Sunday, 28 February 2010

The role of the media in Zimbabwe's transition:

Date: Thursday 4 March 2010
Venue: The Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AP
Time: 6 – 8pm, followed by a reception

The need for an independent media to flourish in Zimbabwe has never been greater as clearly stated in the global political agreement signed in February 2009. Journalists are
struggling to carry out their duties despite threats and intimidation while they await practical steps to free up the media.
This event will start with the showing of a documentary by award-winning journalist
Sue Lloyd Roberts on her first authorised visit to Zimbabwe. Tabani Moyo, Advocacy Officer of the Media Institute for Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, will give a first hand account of the progress being made by the recently established Media Commission in Harare. Others will speak on what Britain and outside agencies are prepared to do to help promote a free and open media in Zimbabwe.)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Foreign Press Center On-the-Record Briefing with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie CarsonTOPIC: Assistant Secretary Carson's Recent Two Week Tour of Africa

February 24, 2010

Ambassador Carson: Thanks for the very kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be with you here in Washington and also with your colleagues in South Africa and in New York.

I’d like to start this morning by making just a few brief comments about the return of President Yar’Adua to Nigeria. That is the story that I think is attracting the most attention in Africa this morning.

All of you know that Nigeria is an extraordinarily important country. It is probably one of the two most important countries in Africa. It is the largest in terms of its population. It is the second largest Muslim state in Africa, the seventh largest Muslim state in the world. It is one of America’s most important trading partners. U.S. investment in Nigeria is larger than any other place in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria supplies 12 percent of U.S. oil. It is the source of the largest amount of sweet crude oil.

Nigeria is an important regional player. It is a prominent leader in ECOWAS. It has been a source of stability in West Africa, has played a very important role in stabilizing and helping to bring about peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It’s a major troop contributing country to the UN, not only in West Africa and Central Africa and Darfur where its officers have led the [UNAMID], but also in places like the Middle East, is one of the largest troop contributors globally in the world. It is also a member of the UN Security Council. It’s a country that none of us can afford to dismiss or ignore and that’s why the United States seeks to have a strong and positive and productive relationship with Nigeria. But it’s important that Nigeria continue along its democratic path.

The United States thus welcomes the news of President Yar’Adua’s return to Nigeria last night. We hope sincerely that his health is sufficient to enable him to fully resume his official duties. Nigeria needs a strong, healthy and effective leader to ensure the stability of that country and to manage Nigeria’s political, economic and security challenges.

Recent reports, however, suggest that President Yar’Adua’s health remains fragile and that he may not be able to fill the demands of his office. We hope that President Yar’Adua’s return to Nigeria is not an effort by senior advisors to upset Nigeria’s stability and create renewed uncertainty in the democratic process. We all need a strong, stable democratic Nigeria. We need it for Nigerians, we need it for West Africa, we need it for Africa, we need it for the global community. Nigeria is extraordinarily important to its friends and its partners and all of those in positions of responsibility in Nigeria should put the health of the President and the best interests of the country and the people of Nigeria above short term political ambitions or gains. As a nation of 150 million people, Nigeria’s democracy and its continued adherence to constitutional rule should be the highest priority of all of its leaders.

I’ll stop there and I’ll take a few questions.

Voice: We’ll go to South Africa.

Voice: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. The first question we have is from Andre LeRoux from Media 24.

Media 24: Thank you, sir. Good morning.

Can you elaborate on your concerns about the effects on the stability in Nigeria? You seem to be very concerned that his return might be abused. Do you have reason for that more specifically?

Ambassador Carson: Thank you very much, Andre. I keep a News 24 favorite item on my web site at home and I look at you every morning, at least on-line.

Let me say that we are concerned in part because for nearly three months the President has been out of the country in Saudi Arabia receiving medical attention. During that three month period very very few people have had access to the President. Almost no ministers, including a delegation that flew to Saudi Arabia two days ago in order to see the President yesterday have been able to see him.

The only communication that anyone has reliably seen or heard is a very short two-minute BBC news clip that was done approximately a month ago. I know from my own visit to Nigeria just two and a half weeks ago that a number of governors, a number of senior officials, have all traveled to Saudi Arabia and virtually none of them during this three month period in fact have been able to see the President. The President returned to Nigeria last night. It must have been somewhere between midnight and 2:00 a.m. and was quickly moved from an air medical ambulance to a vehicular ambulance, and not many people have seen him.

I think that approximately ten days ago the most senior leaders in Nigeria, the members of the National Assembly in the Senate and the House of Representatives, also the members of the Federal Executive Council and the Governors Council all unanimously passed individual resolutions that stated that the Vice President should be moved up to the position of Acting President. That gave a sense of stability to Nigeria and confidence that the government was going to be able to move forward and to discharge its responsibilities.

Now we see the sudden return with very little notice of the President to the country. As I said before, we hope very, very much that the President has recuperated and is healthy and is able to resume his normal duties as President, but it is very important that those who are in responsible positions put the health of the President of Nigeria first, that they think of the interests of, the stability, and the continued democracy of the country as a primary focal point of interest. This is not a time where personal political ambitions should in fact take precedence over the stability and continued democracy and adherence to the constitutional rule that governs Nigeria today.

Voice: Sir, next up we have from the Voice of Nigeria, Tony Nicata.

Voice of Nigeria: Thank you, Ambassador Carson.

During your visit to Nigeria you had a few consultations apart from your visit with the Acting President Dr. Goodluck, Jonathan. It was reported that [inaudible], the former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, and there was speculation about [inaudible] media as to why you decided to visit General Ibrahim Babangida. If you had a message from the U.S. government to him, or if he was considered a factor in the so-called [inaudible], or the so-called [inaudible] of Nigeria [inaudible].

Ambassador Carson: As an American diplomat and as the most senior day-to-day individual in the U.S. government responsible for Africa, I think that it is important for me to talk to as many high level officials as I possibly can in places like Nigeria. I indeed did travel to Minna to speak with former head of state Ibrahim Babangida. But let me also say that over the past month I have had an opportunity to speak with a wide range, a wide range of Nigerian officials, all of whom have held senior positions in the government.

Probably the only senior official, former official that I have not spoken to is former President Obasanjo and that is a fact that is attributed to only, that I was not able to speak to him on the telephone. I had hoped while I was in Nigeria to be able to speak and meet with him. Schedules did not permit.

But I have spoken over the last month with former presidents, with former vice presidents, with former army chiefs of staff, with governors, and with the heads of the senate and the house, the head of the Governors Association, Governor Siraki. I also met with a number of other governors. My discussions in Nigeria and with Nigerians from Washington is extraordinarily broad, as it should be. As I said, I regard Nigeria as the U.S. does as one of the two most important countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We have a broad range of deep relationships. We have an enormous respect for the importance and significance of that country. And I think it only appropriate that I talk with everyone.

But let me also say that I took the opportunity to go to Minna and talk to Ibrahim Babangida to express my condolences for the loss of his wife. I’d spoken to Ibrahim Babangida approximately 30 days ago, 35 days ago when his wife was, unfortunately, here in the United States suffering from cancer. I will continue to have a broad dialogue with Nigerian officials, but one of the reasons was to express condolences to him. But also to seek his thoughts and advice on what he saw happening in Nigeria.

Just as I would think that a Nigerian diplomat in the United States might go up to the Hill or to the House and Senate and talk to both Republicans and Democrats, north and south, about how they see U.S. relations towards Nigeria.

Voice: From the Guardian, UK, David Smith.

Guardian, UK: Thanks. A different subject. I wonder if I can ask your thoughts on security and the threat of terrorism during the soccer World Cup in South Africa. Will you be taking any special measures above and beyond the normal for a major sporting event? Is there any different advice? And are you aware, are there any plans for President Obama to visit South Africa during that time?

Ambassador Carson: Let me thank you for the question. I’m also a fond reader of the Guardian on line, and was a fond reader of your weekly. It’s one of the best for wrapping up foreign affairs issues.

At this point there is no plan that I am aware of of President Obama visiting South Africa during the World Cup. I think that this will be an intensely active period for South Africa. South Africa’s political leadership. I think it’s also an opportunity for the international community to see and witness an African success story. South Africa has turned out remarkably, remarkably well over the last 15 years since Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the political transformation that has moved forward there.

So it is an opportunity for South Africa to showcase Africa’s progress, its success, its democracy, and its vibrant rainbow, multicultural, multiethnic nation.

