FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION OF AFRICA THOMAS PERRIELLO AND U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION OF AFRICA SAID DJINNIT
TOPIC: CONFLICT, DEMOCRACY & DEVELOPMENT IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2015, 4:00 P.M. EDT
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center. My name is Monica Shie. I’m very honored today to have the U.S. special envoy and the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa. We have Special Envoy Thomas Perriello and Special Envoy Said Djinnit. We also have with us today Stephen Hayes, who is seated over here. He is the president and CEO for the Corporate Council on Africa. He will give remarks as well. And I’m going to turn it over to Bernadette Paolo, who will open up. This is an on-the-record briefing. We have a DVC with Washington as well. And at the end of the remarks, I would ask that if you have questions that you stand up and state your name and your news media organization, or for those of you who are not journalists, the organization that you represent here.
Thank you so much for coming. I’m going to turn this over to Bernadette.
MS PAOLO: Thank you very much, Monica. Good afternoon. As you know, my name is Bernadette Paolo. I would like our special envoys to have a seat, if you will. I’m pleased to welcome you to this overview and discussion on conflict and democracy and development in the Great Lakes region. We have a unique opportunity this afternoon to hear from both the United States special envoy, as you heard, and the UN special envoy, in addition to benefitting from the views later of Mr. Modibo Toure, assistant secretary-general and special advisor to the Great Lakes region. We also have an expert here with us today in trade and investment in Mr. Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, who will serve as moderator and provide comments as well. I want to commend the Department of State for convening this program, in particular Ms. Nicole Peacock, who is an excellent representative and partner for people from all different sectors. And this is a key moment in time for the Great Lakes region.
My opening remarks are predicated on my experience of having been on Capitol Hill on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for 10 years, and my present capacity as president and CEO of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, so I’ve been in civil society for 17 years.
The international community and the United States have come a long way in how they address situations in foreign countries. It is far more comprehensive approach that understands the linkages between conflict and the lack of democracy and equity, economic disparity, and the need to create opportunities for all segments of society, and the realization that in order to facilitate change, all actors must be fully engaged, including civil society.
It used to be 20 to 25 years ago on Capitol Hill that the topics we are addressing today would never be dealt with during the course of the same program. In fact, economic development, trade and investment being associated with the majority of African nations to many people then was almost unthinkable. Instead, foreign aid was thought to be the panacea for Africa’s economic ills. Addressing democracy in Africa was through getting rid a despot while putting up with those who not – who, though not democratic, were favorably disposed to acceding to the will of powerful nations.
Fortunately, we have evolved as evidenced by African leaders being treated as partners in the political, international, and economic realms. Progress has been made not only by international actors but by many African nations in adopting sound and economic practices. Decades ago, instead of counting countries among the 54 nations comprising the continent where conflicts were ongoing, we counted the very few countries where there were – happened to be peace and stability.
With respect to the Great Lakes region named after a number of lakes, as we know the best of known are Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Albert, and Edward. Today we’re going to talk about Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, though some other classifications include Tanzania and Kenya.
According to the 2015 UNHCR sub-regional operations profile, governments in the Great Lakes sub-region have made great strides towards socioeconomic development and institutional stability, but conflict remains a pervasive problem in the Great Lakes. The complexities of remedying conflict in the region is due to a myriad of issues, including land ownership, ethnicity reconciliation after genocide, extreme poverty. Many of these challenges have existed for a prolonged period of time and require examining patterns, all the stakeholders’ pervasive injustice, the shifting of refugee populations, the lack of respect for national sovereignty so as to gain access to minerals and other resources.
There’s a strange dichotomy between the emerging economic prowess of several countries in the Great Lakes region – with GDP growth between 5 to 6.3 percent, and strong regional cooperation is evidenced in the East African community – yet at the same time today according to reports there is a bloody conflict which we are witnessing now in Burundi where it is reported that dead bodies are strewn throughout the streets in the aftermath of a controversial election. We know there are other presidential elections coming up, other constitutions which should not be changed, and the lack of democratic institutions.
While we all remember the genocide in Rwanda, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, how the Democratic Republic has been ravaged from the inside and the outside, and we’re seeing this violence in Burundi, we are also cognizant of the thousands of refugees both in this region and those who are trying to leave this continent in other regions only to encounter in some instances a worse fate. But we must be ever vigilant, redouble our determination, and remain hopeful. We must also call to mind the seven fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa; that the fact that the most populous country, Nigeria, in that country democratic elections were successfully held; and that increasingly terrorism will give way to the will of majority of African citizenries despite the efforts of Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups.
Everyone in this room fully understands the challenges. From a civil society perspective, here are just a few recommendations for your consideration as special envoys. In brokering peace accords, it would be helpful, in addition to the representatives of governments and rebels or other aggrieved parties, to have representatives of civil society, particularly those who are proficient in peace entities and understand how conflicts impact different segments of society. In short, the engagement of non-state actors is essential. The international community should work in unison with the African Union regional entities and with all of its member states to ensure that where democracy is being suppressed, human rights violations are being perpetrated, that they stand in unison against the perpetrators; the engagement and inclusion of women in the political process not only through quotas but through the acceptance and delegation of authority in patriarchal societies and the commensurate funding of their integration in these processes.
I just returned from AGOA in Gabon where 39 countries talked about some recommendations, and I’ll only talk about two which we all know, and that is to encourage governments to advance educational opportunities for youth to include access to digital technology, mobile technology, ecommerce, and new media to promote entrepreneurship. We see even in refugees camps that now they’re engaging youth in entrepreneurial activities.
In summary, the reason for having special envoys would be then that due to the unprecedented interest and concern about the Great Lakes region, that while having great opportunities for economic advancement on the one hand, these countries have been caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of violence brought on by internal and interlinked conflicts. A staggering number of people have lost their lives. There have been gross human rights violations, sexual-based violence, extreme poverty, arms trafficking, and huge ungoverned and unprotected spaces. As a result of these conflicts, many civil society organizations, some of who – and think tanks, some of whom are in this room, pressed their members of Congress for a special envoy. We know Senator Feingold was the first special envoy to this region, and he went to the region 15 times and you could see a discernible difference. When he left, there was a decline and fortunately members of Congress then recommended to President Obama that he have another special envoy, and we are fortunate enough to have a former member of Congress, Thomas Perriello, who is our special envoy now.
