gains in their countries and also in their respective regions.
Last year, Sierra Leone held free, fair, and creditable elections, in which nearly 90 percent of the registered voters participated peacefully. These elections, Sierra Leone’s third since the end of its decade-long civil war in 2002, awarded President Koroma a second term to continue implementing his agenda for prosperity. (Applause.) Sierra Leone’s economy is expanding rapidly as a result of President Koroma’s leadership.
President Macky Sall, who will be joining us shortly, participated in elections in his own country one year ago. Senegal, one year ago, was facing a period of instability and economic contraction. President Sall has made a number of political and economic reforms since being in office, and the Senegalese Government now is launching efforts to end the long-simmering conflict in the Casamance region. Under President Sall’s leadership, Senegal’s economy is expected to grow by nearly five percent this year.
President Banda, who took over in Malawi nearly one year ago, and with her government, moved to immediately implement tough but necessary political and economic reforms. Together, they devalued Malawi’s currency, removed price controls for fuel, and cut government expenses. In her first hundred days in office, President Banda has turned Malawi around. As a result, the country’s economy is expected to grow twice as fast this year than in the previous years. (Applause.)
And last but certainly not least, Cape Verde has risen from the bottom of many development indicators because of the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Neves. The country’s vibrant two-party political system, its strong rule of law, and low corruption also have contributed to Cape Verde having one of Africa’s highest literacy rates, best foreign investment environments, and consistently high economic growth.
At every step of the way, the United States Government has partnered with all four leaders and all four countries as they have implemented their reforms. Because each country has demonstrated serious commitment, our Millennium Challenge Corporation has compacts in place with Malawi, Senegal, and Cape Verde, and I might note that Cape Verde was one of the first three countries to receive an MCC compact – (applause) – and it was the first country to complete its compact successfully, and it was the first country to get a second compact. All of these leaders are focusing on tackling the most significant impediments to development in their countries, and the MCC has selected Sierra Leone as eligible to develop a compact – (applause) – again, thanks to the leadership of President Koroma.
The United States is committed to continuing its strong partnership with leaders and countries committed to democracy, respect for human rights, the full inclusion of women in society, economics, and politics, as well as religious and press freedoms.
President Sall, welcome. (Applause.) Please.
I am going to stop here since we have a very full program and not a great deal of time. I would like to turn the microphone over first to President Koroma, and then to our other two presidents and one prime minister who are here with us today. I will ask that each of you try to keep your remarks to no more than five minutes so that we have ample time for questions from our audience here, as well as in our overflow rooms, as well as though who are following us on social media.
And for everyone in the audience, please keep writing your questions on the 3×5 index cards that we have passed out and hand them to a USIP or State Department staff member who is near the aisles.
I’ll start by asking each of our speakers in turn to address the following broad question: How does democracy and strengthening of democratic institutions in your countries contribute to economic development and growth and more equitable society? But I will give our leaders five minutes to talk about their countries, talk about what they are doing in terms of democracy and economic growth, and then we will proceed to a more informal dialogue and discussion.
President Koroma, I’ll start with you.
PRESIDENT KOROMA: Thank you, Ambassador Carson. Let me use this opportunity to thank the president of the Institute of Peace of the United States. We are happy that you have invited us this morning. And let me use this opportunity to also thank the Institute and America for the role they have played in restoring peace in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has a unique story in terms of peace and peace development, because as a country, we have experienced peace after independence, and then we went into a period of civil conflict. And thereafter, we are now building on our democracy and developing the country again.
The story of the conflict in Sierra Leone is an open book. We will normally want to just move forward, because we all know it, and what we take pride in is the fact that we have committed ourselves to moving forward. What we take pride in is the fact that Sierra Leone is an example of a country that has emerged from peace and have quickly restored order, and we are now developing the country. Now for us to get to the point where we are today, the war was formally declared over in 2002, and since then, the country took the appropriate steps that have not only ended the war, have not only built on peace, but we have now positioned ourselves to development.
Now on issues like this, we took the first steps of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was geared towards ensuring that the communities and the people within the country are reconciled, because it’s important for a country that has been through war to be a reconciled country, a reconciled community, to move forward. Fully in that, we also established the TRC, which was a committee with the responsibility to take on those that have the highest responsibility for the crimes of the war. And some of it was organized in the country, and of course we had the outcome of what happened in The Hague with Charles Taylor. But these are all institutions that we have put together to end the war and reconcile ourselves.
Now in moving forward in building the peace, building the democracy and development, we have taken steps to put in place institutions that will ensure that we move forward in a manner of peace, in a manner in which democracy will be observed, and a manner in which inclusiveness will be guaranteed in the society. Now this led us to the establishment of institutions of good governance. We have established the Political Parties Registration Commission that is charged with the responsibility of observing and monitoring activities of political parties. We have the National Commission for Democracy. It is also an institution that is set up to ensure that we sensitize people and get them involved in the democratic process. We also have the institution of monitoring and maintaining the independence of the media, the IMC. The National Electoral Commission was also an institution that has been established. We have a good number of these institutions that are established to guarantee good governance in the country.
And in the process, we have reviewed the security infrastructure in the country. The police and the military went through a security sector review process that has transformed them from security forces that are not democratic, but – and they are now security forces that are democratic and respect the constitution. Now these are all institutions that we have tried to reform. Of course, including the judiciary – the role of the judiciary is very important to us. We believe that when the judiciary becomes independent and professional, it will play the role in which everybody will feel protected, and people outside will also feel protected. So we’ve created these institutions to ensure that democracy is guaranteed, the human rights of individuals are guaranteed.