I think with respect to security, the South African authorities recognize the enormous challenges of putting on major sporting events. They have done so in the past with great success. They after all held the international Rugby World Cup without any problems nearly a decade ago. I think they are more than capable of handling this. Yes, we believe that they have consulted as any nation would, with other security services, and we have, when we have been asked for advice, been willing and more than willing to provide it. But I think they’re aware of the challenges. I think the South African government is more than capable of meeting them when they’ve reached out for advice and assistance. We in the United States have been more than willing to provide it. But this is a South African show and we think they’re capable of doing it extraordinarily well. We wish them luck. The nicest thing for all of us at the end of the day, with all due respect to the Guardian and the UK origins of that paper, would be a final in which [Bafama Bafama] was playing against the United States. [Laughter].

Voice: From Bloomberg, we’ve got Franz Wild.

Bloomberg: Hi, Ambassador. Franz Wild. I wanted to ask you about Ethiopia, actually, the elections coming up in May. Would the United States consider the elections there to be free and fair, given that one of its, if one of their main opposition leaders remains in jail? And if not, would the United States consider reducing its aid to the country, given that it’s one of the top beneficiaries?

I’d also like to ask you about Kenya, if possible. Last year I think the United States restricted access to Attorney General Wako. Is the United States planning to do the same with anyone else in the political elite there? Can you tell us anything about that?

Ambassador Carson: First on Ethiopia. It would be premature to pronounce the Ethiopian elections either good or bad prior to the holding of those elections. Let’s see how they turn out.

What we do say to Ethiopia, to the government, to the opposition parties and to the citizens, is that we hope that this election will be run freely and fairly. That there be a level playing field for all. That the government and the opposition take their responsibilities seriously. That both sides respect the political rights of the others. That both carry out their responsibilities.

We also strongly urge that these elections that are coming up be better, substantially better in their aftermath than the 2005 elections in which there was very bitter and serious violence in their wake. We all want Ethiopia to continue to move along an upward and more inclusive and stronger democratic trajectory. Elections are simply an important process in the selection of democratic leaders. We want this to go well. A lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the government to ensure that this works well. But we’re not going to pronounce these elections either good or bad until they’ve been run.

As I say, we’re looking for an outcome which makes things better for everyone. Free, transparent, open, with both sides taking their responsibilities seriously, with a level playing field, and no recurrence of the violence that followed the 2005 elections.

Kenya, I’ll say this if I could. We continue to encourage the President, President Kibaki, the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to work towards the full implementation of Kofi Anan agreements that were worked out after the conclusion of the violence in that country in January and February of 2008 following the very difficult presidential elections there.

It is important that in the run-up to the next elections in Kenya that there be a consensus around key reforms related especially to the constitution. Both of those individuals, as leaders of their parties, have a responsibility to ensure that there not be a repetition of the violence there that followed the presidential and parliamentary elections. Constitution making is at an advanced stage. It is important that both men form a consensus behind it and that they deal with the issues of executive power, regional devolution and issues of impunity and issues of corruption. There are also issues related to land that must be dealt with. They have, again, a responsibility to put the interest of the citizens and the country above their own partisan interests to move forward. And yes, if in fact we see individuals like Amos Wako who are standing in the way of justice and progress, and who violate our statutes in the United States, we will take action against them.

We took the action against Amos Wako for very very clear and manifest reasons. He has been Attorney General in Kenya for a decade and a half and during that decade and a half we have seen both grand corruption and minor corruption. We saw a billion dollar scam shortly after he was named attorney general, and we saw most recently, two years ago, another scam called Angle Leasing in which another 150 to 200 million dollars of government money was stolen.

During his term of office as attorney general he has not successfully prosecuted one, not a single one senior government official. No ministers, no deputy ministers, no permanent secretaries. Yes, he seems to be able to find the stockroom clerk, but he cannot find the senior officials who are there.

Moreover, there has been a rash of high level crime in which impunity seems to be the day. A number of high level civil society leaders have been gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. Civil society leaders who have been investigating police criminal gangs. He has not successfully prosecuted any of those individuals as well.

The bill of particulars are on the table. They’re well known in Kenya. And we will not pull down the curtains in front of our own eyes when individuals like this continue to hold positions of responsibility but yet do not in fact carry them out, especially in the defense of the law.

Voice: From Business Daily we have Coldwell Kadabe.

Business Daily: Hi. [Inaudible]. Do you have any opinion about the developments in Niger and Cote I'voire?

Ambassador Carson: Yes. We are following developments in both of those countries very very closely.

Let me first say something with respect to Niger. We have been deeply concerned and troubled by events in Niger since July and August of last year. Around that time former President and recently deposed President Tandja has started to unravel the democratic institutions of his country in an effort to advance his own personal political agenda.

In a quest to have a third term in office which was prohibited by the constitution, he overrode the views of the parliament, he overrode the views of the supreme court, and he overrode the constitution itself. He then arranged for a sham referendum which had a low turnout which ultimately allowed him to illegally extend his term of office.

The United States government along with others engaged President Tandja, encouraged him not to move forward in those efforts. Warned him that there would in fact be consequences. So when he extended his term of office illegally on the 23rd of December of last year, the United States had already taken action. We suspended Niger’s participation in AGOA. We ended the MCC program that we had in the country. We terminated all of our USAID support with the exception of humanitarian assistance. We asked Nigerian military officers who were studying in the United States to return home. And we cut all but humanitarian and emergency assistance. We said that we were opposed to the hijacking of democracy, even by civilians and we meant it.

The coup that has just taken place offers an opportunity for those who now are in power to move Niger back into the ranks of democracy. No coup, whether it is a civilian coup or a military coup, is a good coup. Coups are by their nature bad. They are a disruption of the political and the democratic process. We encourage the military junta that is now in power to live up to what they say they stand for. If they are indeed there to restore democracy, they should do so quickly and expeditiously. They should set a time table, a short time table, six months for the return of democracy in Niger. In that way they will demonstrate that their words really have meaning.

If they did this to restore democracy and liberty to the country, then they should move forward with doing so very quickly. Niger has had very successful political elections in the past. They’ve had multi-party politics. They’re established parties, they’re institutions that we’re working, institutions that were defending democracy against President Tandja. It should be very easy for that country to move back towards the democratic process. If it does, we will be in the forefront of restoring as quickly as possible our support for that country.

Ivory Coast. We remain very much concerned by the eruption of violence that has occurred in the wake of the decision by President Gbagbo to dismiss the government and to suspend the movement towards elections. Elections have been too long in the coming in Ivory Coast. They have once again been set back as a result of the current political situation. We think there is a need to return swiftly to the [Wagadugu] Accords. We encourage President [Blaise Kampori] who has been one of the facilitators in West Africa to encourage that there be a resumption of the [Wagadugu] Accords, that there be quick movement towards the cleaning up of the electoral disagreements over the electoral roles, and that there be a date fixed and firm for national elections. National elections have been postponed a half a dozen times over the last two and a half, three years. It is time for a serious effort to be made to resolve the political disagreements that have continued to tear apart what once was the most important economic country in [Francophone] Africa.

Voice: Thank you, South Africa. We come back to Washington. Good morning to all of you.

Interpress: Jim Loeb, Interpress Service. Can you tell us, what is the situation with regard to humanitarian relief, U.S. humanitarian relief in Somalia and the concerns about the relief falling into the wrong hands?

Ambassador Carson: As you know, the United States has been the largest contributor of food aid and humanitarian assistance to Somalia, not only over the last two calendar years, but for much of the last decade. We remain as we have always been, committed to providing as much food assistance as we possibly can to those in need in Somalia, particularly in the southern part of that country.

The continued conflict in the south between the TFG and El Shabab, between warlords and others has always, always made food delivery in that part of the country extraordinarily difficult. Despite this, we have remained committed to working with the international community, with NGOs, international organizations, to get food into the area.

Last December the World Food Program indicated that it felt no longer able to be able to put food into South Central Somalia. They took this action because of the danger and the difficulties of moving food assistance in. If you look back over the last year you will note that the organizations that the WFP and others have worked with have suffered thefts. But more importantly, loss of life of deliverers of food aid. This has complicated life for everyone and complicated life for the United States as well since they were our major partner in the distribution of food.

We continue to watch the food situation very carefully. We remain committed to working with a variety of recognized regional and international NGOs, some in the UN system, many outside of the UN system, to continue to push food aid into the region. And we continue to explore both old and new ways to ensure that food is there and available for people.

