South Sudan / Common Humanitarian Fund allocates $60 million to kick start aid operations in 2015

JUBA, South Sudan, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) has allocated $60 million to get the humanitarian response for 2015 off to a timely start. The money will support aid agencies to take maximum advantage of the onset of South Sudan’s dry season, during which aid agencies plan to use roads to deliver aid to as many people as possible.

“Thanks to donors, this CHF allocation allows humanitarian partners to hit the ground running from 1 January,” said Toby Lanzer, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan. “However, it is only 10 per cent of the $600 million we need by the end of February if we are to save more lives and reach all people in acute need in early 2015,” he continued.

The largest portion of the CHF funding will support non-food items and emergency shelter, water and sanitation, and livelihood supplies. Seeds and tools must be in the right locations by April so that communities can make the most of the planting season. With a projected 2.5 million people facing food insecurity between January and March, such support is critical. Funding will also go toward camp coordination, education, emergency telecommunications, health, logistics, and protection.

The South Sudan Common Humanitarian Fund is a multi-donor pooled fund established in 2012. Since the current crisis began, the CHF has allocated $194.5 million in South Sudan. Current donors include: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

This CHF allocation comes as aid agencies in South Sudan are appealing for $1.81 billion dollars for 2015 to support 4.1 million people in need. With more timely funding available at the outset of 2015, aid agencies would be well positioned to meet the most acute needs.

Categories: AFRICA, AFRICAN COUNTRIES, South Sudan

DRC: Conviction of Colonel 106 major boost in fight against impunity – Zeid

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today welcomed the conviction and sentencing of Lieutenant Colonel Bedi Mobuli Engangela for committing crimes against humanity between 2005 and 2007 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Engangela, better known as ‘Colonel 106′ after the battalion he commanded, was on Monday sentenced to life in prison for murder, rape, sexual slavery, torture, abduction, and “imprisonment and other forms of grave deprivation of physical liberty.”

“Such a high-profile conviction of a senior officer will, I hope, bring some measure of comfort and catharsis to the victims of the horrific human rights violations committed and ordered by Engangela,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “This case is a major boost in the fight against impunity in the DRC.”

In line with the Government’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual violence, the UN in 2007 urged it to bring to justice perpetrators of sexual violence, including commanding officers involved in a number of cases. An arrest warrant was issued for one of these officers, Engangela, in September 2011 and the UN Joint Human Rights Office, working with other components of MONUSCO*, the UN Development Programme, and national and international justice partners, has since then provided important assistance to military authorities on this case.

MONUSCO’s support enabled the prosecution to identify some 900 victims during preliminary investigations. Eighty victims and eyewitnesses were then able to testify at Engangela’s trial, including 31 victims of sexual violence. The fact that the UN Joint Human Rights Office worked closely with the authorities to set up a witness protection system, allowing witnesses to testify without fear of retaliation, was another extremely important element contributing to the eventual landmark conviction and life sentence.

Engangela’s conviction comes a month after another high-ranking officer, General Jérôme Kakwavu, was sentenced by the High Military Court in Kinshasa to 10 years in prison for rape and war crimes committed in Ituri district by himself and his armed group, the Forces armées du Peuple congolais (FAPC), between 2003 and 2005.

The High Commissioner called on the authorities in the DRC to build on the momentum created by these cases to continue to prioritise justice and accountability for gross human rights violations, and to ensure that victims of such crimes receive adequate assistance and compensation. Equally, the authorities should ensure that the rights of the accused – to a fair trial and to appeal judicial decisions – are fully respected, Zeid said.

Categories: AFRICA, AFRICAN COUNTRIES, Congo, Democratic Republic of | Tags:

ICC : African Countries Support Court

ICC: African Countries Support Court / Annual Meeting of Member Countries

NEW YORK, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — African countries expressed strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the 13th Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, the court’s founding document, African and international organizations present at the session said today. The governments showed a more positive picture of Africa’s relationship with the ICC than is often reflected in public debates, the organizations said.


The ICC’s Assembly of States Parties met from December 8-17, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters for its regular annual session. ICC members approved the court’s budget and elected six new judges to the court, in addition to discussing topics such as cooperation with the court.