We are also equally fortunate to have a special envoy from the United Nations. Mr. Djinnit has considerable experience in the AU, in the African Union. He’s from Algeria and he was the first commissioner for peace and security in the AU. And both of these gentlemen are heavy hitters and we – who strive for peace and unity – and we have another heavy hitter in Mr. Stephen Hayes. Stephen Hayes is – has not only experience in the private sector, but – he wouldn’t like for me to go back this far, but he actually began his career working in a refugee camp in the Middle East in the ‘60s and was involved in a lot of international organizations such as the YMCA. He during his 15 years has built up CCA and can give you really good, good accounting of what’s happened with our private sector.
In closing then, I wish to quote the words of our President from his speech at the United Nations. “We, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion. We cannot look backwards. We live in an integrated world, one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success.”
Gentlemen, we thank each of you for your service and look forward to hearing your comments and recommendations. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR HAYES: Thank you, Bernadette. We do go back a long, long way. I think all of you are here to really hear the special envoys, as I am as well, but let me just give you a quick context on why I think I’m here.
The Corporate Council on Africa is the largest U.S. organization in terms of doing business with Africa; 85 percent of business with Africa from the United States is represented in our membership. We also do more trade missions to Africa every year than any organization in the country, bar none. And we have about 180 companies, now about 20 percent of those are African companies.
And to set the stage for this, we have – we’ve also sent trade missions to nine of the 12 countries in the Great Lakes coalition, or I should say the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. We were asked about two years ago to participate in the planning for an international donors – an international investment conference on the Great Lakes area. We were asked by Mr. Touray at the UN. We said that we would participate. Senator Feingold, then the special envoy, also asked us. And the – as bureaucracies happened, this really didn’t come through. It was in my view premature, and apparently it was premature to others. Therefore we were asked then to wait our turn then until it was ready to start back up, and I think that’s the reason that I was asked to be here today.
We stand ready to help. We have a Congo working group. There are – one of our members, Freeport-McMoRan, is the largest investor in the region by far, and certainly in the DRC. And so there are – there is member interest. There are challenges, significant challenges, and I think that’s why you need here the special envoys. But there is an investment conference planned now in February. We have said that we again would stand by ready to help from the private sector. I think there’s been too little dialogue between the public and the private sector, and in fact, investment is probably the key to changing the situation and economic development, changing the situation in the Great Lakes region. So we are standing by to be one of others, of many to help on the investment conference, if so called, and we are working actively there already. So I think that we’re qualified and ready to go on that.
So without further ado, though – I think all of you do want to hear the special envoys before this meeting is over – so please allow me to ask Said Djinnit of the United Nations, special envoy from the UN, to make opening – make his remarks. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR DJINNIT: Thank you very much, and I’m very glad to be here with my friend, Tom Perriello, the U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, and I thank the organizers for this initiative. I’m very glad to be here with you. At the same time I was looking forward to meeting with you, so I am very, very glad with this opportunity.
I have not prepared a long introduction because I thought this was a more interactive session. I was ready for discussing with the audience. But some (inaudible) the work of the special envoy of the UN working together with other special envoys, especially my colleague and friend, Tom, and building on the excellent work that has been initiated by Feingold and Mary Robinson as the special envoys for the U.S. and the UN, and working with other special envoys in the region.
I welcome this opportunity to update you on our collective efforts in assisting the people and the governments of this region in building improved governance, preventing conflict, promoting respect for civil and political rights, and economic opportunity for all. Since my appointment as the – last year as the – by the secretary-general as the new special envoy, I consulted widely with key stakeholders in the region, as well as development partners and international organizations and colleagues from regional organizations and international organizations and special envoys, to draw up a roadmap for the implementation of the Peace Security Cooperation Framework, which was an agreement that was signed by the leaders of the region in 2013 February to – as a booster to the ongoing efforts in the region to consolidate peace and promote development.
This roadmap builds on the foundation, as I said, led by my predecessor Mary Robinson. It sets a three-year time horizon for achieving the goals of the PSCF framework around eight priorities. These priorities include: One, supporting ongoing efforts to neutralize the negative forces in the region in eastern Congo in line with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council as well as recommendations and decisions by heads of state of the region. The FDLR, ex-M23, ADF remain an obstacle to peace, an obstacle to development in the region. It perpetuates the climate of insecurity in the region and it erodes trust and it perpetuates mistrust in the region, which is – must trust is needed for moving forward on the track of development.
Second, facilitating confidence building. We have seen some deficit of trust between some member-states, and we thought that we should promote as special envoys some confidence-building initiatives to try to rapproche a rapprochement, and we were thinking of the countries of the CEPGL – essentially, the DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda, and it happens that the three countries that went through genocide and conflict in the Great Lakes region. But unfortunately – and I will talk about it maybe in the discussion – the situation of Burundi has brought us backward because of the relations between the countries of the region, essentially between Rwanda and Burundi, are not the best at this present, so it’s difficult to get to the initiative of confidence building.
Three, promoting peaceful, inclusive, and transparent elections. We identified that as a priority in our roadmap because we believe that if we fail in our efforts to help Burundi, to help DRC, to help others in managing their electoral processes peacefully and according to constitution and democratically, we may find the situation like the case of Burundi now, at the risk of things unravelling and then bring us back of – to crisis, which is undermining the whole efforts that we are trying to promote on the PSCF. So it’s very important that we should continue encouraging timely, peaceful, and constitutional processes in the region. And we have been discussing with my colleagues, the envoys, on that.
Fourth pillar, strengthening the government’s mechanism of the Peace Security Cooperation, which is an internal – we have a mechanism – we are trying to bring more ownership by the member-states. It’s very – I must admit that it’s very difficult because you have – sometimes it’s easy to launch initiative and it’s difficult to maintain it, because the initial momentum – it’s not always difficult to maintain the momentum. We are trying to maintain the momentum.
Five, promoting durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced person, people in the region. We believe that the issue of displacement is one of the core – the grass-root problem that needs to be addressed, including the issue of the land you mentioned earlier, the refugees and IDPs. And we are looking at some – we have been working with the World Bank, with UNHCR and others, supporting initiatives that are addressing these issues. And as part of the new impetus, we are bringing to the peace, security cooperation framework, we want some leaders to champion that because we need some leaders to help us promote this issue, because it’s low-profile as it stands now.
The sixth pillar is facilitating socioeconomic development to consolidate peace gains and advance regional integration, and we – I will say something a little bit later.