It’s an important issue. It’s one that I think about every day as do my colleagues in the Department of State who are responsible for refugee and food relief issues. It is a priority for us, and we continue to look for ways to ensure that we can meet the needs of those who are in greatest need of assistance.

Maghreb Arab Press: My name is Fouad Arif from Moroccan News Agency [inaudible]. Sir, first of all thank you for doing this and I have two questions. The first one concerns Nigeria. What if the situation keeps going on and on to a point that it becomes constitutionally and politically unsustainable? Does the United States have a Plan B?

And my second question is with regard to the Al Qaeda in the Maghreb which has recently released a French national which used to detain as hostage. I’d like to have your assessment to the threat of AQIM in the Maghreb and Saha region. Thank you.

Ambassador Carson: With respect to Nigeria, the primary responsibility for running and managing Nigeria’s affairs rests with the leadership of Nigeria. We in the United States and the international community can encourage as much as we should the responsible and thoughtful behavior of leaders. And we have an obligation to do so given the significance and importance of Nigeria which I outlined before.

But Plan A, B, C, and D are all in [Abudja]. All of those plans rest with the responsible behavior of all of Nigeria’s senior leadership. They must be committed to strengthening and maintaining Nigeria’s democracy. Keeping the country stable, keeping the country constitutionally and democratically aligned. It’s their primary responsibility. They hold all of the plans. We hope that they will take Plan A, which is the one which will lead to both democratic and economic success. We have no Plan B’s, nor should we.

With respect to al-Qaida in the Islamic lands of the Maghreb. We have watched over the last two, two and a half years the increasingly active presence of AQIM in Mauritania, in Mali, and we have seen what they are capable of doing in the Sahel. They have killed French citizens in Mauritania. They have been responsible for the kidnapping of British, Swiss and Germans in Niger and moving them into Mali. They’ve been responsible for killing and kidnapping. They remain a concern. We encourage, strongly encourage, all of the countries in the region, particularly Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Algeria, to work together to recognize that AQIM does not constitute an individual threat to each of the governments that can be responded to on an individual basis. They must collectively work together and see this as a common threat and as a common problem. So encourage Mali, Algeria, Mauritania, in particular those three countries, to work together to deal with a common threat, which today remains containable, but if not dealt with could become much more lethal and serious in the future. It’s key that none of them try and do it on their own. They must do it together collectively, because AQIM doesn’t recognize a border or a national frontier as they move arms and people across them. These three countries really have to concentrate on working together.

PGTV: Menelik Zeleke from my African TV channel. Ambassador, again thank you for coming and speaking with us.

I have one question in regards to the relationship of the Chinese investment in Africa. It has been stated that in many cases that the Chinese are doing primarily fair practice investments in Africa to the degree of they loan the country money but there are conditions in regards to how much more or less they have to use their people to do the work, that’s the number one thing. Number two thing is that you have to buy their materials, the second phase of that. Thirdly, they do not invest anything into the country such as buying material that you sell for in your country. Fourthly, they will set up a little store next to your mom and pop store and run the mom and pop store out of business. Fifthly is that they do not, they act as though they do not speak the language, so that when you state that you’re paying less money than the value of doing the business in the country to the workers, they act like they don’t understand. Is this another stage of colonization and new days phase as we have had in the past?

Is there also a relationship with the United States investment in Africa?

Ambassador Carson: Thank you very much for the question.

China is increasingly engaged economically and commercially across the continent of Africa. China’s interests appear to be focused in large measure on trying to acquire as much hydrocarbon and mineral resource rights as they possibly can to fuel the growth of China’s rapidly expanding economy at home.

Equally, China is looking for markets for its own consumer products. Those both at the middle and the lower end of the economic consumption scale. In this context Africa is a place where they see enormous opportunity because of the large amount of oil and gas and mineral resources that are there. They also see an enormous market which they think is under-served. They tend to be more active economically and commercially in places where they can get paid because there is oil. Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Algeria, places like that. They’re also attracted to countries because of the desire to put in major infrastructure projects.

It is up to African countries to manage very skillfully and carefully their relationship with China on the economic and commercial side. What you referred to or what you were alluding to is something that can be seen in many parts of Africa where in effect the Chinese will come in and have a major construction project and they not only bring in the architectural designs and drawings but also the engineers and the day laborers. Not only the people who draw the blueprints, but the people who move the sand, lift the bricks, mix the cement and put in the electrical fixtures. In effect, doing things that Africans themselves can do.

This can be seen in many parts of Africa. It can be seen in government buildings in downtown Luanda. It can be seen in the construction of housing projects in Algiers, just outside of the airport area. It can be seen on the roads and the road projects in some parts of Ethiopia. It can be seen in places in other parts of Africa as well. But it is for African governments to manage carefully their relationship with the Chinese and how they determine that relationship should be handled. There is no question that a lot of the economic benefit from the Chinese involvement is good and helping to build important infrastructure. But we have seen reactions from some African trade union organizations, labor groups, business groups, saying that is this right for China not only to bring in the engineers and the architects, but also the brick layers and the cement mixers as well?

So this is an issue that pertains to countries and it differs from country to country, relationship to relationship, but this is an issue where it’s important to be able to have democratic institutions so that the voices of people at the bottom who are engaged and involved in all of these things can speak effectively about the consequences to their leaders. This is what good governance is all about.

I think to draw an American parallel, I think yes, it was great to have Chinese investment in a factory here in the United States, but is it appropriate for the owner of that factory to bring in the bricklayers and the cement layers, mixers as well? The design, the engineers, the architects, absolute. They own it. But there is a balance, and each country has to determine its own balance, and it’s not for us to say what that balance is. It’s for African countries to look and see what is best for them and responsible for them. We ask both sides to be responsible partners in the process.

Voice: Ambassador Carson, we thank you so much for being with us this morning.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Traditional leaders have a key role to play as partners with government to build a better life for all our people
It has rightly become our proud tradition that shortly after the President delivers the State of the Nation Address, and the Minister of Finance delivers the Budget Speech, the President officially opens National House of Traditional Leaders.
This year, the opening of the House of Traditional Leaders is a particularly special occasion. We are celebrating the lives and roles of two very important traditional and political leaders in our history, and Nobel Laureates, Inkosi Albert Luthuli and President Nelson Mandela.

We recently marked 20 years of the release of President Nelson Mandela from prison, an occasion that signalled that our country was indeed on its way towards freedom and democracy. As we celebrate the life of President Mandela and the contribution he has made to our country, it is important to reflect an aspect of his life that is often not mentioned. We sometimes forget that President Mandela was actually a royal prince esizweni sabaThembu. His father was stripped of his chieftaincy by a magistrate. This position was restored after democracy, and his grandson, Zwelivelile, Chief Mandla Mandela was installed.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the democratic election as chief, of Inkosi Albert Luthuli by the people of eMakholweni in Groutville Mission Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal. Inkosi Luthuli's contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy is highly regarded and appreciated by all lovers of freedom, justice and democracy worldwide.

The two illustrious leaders were following in the footsteps of traditional leaders who laid the foundation for our freedom by supporting the struggle for liberation. Many traditional leaders participated in the founding conference of the African National Congress in Bloemfontein, 98 years ago. At the time, the ANC had an upper house of traditional leaders and it had respected traditional leaders as honorary Presidents, for example Dalindyebo of the abaThembu, Montsioa of aBarolong, Lewanika of Barotseland which was a part of Zambia, King Letsie of Lesotho, Ian Khama of Botswana, as well as King Dinizulu.

This is an indication that traditional leaders never wanted to be spectators as their people fought for freedom. Many have always been active freedom fighters, as also evidenced by the wars against dispossession and colonialism. The sacrifices of some of our traditional leaders, made in defence of this land and of the dignity of our people are immeasurable.
We are now living in the era of freedom and democracy. We are living in an era where the rights that the people and their traditional leaders fought for, are secured in the constitution of the land. People want to see the tangible fruits of freedom. They want to see services being delivered faster. They want to be treated with respect by government officials and elected public representatives.
A lot of progress has been made since 1994. Millions of people now have access to basic services such as water, electricity, roads, houses, clinics and schools. But much more needs to be done. We still have a long road to travel before we can say we have bridged the gap between rich and poor, urban and rural, white and black, and men and women in our society. We also still have a long way to go before we can say we are creating scores of decent, sustainable jobs for our people.

Working together, we will walk this road. Government relies on all partners to move forward towards prosperity - labour, community, business, traditional leaders, religious leaders, youth, women and a host of other sectors. Let me emphasise that traditional leaders have a key role to play as partners with government, to build a better life for all our people.