“While a few vocal African governments are intent on portraying the ICC as anti-African and trying to undermine the court, the real picture is quite different,” said Esther Waweru of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. “Just ask the president of the Central African Republic, who expressed deep gratitude to the ICC for assisting her country in the wake of serious crimes there, and the many other African countries that took the floor in support of the ICC.”


This year the Assembly of States Parties elected the first African to be its president, Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba of Senegal. Kaba stressed Senegal’s “unwavering determination to defend the essential principles and values” of the ICC and made a commitment to reconcile the ICC with all regions of the world, including Africa. He pointed out that Africa has the largest number of ICC members and that Africans form a considerable percentage of ICC staff, including four judges and the prosecutor. He also noted that Africans have been the first to seek the court’s intervention.


More than a dozen African countries represented by senior government officials expressed strong support for the court’s work at the session. The president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, affirmed the court’s role as a crucial tool in the fight against impunity, and said that the court was essential in delivering justice for victims of grave international crimes. Others included officials from Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Zambia.


South Africa highlighted the ICC as a “bastion in the fight against impunity.” Ghana affirmed that it remains “committed to the importance” of the ICC to punishing and deterring crimes, and Nigeria indicated that the ICC is “increasingly becoming a critical global institution.” Côte d’Ivoire stressed the court’s “positive value” in prosecuting serious crimes, Sierra Leone highlighted its “deep commitment to the court,” and Lesotho called the ICC a “key instrument” in advancing justice. The Democratic Republic of Congo noted that the ICC is “a gift of hope” for future generations.


Ghana, Gambia, and Lesotho also affirmed the need to protect the court’s independence, which ran counter to Kenya’s unsuccessful initiative to have a special session at the meeting on the conduct of court officials in relation to current cases.


Zambia highlighted the role of African governments in requesting the ICC’s involvement, while other countries such as Nigeria conveyed their commitment to adopt laws to implement the ICC statute domestically and to cooperate with the court. Namibia, Burkina Faso, and Ghana urged other countries to join the court.


“With the general debate of the assembly’s 13th session, most African states showed strong support for the ICC,” said Aboubacry Mbodji of the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, based in Senegal. “A minority of African states remains hostile to the court, but civil society will continue to mobilize to bring them along to ensure the court is able to function with the full support that it needs.”


Kenya and Uganda, and to a lesser extent Tanzania, criticized the court in their interventions, while also expressing support. Kenya even indicated it would remain “a strong champion” of the ICC.


African ICC members also offered a group statement, delivered by Lesotho, which affirmed their “unwavering support” for the ICC and their “highest regard for the Rome Statute.” The statement also noted that the African Union’s calls for non-cooperation with the court “should not obscure the consistent, active backing for the ICC among African governments and civil society across the African continent.” The statement said that the AU’s concerns with the ICC relate in large part to Security Council action around the AU’s request to defer to the Darfur situation, and not to any action taken by the court itself.


At the same time, the African group statement reaffirmed the AU’s call for the court’s statute to be amended to include immunity before the court for sitting officials. Such immunity was included in the protocol to expand the regional African Court on Justice and Human Rights, which was adopted in July.


At the Assembly of States Parties session, a judge from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, was elected to an ICC judgeship, along with five other judges from France, Germany, Hungary, South Korea, and Poland. The election of Mindua brings the total number of African judges at the ICC to five. The other African judges are from Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.


“Africans are playing a significant role at the ICC,” said Ibrahim Tommy of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law in Sierra Leone. “In addition to an African prosecutor, we have five African judges and the president of the court’s assembly is now the Senegalese justice minister. This reflects strategic engagement by significant segments of Africa in the court’s important work.”


All of the court’s current investigations are of situations in Africa, which the court’s critics frequently raise. But the majority of the court’s situations came about as a result of requests by the specific country for the ICC to open an investigation. Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Uganda asked the ICC to investigate crimes. The UN Security Council referred Darfur, Sudan, and Libya to the ICC. The Office of the Prosecutor acted solely on its own initiative in only one situation: Kenya.


