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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Africa: Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee Previewing the Secretary’s Journey to Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola

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Workplace of the Spokesperson — MR TEK:  Thanks and good morning, everybody.  Welcome to immediately’s background name on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s journey to Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola.  This name shall be on the report and is embargoed till its conclusion.

Becoming a member of on this – becoming a member of us this morning is Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee.  She’ll present some transient opening remarks, after which we’ll flip it over to your questions.  And so, with that, let’s flip it over to Assistant Secretary Phee to begin us off.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Thanks, Nathan.  And good morning, all people.  Thanks for spending a while with us immediately.  So, we’re actually enthusiastic about this journey.  It’s partially a follow-up to the very profitable U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that we held in December 2022.  The Secretary needs to go to the continent and reveal and assess the follow-up that the USA has undertaken to implement the commitments and matters we mentioned throughout the summit.

So, we’ll be taking a look at points like our financial partnership, how are we selling the event of business ties.  We’ll be taking a look at our longstanding well being partnership.  We’re taking a look at areas that basically excite the Secretary notably in meals safety.  We’ll be, in fact, kind of furbishing our diplomatic fixed engagement on so many points, not solely on the continent however within the world dialog.  So, there’s loads to do to indicate the place we’re, what we’ve performed, and the place we’re going.

We expect this journey will hopefully be very optimistic.  A variety of instances the information out of Africa is unfavorable.  I feel it could actually spotlight the nice capability of the African folks, notably the youth.  It might present actually forward-looking kinds of engagements – for instance, our partnership with Angola in outer house.  And I feel it is going to reveal the advances that Africans have made that can contribute to the continued progress on the continent.

We will by no means get away, although, from peace and safety points.  So, after we’re in Cote d’Ivoire, we’ll speak concerning the state of affairs within the Sahel and coastal West Africa.  As a lot of you recognize, Nigeria is coping with plenty of inside safety challenges.  And Angola has performed a extremely necessary position in attempting to handle and scale back the tensions within the japanese Congo.  So these may also be matters I anticipate we’ll talk about.

So, he’s actually excited; we’re actually excited; it needs to be actually enjoyable.  In Cote d’Ivoire, they’re internet hosting now the Africa Cup of Nations.  So, the entire continent is concentrated on that.  There are about 24 nations enjoying soccer – or soccer, as they name it – in Cote d’Ivoire, so there’s plenty of power, so I feel it is going to be a extremely enjoyable cease.

So over to you, to Nathan, for questions.

MR TEK:  Nice.  Thanks a lot.  AT&T moderator, would you simply thoughts please repeating the directions for becoming a member of the query queue?

OPERATOR:  Positive.  To put your self within the queue, please press 1 then 0, presently.

MR TEK:  Nice.  And may we please go to the road of Will Mauldin from The Wall Avenue Journal?

OPERATOR:  Mr. Mauldin, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thanks a lot for doing this.  I needed to comply with up on the safety state of affairs, if I could.  I bear in mind when the Secretary was final on this a part of Africa, I imagine visiting Niger and President Bazoum.  It was not far earlier than the coup when he was ousted.  So, I’m questioning if stopping coups or strengthening any of the leaders on this area goes to be part of the agenda.  And in addition, needed to get a common safety state of affairs check-up on is the U.S. – given all of the challenges within the Sahel area total, is the U.S. focusing a bit extra on the west coast and people nations as type of a bulwark at a time when Wagner and militants and different safety forces are lively within the area?  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Positive.  Nicely, we have now lengthy been involved about coastal West Africa in addition to Nigeria, as a result of if the terrorist menace within the Sahel had been to disrupt life in these nations, it might be actually problematic for an enormous portion of Africa.  So we – it’s possible you’ll be acquainted with the International Fragility Act, which was adopted just a few years in the past and is designed to attract on the teachings we’ve realized since 9/11, that are, briefly, that we’re actually good at safety help and we’re actually good at going after terrorists, however when you neglect governance, financial growth, components like local weather change, you may’t actually get at a sturdy resolution.