And I must say that they have come a long way in trying to conduct their affairs to the extent that our Human Rights Commission has been granted an A status last year because of the effectiveness that we have carried. (Applause.) We have also been through a situation in which because of the human rights record of the commission and also the political commitment as a government and as a leader we have provided, which has made it possible for journalists to express their writing, there’s a freedom of speech. And there has been a new movement even after the war, when we had anybody being incarcerated for expressing a political opinion. So we have an impeccable human rights record. (Applause.) These are great achievements that have led the basis for democratic governance.
Now within it as a government, we thought that we have to create an enabling environment for investment to come in. And we have affected a lot of changes of our laws, a lot of strengthening of institutions, and a lot of adoption of fiscal measures that have given signals out that we are sanitizing the economy, and we are preparing it for adequate investment. And this has been recognized by the World Bank that have positioned us as one of the ten top reformers in the world in terms of – (applause) – we have also in the process attracted investments in the ranges of hundreds of millions of dollars. These investments are now impacting on – changing the agriculture and mining sectors. So a lot of things are going on that clearly indicates that there is a need for us to continue with the democratic process. And when there is democracy and stability, it will open up investment opportunities.
And that is where we are as a nation. That is why we now believe that Sierra Leone is no longer a country of blood diamonds that it is known for in the past. (Applause.) Sierra Leone is now an investment destination. Sierra Leone is the place to do business. This has been recognized by the World Bank and the IMF. Last year, our economy was referred to as the hottest economy and the place to do investment, and we registered a very high rate of growth that is not comparable to any other African country. (Applause.) This is a result of the measures that we have taken, the democracy that we are building, the openness of our economy, and the structures that we are putting in place to guarantee that investment is not only attracted, but it is also protected. And it is also seen in the lives of our people, more employment, better conditions of service, and I believe that Sierra Leone is on the move.
So let me, Mr. Ambassador, stop at this point and I welcome your questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Absolutely. (Applause.) President Koroma, thank you for those very rich thoughts, and we will come back to some of the issues that you’ve pointed to. Let me next turn to our President from Malawi. We’ll start with President Banda.
PRESIDENT BANDA: Thank you. Thank you very much indeed, Ambassador Carson. Distinguished panelists, who are also distinguished presidents and prime minister of Africa, allow me to take this opportunity to thank President Obama, and of course the Institute, for organizing this event, but more especially for President Obama to invite African leaders that he feels have done a lot in putting in place institutions that have brought about pure and proper democracy that has also encouraged private sector and wealth creation and growth.
Allow me to talk about Malawi before I became President. In 2009, I stood for elections with the president of Malawi as his running mate. I didn’t realize at the time of elections that he was using me to get the female vote, because I had spent the days of my life working with women at the grassroots. So I had that platform to bring to the table.
Two weeks into office, I realized that he hadn’t been genuine, that he wanted his brother to take over for him. What that did is that in the next three years, it was about the succession process to ensure that the brother takes over. As a result, as a nation, we diverted from the development agenda and focused on that succession.
By 2012, last year, the economy had collapsed. There was no fuel in the country. There was no fuel. There was no Forex. The economy had gone on the black market. People were sleeping at the feeding station. There was no food, there was no drugs in the hospital. I had been completely sidelined. In fact, I had been expelled from his party. And I had formed my own party, but the constitution did not allow him to sack me. He tried twice.
But another thing that I learned is that true leadership is a love affair between you and the people. And for 30 years – (applause) – you must fall in love with the people, and the people must fall in love with you. When that happens, nobody can break that relationship. And so for 30 years, I have worked with the people, and he miserably failed to get the people away from me. So that’s what I had in 2012 by the time he passed away.
And Malawians decided that the constitution must be respected. The constitution was very clear, the Vice President was supposed to take over when the President dies or becomes incapacitated. I’m starting from there so that you can understand that by the time I got into office, the collapsed economy, all what was going on, I was not aware. I had not been party to it.
But I must also take this opportunity to thank American people, because in March of 2012, I was invited to a conference in South Africa organized by serving and retired military generals. General Richard Myers was at that meeting. I was meeting him for the first time. Sir David Richards of U.K. was there, the general from Sierra Leone. Those distinguished men and women were meeting to discuss Africa’s conflict areas, post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. And they invited me to go and chair the D.R.C. case study.
I didn’t realize that in five weeks my general, who was also attending that meeting, would be deciding my fate. And I will forever be grateful to Ambassador Carson and all those who worked so hard in 48 hours to make sure that the constitution is respected and I’m allowed to take oath and become President of my country. (Applause.)
In the past year, what we have done is to get back on track, because by the time I became President, we were off track with IMF. And so we had to go very quickly – go back to IMF, get back on track, strengthen governance institutions, make sure that we get the letter of support that we required in order for other donors to come back, including the U.K. that had cut off relationship with Malawi. In 100 days, we were able to get the letter of support we were able to get – to begin to get our donors to get back. We improved our relations with our neighbors. We restored our relationship with the United Kingdom. (Applause.)