At the same time, the Security Council has allowed political considerations to affect its decisions on referring situations to the court arising in countries that are not ICC members. This undermines the cause of justice and should be addressed by more universal ratification of the court’s treaty, which allows the court to exercise its authority without the Security Council, and more consistent action in support of justice by the council, the organizations said.


Nongovernmental groups from Burundi, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia were present for the session. Ahead of the session, African groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa, the Coalition for the ICC, International Federation for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch issued recommendations to African ICC countries for the session.


“Justice – and not immunity – when serious crimes are committed is central to democratic societies,” said Timothy Mtambo of Malawi’s Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “We have asked our leaders to remain true to the ICC’s Rome Statute and other instruments they ascribe to.”




John Kerry Remarks With Angolan Foreign Minister

Remarks With Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti After Their Meeting

WASHINGTON, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington, DC

December 17, 2014



SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome Foreign Minister Chikoti of Angola to here in Washington, and very much appreciate the opportunity to reciprocate the foreign minister’s generous welcome to me when I was privileged to be in Angola last summer. We agreed that we would engage in a good dialogue on an ongoing basis, which has been absent from our relationship, frankly, for too long. And so it was really good to be able to welcome him here today to continue the dialogue that we began when I was in Luanda.

Before we begin, though, it is important for me today to say a few words about the release of Alan Gross and the decision the President of the United States made today. Particularly, I am happy to be able to talk about Alan after the unspeakable tragedies of this past week in Peshawar and in Sydney, and every single one of us are really grateful to see Alan home on American soil, to see him free, to see him reunited with his family, to feel and witness the joy that this family is sharing today and that all the people in our country are sharing on their behalf. It couldn’t be a better gift for the holiday season, and I had the privilege of meeting earlier today with Alan and his wife, Judy, at Andrews Air Force Base shortly after he came back and shortly after I was able to return from my trip abroad.

I want to say that Judy, who we have gotten to know here in the State Department over the course of these months, years, has been absolutely indefatigable. She’s been extraordinary. And she has kept hope alive that today could be a reality. We’re all overwhelmingly happy that Alan is now free and reunited with his family and on American soil.

I was a 17 year old kid when I first heard an American President talk about Cuba as an “imprisoned island.” And for five and a half decades since, our policy towards Cuba has remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic, and stable Cuba. There is no other country in the world to which we have closed our lives for as long as we have closed them to Cuba. The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, and the wall separating Americans and Cubans has yet to come down. Not only has this policy failed to advance America’s goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba.

And the truth is that we have reached out to countries where our wounds were far deeper than they are with Cuba and actually far more recent than they are with Cuba. Beginning more than 20 years ago, I saw firsthand how three presidents, one Republican and two Democrats, undertook a similar effort to change the United States’ relationship with Vietnam. And it wasn’t easy and it still isn’t complete today. But it had to start somewhere, and make no mistake: It has worked. We made peace; we normalized relations; we even signed a trade deal with Vietnam, and anybody who has traveled there today will tell you how much that country has changed and is continuing to change. Are there things yet to achieve? Of course. But we are dealing with a country in which thousands of Americans died during the course of our lifetime. That is not the situation with Cuba.

So today, we have a choice. We can ignore change and resist it, or we can mold it and channel it into a new set of policies.

Since 2009, when he first became President, President Obama has taken steps forward to change our relationship and to improve the lives of the people of Cuba by easing restrictions on remittances and on family travel. And with this new opening, the President has committed the United States to begin to chart an even more ambitious course forward.

In January, as part of the President’s directive to discuss moving toward re-establishing diplomatic relations, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson will travel to Cuba to lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks. And I look forward, at the right time, to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba. At President Obama’s request, I have also asked my team to initiate a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In the months ahead, a critical focus of our increased engagement will continue to be improving the Cuban Government’s respect for human rights and advocating for democratic reforms within Cuba. The change that President Obama announced today will empower the Cuban people to shape their own future, and we all share in ensuring that the people of Cuba enjoy the political, economic, and social freedoms that have spread throughout our hemisphere. Promoting freedom of speech and entrepreneurship and an active civil society will only help reintegrate Cuba into the international community. And after more than 50 years of trying to isolate Cuba, a policy that has obviously not worked and has isolated us more than them, it is time to try working with the Cuban people to build a better and different future.

