8:45 A.M. EDT
Joint Statement on the Second Annual U.S.-AU High Level Meeting
MODERATOR: Hello, my name is Dick Custin. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center here in Washington. Not only do we have journalists from Africa, but we have them across the world on our phone lines. So I’d like to mention that this is an on-the-record briefing with Ambassador Michael Battle, the American Ambassador to the African Union, and the African Union Chairman Jean Ping.
So without further ado, I open it up to you guys. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN PING: Well, we are delighted to meet the press, as last year we are here to continue our – to strengthen our –
QUESTION: (In French.)
MODERATOR: She wants you to speak a little louder.
CHAIRMAN PING: Okay. You want me to speak in French or –
MODERATOR: In English, please.
QUESTION: No, no, no, just a little bit louder so we can hear you.
CHAIRMAN PING: Oh, okay. You’ve just arrived. (Laughter.) That’s why.
Well, I think that we are here to continue the exchange of views we had last year. We started to strengthen our cooperation with USA last year, and it was decided that this year, also (inaudible) will be visiting USA. So from last year to now, here to now, we have strengthened, clearly, concretely the cooperation with United States, and we are satisfied with the way it is – the evolution of this cooperation.
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: I want to welcome Chairman Ping, Commissioner Lamamra, and other members of the African Union back to the U.S. for the second round of high-level conversations between the U.S. Government and the African Union. The African continent is a very fluid continent. Things are happening with quite a degree of rapidness. And the African Union has been deeply engaged in trying to meet the issues as they arrive, and we have been partners on a lot of key issues on the continent.
This is a wonderful time to be engaged in Africa. Most of the time we hear so much about the difficulties and the challenges, but it is a continent where investment has proven to be quite profitable for those who take the risk to invest on the continent. It’s a time of tremendous celebration. A number of really positive things have happened.
Since last year, Niger has turned around; they have a very positive election moving forward. The crisis that we were confronting in Guinea-Conakry is no longer a crisis. Nigeria had successful elections just a few days ago. And there are more nations on the continent that are trending toward democracy than ever in the past.
And with the challenges, this is also a time of great hope and great hopefulness. And so I welcome the African Union leadership to engage in conversation with U.S. leaders in the next couple of days.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you very much. We’re going to open it up to the questions here in Washington to start with, so we’ll take one or two here. Does anyone have any questions?
QUESTION: Right here.
MODERATOR: Yes, yes. Could you speak into the microphone, please?
MODERATOR: Yes, and in English.
QUESTION: In English, okay. A question for both our – is it okay to ask for an answer in French, or should it all –
MODERATOR: It has to be in English.
QUESTION: It has to be in English. Not a problem. A question for both of you, Mr. Chairman Ping and Ambassador Battle: To what extent do you think the authorities you represent, namely the African Union and the U.S. Government, do you think they can help contribute to a resolution of the recent troubles in Burkina Faso? Thank you.
CHAIRMAN PING: Well, you know that we are now facing so many trouble in the continent. We have the situation in Libya, which is very, very serious. We are just trying to get out from the situation – get out the crisis from the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, and we have several other issues. And now, we are watching the situation in Burkina Faso. For the moment, it seems that the situation is not yet out of control, so it seems. So we are watching and monitoring the situation there closely with the Burkina Faso authorities.
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: And from our perspective, the bilateral mission in Burkina Faso would do the kind of monitoring that needs to be done. When I come – get engaged from the USAU, it has to do when an issue has continental consequences. We have one of the most extensive bilateral relationships on the African continent than any other nation, given the number of embassies we have, and we have very competent staff there on the ground. And as the chair says, at this point, it’s in the observational stages and waiting to see how things will develop.
MODERATOR: We’ll take one more question here in Washington, and then I’ll toss to our callers and to Carrie in South Africa. But could I remind you to identify yourself and your news organization before you ask your question, please?