We also had to do several things as Malawi Government. One was to repeal all the laws that we felt were controversial and were against human rights and good governance. (Applause.) So in July of last year, I organized what I called the National Dialogue on the Economy. At this conference, we chose five sectors, namely mining, energy, tourism, infrastructure, and agriculture. Those projects were chosen, those sectors were chosen, because of the potential they have to create wealth. Within each sector, out of the five sectors, we have also chosen three projects. At the end of 2013, we must face Malawians with project – three projects for each of those sectors.
I want you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to know that I, in 14 days and 14 months, am implementing a very, very unpopular reform program. In any normal situation, I should have given up and backtracked. Why? Because I must win the elections next year. (Applause.) But I am committed to stay the course. I’m committed to stay the course, because it’s the right thing to do. And even if it ends up costing me the elections next year, that’s okay. That’s fine. (Applause.)
We also have implemented social programs with the help of the IMF to make sure that we cushion the shock of the devaluation over 49 percent that we were forced to implement last year in order to bring our economy back on track. It also meant introducing austerity measures, including selling the presidential jet and reducing my own salary by 30 percent. Poverty eradication is top on my agenda, and we believe that we will only begin to change the situation of Malawians when we begin to help Malawians create jobs and create wealth. So we are talking about a private sector-led economy.
I also introduced two presidential initiatives, one poverty and hunger reduction, where we are mobilizing women and youth to grow crops that have export potential – in other words, diversifying from the traditional growing of maize for survival. I also insist that women and youth must get support. I am talking about, yes, creating wealth, creating jobs, but also assuring that women and youth have special opportunities. And having worked at grassroots for 30 years, what has become very clear to me is that the situation of women and children in Africa is only going to change if we address issues of income at household level. And helping women and youth to have an income is critical and is a must. We don’t even have a choice. Because when you talk about population growth, maternal mortality, lack of education for the girl child, at center of all that is poverty. And until and unless we assist women and youth get income at household level for the poor, the situation of women and children, our economies in Africa, will never change.
I have worked with women and children for 30 years, and I know that for me, that’s the only way we can improve the life of people in Africa. Malawi is expecting a bumper harvest this year. Malawians have worked extremely hard to diversify their economy. And even for the legumes that they have grown, we’re expecting a bumper harvest. We are encouraging investors to come and invest in agriculture, in energy, in mining, and in tourism. But agriculture is the easiest for Malawians to enter.
Malawi is a success story because in the past year, with all the efforts that we have made, we are expected to grow by five percent, our economy. We have reduced maternal mortality from 675 to 470. We have 7,000 adult classes going on at the moment. We have improved our position according to the Mo Ibrahim index.
Madam Sirleaf and I are working hard to improve the lives of women. We have started a very strong exchange program. A month ago, she sent a delegation from Liberia who came to Malawi, and we sent a delegation to Liberia from Malawi. I believe that together, in Africa, we are ready to help to assist our people, but we also calling upon investors from the U.S. to come to Africa.
The best thing that has happened to me during this trip is now hearing President Obama and hearing Mr. Shah of USAID yesterday saying what I’ve been trying for 30 years – that it is only when we assist our people in the continent of Africa to do business, to have an income at household level – that’s the only way we are going to eradicate poverty on that continent.
Thank you very much for your attention. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: President Banda, thank you very, very much for those excellent remarks. I would now like to call on our third president, President Macky Sall, for his comments.
PRESIDENT SALL: Thank you very much. (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Ambassador Carson. First of all, I would like to express my apologies for being late. In fact, we are talking about a democracy, and democracy assumes the sovereignty of the people. Yesterday after our dinner, the people of Senegal – people from Senegal and the United States, from all states, wished to meet with me, and therefore I had to spend some time, and actually, I was with them until 4:00 in the morning. And that gave me very little time to come here, so I would like to extend my apologies.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am the President of a small country by size. We have 12 million citizens in my country. But we are an African country which has provided a great contribution to universal democracy. Senegal, indeed, has experienced, in 1786 – a date when fundamental important things occurred in this country – in 1786, in 1787, we had a very important revolution in the north of the country which allowed us to rid ourselves of a traditional yolk, traditional power, in order to consolidate a governance based not on birth, but based around the choice of the various components of the population at the time.
And specifications were made up at the time, and we said we needed to choose our leader, north Mali at the time, based on these standards – your knowledge, your various standards of leadership. And this was already codified in 1786, 1787. In 1860, long after these events, which lasted more than a century, at the time when Senegal was still a colony, voting already started in Sanwi in Senegal, already in 1860, which means that a democratic process is neither the impetus of a single president, nor caused by a party. Actually, it’s the legacy of a very long process that took many years. Senegal already, 1914, sent its first black member of parliament to the French Parliament. It was Deputy Blase Diagne, and he was followed by other members of parliament, Mr. Juff, Leopald Sedar-Senghor, up until the time of our independence in 1960.
So it is this legacy that allowed us to have a stable regime since 1960. We have never experienced variations or coups, and this in spite of political crises, such as the one that we had last year. We nonetheless remain on the right track, and we have understood that democracy is everybody’s business, that democracy assumes free and transparent elections, and you must be held at specific deadlines, you must abide by the timeline, by the principles, the procedures, and you cannot change the rules of the game during the game, because if during a soccer game you change the rules of the game, well, you can imagine that the game will be of no longer much interest.