And eighth – seventh, mobilizing the force vive that you referred to it earlier of the region. That means the women, the youth, and civil society. And you have initiatives, which is building on the initiative by Mary Robinson, with the youth supporting the youth initiative, supporting the civil society – we have a civil society forum for the Great Lakes. And we have a woman and we have the initiative of the women platform. We believe that this is strong pillars of the transformative agenda in the Great Lakes region. We cannot transform the region if this force vive are not fully involved in the processes.
And lastly, acting as a catalystic for regional initiatives to fight impunity, improve accountability, and advance regional judicial cooperation and strengthen the rule of law, because again, these are the basic ingredients for instability, and we believe that our – as an office of the UN there, we should emulate and encourage initiatives aimed at strengthening the rule of law, which is important for the stability, which is important also for the investments and business.
As I work with the various stakeholders to deliver this comprehensive multi-track approach to promote peace and stability, it has become very clear to me that one enabler that can potentially put the region on a trajectory of economic growth and shared prosperity is, without doubt, the private sector. The signatories of the PSC framework are aware of the important role that business can play in promoting peace and entrenching stability. They look to private sector investors to tap into the region immense economic opportunities. They are keen to create the propitious conditions to turning the region into a viable and attractive investment destination. That is the spirit that guides – guided their decision to convene the Private Sector Investment Conference for the Great Lakes Region. This important event, the first of its kind, is expected to take place in Kinshasa after a process of selection on 24, 25th February, 2016.
Yesterday, the signatory country – members of the framework, of the PSC framework, met to review progress and challenges in the security – about the situation in the region. I am pleased to report that despite serious concern that we have on the situation in the South Sudan and especially in Burundi – we have been discussing the issue of Burundi, with the risk of things really deteriorating further – the overall situation remains on a positive trend – rather on positive trend. There is a stronger political commitment from the signatories to ensure that the region economic potential is fully realized. Despite the weakening of oil and other commodities prices, the region remains dynamic, with vigorous growth prospects. The investment climate is registering some progress. My office and the ICGLR, which is this organization that was established in the 2006 to emulate cooperation, integration, cooperation in the region, are working closely with the global compact, the IFC, the African Development Bank, regional economic communities, the Pan-African Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well other stakeholders to assess the investment climate and sensitize policymakers about the need for further legal and regulatory reforms to mobilize greater and responsible investment. You have, actually, a very important conference on the 1st and 2nd September in Addis Ababa devoted to discussing this.
This brings us to the issue of the dialogue with governments on the need to create a propitious environment for investment. Since last year, through a wide concentrative process across the countries of the region, we have identified 25 illustrative catalytic regional projects with the regional dimension and integrate with the high value for integration which we’re preparing to showcase at the conference next year in Kinshasa. I have established a high steering committee to help provide strategy guidance to the preparatory process, and I am glad that my sister from the DRC, who is the head of the National Agency for Promoting – for the Promotion of the Investments, is here with us and I’m very glad that she is with us. We are working very closely from the National Organizing Committee that she’s leading under the ministerial committee to prepare for the conference.
As the steering committee comprise a number of representatives of the institutions – the Government of the DRC, the UN system institutions, the World Bank, the regional economic groupings – but also a representative of the sector – private sector. And you have been able so far to get the support of Mo Ibrahim; he is part of our steering committee. We have also got the support of Safaricom – Bob Collymore, who also joined our steering committee. I met him before I study here in New York, and he’s very supportive initiative. We have also an agreement in principle by Don Gotti (ph) to support the initiative. We have the principle, but we have not yet his representative in the steering committee.
To make sure that this private sector conference is not prepared by representative institutions and governments but by representative – by the prestigious and credible representative of the private sector in Africa that could – just to tell you that really we are looking forward, because we believe that while we are very busy trying to help the region address outstanding issues from the tragedy of the past, of the ’90s – that means finalizing the problem of the neutralization of the negative forces – while we are trying to assist the countries address the new generation of conflict in Africa, which is related to governance and the tendency, the trend to perpetuate leaders beyond constitutional terms. This is something that is also something serious.
We believe that we should open properly the chapter of investment in the region, and this we believe that the private sector conference is the inaugural one of a process that will trigger other initiatives of investment. We could believe that it’s only the private sector working hand in hand with the government, and we want to have that private sector conference – another opportunity to have a high-level dialogue on the climate for business in Africa. We want to create the solid foundation for a successful conference, and we would like you to be with us there, and especially you. And I’m glad that you are already thinking of attending this very important conference. Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)
MR PERRIELLO: Thank you very much for being here. Thank you, Special Envoy Djinnit. I think both of us are very interested in giving people here a chance to comment and ask questions, so I will keep this relatively short, but I do want to thank all the members of civil society throughout the Great Lakes and their partners here in the United States for the crucial work that’s been done on democracy and on development, and certainly to Steve and the partners in the private sector. We understand that the potential is tremendous; the realities are already quite tremendous in many cases. We’ve seen GDP growth, we’ve seen growth in certain sectors, we’ve seen some steps in regional economic integration on everything from regulatory and legal matters, mechanisms, et cetera.
But we know underneath all of that, if there is not stability and there’s not rule of law, we’re going to see a freezing out of the investment climate or certainly a tampering down of that. And I would say three months or nearly three months on this job, that one of the dominant feelings is that of whiplash. It’s a whiplash constantly between the unbelievable potential of the Great Lakes region and too often some of the realities of things that are getting in the way of that potential. And I think that’s what we see more than anything else over the next year and a half. We see between now and the end of next year and thereafter a chance for historic progress: the first democratic transitions in several countries, continuing progress on both foreign but also domestic economic development, opportunities to really put some of the dynamics of the past – some of these root causes like negative forces and armed groups – to have them on their heels and see that future that the people of the Great Lakes deserve and have for so long been wanting.
And while we keep that hopeful image in front of us, we are also very aware of the potential for things to go very badly in the region. And unfortunately, we already see that. In the case of Burundi, there are over 200,000 Burundian citizens who have already become refugees, some of them for the second or third time in their lifetime; ones that I’ve met with both in camps in Tanzania and in Rwanda who say we’ve tried going back too many times; we’re losing faith in the ability to have a stable Burundi. And we do believe that all of us have a role to play in ensuring a peaceful and stable future for Burundi, but particularly the neighbors and the members of the East African Community.
And it comes back to this issue of investment. When the world, when the private sector, is hearing about potential conflict anywhere in the Great Lakes, to use an overused term, it’s not good for the brand of the Great Lakes. Underneath this most, first and foremost, is the human cost of this instability, and that’s a human cost that is very much on our minds right now – it’s already been and certainly what could be. But it is not true that what happens in Burundi just affects Burundi. It is something that affects the investment climate of the whole region, the stability environment of the whole region, as well as the financial realities of taking in refugees, et cetera.