And building a new future is exactly what brings us here today for the U.S.-Angola Strategic Dialogue.

Over the past months, I have spoken often about African leadership and this moment of promise and decision for all Africans. We had the Africa Summit here this summer in Washington, the first ever with leaders from more than 40 countries, all here at the same time to help shape the vision for the future. Angola is committed to making the most of this moment through its very important role as a leader in the region, particularly on security issues. And I was very encouraged today by the depth and breadth of our discussion. I will tell you, the foreign minister did not come here today asking me for one specific program or another about Angola. Today, this foreign minister talked to me about Syria, about Israel, Palestine, about Ukraine, and about the challenges that Angola will face as a new member next January of the Security Council of the United Nations.

So we have a different relationship now, and we need to build on it. Angola is playing an integral role in bringing African nations together to forge an enduring peace in the Great Lakes region. And the crisis in the Great Lakes continues to trouble us all. The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of some of the most horrific crimes of violence against women and girls that are imaginable. And it’s a powerful reminder of the obligations that we all share not only to end the killing and the fear, but to work for the birth of a new generation of stability and hope.

I want to thank President dos Santos for his personal commitment to that effort, particularly for Angola’s chairmanship of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. President dos Santos and Foreign Minister Chikoti – their engagement with regional leaders has been and remains critical for ending the threat of armed groups in eastern DRC. And no group poses a more immediate threat to the stability in the region than the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, as they are known in the region.

The United States continues to support a two-track approach to ending the threat of the FDLR, which includes demobilization and robust military efforts. And we all know that the six-month grace period for the peaceful surrender expires on January 2nd, just around the corner. The choice is clear: If the FDLR chooses the path of demobilization, the international community – all of us – will welcome it. If the FDLR does not make that choice, the DRC military and UN peacekeeping mission must act to ensure that the region delivers on its commitment to end the threat of the FDLR once and for all.

I want to emphasize that the great dividends of our partnership with Angola extend beyond the DRC. On issue after issue, our interests are aligning like never before. We’re working together on maritime security. We’re combating piracy. We’re working against illegal fishing. We also discussed important issues like human trafficking, which has been a concern. And yesterday, a senior delegation of Angolan diplomats came to Washington for discussions with our team here in Washington. We are looking forward in the days ahead to working very, very closely with Angola in their responsibilities as a member of the Security Council, and we actually began that discussion in a very serious way today.

We’re particularly pleased that Angola has recently taken steps to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. This is a treaty of conscience, and for nearly 100 years, the world has stood up for the international norm against the use of chemical weapons and, of course, of war. And the reason is simple: All nations are safer when these weapons cease to exist. I want you just to think: Before Russia and the United States came to an agreement to take chemical weapons out of Syria, they were spread around the country. Imagine what would happen now if we had not succeeded in removing those chemical weapons, when Daesh has taken over control of a large percentage of the country. It might have had access to those weapons. That turns out to have been a providential choice and decision and accomplishment. And during our conversation today, I emphasized to Foreign Minister Chikoti that the United States stands ready to assist Angola in meeting the treaty’s obligations. The danger of these weapons falling into the wrong hands should compel all of us to build consensus for action.

Now Foreign Minister Chikoti and I also discussed the importance of bilateral trade and continuing to grow the economic relationship between us. Angola is one of our most important trading partners in Africa and globally, and Angola’s economy has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. In our discussions, we have begun consideration, and we will continue over the next months and years to talk about the ways that the United States and Angola can grow our trade and investment relationship. In particular, we want to deepen our cooperation in agriculture, technology, energy diversity, and infrastructure. And when I was in Luanda, we talked at some length about those possibilities. These are the building blocks of a modern, dynamic economy.

Last May, when I visited the port of Luanda, I met with energy company executives, and I learned about the numbers of Angolans that are being hired and that are being trained in that industry. I also saw firsthand how our investments are improving the business climate and increasing Angola’s economic integration into the region – actually leveraging Angola’s leadership in many ways. So we need to make sure that this progress continues. And it is clear that when we stand together, and when we stand with nations that are trying to make the kind of progress that Angola is today, we all share in the success.