And this unfortunately – this almost is what happened to us last year. So I’m talking about this – doing this little deviation. The rules of the game were changed, whereas ECOWAS established with additional protocol that six months prior to an election, you cannot modify the rules of the electoral law. So I am the inheritor of this tradition. I’m very proud of it, because I do know that as President of the republic there are some things that I cannot do myself. And the example is that we have a true democracy, standing institutions. And I fought against the former president who, for 12 years, was my boss. I was his minister, his prime minister and I was speaker of parliament, coming from his own majority. We had a dispute. I left him, I founded my own party, and I defeated him clearly, transparently, democratically. (Applause.) And I came into office five days between the vote of the runoff and my swearing of office. A country that does not have solid institutions cannot do that.
So Senegal has a democracy that has to be mentioned. We’ve always had strong institutions. The power cannot – have control over these institutions. You cannot choose to lose the game, and that is what institutions are, good governance. Good governance assumes the principle of accountability, therefore you have to be held accountable, which means that those who are responsible of the public office, they have to – everything that they do is accountable, and therefore we have – we’d like to congratulate President Banda because I myself have a Boeing 727 that I’m putting up for sale because – actually, it’s on for sale for one year now but no one seems to be interested in buying it. It might have to be given to a museum. We had two aircraft but Senegal does not need two presidential aircraft.
This is to say that all these perks for the ministers and senior officials are no longer there. We’re trying to improve AGOA. We’re seeking to invest private investments and the internal level. We’re trying to strengthen the rule of law, have an independent justice system. And because in all of our countries you have to say things as they are and even in many developed countries is a fact, therefore we must constantly work to reduce corruption down to a level that will be almost insignificant. And that is not easy because there’s traditions, and as long as we do not have the rule of law, as long as we don’t have accountability, it will be very hard to fight corruption.
But we’re not losing hope, and I am convinced – I’ll stop here because I don’t want to go beyond the time that was given to me. But in general, I am in favor of a reduction of the term of office of the president from seven years to five years, and I’d like to tell you Africa today is a continent on the march. The Africa of 2013 has nothing to do with the clichés that are often expressed to talk about civil wars, where you talk about coups, but bear in mind you had your own wars. You had the Civil War. There were wars in Europe up until 1945. People fought each other in Europe. Africa has just become independent for the most case since 1960, so it is normal there should be conflicts remaining here and there. And we’ve had composite borders that were created by the colonialists.
So in terms of the overall dynamic of the continent, we are moving towards prosperity, we are moving towards democracy, and it’s this message of hope that I would like to convey today at the USIP to tell the Americans please come more onto the continent. It’s the cradle of mankind. It’s a magical continent in terms of its diversity, in terms of its natural resources, in terms of its men and its women. Africa is really worth seeing, and Dakar is just six hours by plane from here. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Mr. President, thank you very, very much for those very spirited and very, very clear remarks. Let me now turn to our last speaker in the first round and invite the prime minister of Cape Verde, Prime Minister Neves, to address us now.
PRIME MINISTER NEVES: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. I want to start by thanking the Peace Institute for the invitation and for organizing this meeting. So this is the Peace Institute, the Institute of Peace of the United States, therefore I would like to start by saying that in order to have development it is essential that there be peace and stability, and it is essential also to have democracy in the country. There is no development without stability. There is no development without democracy.
That being said, I think that the most important thing that we can do for Africa is to build capable governments, capable states, states that can guarantee democracy and stability, a state capable of managing plurality, political plurality, social plurality, a state that can manage conflict, and states in Africa that could face the risks that are now presented in the continent and the risks that the whole of humanity runs. I’m talking about – I’m thinking about environmental risks, for instance. They are very important and very large.
But in Africa we are also facing very serious social risks. For instance, I’m thinking about an explosion on the part of youth, that if we don’t give them opportunities for the future. We need to train the young people for work so that they can have a better life in the future.
So I think that we need governments in Africa that can develop a clear vision of development, and states and governments that can develop strategies that will be allowed to implement this vision for development, to define a development agenda with very clear goals, with strategies of well defined and with clear paths to undertake. Amartya Sen, the Nobel economic professor (inaudible) economic development is freedom. In other words, when we’ll have higher-level development, we’ll reach a higher level of freedom and liberty and we will be in a position to consolidate democracy for good.
Another important factor for peace and stability in the future is, of course, good governance. Good governance, of course, implies free and transparent elections, respect for the rules of the game, the democratic game includes respect for minorities. It’s essential to respect minorities and to respect the opposition. The opposition must find its position in the political game and the opposition must also play a role in the political definition of the situation in the country. And also the government must be in a position to respond to the demands and the aspirations of the population (inaudible) administration that looks toward providing services for the citizenry as well as the business community. And if we are able to do that, we will have certainly created spaces that will take into account the plurality and the diversity of our societies and use that in order to put together very strong development agendas and in so doing also reach or put in place legitimate governments whose legitimacy will be, of course, defined by their own performance, governments that will defend the rule of law, democracy, which are all very important factors for peace and stability.
But to conclude, if you’ll allow me, I would like to say that Africa is the continent of the future. Africa can only claim to be the continent of the future because it has a very rich past. It has enormous talent, enormous capabilities, and all we need to do is to really gather all of this capacity, all this capability, all this talent, and make it work towards the development of Africa, to use all our very abundant resources in the service of the dignity for all Africans. And I think that President Macky Sall, President Koroma, and President Banda are leaders who show that there is a position in Africa, there is an ambitious Africa out there. There is an Africa that wants democracy, peace, stability, an Africa that wants above all a certain level of development to ensure dignity in the future for all Africans, men and women. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Mr. Prime Minister, very inspired remarks, very inspired remarks, and we’ll come back to those. We’ve received a number of very, very good questions from our audience, and I’d like very much to involve them in the dialogue that we’re having here this morning. I will ask all of you to respond briefly to these questions, and the first one is a combination of two questions from the audience.