So let me just say a few things about the region off the top before we go to questions. First and foremost, we remain seized with the urgency of the political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi, where we have tremendous economic fragility and political fragility. We continue to see tit-for-tat violence and assassinations, which we’ve condemned on all sides. For nearly three months now, there’s been an agreement across the EAC – that no one disputes – that there should be a political dialogue to solve this problem; that that political dialogue should be inclusive of all those who have not used violence as means to the end; and that those should be EAC-led talks with President Museveni at the helm.
We believe that yesterday is not soon enough for those talks to have started and we will continue to work with anyone in the UN system, the African Union system, and the EAC to urgently resume that dialogue. We believe a political dialogue is the only way to prevent this from deteriorating further and on stakes that could be tremendously high. We’ve continued to communicate that as envoys throughout our systems, and again, stand ready to be supportive of any such effort.
Unfortunately, we feel like the situation in Burundi proves why the United States has set a policy of respecting constitutional term limits. It’s been the position of President Obama that when people try to change the rules at the last second to stay in power that it is destabilizing to democracy but also to development. And we feel, looking at the situation in Burundi, that this is exhibit A in why we have taken that position. We continue to offer our best advice to everybody in the region that we think that is crucial, democratic transitions and respecting constitutions for the medium to long-term stability of countries and the investment that comes behind it, and we will continue to work with governments throughout the region in that regard.
The next 18 months – and I’ll just end with this – regardless of what happens, who stands for elections and doesn’t stand for elections, we know it will be a tumultuous year and a half. Election cycles are often that way, even in our own country. So we know the importance of having a strong peacekeeping force on the ground, one that ideally is in a situation to be resuming joint operations in order to address some of these root causes, and that we can stand as an international community to ensure that the people throughout the region, like people throughout the world, have the right to elect a representative government and to have peace and security.
And that doesn’t just happen on election day. Free and fair elections are about the space created in the months and year ahead of an election, making sure that people feel free and un-harassed in their ability to participate politically in that process.
So to the whiplash point, we do remain gravely concerned about the situation in the region, but we also remain focused on the fact that this is a historic period for the Great Lakes in which 20 years of work – first and foremost by the people of Congo, the people of Rwanda, the people of Burundi – to forge a stronger future, and one where we try to be allies, could come to fruition. So we will keep both those in mind.
And with that, I think I’m going to invite the envoy up and we will see questions and comments, and Steve may come in as well.
QUESTION: Can I get a mike? Thanks. I am Kevin Kelley; I’m the UN correspondent for the Nation Media Group in Kenya. We publish the weekly East African newspaper. So at the Africa Summit in Washington over a year ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Feingold, said it’s already too far delayed, it’s already overdue, it’s urgent that there be an offensive against the FDLR in the DRC; hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened primarily – and this is addressed to Special Envoy Djinnit as well – because the Congolese Government has appointed two generals who are blacklisted by the United Nations because of alleged human rights violations. Can’t this problem be solved? It doesn’t seem like it’s that complex. It doesn’t seem like it would require a super degree of diplomacy to get past this and to deal with the FDLR. Thanks.
MR DJINNIT: Well, I mean, I – it happens that I have very long perspective from – of the issue of the FDLR. I was the commissioner for peace and security in the African Union when – in 2005. We have already taken a decision as AU in 2005 to send the brigade for the forced disarmament of the negative forces of the FDLR. I still personally believe strongly that the FDLR, which is the main negative forces that’s settled in eastern Congo – others have come later on – needs to be addressed fully to put the region back to stability. I think it’s very important.
Now, coming to the current situation, I also believe – and this is our position – and by the way, the meeting of the heads of state yesterday of the region of (inaudible) has endorsed the communique that was prepared in which there was a call for delinking the ongoing strategic dialogue between MONUSCO and the DRC on the exit strategy at some point based on the number of criteria from the joint operations between the DRC and the MONUSCO, which is, from my point of view, from their point of view of the UN, the African Union, and the region is an imperative. It’s an imperative for the DRC to get rid of these negative forces from the eastern Congo. It’s an imperative for the region. It’s an imperative for the international community. So it should be given the utmost priority and it should not be linked to any other consideration.
And of course, we call for the urgent resumption – the UN is now willing to, through some mitigating factors and measures, to resume military cooperation. But unfortunately, the DRC so far has not allowed this joint operation to resume.
MR PERRIELLO: I would just reinforce what Envoy Djinnit has said. We see no legitimate reason for joint operations not to resume immediately. This has been agreed on by multiple parties for some period of time now. And until this issue is addressed it will remain a toxic presence that exacerbates any number of dynamics in the region. So we believe that should resume immediately.
QUESTION: Gilbert Mundela. Mr. Ambassador, you just point out to the issue of Congolese Government not collaborating in regard to the FDLR. We have numerous reports that in Rumangabo there’ve been an entrance of Rwandese forces as we speak, trying to do – deal with the FDLR. This is not a sign that is showing that we’re going to have a good solution in the Congo in that part.
Second, they also report that the Rwandese, who have been placed in Kisangani and the other camps, are not having enough food, which means that can create another havoc in the Congo. How are you addressing this issue as we speak?
And also there are attempt by Congolese to have a dialogue started. Will you be keen to appoint a mediator for that? And also will you encourage the Congolese to have the dialogue? Because if we don’t have a dialogue, if we don’t have a peace process well established, we are not going to have investors; investment will not come.
And to Mr. Perriello, are you going to push for millennium to be implemented (inaudible) as well as AGOA? Because it can help us strengthen our institutions. And given the weakness of those institution as well as the lack of real entrepreneurs, Congolese entrepreneurs who are deprived of access to technology as well as capital, we should look into that as a process building up. Because you’re going to have an investment conference in the Congo, but no Congolese will be participant in this conference. It will be mainly big corporation as well as other players, the players that we identify as Lebanese as well as Indians. Thank you.
MR DJINNIT: Well, on the issue of the FDLR first, because you have asked about the issue of the FDLR – I mean, first, I mean, just remember last year at the same period, the region was divided on the approach against FDLR. When I joined as the special envoy, we spent considerable time shuttling in the region to try to bring together the ICGLR and SADC because there were some divergence of views on how to go about it. You remember? There were a number of countries that thought that voluntary disarmament could take place and that some dialogue could take place, while others were for the military action immediately and that dialogue was not the way forward. So it took us some time – till such time the leaders come together at a joint summit and they decided to give them six month grace period for the voluntary disarmament, failing which – I mean, and after which military action should resume.