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Adam Ouologuem. I’m from Mali. I’m the Washington bureau chief of the African Sun Times. Ambassador Jean Ping, what do you think of the situation in Libya? Do you think the solution is military? And also, all of the country in the world are struggling with the high pricing of the food, which has a deep impact in the whole world and mostly in Africa. And do you think that – in – at the U – AU, do you have a policy in that regard? And what is the financial situation of your institution, which is struggling, as we know? Thank you.
CHAIRMAN PING: So many questions in one. (Laughter.)
Well, concerning Libya, it has been said by everybody, including NATO, that the solution in Libya is not the military solution. And we have observed from the last meeting in Doha that we are moved now from the military activities to a research of a political solution to Libya. For us, we have never been with the military solution. We have – since the beginning, we thought that the situation in Libya should be solved in a political way, and our roadmap is clear enough concerning the solution in Libya.
We have been interacting with the rest of the world. Recently, I have participate for the first time in the Doha meeting. And we are exposed to the rest of the participants, the roadmap of the African Union, and we have interact with them and we continue to interact with them.
Now the second question concerned the food crisis. Well, you know that the food crisis happened suddenly, and Africa was confronted with this crisis, probably more than the rest of the continent due to the fact that the majority of our food consumption is imported. And we realize that even if you have possibilities to buy food, there were no food in the market. And the few you find, prices just move up because of speculation. So we had riots, food riots, in the continent.
We have to draw lessons from this. One of the lesson is that we cannot continue to believe in the Washington consensus that the state have nothing to do with food; it’s a question of the market only. No. That’s why we decided in (inaudible) that government should invest at least 10 percent of their budget, sometimes more, in food. Because at the end of the day, who’s going to build small roads in the rural areas to bring product in the market? It cannot be the market itself. It should be – state should invest with private sector to build these small roads in rural area, to bring food in the market, to help the market, and also to help the (inaudible) to know what happen in the market, and they’re using cell phone (inaudible) – for them to know the price in the market, to know when the transportation is coming, to deal with the whole trend of production, including conservation. All these needs the help of the state.
So we have been taking measures concerning food crisis. We have a program which is called CADEP, and this program would benefit from the help of the financial institutions. Bilaterally, United States has put – set a number of fund for food security. So we have to prepare our countries to submit to this institution credible requests. Some of them don’t know exactly what to do, and we are helping them.
The third questions – question dealing with our financial situation; I don’t know why this question was raised. Maybe somebody told you that we are in a financial crisis. We are not in a financial crisis. Maybe because you know that some of our major contributors have some problems at home, such as Egypt or Libya. But Egypt is going to pay its contribution.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to move over to the phone lines now, and I’ll pass the baton to Carrie Denver in South Africa.
MS. DENVER: Great. Thank you so much. First, I want to remind all the callers to please press *1 to enter the question queue. And our first question will be from Kevin Kelly with the Nation Media Group in Kenya.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking the question, thanks for the conference call. I’m interested in learning more about the AU’s position on the International Criminal Court. You’re all aware that it’s a very big issue right now in Kenya, with six accused figures facing charges at the court for their alleged roles in the post-election violence. There’s been an effort in Kenya to have a local tribunal hear those cases, after Kenya was given opportunities in the past to arrange such a tribunal and didn’t. My understanding is the African Union is skeptical about the ICC’s role in Africa because so far everybody, I think, that’s been charged is African. I’m wondering what your position is officially on this and whether you think the ICC can play a useful role in Africa. And isn’t it true in most of the cases the ICC was invited into those countries by the governments involved? Thank you.
CHAIRMAN PING: Well, I think you have replied yourself to the questions. The question was in two part, the question and the reply. We – you have to make a distinction between impunity and some institutions. African Union is committed to fight impunity. It is in our charter, and probably its only charter of this, an international organization who is dealing with impunity. Impunity is in the constitutive act. So we have to fight impunity. It is clear enough. There is no question about it.