This is a moment of great opportunity for the U.S.-Angola partnership. It’s also a moment of decision. We would like to be Angola’s partner of choice. And so we’re making the right choices now, I think, on regional and global security, and the UN, and in our economic partnership.

So, Minister Chikoti, Georges, thank you again for your visit. These are important days. As I’ve said, we need to work together, rely on each other – I know you do and we do – and we very much look forward to building the strength of the partnership that you defined when we were in Luanda, and I’m very happy to have you back here in Washington.


SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, my friend.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHIKOTI: (Via interpreter) I would like first to thank Secretary Kerry for the invitation for us to come visit the United States of America at this particular time. I would also like to thank Secretary Kerry for his visit to Luanda last May. And after his visit, many things have been happening between our two countries. Of course, after that we had the summit of African heads of state here in the U.S., and during that meeting Angola and the U.S. signed the Ex-Im Bank agreement which will allow us to finance transportation projects, as well as energy projects.

And also – and with Ambassador La Lime in Angola, we’ve been accelerating our cooperation which have opened the way to meetings of the technical groups, preparing for the summit about security and energy at the Gulf of Guinea, which will take place at the beginning of next year – probably during the first quarter. And we observed that the level of the agreements – AGOA as well, and the TIFA – and the TIFA – are witness of a cooperation between Angola and the U.S.

Our conversation today was especially important because we didn’t just talk about bilateral issues, as the Secretary Kerry mentioned. We talked about human rights, we talked about our agreements on human trafficking and the cooperation that we have among our institutions and both governments.

Also the U.S. were happy with Angola about the chemical weapons convention, which is being reviewed by our parliament. Of course, all countries in the world should work towards a world freer from such weapons. Therefore, our meeting with the U.S. was extremely important, taking into account all the aspects of our bilateral cooperation.

Of course, we talked about the Great Lakes region. The U.S. congratulated what Angola has been doing along those lines, so that the – our contribution of – towards peace in that area grows. That is a region that should already be in peace, but there are some rebel groups there. The collective efforts of the region have allowed the end of the M23 and then the ADF-NALU, but the FDLR is still a concern for us, and it is a pertinent item on our agenda. And the international conference on the Great Lakes – the UN, local organizations are all working very hard to see an end to this. We need a peaceful solution and FDLR have to abide by their promises. Up to the 2nd of January, such forces will have to demilitarize, and that is their compromise.

FIB, under the UN, will be watchful and will have to make them do their part. The recent meeting between SADC, the International Conference of Great Lakes, the African Union and the EU in Addis Ababa discussed the importance of this issue, and we all have a duty to make it so that those forces do their part and we are ready to act if they don’t.

We also talked about important issue that the Secretary of State mentioned, especially global security, the Middle East, the situation in Israel, in Syria, Ukraine. And therefore we talked about many issues and our conversations show that we share our opinion on all of them. And as far as the UN is concerned, we will continue to cooperate. We will continue conversing. And Africa and Angola, of course, representing the African continent with the other three countries will work in a coordinated way with the security and peace council of the African Union.

Therefore I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the U.S. for the decision that President Obama made today about sanctions against Cuba to start diplomatic relations with that country, because this is a battle in which we were on opposite sides.

Therefore for many, many years, there was this oppression of the Cuban people for not being able to have a relationship with the U.S., therefore we congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry, because it was not comfortable to see the U.S. condemn Cuba at the General Assembly of the UN due to its policies. And the U.S. was also looking at Cuba as a sponsor of international terrorism, and this is all changing. So this is a better and bigger dialogue space that’s being opened not only with Cuba but with all the countries that supported Cuba. Therefore our congratulations to the U.S. for that.

Once more, I would like to thank you for inviting me, Mr. Secretary, so that Angola and the U.S. can meet under the auspices of the Strategic Partnership Dialogue and I think that we did much more during this period in which Mr. Secretary has been in office. We met in Addis Ababa and he visited us this year, and we met during the African Summit. And this shows the commitment of the U.S. in a very positive way, and we’d like to encourage this effort on the part of the U.S. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Ali Weinberg of ABC News.

