Background Briefing Previewing Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Ethiopia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola
MODERATOR: Great. So this is a background briefing by a Senior State Department Official to preview the Secretary’s trip to Africa over the next couple of days. And our Senior State Department Official Number One here will give an overview of the trip, and then, as usual, we’ll take some questions.
QUESTION: Just on housekeeping, we report on South Sudan only after we’re on the ground in South Sudan.
MODERATOR: Once we land, exactly, exactly.
QUESTION: But we’re now going to discuss this?
MODERATOR: We’re now going to discuss, yeah. Yes.
QUESTION: Right, got it. So we know what we’re doing when we get there. That’s good.
QUESTION: And the dates and the other details of the other stops, those are reportable?
MODERATOR: Absolutely, yes, yes.
Okay. Go ahead.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Shall I start? Well, let me just start by saying how excited we are about the Secretary’s trip to Africa. This is his second trip since starting as Secretary of State. He was in Addis for the 50th anniversary of the AU last year.
So let me just start where we’re going to start. We leave tonight and we land in Addis Ababa tomorrow. We have three items on our agenda for the Secretary’s stop in Ethiopia. First he will be chairing and opening a High-Level Dialogue. It’s an annual High-Level Dialogue that we have with the AU. So he’ll open that, and I will continue with that meeting. We have a number of issues that we want to discuss with the AU, starting with peace and security issues and providing support for AU forces that are operating in Somalia, in CAR, as well as African forces that are supporting our efforts in DRC.
So we’ll be talking with the AU on how we can improve our coordination and our cooperation on peace and security issues. We will also be looking at governance issues with the AU very, very broadly, and talk to the AU about development issues such as agriculture. This is the fourth High-Level Dialogue we have had with the AU since we started in 2011. Yeah, four years – ‘10. Yeah, 2010.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And the second part – and none of these are in priority order, but the second part is meeting – bilateral meetings with the Ethiopian Government to discuss the full range of bilateral coordination and cooperation issues that we have with Ethiopia. Certainly, top on that list will be issues related to press freedoms and human rights, but also our cooperation with the Ethiopians in Somalia and their efforts on supporting the negotiations in South Sudan.
And then third will be the South Sudan portion. The Ethiopians will host a meeting of the foreign ministers from IGAD countries – the two foreign ministers involved in the negotiations, Uganda and Kenya – and the Secretary will have discussions that cover the broad issues of where we’re going in South Sudan. Don Booth, our special envoy, will meet us there and will be part of that meeting. He’ll also be meeting with former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, who’s head of the Commission of Inquiry from – for the AU. Obasanjo was in South Sudan last week, and he’ll be briefing the Secretary on what his team found during that visit.
We hope to have engagements with Ethiopian youth while we’re there. He will be meeting some of the YALI participants and have discussions with those participants. And we’ll talk about the heads of state summit with the AU, with the foreign ministers, and particularly with the Ethiopians, with Haile Mariam, to talk about what kinds of commitments we will look to have governments make when they come to the heads of state summit in Washington in August.
So that’s the first part of the trip. We go to South Sudan – I’m not talking dates? Okay. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: They won’t use it, but they know when we’re going.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You won’t use it then.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
MODERATOR: Yeah, right.
QUESTION: She already said that we’re going, just not when.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, yeah. So we’re going to South Sudan on the second day. He will be meeting with Salva Kiir, and our hope is that he will get Salva Kiir to, one, agree to moving forward on the cessation of hostilities agreement that his government signed with the anti-government forces. We will be pushing Salva Kiir on providing more space for humanitarian actors, and also looking at how South Sudan moves forward after this very, very horrific period that they’ve gone through over the past few months – what kind of government they will have and what role, if any, Salva Kiir himself will be playing in a future transitional government.
We come back to Ethiopia, and the Secretary will give a broad-based speech on our Africa policy, covering the full range of issues that we work on the continent to support. That will take place early on Saturday morning, and then we leave for Democratic Republic of Congo.
You want me to stop there, or shall I continue?
MODERATOR: Why don’t we go through the whole trip and then we can do questions. Does that work? Your memory is amazing.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: (Laughter.) In Democratic Republic of Congo, the purpose of this trip – we feel that we have achieved some success in Democratic Republic of Congo after many, many years of conflict. In December of last year, the Nairobi agreement was signed that ended the fighting with M23 and the government. So we’re looking at where we go for next steps. And Russ – Senator Feingold, our special envoy, will join us on this portion of the trip, and he has been working relentlessly on trying to move our agenda forward in DRC, and where we go now that peace – this at least in the east has been achieved – how the government deals with other rebel groups that are continuing to operate in DRC, how we work with other regional partners, and how we prepare for the upcoming election in 2015.
The Secretary will meet with the president. He’ll have meetings also with the foreign minister. And then we’re looking at doing a visit to a hospital, where we’ll look at some of our activities and programs in DRC.