So, we’re already invested in a joint undertaking in 5 coastal states in West Africa, coastal West Africa – these embody Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Benin, and Togo.  In order that, I think about, will definitely be a subject of dialogue after we see the Ivorians.  And naturally, we’ve had a longstanding safety partnership with Nigeria, which has been battered, as you recognize, by ISIS-WA, by Boko Haram, and by inside, what they name bandits.

So, positively serving to guarantee that these nations are kind of transferring out on all fronts to strengthen their societies, to forestall kind of the growth of the terrorist menace we see within the Sahel.  That shall be part of the dialogue.  And that features doing issues the way in which that we’ve realized to do them, proper – to emphasise the safety of civilians whenever you’re enterprise army operations and to advertise human rights and group growth, notably in marginalized populations.

MR TEK:  Thanks a lot.  Can we please go the road of Shaun Tandon from the AFP?

QUESTION:  Hey there.  Thanks, Molly.  Can I comply with up slightly bit on Will’s query?  Whenever you ask – whenever you speak about Niger, is there any hope for it?  I imply, do you suppose that’s going to introduced up within the discussions, notably in Cote d’Ivoire?  The coup-imposed – the junta-imposed authorities, they’d a delegation in Moscow this week – how involved are you about that?

After which if I may additionally ask particularly about DRC.  The assembly is in Angola, and of the course the Secretary simply met Kagame in Davos.  How optimistic are you now in DRC and the east?  Do you suppose that there might be some lasting – extra stability there?  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Positive.  Nicely, my job title requires me to be optimistic.  So, we’re all the time attempting to drive in the direction of higher outcomes.  In Niger, I feel there’s a transparent selection for the junta.  And I made that case after I was there in early December, following what I feel was a really profitable ECOWAS summit assembly on learn how to reset relations between ECOWAS and Niger.  Now we have a confirmed observe report of serving to them and their companions within the area get after the terrorist menace.  And we even have – occur to have a really robust financial report with necessary Millennium Problem Company accounts which were contributing meaningfully to the event of Niger.

And there was plenty of dialogue about reaching a timeline, a reputable, swift timeline for elections.  The Nigeriens have their very own historical past of relatively swiftly handing energy again to civilians.  And naturally, the discharge of President Bazoum – and also you noticed earlier this month, the junta launched his son, who had been unjustly detained.

So we don’t have any objection with nations diversifying partnerships.  You heard the Secretary speak about that.  Clearly, in the event that they selected to have a partnership with nations like Russia, that might be very difficult.  I feel if they only look west to Mali and see the rise in civilian casualties and the rise in safety assaults for the reason that junta authorities in Mali invited within the Wagner Group, and kicked out the French – that isn’t a mannequin that I’d wish to comply with or I feel most individuals would wish to comply with, when you had been governing a rustic.

So, I had good discussions in December.  Let’s see the place issues find yourself.  I feel, once more, we have now a demonstrated observe report there that they’re nicely conscious of.  And we hope they make the appropriate determination.

And then you definately requested me about Angola and Angola’s position within the japanese DRC.  So, I feel you all will recall that in November, shortly earlier than Thanksgiving, I and Judd Devermont traveled with Avril Haines and her top-notch advisor Chris Ringenbach to each Kinshasa and Kigali as a result of we had been involved concerning the spike in tensions between the Rwandans and the Congolese, in addition to the position of neighboring nations.  We had been capable of institute a technique of weekly check-ins that we undertook via the top of calendar yr 2023.

One in every of our objectives was to guarantee that the withdrawal of the East African Neighborhood Regional troop presence was not overly disruptive, and to make sure that the DRC was capable of maintain its elections on the finish of December with minimal disruption.  These elections had been huge and messy as you noticed, however there was no main violence, which we had been involved about.  So, we wish to see and assist the regional processes which were underway for about two years now, slightly bit over two years.  One is known as the Luanda Course of, which is led by the Angolans, and that’s one thing the Secretary will wish to speak to the president and the overseas minister about.  And the separate observe is the Nairobi Course of.