QUESTION: Thank you. To Mr. Secretary, there’s a lot going on in the world so I hope you’ll indulge me in asking about two topics.

First on Cuba, several members of Congress have already made their opposition known to lifting the trade embargo and related measures announced today over which they do have some discretion. How do you expect the political atmosphere here in the United States to affect your efforts to normalize relations with Cuba?

And second, you met with Alan Gross today and you talked a bit about that. But how did you perceive his health and his demeanor? Can you tell us a bit about how he’s doing?

Second, on the UN efforts —

SECRETARY KERRY: Third. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Fair enough. Palestinian leaders are reportedly planning to submit a UN Security resolution as early as this afternoon – perhaps they’ve already done it since we’ve been in this room – that would demand an Israeli pullout from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. What is your understanding of the status of that resolution at this time, and how would the United States respond to it? And to what extent does the planned submission of this resolution undermine your efforts earlier this week to find common ground between Israelis and Palestinians?

And finally, for Foreign Minister Chikoti, how concerned are you on maritime security that the Gulf of Guinea will become a bigger problem for Angola and its neighbors with respect to terrorism threats? And to what extent did that come up today during the Strategic Dialogue? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want to go first? Go ahead, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHIKOTI: Okay. Well, I don’t know whether I’m going to answer in English or in Portuguese. I think the Angolan press – but maybe —


FOREIGN MINISTER CHIKOTI: I think this conference is particularly important, and we should congratulate the ambassador of the United States in Angola because very recently Angola was faced with a terrorist attack on one of its platforms, and we did not realize up till now how important and serious the threat was on the Gulf of Guinea.

But what we’ve got to look at is that the Gulf of Guinea represents a lot, and that we – there is about 25 percent of world crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea. But you also have many countries and borders and a lot of trade within the region, so the safety of the Gulf of Guinea is particularly important, and that’s why this conference is going to be a conference on security and energy. Most of the countries in the region produce oil, which is naturally consumed by the international community. And so we think that unless we address very well this issue of the – having a navy that is capable in the region, but if we can’t do it, then we will have to have our partners – the United States, France, and others who are our international partners – who eventually can work with our armies to make sure that we guarantee security in that particular region.

I think that one of the issues will also be interstates. I think that some of the piracy comes from within the states of the region. I think that one will have to be handled by government within the region. So I think we need to work on all these aspects of the problem so that we solve the problem. So we’ve got to talk during the conference, propose solutions, and then looking at how local governments will do their part and how we can bring in our partners as well so that we can guarantee security in that region.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Minister. Thank you. With respect to the members of Congress, the members of Congress who oppose what the President did today and the Administration absolutely share the same goal. We want a Cuba that is free. We want a Cuba where human rights are respected, where it’s democratic and the people of the country have the ability to make choices.

The President’s announcement today is calculated to open up opportunity both for the people of Cuba but also to begin to break down the barriers that have existed for all these years so that we can hopefully make progress on the other issues of concern: the democracy, human rights, the ability of people to move and travel and make choices. And we’re confident that the choices the President made today are going to make some difference. Now we hope in the normalization process, which we will engage in now, that further progress will be made. And we also hope that over the course of the next months and years, the people of Cuba are going to change Cuba. And that’s what I think will happen here.

Now we recognize some members have strong feelings about it, as do some people in the country, but these are the choices one has to make. And we welcome the debate. We will obviously engage with Congress very, very closely when Congress returns next year. And hopefully, people will see ultimately the wisdom and the possibilities of these openings. For many years, we have engaged with countries far bigger, far more threatening, in some cases more repressive, in various places in the world, because we have to deal with governments that are there. And when you remain isolated, you really cut yourself off from any potential.