In practical also, we have two tribunal now in Africa – the International Tribunal for Rwanda was been doing for years this job without any problem, condemning, judging without any problems, and the International Tribunal for Sierra Leone also doing this job. These tribunal are comparable to the tribunal of Yugoslavia who have judged Milosevic. It’s not ICC who has judged Milosevic.
So first, we have to fight impunity. Second, it is going on in the continent with these two tribunals and with others also. Now, concerning ICC, we have been complaining, as you have mentioned rightly, on the double standard and also on the certain numbers of activities. We are not – ICC comprised 30 African countries member of ICC. I would like to remind you that we are here in the United States; they are not member of ICC, but we have 30 African members of ICC committed to ICC.
So the problem is not fighting impunity, the problem is not if we are committed to do that, the problem is the justice of man, of men, how it has been rendered. Everything – people who are target there all over the map, exclusively Africans, as if nothing is going on in Sri Lanka, nothing in Gaza, nothing in Pakistan, nothing in Georgia, nothing here and there, just to mention a few. Why this double standard? We are questioning ourself on that.
Secondly, the problem of timing in the continent – we have to solve the problems concerning peace and security, concerning justice, concerning reconciliation, concerning a certain number of things which we have to deal with. You cannot say that justice is above peace and security. All peace and security is above justice. We have to take all these questions in a holistic manner. Otherwise, you will create more problem than solving them. I want to remind you just what South Africa did with justice, peace, and reconciliation. Everybody applaud. Why you applaud there, you don’t applaud somewhere else, if we want also to take this on a similar basis – peace, justice, reconciliation?
And you’ve mentioned the case of Kenya as an example. First of all, Kenya is a member of ICC. It’s a sovereign state who have chosen to be member of ICC. They could not – they could have stayed like United States and not member of ICC. But they have chosen themselves to be member of ICC. And they say they are committed to peace, justice in ICC. What they have asked is that Article 16, which is in the treaty – you have put in the treaty an Article 16. You don’t want it to be used. Why? It is there to be used, and Kenya will ask a deferment according to the rule of ICC, and these deferment is to help them themselves to make justice.
The international justice is based on the principle of severity. If you have a criminal at all, if you can judge it correctly, you see there is no need to move up. If you can’t judge it, then you could move to original organization or to an international organization. So Kenya say that I’m ready. Give me – as in conformity of Article 16, give me 12 month to put my own tribunal, and we promise that we will judge. What is wrong with that?
MODERATOR: Carrie, go ahead.
MS. DENVER: Okay. The next question comes from our – the U.S. Embassy in Gabon.
QUESTION [BBC Afrique/TeleAfrica]: I have two questions to Mr. Ping. Do you have an idea what the U.S. military intervention in Libya cost? And how big is the military capacity of Africa Union?
CHAIRMAN PING: Well, I couldn’t follow properly. You are talking about a military invasion of U.S.A. in Libya? That is –
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: And he asked about the military capacity of the African Union.
QUESTION: That was the second question
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: Yeah. The second question. Yeah.
CHAIRMAN PING: This is the second part.
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: Yeah. Okay. Okay.
CHAIRMAN PING: What about the first? Could you repeat it clearly? The first part of a military invasion?
QUESTION: Do you have an idea U.S. military intervention in Libya cost?
CHAIRMAN PING: U.S. –
MODERATOR: A military intervention – the cost, I believe – cost of military – U.S. military intervention in Libya.
CHAIRMAN PING: Oh, no. It’s huge probably. It’s huge – (laughter.) – as all of this intervention. I think it’s difficult to talk about a United States intervention and military intervention in Libya. There – a resolution has been adopted in Security Council Resolution 1973, and this resolution talk about a no-fly zone. It is in conformity with this resolution that a coalition of countries decided to implement the no-fly zone. And the United States, France, and UK used to be the first to intervene according to this – the decision taken in Paris. Now it’s NATO whose military intervening there. So you can imagine that, of course, it’s huge in general. I don’t know that cost, but it is certainly a very, very important financial contribution for that.