And one is: How do you keep your democratic progress on track and what are the challenges to doing that? And the second one is also in the same way, it says: Congratulations on your economies being among the fastest growing in the world. What measures are you taking to keep this good news moving forward? In other words, what are you doing to ensure that your economies will continue to grow and that your democracies will remain vibrant and alive?
I’ll start with – perhaps with President Banda. Is that okay?
PRESIDENT BANDA: Yeah. Yeah, what I have done in Malawi to remain accountable and transparent to the people of Malawi is to set up in my office what I’m calling the projects implementation unit as a tool, as a center for – to interface with the public. They can call upon us and find out what progress we’re making and how implementation is taking place.
Number two is I have set up a program where I interact with opposition parties. I invite them to the state house and discuss matters of state, rise above politics, and just focus on issues that are of great importance to the people of Malawi. I do the same with the civil society, I do the same with the media, and I do the same with the faith community.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Okay. Could I ask President Macky Sall?
PRESIDENT SALL: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Johnnie. Well, I think that in order to maintain a democratic standard, my country must be able to continue to have consummate democratic watchdogs, because democracy does remain fragile in light of the exceptional events that occurred, our democracy has been challenged. There has to be some monitoring of a democracy. We are a country that is still free and independent, but it’s thanks to our justice system, which asserted its independence. It took the right decisions. You have to have political actors who accept free competition. They also have to accept the outcome of elections. The rules of the game have to be clear and transparent for all.
We must also, I believe – to ensure that democracies sustain themselves, we must be fair, equitable, in the distribution of wealth. To do so, we need to have a growth that would be inclusive, whereby growth is reflected throughout society and we can give greater opportunities to each and every one, allowing them to progress thanks to their own efforts and to improve their lives. That is a fundamental element. And I’m trying to with various social programs. We have universal health care and we have also special family plans to give hope back to those citizens who are those weakest among us and to allow other people to truly develop themselves, to create wealth. So it’s a scale, a balance that you gain that you must work with, and this is what I believe to be a factor.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Prime Minister Neves?
PRIME MINISTER NEVES: (Via interpreter) Well, I think that in order to ensure continuity of a democratic state, a democratic rule, it’s fundamental that we consider three different aspects: First, to respect scrupulously the rules of the game. Second, to build consensus as regards to principal national issues. And in order to build consensus, you have to have a prior strong political dialogue, bringing together the principal political parties, the principal political actors, as well as strengthened social dialogue with the different social actors, the unions, management, businesses, to build a minimal consensus on the important social issues of the day, the economic agenda, and put simply, the creation of an environment that is seen as favorable by all for foreign investment and the growth of the economy.
And the third most important dimension has to do with the carrying out of government rule. Governments become legitimate day by day. To the degree that governments are able to provide answers to social needs, they create channels, new channels of interaction with different aspects of society, coming up with a strong civil society, ensuring that civil society have full room to grow and affirm itself. As to development, per se, and economic growth, per se, the most important is to create factors of continuity, to create a favorable environment for business and create opportunities so that these businesses can be carried out through strong investments from the private sector.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: President Koroma.
PRESIDENT KOROMA: Thank you. For me, maintaining democracy is all about a strict adherence to the rule of law. Like I mentioned, our society went through difficulties. And for us to build a democratic process, we have to create the institutions. And what is required now is a situation wherein you have very strong institutions that will regulate the whole democratic process. We have institutions for the human rights, institutions for democracy. We have the judiciary and we have many other institutions.
When these institutions are strengthened and have capacity and are allowed a space to run on their own without political interference, I think with that pattern you will be able to ensure that a whole society is regulated. It’s not just about people in governance providing leadership. It is about the protection of the rights of the individuals. It is about protecting the minority groups. It is about securing the vulnerable groups. And when you have in the country institutions that have capacity to address this issue, I think the sustenance of democracy is ensuring that these institutions are given space to operate and government allows them to operate and there is a complete separation of powers with the institutions of governance.
Now in sustaining the economy, also I believe that it has to be an ongoing process. Now we have tried to adhere to the review of our laws-creating mechanism, wherein it becomes interesting for investors to come in and invest. That has to be sustained. That is why I very much like the system of the MCC. I mean, you qualify for a compact. For you to stay, you have to ensure that you meet the parameters that isI expected of you on a continuous basis, and by being that, you will be able to sustain the democracy, you’ll be able to ensure that you have an opportunity to improve on what you have done to guarantee the status where you are.
So it’s a question of just continuing to do what is right, improving on it, and allowing the institutions to grow and become very strong in our respective democracies.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. Democratic institutions clearly are a vital ingredient to any strong, stable, and vibrant democracy. But every good democracy is underpinned by a vibrant civil society, a civil society capable of speaking out, a civil society capable of organizing, of participating and being felt that it is being heard.
Let me ask a question in this regard from one of our audience members. And this person says: What is your response to leaders in Africa who have become skeptical and hostile to foreign funding of civil society organizations? And how do you, in fact, treat and respect your own civil societies?