I request that there should be a stronger partnership between us, a partnership for progress and sustainable development, especially in rural areas. This year we intend to do things differently as government - we want to improve the way government works, change the way it delivers services, and the way it relates to people. We want government to work harder, faster and smarter to ensure that the needs of our people are met.

As evident from the State of the Nation Address we have moved away from the tradition of tabling a long list of activities and we have instead opted to outline a few priority areas and clear deliverables on which we will focus. These priority areas are health, education, fight against crime, creating decent work, and rural development and land reform. We also added two focus areas, local government and human settlements. Each priority sector knows what is expected of it.

We are determined to build a performance-orientated State. Most Departments are preparing themselves for the implementation of this new approach. Our public service has to be orientated towards a faster pace of delivery, and also towards being more caring in approach and implementation.

We meant what we said during the inauguration, that:

"The dreams and hopes of all the people of our country must be fulfilled. There is no place for complacency, no place for cynicism, no place for excuses".

This year, government departments will work harder using the available resources to ensure that we improve the quality of learning and teaching. They will improve health facilities and increase access to quality treatment and care. We must work harder to make our communities safer, and to create a new growth path that will help us create decent and sustainable jobs.

The Presidency will be working closely with Ministries responsible for each priority area, to ensure that they finalise key outputs that they must deliver on and focus implementation accordingly. The Ministers will sign delivery agreements with the President detailing what is to be done, by whom, with what resources, during what timeframes and using what resources.

With regards to rural development in particular, we have emphasised that traditional leaders have a critical role to play. Our vision is to see the extension to rural areas of services such as proper roads, water and sanitation, and quality health and education facilities. Rural people need to have access to income generating activities. The Finance Minister announced that R860 million would be used this year for the Comprehensive Rural Development Strategy.

He also announced a new grant to support on-site water and sanitation infrastructure as part of the rural housing programme. An initial R1.2 billion over three years has been made available for this purpose. I trust that there will be constant interface with government in the implementation of services, so that we move along together. We urge traditional leaders to be proactive and engage government on what exactly the priorities of the people are in their areas, working with the people.
Inkosi Luthuli provided a very insightful outline of what the role of a traditional leader should be in our society. In a statement he issued after he was deposed as Chief in 1952, he said:
"My view has been, and still is, that a chief is primarily a servant of his people. He is the voice of his people. He is the voice of his people in local affairs. Unlike a Native Commissioner, he is part and parcel of the Tribe, and not a local agent of the government. Within the bounds of loyalty it is conceivable that he may vote and press the claims of his people even if they should be unpalatable to the government of the day. He may use all legitimate modern techniques to get these satisfied. It is inconceivable how chiefs could effectively serve the wider and common interest of their own tribe without cooperating with other leaders of the people, both the natural leaders (chiefs) and leaders elected democratically by the people themselves".

Inkosi Luthuli had the foresight to emphasise the need for close cooperation between traditional leaders and elected public representatives, and for traditional leaders to never lose sight of the interests of their subjects. He provided this clarity and direction sixty years ago, but it is still relevant and can guide us as we grapple with the challenges of today.

Chapter 12 of the Constitution of our Republic recognises the institution, status and role of traditional leadership. We have also passed several laws since the founding of our democratic republic, to give effect to this constitutional recognition of the institution of traditional leadership.
We took matters a step further in the new administration. After conducting formal reviews and speaking to our people in all areas that we visited during the election campaign and before, we decided to reconfigure government to make it more effective. One of the key decisions we took was to replace the former Ministry of Provincial and Local Government with the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to emphasise the need for better co-ordination and coherence between the three spheres of government.
We then decided to create a stand-alone Department of Traditional Affairs under this Ministry, given the importance of this institution, especially in rural areas. The new department should be operational by the 1st of April this year. Progress has also been made with regards to expanding participation in this House. Provincial and local houses have been established in the Northern Cape, and this province is now represented in the House of Traditional Leaders.

We are aware that there are many outstanding issues that are of concern to traditional leaders. One of these is the need to clarify roles in governance, as required by sections 19 and 20 of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act. Government is aware of the need to move faster with the project of developing a framework for the said allocation of roles and functions. Guidelines have been finalised and we appreciate the active participation of the National House of Traditional Leaders in this process.
We are also finalising the status of the Khoi-San communities. The Cabinet has approved the policy framework. A bill is being drafted and may be presented to parliament later in the year. On 26 January 2010, we signed into law the new comprehensive National House of Traditional Leaders Amendment Act of 2009. This was to address gaps in the original Act, and to enhance the efficiency of the Houses of Traditional Leaders.

One of the positive attributes of the law is that it provides for representation of traditional communities where there is no provincial house established. For instance traditional communities residing in Gauteng, the amaNdebele, will now be represented in the National House. The new legislation clearly defines and enhances the roles and responsibilities of the National House.
The President assented to the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act on the 20th of January 2010. Some of the issues that needed to be attended to included:
(a) The recognition and withdrawal of recognition of kingships and queenships;(b) The establishment and recognition of kingship or queenship councils, whose terms of office must be aligned with that of local government in order to promote effective planning, service delivery and support;(c) The amendment of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act, to make provision for the remuneration of non-traditional leader members of traditional councils and kingship or queenship councils; and(d) Provision for the reconstitution of the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims, commonly known as the Nhlapo Commission.

All these are weighty matters that require serious attention. I am currently studying the report and recommendations from the Nhlapo Commission with regards to the claims and disputes. We will communicate the way forward as soon as possible. We are aware of the anxieties and uncertainty that this matter has caused, and will do our best to move speedily.

I know that there are many other outstanding issues that traditional leaders may want us to deal with as government. The local government sphere is a case in point given its importance in governance and service delivery.
The Local Government Turnaround Strategy recently adopted by Cabinet deals with some of the concerns around traditional leaders and local government. Its implementation will be enhanced by the participation of traditional leaders.

The establishment of the new Department of Traditional Affairs will assist us to work in a more focused way, to deal with issues that are of concern and interest to traditional leaders. It will also help us to strengthen the Local Houses of Traditional Leaders and Traditional Councils.

Traditional leaders played a key role in the struggle for freedom, and many made untold sacrifices. We inherit the legacy of those traditional leaders who fought against colonial occupation, who were the founding fathers of the liberation movement, and who belonged to the generations of Inkosi Luthuli, Madiba and others.

Now is the time for us to work together to build on this legacy, cement democracy and build a better life for our people. Now is the time for us, to work together, to ensure that services are delivered faster to our people, especially those in rural areas, who tend to be marginalised.

As government we will work closely with traditional leaders in the implementation of government programmes in all the priority areas and other areas of work. We look forward to continued positive and constructive engagement as we work harder to make this a year of faster service delivery.
I thank you.

>> This is an edited extract of the address by President Jacob Zuma at the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has witnessed series of changes since it was extracted from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in 1958. The Immigration Department as it was known then, was entrusted with the core Immigration duties under the headship of the Chief Federal Immigration Officer (CFIO). The department in its embryo inherited the Immigration Ordinance of 1958 for its operation. At inception the department had a narrow operational scope and maintained a low profile and simple approach in attaining the desired goals and objectives of the government. During this period, only the Visa and Business Sections were set up.On August 1st, 1963, Immigration Department came of age when it was formally established by an Act of Parliament ( Cap 171, Laws of the Federation Nigeria ). The head of the Department then was the Director of Immigration. Thus, the first set of Immigration officers were former NPF officers. It became a department under the control and supervision of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs ( FMIA ) as a Civil Service outfit.
The nigeria High commissioner H.E TAFIDA adressing Nigerians in the visa
1. Our resolve is to have an IT driven security outfit that can conveniently address the operational challenges of modern migration.
2. To give the service a new sense of direction that can make it relevant at all times to the world security order and global trend

The Interior Minister signing the Visa Hall
The Service has three (3) Directorates, Eight Zonal offices, Thirty-Six State Commands & Federal Capital Territory and Immigration offices in the 774 local government areas..The three Directorates are:1. Finance, Administration & Technical Services.2. Operations, Passport, Border Patrol, ECOWAS & African Affairs3. Investigation, Inspectorate and Enforcement
Finance, Administration & Technical Services (FATS)The FATS directorate is statutorily charged with the responsibility of policy initiation, formulation, articulation and implementation.It is equally responsible for the financial management, recruitment, discipline, postings, deployments and promotion of officers and men of the Service.Operations, Passport, Border Patrol, ECOWAS & African AffairsIt is responsible for the provision of various immigration facilities such as:-
Investigation, Inspectorate and EnforcementInvestigation, Inspectorate and Enforcement is a Directorate of the Nigeria charged with the following responsibilities:Investigation and Aliens Control :(i) Detection, Screening and investigation of violations and abuses of Immigration Laws and regulations

Passport & CERPAC Fees:
Standard Nigerian Passport
N5,100 Bank Draft
Seaman's Certificate of Identity
N2,600 Bank Draft
ECOWAS Travel Certificate
N2,600 Bank Draft
$350 (dollar)

CERPAC form for Students
$200 (dollar)

CERPAC form for Religious workers
$200 (dollar)
*** payment in Naira equivalent
A south african exhibition at the Royal commonwealth Society

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A Taste of Tanzania exhibition in West Berkshire

Mr Amos Msanjila and Mr Kiondo of the Tanzania High commission were present

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Join an award-winning organisation highly regarded for its advice, campaigning, research and policy work on deaths in custody and the investigation of contentious deaths.