The second part of your question, concerning – concern the military capacity of Africa, no?
QUESTION: African Union.
CHAIRMAN PING: African Union. Well, if you are talking in general about our military capacity, I can tell you. If you are talking our military intervention in Libya, we don’t have any military intervention in Libya. We have a political solution concerning Libya with a roadmap, with a contact group, and – but we don’t have a military intervention in Libya. But talking in general, I want to tell you that we have an architecture on peace and security. And in this framework, we have a standby force, which is operational with five brigade – regional brigade – and I want to tell you that also we have intervening military in Somalia. We are there alone, intervening military in Darfur with United Nations. So this is to give you an idea of our capability, military capability, in general. But we are not military present in Libya.
AMBASSADOR BATTLE: I’d like to follow up on your question, in part, because of the impression that your question gave – the impression was that the U.S. invaded Libya, which is not the case. The chairman was very correct in indicating that Resolution 1973 gave rise to the U.S. participation and a larger coalition engaged to prevent what was believed to have been a very possibility of quite a bit of slaughter in Benghazi. The chairman is absolutely correct in his statement that a political solution is the inevitable direction that the crisis in Libya will be solved. There is, at this point, a two-track process. One, being the military, and as the chairman indicated, that the African Union itself is not militarily engaged in Libya but has consistently focused on the political process.
But that’s a two-track process, given the reality of Resolution 1973, which was a United Nations resolution. It was not a U.S. resolution. In fact, the U.S. took its time in deliberation on 1973. But once 1973 was passed, then the U.S. and some other nations fulfilled what it sensed to be its obligation under 1973. But it is very, very clear that inevitably any kind of long-term stability in Libya and other parts of the world will have to grow out of a political process. And that political process is – it’s fully engaged with the AU being at the table and Cairo also at the table and Doha and then present at separate meetings in London and Brussels and here in the U.S., where I’m sure the issue of Libya will also emerge as a part of the discussion. So the political process as well as the implementation of Resolution 1973, where everything that is done has to be in that context – that’s a United Nations context; it is not a U.S. context.
MODERATOR: Carrie, we have time for one more question. We have five minutes, so if you have a quick question on your end, we’ll be happy to take it.
OPERATOR: Okay. We’ll take the next question from our Embassy in Togo.
QUESTION: Okay. This is Silvio Combey from Crocodile News in West Africa, Lome, Togo. My question is: It has become obvious that post-electoral clashes are (inaudible) in Africa with regards to what’s happening in Cote d'Ivoire. What’s going to be the degree of the involvement of AU in the next coming election in Africa?
CHAIRMAN PING: Well, this is a very big issue. Since the violence occurred in Kenya and in Zimbabwe, we really tried to notice that violence can come from elections. Then we decided ourself to monitor all the elections, to have prevention and to have management and conflict resolution in case of the violence occur during the election. So we have a team of wise men who we’ll ask to study and to give us study on post-electoral conflict and also in term of prevention of the violence.
So in term of prevention, we have – when we’re noticed that the violence can occur in a country, which has happened a certain number of time, we decide to send a team generally of former head of states to go in that country, to investigate, and to help them in, for instance, signing a code of conduct, all the candidate sign a code of conduct. And we succeeded in several countries in avoiding violence but also, more than avoiding violence, making that the result of elections are accepted by everybody. So this is in term of prevention.
In term of management, we generally send a team long time in advance. In the past, the team was sent just to monitor elections, but now we send a team to monitor elections several weeks before the election in order to go to investigate not only in the capital, but to see how the election are organized in the whole country with the others – observers – international observers, African observers, and during the elections and after the election in order to avoid violence during the election.
This is the situation which is now our day, going in all the elections organized in the continent. We monitor them and we take actions.
MODERATOR: Okay. I’m afraid that’s all the time we have today. I’d like to thank our callers from across Africa as well as our journalists here in Washington, and of course, our guests, Ambassador Battle and Chairman Ping. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
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