So the – I think the deadline was on the 2nd of January this year, and we were glad that after some few weeks later the DRC Government was able the launch the offensive against the FDLR. So at least there was action by the Government of DRC, which is encouraging. But you are saying it is not enough, because the FIB, which is the brigade of the MONUSCO was established by the Security Council and by the African Union and the countries of the region and SADC’s strong involvement as the instrument to support work together with the Government of the DRC to fight decisively the FDLR. So we continue to call welcome the action taken by the DRC, but we continue to urge the DRC to facilitate the resumption of the mature cooperation between MONUSCO and (inaudible) so that they can expedite the neutralization of the negative forces.
Regarding those that are in the camps in the Congo, various camps in the Congo, I – it happened that I visited one of them in Kisangani. And they want to go, but they’re posing some conditions. And we – I have visited last time President Dos Santos as the chairman of the ICGLR because they have a say in this. And we brought to his attention the fact that we are stuck with the people there, with some unrealistic demand for dialogue, because it’s a dialogue with – between the FDLR and the Government of Rwanda is a non-starter. It’s not on the agenda. The only thing which is on the agenda is to facilitate their dignified and secured repatriation to Rwanda. And we have visit Rwanda, and there is a camp which is prepared for them for the reintegration and the populization. We are confident that there are facilities and there is readiness in Rwanda to receive them, and we are willing, as international community, to help them repatriate to the region.
As far as what is happening in the DRC, personally, having gone through all the experience I went through in Africa, every time there is an opportunity for dialogue is a good thing. I mean, the dialogue should be a culture of dialogue. It should be institutionalized in every society, because we need to talk to each other to address our common problems. So I have no other comment beyond that. But of course, we encourage – we are guided by Security Council resolution. There is a peacekeeping operation with a mandate there, including supporting elections in the DRC. And we support it based on constitutionality, on the respect of the constitutional timeframe of – for election.
MR PERRIELLO: On the issue of potentially a Millennium Challenge grant or other activities, we’d be very interested in pursuing any number of opportunities to invest in the DRC. We – it’s an enormous country with an enormous amount of humanity and an enormous amount of potential. But the way those programs work is there tend to be a number of conditions that are involved in terms of transparency versus corruption, rule of law, constitutionalism, and other things. And I think where we see a government that’s committed to that and to improving in those areas, there are opportunities, both from the government sector but also the private sector, that can track with those.
And the second thing you mentioned is extremely important. Before I took this job, I completed a study for Secretary Kerry of our diplomacy and development called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. And one piece that came very strongly both out of our State Department and USAID was the importance of focusing on inclusive, sustainable economic growth. GDP is an important figure. It’s a huge driver of growth in a country. It’s a huge driver often of the revenue that’s needed to invest in education and infrastructure. But we also need to make sure that that’s a growth that’s building up a middle class, that’s creating opportunities for smaller business owners and entrepreneurs, that we’re making the investments particularly in young girls, that they’re a part of that system.
So we want to continue to track GDP and FDI as important indicators. But we also want to make sure that, in addition to that, we’re making sure that this is inclusive economic growth that’s creating opportunities, that that’s geographically spread, it’s not just in the west or just in the east. So to that, I think this continues to be something that we’re looking at, not just, frankly, in the context of DRC, but as a lens on all of our diplomacy and development going forward.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you for your new vision for region, but – and for election. I trust you. In regard to the democracy that is coming from Rwanda and what is going to happen, I don’t think that it’s the right one, because the democracy in Rwanda is at the gunpoint. My question is regarding your private investment, as you said. We were in Washington when AGOA was reconducted. Congo is completely excluded. When Madam Christine Lagarde – all these institution advocating that the issue in the Congo is bad governance and corruption. We insisted that this issue of corruption and the bad governance are creating a problem for the Congolese, and you are punishing the Congo twice. We need to find a way to resolve this issue. How can you help us break this system and open a window of opportunity for the new generation that is coming and (inaudible)?
By the way, she’s the first metallurgical female engineer of Congo. (Applause.) Agnes Dimandja.
MR PERRIELLO: So I think it’s a very useful observation, perhaps more than a question. But I think what I will say is these things need to go hand in hand. Good governance is essential. We – when we have a limited amount of dollars to invest around the world on these programs, you want to make sure that they’re being used well. So where we see a government that’s a partner and wanting to improve accountability and invest in education and infrastructure, we are more excited to go forward.
But DRC, I think we need to recognize, has made some great progress in many areas. And in many areas, that’s because civil society groups, sometimes at great risk, have pushed for greater accountability and have pushed on the governance agenda. So there are things we can do from the international community, but obviously the future of Congo will most be defined by the people of Congo. And there I think we see a tremendous hunger for investment, for good governance, for accountability, and I think those voices have been heard and are continuing to be effective, even under very difficult circumstances right now.
MR DJINNIT: Maybe just a word – I mean, just to say to – to assure our friend about the importance of the DRC in the region and the fact that we trust, we believe in the future of the DRC and we are hopeful that the people of the DRC and their leaders will find it – will find their ways in shaping a new and vibrant economy. And the fact that – let me tell you, my sister, it was not very difficult to get all the leaders of the countries of the region to accept the fact that the investment conference would be held in Kinshasa. It was almost a natural venue for the conference on the private sector.
So it’s a great opportunity for the Great Lakes region – the conference – but it’s definitely a great opportunity for the DRC. And the DRC need to take full advantage of this conference to portray a new vision, a new image, a new vision for the DRC. That’s why I’m working hand in hand with my sister to make this is – because the success of the conference will be – success of conference between business sectors of the DRC and the success of the development of the DRC.
INTERPRETER: I’m – hi – a translator. (Laughter.) No, he can’t speak English.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Djinnit, I know you know our country. And I would like to go by asking you something in regard to what is going on in the Congo, but I’ll go first by quoting one writer who said that do me a good economy and I’ll do you good politics.
Anyway, the issue is that talking about investment today is like putting the cart before the horses, and talking about investment today would not be the right thing to do because the issue in Congo is mainly a political issue. And I have not heard you talking about the respect of the constitution as well as – the United States and the international community are like doctor that arrive late when the sick person is already dead. It’s just to give the death certificate when the sick is already dead. So —
Anyway, he say that the issue here is to make sure that the Congo situation is addressed, and if there is no clear vision and clear leader – good leadership, Congo is not going to be ripe for investment.