1) Research and Policy Officer Starting salary £32,535 per annum including Inner London Weighting + 8% pension
Do you want to influence policy and practice? Are you passionate about independent evidence-based research and making a difference? You will ensure that INQUEST's concerns are fully considered by government, Parliament and other policy makers.
2) Caseworker
Starting salary £28,771 per annum including Inner London Weighting + 8% pension
Do you have at least two years' experience of advice or support work, excellent verbal and written skills and the ability to work with sensitive issues? You will be part of the small team who help, support and advise bereaved families and identify the wider policy issues that arise from casework.
INQUEST is an equal opportunities employer.
Making an application
The closing date for applications for both of the above positions is 5pm Friday 5 March 2010.
You should submit completed application forms only, without covering letters or CVs enclosed, either by post to INQUEST, 89-93 Fonthill Road, London N4 3JH in an envelope marked "Caseworker application" or "Research & Policy Officer application" as applicable, or by email to including the title of the post you are applying for in the subject line.
We prefer to send and receive applications electronically wherever possible.
More details at

Monday, 22 February 2010

The European Race Audit (ERA) at the IRR has published two briefing papers. Download ERA Briefing Paper no.1: 'The Swiss referendum on minarets: background and aftermath' at: (pdf file, 152kb)Or download ERA Briefing Paper no.2: 'Direct democracy, racism and the extreme Right' at: (pdf file, 200kb)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Mandela Day Volunteering 2010 - What could you do in 67 minutes the commemorative day itself has come and gone, but now what? Do you still strive for liberation and world freedom?The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognises "Mandela Day" on 18th July. Mandela Day involves people pledging to volunteer 67 minutes of their time for worthwhile causes based around 5 specific themes: • Human Rights & Civil Liberties • Hunger and Poverty• Education and Literacy• Health Issues & Medicine• Environment, Ecology and Energy ConservationWe are looking to draw together a number of key stakeholders from the voluntary and community sector, key black VCS organisations, government departments, schools and other relevant organisations to support and raise further awareness of Mandela’s legacy charities. We are currently identifying global community projects who want to be involved in promoting Mandela Day. Our partners to date include Business in the Community MERLIN programme, The 100 Black Men of London, Learning Skills and Training Consultancy, and Black History Walks.We are encouraging people to pledge 67 minutes of their time throughout the year not just on the 18th July itself. The number 67 relates to how many years Mandela has invested in changing the political consciousness of the world and fighting against apartheid for liberty, freedom and justice for all.If you are interested in volunteering or have a volunteering opportunity you would like us to publicise, please email worldfreedom46664@ and you will be sent an application form.For more information please visit our website http://www.theaudac ityofworldfreedo Walk GoodAudrey
African self-identity and the 2007 bi-centenary year
24 February 2010
A seminar focusing on the psychological, philosophical, cultural and sociological issues that enable people of African descent to survive in a positive manner in the United Kingdom.
Wednesday 24 February 2010, 6-7.30pm
Room G35, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1
Carl Hylton
Hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, in conjunction with the Black & Asian Studies Association.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Deputy Assistant Secretary Tamara Wittes
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

“Secretary Clinton’s Speech at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum
And U.S. Efforts to Support Democracy and Civil Society
In the Middle East”

National Press Building

February 16, 2010

DAS Wittes: Good morning everyone, and thank you for coming out as Washington is still recovering from a pretty nasty week, but it’s good to see you, including some old friends out in the crowd.

Let me start with just a couple of minutes of comments about the Secretary’s trip, and in particular the speech that she gave at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha on Sunday, and some of the civil society activity that she’s engaged in on this visit.

The Secretary was speaking in Doha, kind of giving an update on the vision that President Obama laid out in Cairo last June, and reiterating the new approach that the United States is bringing to its interactions with Muslim communities and governments of Muslim majority countries around the world. And that new approach really has three key elements to it.

The first is relationships built on mutual interest and mutual respect. The second, a commitment to universal values. And thirdly, working in the spirit of partnership and mutual responsibility. A broader engagement that goes beyond our government to government relationships and really looks at how we can build better engagement with citizens across Muslim communities all around the world.

The Secretary was laying out in her speech how our policies and the partnerships that we’ve built since coming into office last year reflect this new approach. Our commitment and our active engagement toward achieving a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; banning torture; responsibly withdrawing our combat forces from Iraq and building a civilian partnership with the government of Iraq; our efforts to engage diplomatically including with Iran, and to try and deal diplomatically with the concerns over Iran’s nuclear program; our work multilaterally including rejoining the United Nations Human Rights Council; and the work that we’re doing in terms of broader engagement to reach out to support civil society, democracy activists, reformers, and citizens across the Middle East and in Muslim communities around the world.

One of the points that she was making after laying out how those policies are linked to the principles the President spoke about in Cairo is how important partnership is to achieving all of these shared goals, whether it’s Middle East peace, or advancing human rights and democracy. The partnership is key to achieving all of these shared objectives and that as we reach out we are encouraged by a number of governments and non-government partners that have reached out to us in return, and we’re seeking more partnership from our friends around the world.

As Michael mentioned, my main responsibility in the Near East Affairs Bureau is to supervise the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the broader Middle East and North Africa project initiative, and more broadly, to work on democracy and human rights issues, support for civil society. This broader engagement across the Near East region.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative, which is one of our main mechanisms, really to make manifest this vision of partnership with citizens, not just with governments. The Middle East Partnership Initiative is really working to advance that view. And its mission at this point is to build vibrant partnerships with citizens in the Middle East who are working on behalf of their own political, social and economic empowerment.

We do that in a variety of ways. In the seven years since the program was established, it’s given over half a billion dollars across the region to more than 600 projects in 17 countries. So it’s really built a record.

Moving forward, we are going to be focused on a lot of the same issue areas that MEPI has worked on in the past including educational reform, support for democracy and human rights, support for reform of political institutions, support for economic innovation, including helping to develop young entrepreneurs and helping to promote the inclusion of women more fully into the private sector.

We are doing that through an emphasis not just on kind of big projects implemented by international NGOs, but also through our local grants program. At this point I want to emphasize this to you because I really think this is at the heart of the vision of broader engagement that this administration is committed to. The local grants program that MEPI runs operates in every country in the region. This is a program that provides direct support to indigenous civil society organizations. It represents now fully one-half of the projects that the Middle East Partnership Initiative implements.

So I just want to highlight that fact for you as a way of emphasizing the commitment that we have to supporting indigenous citizen efforts to build the kind of future they want for their own societies and to play a role in the broader political process in their own societies of setting that new direction.

So with that me stop and open it up for your questions.

Al Hayat: Joyce Karam with Al Hayat Newspaper. It’s good to see you here.

I wanted to ask you about the, you probably weren’t in office when they decided the 2010 budget, but we’ve seen, I think it’s between 40 percent to 60 percent cut in aid to civil society and democracy promotion. Seventy-five percent in the case of Egypt. That’s numbers according to NGOs in the Beltway area.

How does that complicate your job? Why did that happen?

DAS Wittes: I’m not sure what the factual basis of that question is. If you look at MEPI’s budget for 2010, we were granted a 30 percent increase by Congress. It isn’t everything that we asked for. The administration request for 2010 for MEPI was $86 million; we were given $65 million. But that’s still an increase of 30 percent over what we had in the last year of the Bush administration and I think it’s a signal, a positive signal for us as we move forward.