I’ll start with President Macky Sall.
PRESIDENT SALL: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador Carson. In Senegal, we have a very dynamic civil society, and that civil society has played a major role in consolidating our democracy, has done a lot in political terms to ensure that elections are free, and civil society in our country is very active in promoting human rights, the various national human rights organizations work not only within Senegal, but with the neighboring countries as well, within ECOWAS countries. Civil society in our country is very involved in conflict resolution and peace, notably in the Casamance region. We have very dynamic civil society organizations.
We also have a lot of civil society organizations that work on religious issues. These religious civil society organizations have a lot of freedom to do what they want, and we look at – we have to – you have to look closely at where they get their funding. You have to make sure that funding provided to a lot of these religious CSOs isn’t diverted into illegal activities, for example, terrorism. So you have to look very closely at funding – the funding that these organizations receive. But we give a great deal of freedom and a great deal of leeway to civil society organizations in our country. They’re active across the entire country. And we have no particular objections to foreign funding for NGOs and civil society organizations in Senegal. As long as all this is done according to national legislation, as long as no laws are violated, Senegal has no problem with foreign funding of NGOs.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Prime Minister Neves.
PRIME MINISTER NEVES: (Via interpreter) You know, we think that development of the host of differing African countries ultimately will be through a competitive integration of all those countries working together in the long run. Now obviously, there are some countries that are in a process of transition, that there’s a certain distrust regarding unknown investors.
But I think that gradually, continent-wide, we’re creating spaces where, first, in each country is to create an ever more favorable environment for business and investment, the creation of new opportunities for firms interested in doing business in our countries, as well as, as I say, creating necessary conditions to go out and attract foreign capital. We’re hoping that this investment ultimately, and hopefully, be for the true development of country – of the countries at hand.
In Cape Verde, we have a national investment law that favors the attraction of private investments as well as a fiscal incentive policy and law to create greater incentives for those that wish to take advantage of Cape Verdean investments as well as working to create competitive sectors so that firms can invest, that they can be more competitive, and do business and make profits for themselves. Investors can satisfy their own stockholders.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Mr. President? President Koroma.
PRESIDENT KOROMA: Thank you very much. I personally believe that the civil society play a very important role in the entire democratic process. I believe they should be partners with government in the foregrounds of the efforts of developing the specific sectors that they represent.
We have no problems with the operations of civil society. I think the difficulty is when you are faced with a situation wherein you cannot clearly define the role of the civil society, what are the objectives that they are trying to achieve. A professional civil society that becomes an advocate for the voiceless, representing the other side of the views that are not normally visible from a government point of view is acceptable. But when civil society gets to a point of putting out negatives only to attract foreign attention and foreign funding, I think it is counterproductive. What I believe strongly, that the civil should be part of an effective government system. (Applause.) With that, we are open and consider them as partners in development. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. President Banda.
PRESIDENT BANDA: Thank you very much indeed. In Malawi, civil society provides checks and balances. They are partners in any democracy. And I, myself, came from the civil society, so I’m a product of the civil society. I look upon them as partners. When there is a fight between the civil society and government, it only confuses the ordinary people, the voiceless that we are all supposed to serve.
In Malawi, they are involved in voter education, they’re involved in safeguarding the rights of disadvantaged people, and any leader that is a democrat should take advantage of the issues they raise in order to serve the people better. Right now, they’re enjoying total freedom, but I’ve always said that the civil society in Malawi and the international NGOs that come to work in Malawi have to forge partnerships. They have to work in partnership, because it is the local people, the real indigenous NGOs, the civil society of Malawi, that are better able to understand the issues that affect ordinary people. And when they forge partnerships, they are better able to yield more for the benefit of the ordinary people.
It really breaks my heart when the international community comes in, international NGOs come in, and think that they can do it alone and ignore the indigenous people. (Applause.) We in Africa, we know exactly what to do. We know how to get from point A to point B. We know how to get our people out of desperate situations or out of poverty, or whatever issues we want to raise. And it breaks my heart when international NGOs come in Africa with abundant resources at their disposal, but they just waste those resources or they don’t know where to start from. They don’t know what to do. (Applause.) When they go into partnership with the ordinary people, local people, local indigenous NGOs, then they are better – then they are able to achieve more when they work on the ground.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: President Banda, thank you very much for those remarks. Two groups in Africa that are essential to Africa’s well-being and future are sometimes neglected and overlooked.
We’ve gotten several questions from the audience that asks: In many African countries, African youth comprise the majority of the population. In many African countries, women are over 50 percent of the population. What are you doing to ensure that the youth of your countries are going to turn out to be the future leaders of your country who are going to continue to support democracy and strong economic development? What are you doing to ensure the inclusivity of women in all of your activities in your countries?
And we’ll start, if we could, this time around with Prime Minister Neves.
PRIME MINISTER NEVES: (Via interpreter) These are two of the more interesting matters that can possibly be discussed. First let’s look at youth. I think that fundamentally we have to invest in their training and education. If you invest in education – that in every sense is fundamental to be able to provide any type of response to the needs and desires of the youth, basic education, secondary education, university training, and professional and technical training. Whatever type of training and education, invest heavily in them to create conditions where they have the possibilities to be employed once graduated and to create the necessary conditions to support their entrepreneurial spirit, that they have spirit, and that they have space to build a business, that they can set up their own terms of employment, create their own businesses.