So, it is a three-year conflict.  It’s very troublesome, however the events have been very conscious of our engagement.  They’re very engaged with their neighbors in Southern Africa and the South African growth cooperation area in addition to, as I discussed, within the EAC.  So we’re going to hopefully assist consolidate a number of the intense discussions we’ve had over the previous six weeks or so, and see if we may help the Africans set issues heading in the right direction.

MR TEK:  Thanks.  Can we please go the road of Daphne Psaledakis from Reuters?

QUESTION:  Hello.  Thanks a lot for doing this.  I simply needed to comply with up slightly bit on Shaun’s query on Niger.  May you give a way of how a lot this shall be a spotlight of Secretary Blinken’s conversations on the journey?  And – or sorry – on the journey and what his message shall be when he’s talking to those nations?  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Positive.  So, Daphne, you guys are bumming me out since you’re not speaking about any of the actually enjoyable and optimistic, forward-looking issues we’ll be doing.  So, there’s plenty of that in Cote d’Ivoire, however – yeah, so in fact the Ivorians are fairly nervous given their border with Burkina Faso, and there’s plenty of terrorist exercise within the tri-border space between Burkina, Niger, and Mali, which we have now been very useful in addressing.  So, I’m sure it is going to be a subject of dialog, however we additionally wish to encourage the optimistic steps the president has taken to broaden and deepen democratization in Cote d’Ivoire and the way they’re utilizing their sources we’ve supplied them beneath the GFA.

And simply to notice, you guys, we’ve named it this horrible, clunky identify of technique to advertise stability and stop battle – no, I mentioned it backwards – to – Technique to Stop Battle and Promote Stability, as a result of nobody likes to be described as a fragile state.  So, I do anticipate that shall be a subject of dialogue – however certainly one of many.  I wish to additionally point out that the African Improvement Financial institution is in Cote d’Ivoire, so we’re excited to go speak to them the place we have now main investments, and I feel we’ll deal with meals safety.

These of you who’ve heard the Secretary speak about it, you recognize that’s an actual ardour undertaking of his, drawing on the experience of the agronomist Dr. Cary Fowler who works right here on the division.  I hope we would be capable to get him to a soccer pitch – the soccer stadium.  And I feel Cote d’Ivoire has additionally been a extremely good companion to us in worldwide fora, so he’s wanting ahead to discussing all these kinds of issues.

Nathan, is there a delay or did I lose you?

OPERATOR:  Hello, I’m getting – that is AT&T.  I get notices that persons are dropping connection.  Now we have had experiences of community points immediately, so which may be a problem.  I can attempt going to the subsequent individual within the queue when you like.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  That’s nice with me.

OPERATOR:  All proper.  We’ll go to the road of Nick Turse with The Intercept.

QUESTION:  Thanks for taking the time to speak to me, Secretary Phee.  Final month, the Nigerian army bombed a non secular celebration that killed 85 civilians, and it’s the newest in a sequence of Nigerian airstrikes which have killed civilians, together with a 2017 assault on a displaced individuals camp that killed 160 folks.  Is Secretary Blinken going to lift the problem of those assaults with the Nigerian authorities?  Will he demand accountability and transparency?  And can the U.S. take another measures to halt these repeated assaults?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  So, when you’re referring to the assault in – I wouldn’t name it an assault.  The Nigerians have admitted it was an operational error that tragically killed folks in Kaduna State.  I feel the Secretary will certainly speak about that with the president.  The president and the management of Nigeria went to Kaduna State.  They acted with transparency, instantly acknowledged the horrific accident.  They arrange a reparation course of and a clear investigation.  So, they’ve, I feel, responded to that tragedy in a constructive approach that can contribute to rebuilding confidence of the Nigerian folks and the safety companies.