He wants sanctions. The issue is that we need to apply sanction for the people governing Congo. As you saw in South Africa, sanction has helped move the process forward. So we talking about looking at the dialogue. We accept the dialogue that is going to lead us to holding the election within the frame time that is constitutional, so we want the respect of the constitution. That’s the priority we should address.
MR DJINNIT: Shall I – in English or in French?
MR PERRIELLO: Go in French. That’s fine.
MR DJINNIT: (In French.)
MR PERRIELLO: So I’m going to say a comment here. The – as I said at the beginning, we see the political stability and respect for the constitution as absolutely essential to the investment climate and development climate in DRC and the Congo.
To your analogy, I do not think the patient is dead yet and I do not think we just showed up at the hospital. The United States and many of our allies, through the other envoys, have been very focused on the issue of respect for the constitution for some time. And while things in DRC certainly are challenging, and we’ve seen some very unfortunate incidents, the fact is that you still see a very vibrant civil society and independent media, you see very strong institutions of democracy, and I think we still see the potential for a historic set of developments here over the next year and a half.
So the situation is very serious, but we actually see, again, many things due to the courage of Congolese people as very healthy and encouraging in addition to the things that are of great concern.
On the issue of sanctions, I will just note that it was announced this week – and they’ll be saying more on this tomorrow – that the European Union is sanctioning several individuals in Burundi based on the actions that have been taken there. We’re continuing to explore all of our options as the United States in the situation in Burundi. And I think it should be clear that there are going to be consequences for those who take actions to destabilize countries in the region and elsewhere.
QUESTION: Yes, my question is to the envoy. Do you have a program for the media in the region – the press, either foreign press operating in the region or the local press operating in the region – as to how they can contribute to stabilizing the region? How can we get them to desist from the when it bleeds it leads philosophy, which is – which I think is very, very important. News is not just war when peace has been made; it’s also news because it’s – I believe it’s a prerequisite for the smooth operation of the media itself. So what do you have in place as part of your mandate in terms of media having a part to play in stabilizing the region?
MR PERRIELLO: Well, first of all, I would say if I had a way to convince the media to not lead with sensationalism and bad news, I would spend a lot of time in my own country here working with our media. It’s – what we believe is that it – we must protect the right of a free media to be part as a fourth estate in any society. As someone who’s won an election and lost an election, I don’t always like what the media has said about me or how it covers every issue, but it has to be a vibrant part of any democratic and free society.
That does come with responsibilities to report accurately and to not use libel and to not insight, but overall, our emphasis will be on ensuring that journalists are protected and their right to report is protected, and where we’ve seen that limited we see that as being of grave concern. We’ve certainly done programs in the past on trying to make sure we’re training journalism and the best ethics and behavior, and again, those are problems – those are some programs that probably could be applied here as well.
QUESTION: All right. I’m – my concern is on the FDLR – yeah, sorry. We – you talked about what you are trying to do, everybody, about on the FDLR. There have been a lot of action on this area, but do we know – do we know how many FDLR are still in the Congo now? That is my question, because all the action is – every time they talked about this and it has been – since MONUC has been there and now the new –
MR DJINNIT: MONUSCO.
QUESTION: — MONUSCO and the government has been talking about trying to fight the FDLR. But how many are there in the region now?
MR PERRIELLO: Well, I —
QUESTION: A number.
MR DJINNIT: Yeah, I don’t know the numbers because I don’t want to go into the issue of the numbers, because you could find some different numbers in the different institutions and countries. I know that the DRC Government has given figures, and according to the latest reporting, including yesterday, at the Regional Oversight Mechanism by the minister of foreign affairs of Congo, that they say that as a result of the voluntary disarmament and the retraction by the DRC they have reduced significantly the number of the FDLR and they, according to them, they are only left with 334 left. According to the DRC government, that’s the fact. But I know that my colleagues from MONUSCO have a different count of numbers, but they don’t want to give the numbers because we’d be just discussing the numbers, which is not the main issues for me.
The main issue is the finalement of the FDLR, and that it’s very important to highlight the fact that the FDLR is committing crimes in the DRC against the people of the DRC, against women, children, people – poor people, vulnerable people in the DRC. They have been committing crimes in the DRC. So it is first in the first interest of the people of the DRC, in the interest of the restoration of the state territory, of the full state authority of DRC, that we are supporting the DRC in their fight against the FDLR. But the number, again, I tell you that this is the figures that I’ve been given. But of course, we have not been there to double-check the figures, although when we met this – today from our colleagues from MONUSCO we were given slightly different figures.
But again, my concern is that we should eradicate fully the FDLR once for all so that they are no more a threat for the people, the good people of the DRC, and they are no more a threat or an excuse in the – for confident – for mistrust, you understand? Because many people, they distrust each other because of the perceived attitude vis-a-vis. So I think it’s important that we eradicate it totally. So this is why it’s important, when we have finished with the whole leadership of the FDLR, destroyed their command and control, and until such time that there is no any news of any crime by the FDLR in the DRC and elsewhere in the region.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Abraham Lwakabwai. We are a news organization based in Washington, D.C. My first question to you, Mr. Djinnit. We never heard from the UN a plan that can lead Rwanda to put the dialogue between Tutsis and Hutu since the massacre. What we’ve been listening from the case is eradicate FDLR forces in the east. Can you a little bit push Mr. Kagame and all his leadership to think about the solution what could bring those people peacefully back to the country instead of being chased as animals in the country – in the Congo? That’s my first question.
To you, Mr. Perriello. Sixteen elections were scheduled or are scheduled between now to 2016. First one up in Burundi, and we’ve seen the result. It’s a catastrophe. On a daily basis, people are being killed; we keep on finding them. And the only sanctions that we’ve heard was the first one coming from the UE saying they’re going to freeze some assets of members of the government. Why can’t we pinpoint the president and the leadership? That’s where they’re going to be hurt – and freeze the visas, freeze the assets, and every single (inaudible). That’s going to be a strong message. Because what’s happening in Burundi is being seen in the Congo, Brazzaville, it’s been seen in the Congo, the DRC, and every single of those leaders wants to change the constitution to remain into power.
We’ve seen in the Congo January, this – they wanted to change the electoral (inaudible). They failed. Now he’s about referendum. We’re getting into – it’s like a pattern. It’s going to come in the Congo Brazzaville, in the Congo Kinshasa, next year in Angola, and in other countries, so we keep on circling. I think if you fix the situation in Burundi, it’s going to be a strong messages to every single of those people. Thank you.