We can create incubators within firms as it were, but also conditions permitting them to be hired, promoted, that they too benefit from tax incentives. We already have many youth creating their own small businesses, where for the first three years they are able to operate tax free. And we also further measure where the youth can have greater access – easier access to all levels of education. In the last few years, two percent of our full GDP budget and education rose to 22 percent, which is one of the highest rates of spending on education throughout the African continent.
Now in terms of women, women undoubtedly represent the future of humanity, period. And so – and therefore, it’s fundamental to invest in the equality and equity that they deserve. And to give you an example, I have budgets that include gender questions, gender evaluation, because typically poverty is more frequent in female quarters. We have to reduce at all costs the inequalities in the distribution of power and the distribution of wealth, and we in Cape Verde have created an equality institute or a gender equality and equity institute to promote even greater equality between men and women.
And let me tell you that behind any – it used to be said that behind every great man there’s a great woman. We need to now say that beside every great man, there is a great woman. And that’s the line that we wish to further in the future, creating many opportunities. And to give an example, even at the level of government, at a given point in time and even to this day we have full parity amongst all our – in 15 ministers, we have eight women ministers, and these are an important and essential portfolios for government maintenance so that they can participate fully in the governance of the country. And this is not really a question of just numbers, but we support the business entrepreneurial spirit of women – education for women to support women in the creation of small businesses, of their own businesses.
And lastly, to combat a question which has been fundamental throughout, and that’s violence against women. Unfortunately in Africa, we’re well aware of the fact that this problem still exists, and we have to do everything possible, everything within our power, to combat domestic violence, to combat gender-based violence. And we approved, with the support of the United Stated Government – and [former] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave us immense support in this regard – we were able to approve a law against gender-based violence, which is having immediate and great results throughout Cape Verde.
And let me wind up. These are very deep questions. Maybe I have gone on too much, but they’re two issues that are of very deep personal interest to me. But let me say that we have to have a full commitment by African leadership in terms of opportunities, greater opportunities to be given to youth in the future and equality and gender equality and equity to give ever greater opportunities to women. Only in a society where equals coexist can there be people that are free. Only in a free society with free people can there be greater equality. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Mr. President. Thank you.
PRESIDENT KOROMA: On the issue of the youths, as a government, we have taken it up very seriously, because the youths were the most affected during the war and others, and therefore in trying to rehabilitate the country and move the country forward, we must pay attention on the youth. That is why we have established a National Youth Commission that is charged with the responsibility of coordinating all the youths’ activities as we engage them.
Additionally, recently, I have appointed or created a ministry of youth to really focus on activities of the youth. And we consider the youth factor so important, and personally I have committed my second term to developing the youth and ensuring that they are capacitated, they are empowered with what it takes for them to realize the benefits of the new opportunities that are imagined in the country. (Applause.)
Now we have also involved a good number of them in a position of trust. I have youth serving as full-time ministers in the government and – (applause) – project ministers, which is giving them an opportunity to be exposed to leadership. So it’s not about leaders of tomorrow. They are already involved in the leadership process of today. (Applause.)
And on the issue of the women, it’s also very important. They constitute the majority of our population. And of course we have the unique complexities and backgrounds. Most of it is customary and otherwise. But to address the issues to empower the women to ensure that we position them alongside with men, we have enacted gender acts that have ensured that the issues of inheritance, the issues of marriage regularize. We have also enacted a sexual offenses act that makes any act – a sexual act against a woman a crime against the state.
And we have also given women positions that have not been provided them in the past. The Chief Justice of the country is a woman. The Solicitor General is a woman. The Commissioner General for the Revenue Authority is a woman. And we have a host of them. They dominate the Supreme Court. And we have a good number of them now serving as role models. And even in the military, we are the country with the only general that is a woman within the sovereign. And these are examples of giving opportunities to women to take leadership roles. (Applause.) I think we are succeeding in that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you, Mr. President. President Banda.
PRESIDENT BANDA: Yeah, thank you very much indeed.
More than 50 percent of the women – of the people of Malawi are women, and I’m also informed that those 50 percent give birth to the rest. (Laughter and applause.)
When we empower women, we empower a nation. When we look at Africa, we look at the population growth. When you look, you find a woman with more than ten children, and you tell this woman, “Don’t you think this is enough,” she’ll look back at you and say, “You have wealth. I have children.” So until and unless we deal with the issue of income, children will continue to be born.
When you go in hospitals, when I fight maternal mortality, when I go into hospitals the women that are dying giving birth are between the ages of 15 to 19. The reason why they are dying is because they are not going to secondary school, because they can’t afford the $50. So the community then encourages them to get married. Unless and until we seek out the issue of income at household level, these girls are going to continue to die, because staying four more years in secondary school is not only about her future but also her life, the health of the woman. Therefore, it is imperative, it is very important, for us to sort out the issue of income at household level, particularly for the poor – education for the women.
Number two, their participation in leadership. We have already demonstrated this in Africa. And I want to thank our African men for creating space for women of Africa to participate in leadership at this level. (Applause.) I say this because there are some parts of this world that are still struggling to get the women into state house. So it is – it’s a fact. But in Africa we have two women presidents, but we have also got – (applause) – the head of the African Union, a woman. So it is our time as African woman to seize this opportunity to get as many women as possible into leadership. (Applause.)