So as far as our work, we have more resources available and as strong a commitment as ever to supporting civil society in Egypt and across the region. In fact MEPI, in Egypt we made a commitment this year to set aside a specific portion of our program funds for civil society in Egypt, and we’re going to continue to do that going forward. DRL also has set aside some funds specifically to support local civil society groups in Egypt.

So you may have seen some reductions on the part of other parts of the U.S. government that provide this kind of funding, but MEPI has actually stepped up in this area.

Al Hayat: In the case of Egypt in particular, how much aid is given to democracy promotion and civil society? In the Obama administration.

DAS Wittes: Exact numbers for 2010 are still very much in flux. You may have noticed that Congress in its appropriation put a cap on 2009 spending for democracy and governance in Egypt out of the Bilateral Aid Program, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. MEPI is not bilateral, it’s region wide, and there are a number of other mechanisms that we have available to do this work.

I don’t have all those figures in front of me but there are a variety of means by which we can support this activity and we are very committed to doing so.

VOA: Mohamed Shinnaw, Voice of America.

Arab reformers and democracy promoters feel that the United States is yielding to Arab autocratic regimes, tactical state controlled reform that’s designed to fend off real democratic transformation, especially in Egypt. What do you say to that?

DAS Wittes: I don’t think that’s an accurate reflection of our intention or our policy or the work that we’re engaged in. We do have dialogue with all of these governments. These governments are important partners for us. These are also governments that have made commitments to their own populations about what they’re going to do to proceed down the path of democratic reform.

We take those commitments seriously, that those governments have made to their own people, and we expect our partners to take them seriously as well. It’s actually something that we discuss with them quite regularly. I would say in just about every senior meeting we have, we are raising issues in democracy and human rights, and we’re talking about specific things that we think we’d like to see these governments do to advance down that path.

So we’re by no means hands off on the topic, and as I mentioned, in addition to our dialogue with governments we have an ongoing engagement with civil society, with political parties, with aspiring candidates and politicians for whom we provide training and other kinds of support, and we really are engaged at the government and the non-government level to try and advance the ball down the field in terms of democratic reform.

VOA: I noticed when you met with the reformers in Egypt (inaudible) put an article and reading the comments scared me because most of the liberals that are commenting are asking not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Egyptian, of Egypt, assuming that the United States shouldn’t be doing this and criticizing your role in meeting with these people.

How would you deal with this resentment to a U.S. role? And the perception that this is an interference with the internal affairs of Egypt?

DAS Wittes: I think, and let me speak not about Egypt specifically although I will get back to that in a minute, but more broadly, about our approach. I think Secretary Clinton spoke about this at length in her speech on human rights and democracy in December at Georgetown.

What she said there and what I believe very firmly is that we don’t live in a world where we can sort of set walls at the borders of our countries and say what happens inside doesn’t matter. We can see a variety of issues in which internal affairs affect the international community. Whether it’s refugee flows, whether it’s disease, whether it’s domestic governance. And as you just saw at the international conference dealing with Yemen, issues of governance in Yemen are deemed by the international community as very relevant to the broader security challenge that we all face from extremists there and it’s something that the international community is committed to working on with Yemenis, the government and the population.

So I don’t think we exist in a world today where we can say that certain things are outside the realm of discussion, and certainly that’s not the case in our discussions with our partners. We talk about a range of issues.

So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is, as I said and as I think we’ve manifested in all of our diplomacy, the President, the Secretary, all the way on down, we are committed to a broader engagement with this region that goes beyond the high politic, strategic issues that are an important and traditional part of our dialogue, but we’re broadening our dialogue well beyond that. We’re talking about education. We’re talking about how to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re talking about how to advance cooperation in science and technology. All of those are domestic issues as well.

So I think that if we are willing to engage at this broad level, at the people to people level, we’re going to discuss all of the issues and certainly democracy and human rights, as something that we’re committed to ourselves, as a government, as something we’re committed to internationally. That’s going to be an important part of our diplomacy.

Haberturk: This is Tulin Daloglu with Haberturk. It’s a Turkish daily newspaper.

In the context of promoting human rights and democracy, do you reach out to the Iranian population in Iran?

DAS Wittes: I think that you’ve heard very clearly from the State Department, from the White House, a lot of concern about the human rights situation in Iran, about the fact that Iranian citizens are attempting peacefully to express their grievances and to seek redress from their government. These are universal rights that are endowed to them as human beings. This is a set of international standards that we all need to adhere to. And I think we’ve watched with great concern as the Iranian government has failed to uphold its international obligations in dealing with its own population.

So this is something we’re very concerned about. It’s something we’ve spoken about very explicitly, expressed those concerns very explicitly. In Geneva today there is a discussion of Iran’s domestic human rights record as part of its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. This is a process, by the way, that the United States is going to undergo this year in November, since we’ve now joined the Human Rights Council.

So again, to emphasize, these are universal values to which we are all committed. We apply them to ourselves and we expect other countries to uphold those standards as well. We’re very concerned by the failure of the Iranian government to protect the basic rights of its citizens.

Haberturk: I’m not objecting that these are not universal values. They are exactly universal values. But my question was what can you do if the Iranian regime continues to clamp down the green movement on the streets? Do you have any, have you thought about it, if it really comes to the point that they do not get the message of the international community and continue doing what they are doing?

DAS Wittes: I think you’ve seen this aspect, this concern over human rights, as part of a broader international engagement and other concerns that we also have with the Iranian government and its behavior, internally and externally. And we are committed to working with our partners internationally to try and persuade the Iranian government to change that behavior. So there are a variety of mechanisms that we are engaged in along with our partners to do that. We’ve been very active diplomatically, and I think this administration has demonstrated again and again as the President said the other day, we’ve bent over backwards to demonstrate our willingness to engage with the Iranian government in a different way. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the kind of response that we would hope to see, and we haven’t seen the Iranian government demonstrate a willingness to change its behavior either on issues of international security concern, like its nuclear program, or so far on issues of human rights concerns. So I think both of these are very much, are very troubling. I think it’s something that we’re engaged in, a constant process of dialogue with other partners in the international community about how to respond to this.

As you know, we are discussing what next steps we need to take in order to send a strong signal to the government of Iran and try and make the choice sharper for them in terms of what behavioral changes they need to make if they want to really rejoin and become a partner in the international community. Right now they don’t seem very interested in doing that.

Institute for Gulf Affairs: Hi. My name is Karen Laty. I’m from the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

I wanted to ask you the U.S. position in Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia is responsible for many abhorrent human rights violations, especially against Yemeni civilians right now with the Yemeni situation and also against women specifically.

And I wanted to know how the Obama administration will push for greater civilian rights in Saudi Arabia.

DAS Wittes: Thank you.

You know that Secretary Clinton has been in Saudi Arabia. She was there Monday and Tuesday, today. On Monday she had a series of bilateral meetings with government officials, and today she has been in Jetta meeting with civil society leaders and student leaders in Saudi Arabia. This is part of a commitment that she has really everywhere she visits to engage not just at the government level but at the level of civil society. It’s something she feels very strongly about herself because her own political activism started out in civil society with work on women and children’s issues, and this is something that she feels very passionately about, a commitment to supporting civil society activists and particularly women’s empowerment and women’s leadership.

You may have seen in her speech in Doha she spoke at length about the importance not only of women’s empowerment in political and economical and social terms, but also the importance of addressing abuses against women by governments and society. Violence against women and the important role those governments, religious leaders and other community leaders have in speaking up against those kinds of abuses. So this is something she feels very very personally committed to and it’s something she made a point of doing in her stop in Saudi Arabia, was taking time to meet with a group of women business leaders from the Jetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, women lawyers, and social entrepreneurs including a group of young women at Daral Hekma College who are committed to doing what they can to make a difference in their own community. They’re not waiting for anyone to hand them additional rights. They are taking it in hand to do what they can to make a positive change in their own community. She’s there largely to recognize and support and encourage those kinds of efforts.

The National: Steven Stanek from The National.

I’m just wondering what are the specific things that the administration might say to a leader like Hosni Mubarak to encourage democratic reforms? And what is this administration doing differently than the previous administration because as you know, there were attempts to enact some democratic reforms in Egypt, but they didn’t happen.

DAS Wittes: President Mubarak at the last election cycle in Egypt in 2004-2005 when he was running for reelection, made a series of promises to his own people about removing the emergency law from application, about removing prison terms for journalists, about having a more open and competitive political process. As I said before, those are commitments made by a leader to his people. Those are commitments that we have discussed with the government of Egypt, that our President discussed with President Mubarak when he was here in August, and I think the public record reflects that conversation. And it’s something that we continue to raise with them regularly as they head into a series of three very important elections this year.