And these problems with learn how to defend civilians when doing advanced operations in a fraught safety surroundings, which Nigeria is coping with, the significance of selling and defending human rights, together with spiritual freedom, and, once more, kind of the perfect practices of accountability and transparency, are a part of our ongoing dialogue with the federal government and with the safety companies.  We host – we’re internet hosting this week a Nigerian delegation led by the nationwide safety adviser, and we hosted about 4 hours of discussions right here on the State Division yesterday and that was a working theme all through the day.  So, I’m sure the Secretary will speak about it when he sees the president and the overseas minister.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

STAFF:  AT&T, can we go to – Mr. Tek is coming again onto the road, however I imagine we have now a – certainly one of our African retailers on-line.  I simply acquired kicked out of convention monitor.  Are you able to name on them, please?

OPERATOR:  I’m sorry.  Which particular person particularly, or I can go to the subsequent in queue?  I’m not understanding the individual you’re wanting me to go to.

STAFF:  Sorry, let’s go to the Washington Submit, I imagine, is within the queue.

OPERATOR:  I don’t present them in queue on my finish.

STAFF:  All proper.  Let’s go to the subsequent individual then.

OPERATOR:  Okay.  We’ll go to Keni Osukoya from Africa Bazaar Journal.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Are you able to hear me?  Hi there.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Hi there.  Hello.

QUESTION:  Hello, hello, yeah, thanks.  Thanks for taking my questions.  So, I needed to – I do know this journey appeared sudden, and I’m questioning why is the Secretary touring to those nations or East Africa (inaudible) on condition that President Biden was – mentioned he’ll journey to Africa final yr.  That was the promise he made throughout the U.S.-African Leaders Summit.  And now we didn’t hear something as to the explanation why he didn’t journey final yr.  So, when you can speak about that side of it.

And I additionally needed to – I do know you talked about South Africa briefly – a problem that’s ongoing proper now with the South Africa and the Israel-Gaza deal.  And I’m questioning if Secretary Blinken, throughout his assembly with the – with Nigeria and different African chief, whether or not that’s one thing that he may also talk about with them on that difficulty.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  So, thanks to your questions.  The road is fairly unhealthy, however I feel I heard you characterize this journey as sudden, and I’d not characterize it that approach in any respect.  Should you have a look at the Secretary’s observe report, he’s been deeply engaged in Africa, very enthusiastic about working with our African companions.  And this shall be his fourth journey to the continent.  This follows final yr, the place we had 17 Cupboard-level officers go to the continent as a follow-up to the Africa Leaders Summit.  So, there’s nothing new right here in American curiosity in Africa or Secretary Blinken’s curiosity in Africa.

And with regard to the President, I don’t, in fact, converse for the White Home, however I do know he stays severe about his need to journey to Africa.  And once more, whereas I don’t have something to announce on that presently, I feel when you look throughout his administration and the several types of efforts, actions, exchanges which were undertaken over the previous yr or so, you’ll see demonstrable dedication by the USA to Africa.

And I definitely anticipate the Secretary to transient authorities leaders he wants who could be enthusiastic about his intense efforts to resolve the disaster between Israel and Hamas.  Thanks.

QUESTION:  And if I can simply —

MR TEK:  Thanks.  We simply – I’m sorry, we – hello, that is Nathan.  I’m again on the road once more, apologies.  I had technical points.  We sadly don’t have time for follow-up questions.  So Wealthy, when you don’t thoughts, if we may please go to Cindy Saine from Voice of America.

QUESTION:  Sure.  Thanks a lot for doing this.  I used to be questioning when you may speak concerning the go to to Cabo Verde and the principle points there.  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Oh, certain.  So, we’re so excited to go to Cabo Verde.  It’s like a literal metaphor, if that is smart.  Now we have had two Millennium Problem Compacts which have contributed to Cabo Verde’s growth, together with the port in Praia.  And in reality, they’ve simply been deemed eligible for discussions for a 3rd regional compact.