The thirdly is education for the girl child. Our girls must go to school. And our girls must go to school and must stay in school.
The fourth is income for the women. The women must have an income, because when the household at a grassroots level has an income, the girls will go to school. The girls will go to hospital. The status of the family, we shall automatically improve.
As far as the youth are concerned, in Malawi what we are doing is, at grassroots, for those that missed out on education, we are mobilizing women and youth and we’re supporting them and helping them to grow crops that have export potential so that they can have an income. So we have mobilized the youth and women and provided them with farms to grow crops. And the good news is that this year, we are heading for a bumper harvest.
But I also think it is very, very important for the youth to participate in leadership, and I want to agree with President Koroma that the youth are not leaders of tomorrow. The youth are leaders of today. (Applause.) We postpone their participation in leadership by telling them they are leaders of tomorrow. So perhaps allow me to introduce my Minister of Trade. (Applause.) I want to introduce my Minister of Trade. (Laughter and applause.)
Thank you. I don’t need to say more. I rest my case. (Laughter and applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. I think we’re running short on time, and if I could, I’m going to ask President Macky Sall to say a few short words on women and youth.
PRESIDENT SALL: (Via interpreter). Thank you very much. It’s quite difficult to say anything more, after all these presentations, to say something that hasn’t said yet. But I would just say that African society is a very young society. Africa is a young continent. The Prime Minister said so. In Senegal, as in most other countries, 70 percent of the population is under 25. So just imagine, 70 percent are under 25. So the challenge to our governments – these are major challenges.
First of all, education, which remains the crosscutting issue, be it for women or for young people. There is a proverb that says that if you train a man, you train a citizen; if you train a woman, you train a society. Because a trained and educated woman has her entire family – her entire children benefit from her status. And this is geometrical, and as – this means that everybody in society will be educated and trained. So we must absolutely carry out these educational training efforts, empowerment efforts, towards women. But also, we must promote youth, because if the youth are not taken into account, they will take their own affairs into their own hands by the streets. So we absolutely need well educated, well trained people training the youth. It doesn’t just mean having universities. Yes, that’s fundamental. Today we have six universities, and we’ve created a brand new university, which is in the center of the country.
But above all, we must provide vocational training for jobs, for skills, which means that people who do manual labor should be just as respected as people who conduct intellectual work. And in Africa we have suffered very much from that. We follow the French tradition since independence. We’ve always considered that people who conduct manual labor are, in fact, at the bottom of the scale, which means that everybody wants to become lawyers, doctors, engineers, but a society cannot continue according to that model. No, we need manual workers, we need bakers, we need masons. We need everybody, need everything to create a society. And we need to give value to that in order to give more jobs, more possibilities to the youth, to ensure that the most productive sectors of the continent, namely agriculture and modernized agriculture, should be able to occupy most of our workforce.
And finally, with respect to women, we have a law on gender equality which has been in force for the elections, which means that a person who does not apply the principle of parity, if you are a candidate, you cannot be elected. And this is being enforced today. We see it in parliament, we see it for the upcoming elections at the city and local election, and this is a principle that would be applied thanks to a commission, which means there has been progress that have been made in Africa. Well, of course, Africa – it’s also the continent where we still have official polygamy. Yes, we must acknowledge this status, the situation of our societies. But this has to be a dynamic, a momentum, a thrust. Polygamy, you see it in other societies. It’s not just in Africa. We accept it and we assume – I’m not a polygamist, rest assured. I have but one wife. (Laughter.)
I just want to say that you shouldn’t get the wrong target. Women’s empowerment, it’s just not equality of laws, but it’s the living conditions of women in rural environments, the hardship of work, delivery, giving birth, as you said, Madam President. That is what the government must take into account. We have to educate them. We have to give electricity in the villages. We must have the the health care centers to take care of prenatal care, to allow rural women to give birth under better conditions, to ensure that the hardship of their labor be reduced and they become true citizens of the world.
So I wouldn’t want to see the evolution of women exclusively for intellectuals and in urban centers. Yes, that’s important. But we must also ensure that rural women have better living conditions.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: We have many, many more questions from the audience that we will not be able to take this morning. But this has been a very stimulating and delightful dialogue with four great African leaders. We all here in the United States are proud of them being in Washington with us over the last several days. And we’re especially proud that they are, in fact – share the values and principles that we in the United States believe in. Our strong democratic institutions, our respect, and deep respect, for human rights and civil liberties, our commitment to economic growth and prosperity, and a respect and understanding of the importance of women and youth and exclusivity in our democracy, as well as the importance of a strong civil society.
But we’re extraordinarily pleased to have been able to host this event with President Macky Sall, President Banda, President Koroma, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde. I hope that you have all in the audience found this program to be as stimulating and rewarding as I have. So I thank them all. And I turn the podium back over to the president of the United States Institute for Peace, Jim Marshall. And we thank him personally, and we thank his colleagues for, again, opening up their facilities for this wonderful event. (Applause.)
MR. MARSHALL: Well, Ambassador Carson and all of our guests, I was inspired by your remarks. Leadership like yours clearly bodes well for the future of Africa. You set an example for the world, and it’s an example of hope, and it’s an example that is inspiring. So thank you all for coming. It was a delight to host you. I would ask that the audience remain seated while we have our guests and their entourages leave. So please be seated, and with that we’ll close the event with my thanks and the thanks of the Institute. Thank you all.