MR DJINNIT: First, on the issue of – your mention of the issue of Tutsi/Hutu, whether it’s in Rwanda or in Burundi. We believe that we should promote reconciliation. The UN is supporting reconciliation process both in Rwanda, in Burundi, and every country. And we believe that reconciliation is something that should be like dialogue in our societies, something that should be permanent. It should – because I always used to say when I was in the African Union we are still long way to go to reconcile our populations with their states – with their states and borders. So the reconciliation process in Africa has still many decades to come to be bridge – to forge reconciliation among our populations within the context of the states that are there in Africa. So that’s something that we support not only through the UN political wing but through the UN system on the ground, through the NDP. So we are very supportive of that.
Now, every country is a specific country. I think you cannot just put a position, why do – when – the FDLR has a background, there is the history of the genocide, so you have to put everything in the context. So try to mitigate a little bit, to measure what can be done, what cannot be done at this point in time of history. So I say, one, reconciliation is (inaudible). I think there are something could (inaudible) more time to happen. That’s why, I mean, we are doing our best to promote reconciliation.
MR PERRIELLO: On the question about consequences for those who’ve taken actions in the context of Burundi, we have already heard about the EU sanctions. We’re continuing to look in that – at that issue as well as the visa bans that have been issued. But to your core point, I think, as I said at the beginning, Burundi should be seen, in my mind, by other leaders as a cautionary tale, not as a playbook. Do you really want to be in situation right now where your willingness to do anything possible to hold onto power has your country on the brink of violence, on the brink of hunger, with refugees fleeing your country, with a desperate need for money for running the government, for institutions that are fraying when you’ve spent 15 years trying to help a country move from a very violent past to institutions like the military becoming post-ethnic or moving in that direction.
I think in some ways the worst consequences imposed on Burundi’s leaders are those that have simply been imposed by the reality on the ground, which is overseeing a broken country. There is not right now a coming together, a consent of the governed, that exists. And so I think while we will continue to look very seriously at what additional consequences may be necessary for those who’ve taken actions – not just on behalf of the government but those also who were involved in attempting a coup, which is not the right way to try to handle a situation like this – that there do need to be consequences there. I think there are – there have been. But the worst consequence is the state of the – of Burundi and the people of Burundi right now.
And I believe that there are many leaders in the region of goodwill who are true patriots to their country. I may not agree with every decision they make, but do they really want to see their countries look like Burundi a year from now or two years from now? So in addition to what we do as an international community, ultimately country – the people of countries have the biggest influence on their future. And to me, Burundi is one that proves what we have tried to offer as our best advice and friendship from President Obama that says trying to change the rules of constitutions at the last second to stay in power is destabilizing. So we think that’s probably the greatest consequence of all, which is not to say that there won’t be additional measures that’ll be considered.
QUESTION: Thank you for the opportunity to ask my questions. My name is Ann Lihau-N’Kanza. I’m from the DRC. To kind of hang on the tailcoats of my fellow Congolese, I have a threefold question, the first being: In history, in negotiations for whatever, impunity historically has always been part of the dialogue. So my question to you, as it pertains to that, is within the context of the conference to come in February, your dialogue will be with the people who are currently in power – who may, if history goes as those of us wish it will go, be no longer in power after elections. Will impunity be at the table in the negotiations of the potential investments that will be made in the Congo? And if so, what protection from that do you foresee?
Secondly, to Special Envoy Djinnit, in dialogue in the region of the Great Lakes, I know you’ve been faced with issues of being accused of bias. And that may be a problem in negotiations, not only in the Congo but in the – in Burundi and Rwanda as well. How do you envision, with this economic conference and what will follow, how to prevent that from happening? Because that could exclude you – although your contribution is very worthy – could exclude you from a dialogue.
And the last thing is we haven’t spoken about the elephant in the economic room of Africa, which is China. At the table I understand we’re – the participants that you have quoted or mentioned to us will be at the table, but China is already there. It’s basically a grassroots economic force in Africa, and specifically in the Congo. I understand that dialogue going from the table to the field is not necessarily easy to implement, and is that within the context of your strategizing for investment in Africa?
Oh, and I did have one last thing. How are you going to hold your investors accountable to actually implement and invest for the most vulnerable, as you name them – women and children?
MR DJINNIT: There are so many questions, there are so many. (Laughter.)
Well, first, maybe on the – on maybe the last one, it’s always to – sometimes it’s better to start from the last one. You said, I think, we want to focus on the small – one of our meetings we are convening is – in the next few weeks is a meeting bringing together the small, medium, and small-scale enterprises from the region to prepare them to take part fully in the private sector conference. So we are not only thinking about the giants. We are also thinking of the small-scale enterprises from the region that are there, to give them an opportunity to participate in the conference. That’s one thing.
The second thing – we are talking about the women and we care for the role of the women, and they’re already very active, as we are, and they are expected to be more active with more space for them to be active. We are taking advantage of a conference organized by UN Women in Nairobi platform, original platform, and we are having a segment, we are having a parallel conference within the conference, on preparing women entrepreneurs to take part in the conference. So we are having a segment in Nairobi next month – or actually, this October, the end of October, on preparing the women entrepreneurs for the private sector conference. So to say – to tell you that we are thinking of (inaudible).
Now, China is a big partner to Africa. And obviously, while we’ll be engaging the private sector – we have to engage the private sector in the U.S., and I’m glad that some representative were with us here – we have to go to some positions like London, like Brussels, but you should not ignore China. China is a very important actor in Africa that should be part of the private sector conference, obviously.
Now, as far as the dialogue and the impunity, I’m – I don’t think – we’ll see what will be (inaudible). But at the conference in Kinshasa, we want to have a discussion between the private sector and the government on what conditions that needs to be created for a conducive investment in the region.
MR PERRIELLO: I would just say I think we’re past the point now, though it is too often repeated, where the presumption is that impunity is the key to stability or to investment. In fact, in many countries that have been able to break a cycle of violence or a cycle of corruption, it’s actually been the difficult work of holding people accountable – whether that’s for past atrocities or for corruption – that has actually been part of what really frees investment, and particularly small entrepreneurship to come up through. On some of the work I was involved in in West Africa, you’ve seen countries that have not returned to war in part because there was accountability for those who had led previous atrocities and attacks.
