Donald Y. Yamamoto
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
April 25, 2013
QUESTION: Could you tell me please what you think about the recent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire and what are your suggestions for sustainable peace?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: Ultimately in any post conflict scenario, there needs to be social justice but more important, reconciliation. We need to enhance strong democratic institutions, combat insecurities, and guarantee full and equal economic opportunities for all people in Cote d’Ivoire no matter their social or political background. Toward this end the U.S. is committed for the long term to see the people of Cote d’Ivoire succeed.
QUESTION: One of the ways to strengthened democracy in Africa is to prevent election rigging. I will like to know if you are doing anything to help ensure that elections on the continent are free and fair?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: Strong institution building, holding governments accountable, calling out corruption and commitment to supporting electoral reform has been our focus in Africa and around the world. We have initiatives to bring political parties and electoral officials to the U.S. to learn how the U.S. conducts elections in a free, open, transparent manner, and this has had a positive influence on our visitors. But we will continue to advocate vigorously for transparent elections.
QUESTION: Congratulations on your appointment Assistant Secretary Yamamoto, where does the U.S. situate Africa as a foreign policy priority in the face of growing Chinese influence and the fact that through out his first term, President Obama visited Africa just once? Are there any other visits to the continent on his schedule? Why have we not seen more robust U.S. engagement in seeking solutions to what many consider a genocide in the D.R.Congo? Reaction to Boko Haram in Nigeria and military solution?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: Regarding China in Africa. China surpasses the U.S. in overall trade in Africa at $150 billion and the U.S. is at $100 billion. We in the U.S. believe we need to do more to find new investment opportunities (in the sectors of energy, telecom, banking, financial services, and specialty items, such as high-end agricultural and textiles). We are engaged with China, (we are conducting our seventh annual meeting with China) to coordinate efforts and resolve differences and to ensure fair trade in Africa that benefits Africans. For instance the U.S. and China coordinate on education, healthcare, and agricultural development in Africa.
Also, did you know the U.S. helps African farmers operate high-end export of agricultural products, develop coffee and leathers for well known U.S. brands and assists African countries in increasing electrification and power grids. The U.S. also handles micro-enterprise loans for women, who form the basis of rapid economic development in local communities. Africans are buying American capital goods and creating jobs in the U.S. so we all benefit from an economic vibrant Africa.
QUESTION: There are many questions on Eritrea-Ethiopia. Do you plan on answering any of them?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: Simon, thank you for joining us for today’s discussion. We’ve had several questions regarding the Eritrea and Ethiopia border dispute. The border dispute is systematic of problems, resolvable problems, between the two countries. The U.S. is committed to one day seeing the resolution of the border conflict, but also promoting strong cooperative relationships between the two countries. The economic vitality and political stability of the region depends on Ethiopia and Eritrea’s full cooperation and open dialogue with each other to work together and meet the challenges that face both countries and the region as a whole.
QUESTION: Thanks for the response, however, many of the questions below ask about the U.S. role as guarantor of the peace agreement. What does guarantor mean to you and what is the U.S. responsibility as a guarantor of that agreement? Thanks again.
QUESTION: I’m editor in chief of Elwatan Wee-end newspaper in Algeria.
Concerning the situation in north Mali, what are the consequences of the French military intervention for the stability of the Sahel region ?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: The long-term solution to the crisis in Mali is strong democratic institutions, strong dialogue with the various groups in Northern Mali and Tuareg (Songhai, Arab groups, and others), advocate advancing economic opportunities, and full political participation. Towards this end the role of France and AFISMA, are only temporary solutions. The long-term solution is a Malian one and only the people of Mali can ultimately resolve conflict and create their own future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Yao Konan Aime and I would like to ask Mr. Yamamoto: [How] does U.S.A. [plan] to create a union between Africans young [persons] and American young [persons]?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: The President’s Youth and Women Entrepreneur Initiatives have brought not only the youth of Africa and America together but are offering new opportunities for Africa’s youth and women to advance their goals for development. If over 70% of Africa is under 30 and women are also at the heart of economic development, these two strategies, advocated by the U.S., will certainly lead to tremendous economic advancements in Africa.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my first question is — with all the extreme corruption cases in Uganda and theft of all donor funds (i.e. Office of the Prime Minister scandals) and yet no one has been brought to justice with all these thefts. Why does the U.S. Government keep funding this government?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: The Ugandans themselves admit corruption is a challenge. We are working with local communities and governments to address this insidious problem. Ultimately, we believe that the people of Uganda are addressing this issue and we stand ready to support and assist efforts to ensure transparency procurements, electoral process, and equal access to political and economic opportunities for all people in Uganda. The U.S. has implemented very strict oversight on contracting, procurement, and aid distribution. As in other countries, we will prosecute illegal activities which detract from the effective use of our assistance. We also have sanctioned people guilty of corruption and will continue to look at individuals, families, and institutions to improve transparency.
QUESTION: What kind of sustainable strategies the U.S. Department of State is implementing to fight corruption in sub-Saharan Africa, especially when health and development projects are being turned away from underserved population?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: We work closely with local communities and government institutions to combat corruption to give people a chance to advocate and advance their health and education goals in an environment of openness and transparency.
QUESTION: In which way is the U.S. Department of State helping government institutions to get stronger? As President Obama said, “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.”
QUESTION: Welcome, Mr. Donald Yamamoto. My question goes like this— What impact was been made by the U.S. to tackle the present insecurity state of Nigeria?
President Barrak Obama pledged to pay a visit to Nigeria for the first time, but it hasn’t be fulfilled. The U.S. should do something fast to support President Goodluck Jonathan to enable our partnership between Nigeria and America strong as before. Thanks.
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: One way to ensure security is to have strong, transparent, democratic, and fair institutions. We’re promoting dialogue and addressing security concerns for all people, no matter their ethnic, religious, or clan identity in areas of conflict as well as non-conflict. By working with the government and local communities, we can advance strong dialogue and relationships that strengthens communities, which can also overcome the threat of terrorism. This was a very important issue in Secretary Kerry’s discussions today with Nigeria’s Foreign Minister. You can read the transcript of their remarks at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/04/207988.htm.
QUESTION: Mr. Donald, what is the U.S. foreign policy towards the conflict prevention, resolution, and management in Africa and more specifically the never-ending conflict in D.R.C.?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY YAMAMOTO: I worked on Congo for the past decade. Our focus is on bringing all parties together to overcome differences, insure people have an opportunity to develop and grow, and everyone benefits from the extractive industries to promote development of the communities for a better future for all people.
***The full event can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/events/297420023724095/.
Source: US Department of State – Press Release – 3 May 2013