If a policy hasn’t worked in 60 years – you know the old saying, “If you’re digging a hole and if you’re getting deeper and deeper, stop digging.” And I think a lot of people feel this is the time for a change. Life is different; the world is different; communications are different; people have access to more information. We will not stop standing with civil society or fighting for human rights or fighting for democracy. All of those are part of the agenda. And the President very specifically said that in going to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, Cuba’s participation, he believes, is conditioned by this notion that civil society will also take part and that human rights and democracy will be on the agenda. And it should be on the agenda.

So we’re quite ready to have a good dialogue with Congress and we hope that people will see the wisdom of the choice the President – courageous choice the President made today.

With respect to Alan Gross, he was – I mean, look, this is a man who just won his freedom, just touched down in America five years after imprisonment. And I know from our efforts over the course of the last few years, even when I was in the Senate, we engaged in efforts to try to see if the release could be won.

And most recently, I talked with the foreign minister a number of months ago when Alan’s mother was very, very sick and we had hoped to be able to have him released before she passed away. We didn’t succeed, and Alan was very despondent. The – I know I wrote him a personal note at one point in time to – because we were concerned and his lawyers and his wife was particularly concerned about his state of health. Today I saw a man who was rejuvenated by freedom, by seeing his wife again, by being restored to American soil, and by knowing that he had made it. He told me he was buoyed always by his own sense of humor, and I think you saw touches of that today.

So I’m confident he’s asked for his privacy. I’m sure at some point people will get to know him better, but for the moment I think we’ve seen a man who buoyantly and excitedly and passionately extolled the virtues of being an American, and gratitude for being back in the United States.

With respect to the UN resolution, we haven’t seen the language yet. We don’t know precisely what was filed. We’ve been troubled by some of the language that had been out there at different points of time, but it’s premature for us to be commenting on language we haven’t seen, to comment on a process that has not yet fully taken shape. We don’t have any problem with them filing some resolution providing it’s done in a spirit of working with people to see how we could proceed forward in a thoughtful way that solves the problem, doesn’t make it worse. What we are focused on is reducing the violence, reducing the sense of confrontation, trying to make certain that the people of Israel can conduct their election in an atmosphere where they can focus on their issues internally, not externally imposed. And our hope is to be able to advance the process, not set it back. That’s our goal.

With respect to it undermining the chances of long-term reform, well, that depends. I don’t believe that will happen if people act responsibly. And if people come together, work together, exert an effort to try to find the common ground here, I’m confident that the people of Israel are as interested in peace as are the people in Palestine, in the West Bank, in Jordan, and in the region. But this is not the moment to opine on that process. There’s an election underway, and I think we need to see it progress and pull our efforts together in the most constructive way possible, and that will come through consultations.

MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from (inaudible) from Angola Public Television.

QUESTION: Thank you. I will ask in Portuguese because of my bad English. Sorry. (Via interpreter) I would like to know from Mr. Secretary if whether after this meeting with our Ministry of Foreign Relations of Angola what can we expect in terms of results in the near future in terms of bilateral cooperation. For example, will we see a growth of the American investment in our economy, which is not only limited to oil?

SECRETARY KERRY: We hope so. We very much hope so. And this effort to expand and broaden the base of our investment was very much the subject of our conversation when we were in Luanda. We didn’t talk about it today, although we mentioned investment. But we specifically talked about it in Luanda, and it is very much an objective of the United States.

And what we want to do is strengthen the bilateral relationship so that we can make progress on all of the multilateral issues but also on the bilateral issues, which means education, exchange, infrastructure development. There are many things we think we can do on health and health care and other kinds of things. We’re prepared – technology, technology transfer. So we understand the challenge in Angola of infrastructure development, one of the main challenges, I think. And I think we feel there are many ways in which the United States could be helpful in that process, where we would like to be able to cooperate.