So I would not accept as a premise, and we don’t accept as a premise, that impunity is crucial in these areas – quite the opposite. That could be involved – whether it’s the dialogue, the political dialogue we believe needs to happen in the case of Burundi or elsewhere, that it’s – it never feels necessarily like the right time to do the tough work of holding people accountable. And we’ve seen that to some extent in eastern Congo, where difficult work has been done to put in regimes to increase transparency around natural resources. Has that had some disruptions? Yes. But overall, is that creating a stronger room for economic growth and for new entrepreneurs, including women entrepreneurs, to come in, and not just the biggest actors? Yes.
So the hope is that we can invest in these areas. Are we —
MR PRINCE: Time for one more?
MR PERRIELLO: Sure. Last one.
MR PRINCE: Okay. Last one.
QUESTION: Okay. Hello. I’m Emanuela Calabrini from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA. I went on a humanitarian mission to DRC like three weeks ago. And when we talked with a government official, there was real eagerness on their part to have a new narrative for DRC – a narrative focused on economic growth, development, and not so much in this trap of perpetual humanitarian crisis. After all, it’s been 20 years of humanitarian protracted crisis. And also based on the fact that even the IMF estimates 9 percent GDP growth this year for the country.
But when we talked with the civil society groups, of course there is concern that this economic growth is not trickling down to the people who need it the most. And our humanitarian partners in particular were concerned about 7 million people still in need of humanitarian assistance in DRC – 243,000 refugees from the region in DRC, and then about 450,000 even more Congolese refugees in the region.
So I think that what is important is also – and that’s what we noted also with government official – is that no development can be sustainable if the needs of the most vulnerable people are not addressed. I think also on our side, as the humanitarian community, we are willing also to change the narrative. Because we believe that it’s important to have economic growth, and it’s important that we change – that DRC changes, and we are happy to see the positive developments, but we definitely need to ensure that no Congolese is left behind.
So I’m very happy that one of the pillars of the roadmap is related to the durable solution for the displaced people. And I think a durable solution – first, the involvement of the displaced, and also ensuring that security has reached those areas of origins, because IDPs don’t want to return unless security is also (inaudible).
So not really questions, but just to encourage you to continue with the work on durable solutions. Thank you.
MR DJINNIT: Thank you much. We agree with you. I mean, you – (laughter). (Applause.)
MR PERRIELLO: So I’ll just note, in closing, that the – first of all, on the humanitarian side, we do have Burundian refugees right now. And understandably, the refugee crisis of Syrians is getting all of the headlines, and that’s a very, very serious problem that deserves that attention. But we have over 200,000 Burundian refugees – Rwanda and Tanzania, in – and Congo as well; mainly Tanzania and Rwanda have taken in a huge number. UNHCR, we went to those camps, so that’s very serious. DRC is trying to change the narrative. I think particularly some of their work on gender-based violence in the military and elsewhere is commendable, as well as some of the development around Kinshasa.
And to just your last point, and this is what I’ll close on, we share their deep desire to change the narrative, but changing the narrative has to be based on the actual narrative changing. If over the next year and a half we see historic transitions of power, we see the constitution being respected, we see inclusive economic growth, no one will be happier than me to go and tell that narrative around the world to the private sector and everyone else. If we’re seeing a backsliding, whether that’s closing of political space and repression, whether that’s breaking of constitutions or outright violence, we can’t spin that as being a new Great Lakes region. So this is that moment where we have a choice – all of us, the international community, but particularly the people of the region – whether we’re ready to give that new narrative so that we can go out and sell that narrative, because again, we all know the potential is just overwhelmingly positive if we can get on that track.
MR DJINNIT: Maybe just a word in concluding is just my impression about the Great Lakes region. I have been following developments in the Great Lakes region since exactly – I mean, as a representative of international community. I was following as my own national diplomat of Algeria, but as working for the OAU/AU since 1989. So I was part of all the developments and tragedies in the region – in Africa in general and in the Great Lakes.
And the most devastating conflicts took place in the region. We had the conflict – devastating conflict in the DRC. This is the only country that there was a conflict that brought, for the first time in history in Africa, armies facing each other. It’s the first time in history. We had conflicts but these – we never had 12 armies from African countries facing each other on the DRC. And you had the genocide in Rwanda. And we felt bad as Africans and we felt bad as international community about – that you could not prevent the genocide in Rwanda. That has changed the vision of Africa and the vision of the world that – what you could do to the region.
And then there was some progress. I mean, with all these war, the first war, the second war in Congo, in the DRC, the genocide, the Burundi crisis, (inaudible) crisis. I had been working with Mandela and Mbeki to try to put the pieces together, and then (inaudible) to the point and then – and then I left the region for six years and a half because I was in West Africa and then came back.
To be honest, the picture is quite different. And then I was meeting in Nairobi a few weeks ago with the Technical Support Committee preparing for the regional (inaudible), and yesterday somebody from Uganda repeated the same thing that was said by his representative in Nairobi, saying, remember five, six years ago we could not talk to each other; we could not sit towards – I mean, together. And as we were coming here, we got the meeting between the ministers of defense of Rwanda and the DRC in Kigali and they sent a very promising agreement on finishing the business on the M23 and the FDLR.
So I believe that – and then we have the corridors – I mean, the various corridors which are very promising corridors for development in the northern, the southern, the central corridor which are – I mean, driving the region towards economic integration. So we have the infrastructure in place. There is civil society vibrance (ph), civil society women, youth, willing to make a difference. So that’s why I believe if the region manages well its election, its electoral process – because unfortunately, elections divisive and destabilizing in – if not handled wisely. When I say “wisely,” it means respect of the constitution, respect of democratic rules – basic. Although we are learning democracy, as we are doing democracy in Africa, I think the region has huge potential.
And then, again, again, remember I was obsessed by this picture of – at the time when, from Angola – because this is the Great Lakes – to the DRC to Sudan, when they were one country, even the two now – the two countries – the three countries have never seen light so far. I mean, they have been always in turmoil. Angola, 20 or 30 years of civil war; Congo, they have not yet emerged from the war; Sudan is not finished with its problems. And yet they’re all linked together.
This is really the Great Lakes and this is a powerful – you cannot stabilize Africa if you cannot stabilize this pivotal region of Africa. That was my obsession when it was at the African Union. It remains my – and I’m glad that I joined the team that work now focused with the Great Lakes so that we could together, work together to make this region a potentially transformative region for the continent by stabilizing the region with the support of all. And they count on the women to make a difference (inaudible). That’s why I believe that the women are a strong pillar for the transformation of the region of the Great Lakes. Thank you.
MR PERRIELLO: Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you all very much for coming.
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