So we would like to see a more open, a fair process of elections in Egypt this year. We are working both on the diplomatic side and through programmatic support to do what we can to try and cultivate a more democratic system in Egypt and to try and support an open, robust public debate and an open election in Egypt.

The National: Is there a way to ensure that these things happen to make sure that, what happens if they don’t happen as they did during the Bush administration?

DAS Wittes: I would love it if there were a way to make sure that these things happen. The future of democratic politics in Egypt and in every other country, just as is true in our own country, is up to the citizens. It’s up to citizens themselves to set their goals, to organize and mobilize, and to advance those goals. Our role is to support that effort. And it’s important for us to make sure that we are doing what we can to support internal voices that are working on behalf of those universal values that I talked about.

So we’re going to do that, but we can’t ourselves substitute for that internal role. We can support it, we can encourage it, and we can talk to our partner governments about what they can do to support and encourage it as well.

World Business Press Online: Good morning. My name is Dagmar Benesova. I’m from the World Business Press Online news agency.

My question is, we already spoke about Iran, already spoke about Saudi Arabia. Secretary Clinton was in Saudi Arabia criticized the sanctions over Iran are just long term solutions that maybe some immediate action should be done before the Iran regime and human rights go totally wrong.

So my question is, and you also mentioned that you are considering (inaudible) steps and solutions. So if you could be more specific, what kind of steps and directions are you considering right now? Thank you very much.

DAS Wittes: Thank you.

First, just to clarify, I think the comments that you’re referring to about long term versus short term were actually made by the Saudi Foreign Minister in that press conference. He was expressing his sense of the situation.

I think that we understand that from the perspective of our partners in the region, especially in the Gulf, there is a sense of urgency about the situation with Iran because they are the ones, as the Secretary said, who feel the most direct threat. So we are committed to working with them to ensure that they feel more secure, and we’re working internationally to try and, as I said, change Iranian behavior in a way so that all of us feel more secure and more reassured about the role that Iran is playing in the region and the world.

I’m not going to get into further steps here. It’s not really my bailiwick. I’ll leave it to others to discuss the multilateral diplomacy on Iran.

Asharq Al Alawsat: Mina Al-Oraibi, Asharq Al Alawsat newspaper.

I want to ask you about Iraq. We have the elections coming up next month and there really are significant questions being raised about one, how transparent the process of even allowing candidates to run the elections and the elections themselves.

Can you tell us a little bit about the role that the U.S. is playing to help making sure that the elections are open and transparent and fair?

And also in terms of what you would consider ensuring that the election outcome is acceptable. Thank you.

DAS Wittes: I think what makes an outcome acceptable to the population, to the citizens who are voting, is whether they have confidence in the process. So I think what’s most important is that Iraqis feel that the process is open, that it’s fair, that it’s transparent, that they can participate freely.

For me what’s very encouraging about the situation in Iraq heading into these very important elections is that most of the debate, most of the conflict if you will, is taking place through words rather than through violence in the streets.

Now there are those who are trying to use this period to foment sectarian tension and to try and send Iraq back to the bad old days of civil conflict, but those are relatively fewer than they have been in years past. Personally I find it very encouraging that Iraq and Iraqis are at a point where they’re working out their disputes politically. That’s what democracy is about.

So that’s I think the first important point.

The United States is working in a variety of ways with the government of Iraq, and with the Iraqi civil society to try and support this election process, to make it one that is peaceful, open, transparent, and one that the Iraqi people can have confidence in, both through work with NGOs like the National Democratic Institute which is doing a variety of work with government and with civil society in Iraq, support for Iraqi civil society organizations that are involved in civic education, get out the vote efforts, voter monitoring. So across the variety of issues related to the electoral process there are a variety of American programs all designed to support Iraqis, government and non-government who are working on that process.

Asharq Al Alawsat: There is the serious case of which candidates will be allowed to run or not. To actually give somebody the platform to run in elections is crucial.

I know that the U.S. government has been careful not to seem like it’s interfering, but at the same time has an important voice in Iraq. So if you could just speak to the importance of actually allowing as many candidates as possible to run in elections, and do you think that the process as has happened impedes the democratic process?

DAS Wittes: Look, it seems to me that the Iraqi government has a process in place. This has been ongoing for some weeks now, this discussion over who will or will not run. It has gone through a variety of decisionmaking processes starting with the committee and moving into the judiciary and parliament has had discussions, so it seems to me that there’s been a full airing of the issues in Iraq. There have been some authoritative decisions made by Iraqi institutions, and the process is now moving forward and the campaign has begun.

So it really demonstrates to me, or it emphasizes to me, I guess I would say, that this is an Iraqi process. That Iraq has institutions in place to deal with these issues, and that Iraqis have the capacity to debate these issues in a very robust manner in public and to work them out through their institutions.

Al Hayat: Can I ask you two questions?

DAS Wittes: Why don’t we take them one at a time.

Al Hayat: Can you tell us a little bit if MEPI is doing anything in Gaza? Is the aid flowing to non-Hamas affiliated NGOs? That’s one.

Your predecessors mostly Liz Cheney, used to like meeting with opposition groups in D.C. You don’t have to answer, but have you had any meetings with opposition groups from the Middle East in the capitol?

DAS Wittes: I’m not sure I’ve had any requests to meet with opposition groups in the capitol.

Let me talk about Gaza because I think it’s really important and the Secretary spoke about this also in Doha on Sunday.

This is a crisis for the people of Gaza that is really troubling to all of us. It’s something that we are working very hard to address. The United States is, let me say first, we’re the largest donor to UNRWA, the Relief Works Agency. We have devoted many many millions of dollars to humanitarian relief in Gaza and USAID in Gaza now is working on a series of reconstruction projects that it’s trying to get into place and get that process kick started. So that’s on the assistance side.

MEPI is engaged in Gaza in a couple of ways. On the education side. And it’s important to remember that the population of Gaza is incredibly young. I think 60 percent of the population of Gaza are kids. So it’s very important that we focus on this population and we do what we can not only to ease the humanitarian burden, but also to provide this very young population with the tools they need to overcome the experience of their day-to-day lives and to give them the tools to succeed in the future hopefully when peace is established. So MEPI supports two important projects, three actually, to support Gazan youth.

One is English access micro-scholarships. This is a program that MEPI started, USAID now supports it in a variety of countries around the region, and it provides underprivileged young people, kids who don’t normally get access to say an English language school, to get some English language training. It’s really a gateway for so many other opportunities because English literacy is such a currency of success in today’s globalized world. That’s the first thing.

We also have two scholarship programs that were established by Secretary Clinton when she visited Ramallah in March, right after the war in Gaza was over. It was her first overseas trip as Secretary and she went to Ramallah to emphasize her commitment to the Palestinian people and launch these two scholarship programs. One of them supports deserving but again underprivileged high school students in the West Bank and Gaza who would like to be able to go to school in the United States. And provides them two years of intensive training in English language, taking the SATs, writing essays, all the skills that they would need in order to apply successfully to an American university which is a dream for so many people.

Then we also have a scholarship program that sends underprivileged youth from the West Bank and Gaza and a number of other Arab countries to American universities in the region, to AUC, AUB, and LAU. And so those are three projects that MEPI specifically runs that support youth in Gaza and tries to give them a window, some new opportunities, and a look at a better future.

Haberturk: Thank you. This is Tulin Daloglu again.

In her speech Secretary Clinton also talked about the State Department representative on innovation and entrepreneurship, paying a visit to Turkey. Can you please give us some information about it? What are the ideas that are being talked? What is it that we should be expecting out of this visit? Thank you.

DAS Wittes: Thank you. You’re talking about Alec Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the State Department. Alec, I think he’s actually spoken to you in the Foreign Press Center a month or so ago about the Secretary’s speech on internet freedom.

He is a very dynamic young man, as you know, and he is committed to making the United States more technologically savvy in our diplomacy, number one. And number two, he’s committed to figuring out how you use new media tools more effectively in our broader engagement with civil society and citizens around the world.

So he has been working as part of our emphasis, and the President talked about this in Cairo, on science and technology as part of the currency of the 21st Century. That’s what the President said.