We definitively, particularly in the age of climate change and in an age where many people are looking for diversity with respect to energy sources, we want to have a diversified economic relationship with Angola. And that means broadening its base, but to attract – as the minister knows better than anybody, attracting investment and attracting capital requires stability, requires certainty, requires clarity in the rules of the road, requires transparency and accountability. And we need to make certain that all of those ingredients are also very much part of our conversation, which they will be as part of the dialogue that we’re engaged in.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

Categories: AFRICA, AFRICAN COUNTRIES, African Press Organization, Angola | Tags: ,

Burundi : IMF Staff Completes Review Mission

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), led by Mr. Jaroslaw Wieczorek, visited Bujumbura from during December 4–17, 2014 to conduct discussions for the sixth review of the government’s economic and financial program supported by the IMF under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF).1

The mission met with the Second Vice-President, Gervais Rufyikiri; the Minister of Finance, Tabu Abdallah Manirakiza; the Minister to the Office of the President Responsible for East African Community Affairs, Leontine Nzeyimana; the Minister of Energy and Mines, Côme Manirakiza; the Minister of the Civil Service, Labor and Social Security, Annonciate Sendazirasa; the Governor of the Central Bank, Jean Ciza; members of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly and of the Senate; and other senior government officials. The mission also had constructive discussions with members of the donor community; private sector; and banks.

At the end of the mission, Mr. Wieczorek issued the following statement:

“Performance under the ECF-supported program has been broadly satisfactory. All quantitative performance criteria for end-September 2014 were met and the structural agenda under the program advanced, albeit some reforms have taken longer than envisaged to implement.”

“Economic growth is expected to reach 4.7 percent in 2014, supported by a rebound in coffee production and construction activity linked to the implementation of major infrastructure projects, including fiber optics, hydropower, and roads. Following the decline in international prices of fuel and food, consumer price inflation subsided markedly, and the average inflation rate for the year as a whole is expected to drop from about 8 percent in 2013 to 5–6 percent in 2014. The economic outlook for 2015 is positive. Growth is projected to remain at broadly the same level as in 2014, reflecting ongoing public investment activity, notably in roads and energy generation, and the start of the pilot phase of nickel mining. Inflation in 2015 is projected to average 5.5 percent.

“Revenue measures adopted in late July together with the receipts from the sales of telecom licenses helped reverse the revenue shortfall registered in the first half of the year. As a result, the annual revenue and budget deficit targets are within reach. Also, the reforms in public financial management advanced, with key steps including unification of the database of civil servants and preparation of a new law on public debt management. The authorities took advantage of the drop in international fuel prices to restore the petroleum pricing mechanism, which will help strengthen budgetary resources in the period ahead. The mission encouraged the authorities to maintain budgetary discipline in the run-up to the 2015 general elections and allow the exchange rate to respond to underlying economic conditions, including the recent appreciation of the U.S. dollar, to protect external stability and to foster competitiveness.

“The mission reached understandings ad referendum with the authorities on policies for 2015 and the reform agenda that could be supported by an extension of the ECF through March 2016. The IMF’s Executive Board is expected to consider the review and extension of the program in early 2015.

“The mission would like to thank the authorities for their warm hospitality and constructive cooperation.”

1 The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) replaced the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) as the Fund’s main tool for medium-term financial support to low-income countries. Financing under the ECF currently carries a zero interest rate, with a grace period of 5½ years, and a final maturity of 10 years. The Fund reviews the level of interest rates for all concessional facilities every two years.


Zambia : Emergency Grant Aid for the Presidential By-Election

Emergency Grant Aid for the Presidential By-Election in the Republic of Zambia

TOKYO, Japan, December 17, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — 1. On December 16, the Government of Japan decided to extend emergency grant aid of approximately 640,000 U.S. dollars (approximately 76.4 million Japanese yen) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in order to support the smooth implementation of the presidential by-election to be held on January 20, 2015 in the Republic of Zambia.

2. With the passing of H.E. Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata, former President of the Republic of Zambia on October 28 this year, the by-election is scheduled to take place. The Government of Zambia has requested emergency assistance from the international community for carrying out this election in a fair and democratic manner.


3. To support the by-election, the Government of Japan will finance the purchase of equipments relating to electorate education and voting. This assistance will contribute to “Consolidating Peace, Stability, Democracy and Good Governance”, one of the pillars of Japan’s diplomacy towards Africa, demonstrated at the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V).


4. The Government of Japan hopes that the by-election be conducted in a peaceful and transparent manner, thereby contributing to ensure the consolidation of democracy and good governance in Zambia and to the stability of the Southern African region as a whole.