Looking at how we can leverage our technology and our spirit of innovation and reach out to people in other countries who are seeking to do the same in their own societies, whether it’s bringing business, American businesses, high tech businesses together with their counterparts in other countries, whether it’s how we can use new media tools to support civil society activists. And this is actually a project that MEPI is sponsoring this year. We put out a $5 million call for applications for what we call the new empowerment technologies program. This was soliciting ideas, soliciting proposals, on how we can use new media tools, whether on-line, cell phone, et cetera, to empower civil society activists to enhance their ability to learn from one another, to expand their impact, and to help them grow.

So all of these ideas are things that Alec is working on and he’ll be meeting with government, he’ll be meeting with civil society, he’ll be meeting with business people, and he has such a creative mind. He’s got about an idea a minute, so I’m confident that he will come back from his trip with some great ideas that we can work on building new partnerships with Turkey and with other countries.

VOA: President Obama was again seeing one party in power and the opposition in prison. What’s the U.S. reaction to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?

DAS Wittes: Thank you. I think it’s very important to go back to our core principles in our approach to these issues, whether we’re dealing with Egypt or any other country in the region. And that is our commitment to universal values and our commitment to democracy and human rights as universal values. So what’s important for us is to see that people are dealt with using due process of law, to see that if there are concerns about criminal activity, that they go through a normal civilian procedure. And I don’t have details on those issues with respect to the individuals that you raised so I’m not going to comment on that case specifically, but I am going to say that issues of rule of law and due process as well as treatment of prisoners are issues that we raise in our dialogue with governments in the region including the government of Egypt.

Voice: Say a word on Syria.

DAS Wittes: I think I will have to leave it to others to say a word on Syria.

Aharq Al Alawsat: This is going to sound cynical, so forgive me. But you’ll find a lot of people in the region will say we’ve heard this before. With all due respect. I think you know the region well enough to know the sorts of comments that come out, whether it’s how the situation is at Palestine, politics always has to do with everything in the region. But I wanted to ask you what you would highlight as the difference being with the Obama administration from the Bush administration. We know the change in tone and everybody was happy with the change of tone, but then there was the statement that perhaps there were over expectations. That with the change of tone there was still the realities of politics that get in the way for any ambition. So if you could perhaps say something on that, it would be helpful. Thank you.

DAS Wittes: What I think is really important here and let me go back to what the Secretary said in Doha, because I think to some extent in all of the discussion about Iran and so on, maybe this aspect was missed so let me highlight it for you.

The new approach that the President laid out in Cairo, number one, wasn’t just about tone, it was about substance. And it was about the way our principles inform our policies. And I would argue that the policies that we put into place since last January and certainly since the speech in Cairo last June are evidence of this new approach. A commitment to universal values that apply equally to us as they do to every other country. A commitment to working on the basis of partnership, and a partnership that goes beyond government to government and reaches out to citizens as well.

When we talk about our commitment to achieving a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, that’s not just talk. That is something that the President began working on on day one of his administration. As you know, and his appointment of Senator Mitchell in his very first week. Senator Mitchell was off the ground on his way to the region within a week. And that has not stopped. He’s been out in the region every month since then working the issues.

There’s persistence, there’s commitment, there is energy, there is day-to-day focus on the Middle East peace process. And I think that is reflective of our new approach.

Likewise, I think the policy we’re pursuing in Iraq is reflective of that new approach. That we are withdrawing our combat troops, that we’re ending this war in a responsible manner, that we are leaving Iraq to the Iraqis and we are building a civilian partnership like the partnership that we would have with any other country in the region. And just as we’re doing that, we are asking other states in the region to reach out to Iraq as well and build those partnerships that are so crucial for this state to be a normal part of the regional gain.

So working in a spirit of partnership means we’re doing our part. Our policies demonstrate that. We’re asking other states, whether it’s in the Middle East or anywhere else around the world, to step up and do their part as well because as the Secretary said in Doha on Sunday, President Obama’s vision in Cairo wasn’t about one country writing a new chapter all on its own. It was about how we built a new relationship and a relationship is something that takes work on both sides.

So I think our policies demonstrate what we’ve done to reach out. I think that we have begun to see some positive impact, although not everything that we would wish to be sure. And we have seen some partners begin to reach out on a number of these issues. I think we’ve seen the impact of that on a number of the key strategic issues that I was talking about. More international cooperation, more support from the region. We would like to see even more of that. I think we will, going forward.

Saudi Press Agency: Yasmeen Alamiri, Saudi Press Agency. I actually just wanted to follow up kind of on that same point.

I think if we look at the way the President is focusing on the year ahead, 2010, it seems that domestic issues are taking priority. This upcoming announcement that Vice President Biden and his wife are going to the Middle East, I think came to a lot of people as a signal that it’s not going to be the priority to kind of engage with the Middle East in the most hands-on way that the President did in the past year.

Are there more trips that are going to take place to the region? How do you think you’re going to kind of ramp up this engagement when a lot of people are quite skeptical about what can happen in this upcoming year?

DAS Wittes: You’re talking about more trips by the President? Is that what you’re asking?

Saudi Press Agency: More trips by the President, but also I think more trips like the Secretary is on right now. She hasn’t returned, right?

DAS Wittes: No, she’s not back yet. I think she may be on her way shortly.

Look, Secretary Clinton has visited 47 countries now in her first year. She’s been on the road a lot. And a number of those countries have been in the Middle East/North Africa region and certainly in the broader Muslim world. And I think that that’s indicative of our commitment to engagement.

In those stops, as I said, she hasn’t just been having bilateral meetings with governments. She’s been reaching out to civil society. She’s been doing townhall meetings as she did on this trip, to emphasize how important it is that we’re engaging with citizens as well. I think that that’s going to continue.

Vice President Biden’s trip, that’s an interesting interpretation. I would say rather that having the Vice President go out to Israel and Egypt and Jordan and the Palestinian authority is a very important symbol of our commitment to engage. The Vice President is one of the most senior interlocutors we can put out there and I think it’s evident of our persistence, our commitment, and the senior level attention that these issues are getting.

So I see no slackening of our commitment. I see no slackening of our effort. If anything, I think we’re ramping up, and I’m hopeful that over the course of this year we will continue to see forward movement on all of these issues.

Saudi Information Agency: Ali Al-Ahmed from the Saudi Information Agency.

I have two questions. You made the trip so make it worthwhile for you.

The first question, does the United States support security sector reform in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain which are sectarian armies and security forces? As the United States supported integration of other elements of society in Iraq, is that policy even really that crossed the mind of the United States, especially the fact that the United States is selling a lot of weaponry to these security forces and armies that are providing assistance and so on?

The second question is, there are a couple of leading human rights activists in the Gulf who have been banned from the United States who are democratic activists and have no record of anything but some of them have been shipped out even upon their arrival in the United States. Is that going to be reexamined?

DAS Wittes: I’m going to have to just take that second question, Ali, because I’m not sure what specific cases you're referring to and I don’t have the fact on that, so I can’t really comment on it.

On the issue of the security sector, what I would say is that we have a very multi-faceted relationship with all the governments in the Gulf. We have ongoing dialogue with them on defense issues, on security issues, on intelligence issues. And we talk to them regularly about the principles that underlie our own approach to issues like intelligence and counterterrorism. And we do, as we do everywhere with every country, human rights reviews on the assistance that we provide.

There have been I think times when we’ve had conversations with governments and they’ve raised issues where they would be interested in having training or assistance and we talk about ways that we can provide that, so that’s definitely part of our ongoing conversation. It’s certainly not off the table.

Maybe one more question.

The National: Steven Stanek from The National again.

I’m just wondering if this administration has given any thought to how it might react if a group say like Hamas won another election. Would, or a group that the U.S. doesn’t necessarily overtly support. Would there be a different reaction than the previous administration had, even to election victories by the Muslim Brotherhood as well?

DAS Wittes: I think it’s very important to make a distinction, an important distinction between an organization like Hamas or Hezbollah and other Islamist movements in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah are militant organizations. They are committed to using violence to pursue their political goals. To me there’s a fundamental conflict between that attitude and a commitment to democracy. And I think that it’s very important that we make that clear. Our issue is not with movements with Islamist tendencies; our issue is not with Islam; our issue is with the behavior of those organizations. We would like to see Hamas make the changes necessary to participate responsibly in Palestinian politics and in the international community. What does that mean? That means setting aside violence. It means committing itself to a two-state solution. It means committing itself to recognizing Israel’s existence. These are basic parameters for the peace process in which all of us have been engaged for years. That’s what we’re asking from Hamas.

Thanks very much. I enjoyed it.

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