And then the following day we head to Angola, and we’re very pleased that the Secretary agreed to go to Angola. The Angolans have been playing an extraordinarily positive role on a number of regional issues, particularly as they relate to DRC but also most recently in Central African Republic, where now President dos Santos is the head of the International Contact Group for the Great Lakes. He’s been very proactive in that leadership role in pulling the regional leaders together to work on a solution for DRC to keep that process moving forward. But also he’s been very, very proactive in supporting efforts in Congo.
The Government of Angola gave $10 million to the Government of Central African Republic to pay salaries. They have offered their assistance in providing airlift to future troops that might deploy to Central African Republic. So we want to kind of codify that commitment and encourage them to make additional commitments. We want to see regional leaders make – take leadership and take responsibility for some of the crises that are occurring on the continent. And we think that Angola has moved very positive – has taken very positive steps in this direction.
MODERATOR: All right. Why don’t we take some questions? Michael, you want to kick it off?
QUESTION: Okay. You – I guess I – you had mentioned that South Sudan – the hope was to move forward on the cessation of hostilities and provide space for humanitarian actors and determine, I guess, the shape of what the —
QUESTION: Future will be.
QUESTION: — future political entity would be. Could you just put a little flesh on those bones and explain in a little more detail what you mean?
QUESTION: Also, have the hostilities stopped? I mean —
QUESTION: — there’s so many massacres and horrible things happening.
QUESTION: Yeah, it sounds like it’s getting worse.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, the hostilities have not stopped, and that’s —
QUESTION: Maybe you could —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: — combine these and explain what’s happening with the hostilities and just some details about what you’re hoping to do.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The idea is to push for both sides to honor the agreement that they signed that they have never honored in terms of hostilities. They have continued to fight. Many thousands of people have been killed since this war started in December, and they continue to move forward. I think both sides think that they can win this militarily, and they have certainly not participated in any committed way to finding a negotiated settlement for the conflict.
We have proposed that the Secretary also call Riek Machar. I don’t know when that call will take place, but we want the call to take place after he has visited – after he’s visited Juba to also push Riek Machar to honor the cessation of hostilities.
We will be delivering tough messages to both sides to indicate, one, that they will be held accountable if they don’t make the – if they don’t take the necessary actions to end the hostilities. We have a executive order that the President signed that we have not yet implemented, but they will be – that will be put in front of them at —
QUESTION: Executive order to apply sanctions?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To apply sanctions.
QUESTION: On the —
MODERATOR: To individuals.
QUESTION: On the – which individuals?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To – on – we have not decided on a list of who the individuals are yet, but that is something that – that we’re working on.
QUESTION: So is this just kind of a reminder of the threat of sanctions, or is he going to announce sanctions? I mean, it sounds like if you haven’t decided which individuals are on the —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’re working on – we’re working on that and we’re working on a list. So that process is moving forward. I don’t think we will be announcing that while we’re there, but it is something that we’re working proactively to do.
QUESTION: What else in terms of ways to get both sides to honor the agreement – what other things are being – offered is not a strong-enough word, but just kind of, I assume, we need more stick than carrot in this process of neither one are honoring the – neither side is honoring the —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I – I – working with the regional leaders who have been involved in this negotiation process, they have also lost their patience with both sides in trying to get the regionals to also agree to sanctions and travel bans, and whatever other pressures we can put on them is something that we’re working on with both the Kenyans, the Ugandans, as well as with the Ethiopians. And as I mentioned, Obasanjo was there last week with a team looking at the atrocities, and he will be doing a report for the AU. And they have taken that responsibility very seriously.
QUESTION: And will there be some kind of readout in Addis of that AU report, do you think?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know that they are ready for a readout of the report. He just went in, and I don’t think he’s gone into the north yet, where there have been equal – north of South Sudan, where atrocities were also committed. So I think they’re still in the process of gathering data.
QUESTION: You just said that you will be trying to set up a call with Riek Machar. There is no plan to meet – to a meeting between the Secretary and Riek Machar?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not – not for this trip. Don Booth, the special envoy, met with Riek Machar last week, late last week.
QUESTION: And you don’t have a call set up? You’re just hoping —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, we – the plan is to make a call.
QUESTION: While we’re on South Sudan, can I just ask you to be a historian here for a moment? How did it get this bad, and how did the United States let it get to this point? I mean, this is a country the United States felt, and still does to an extent, inordinate pride in helping to create. I mean, what the heck happened, and could it have been prevented?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think if it could have been prevented, we would have prevented it. I don’t know that I am the right historian for you on that. And I certainly, as the United States, don’t take responsibility for what happened. It is clear that Riek Machar and Salva Kiir do not have their countries’ best good in their hearts. I see them fighting a personal battle that has led to the deaths of many people. This is not a battle against – Nuer against Dinka. It is a Riek Machar-Salva Kiir battle, and they have used ethnic tensions and their own ethnicity to foment what has been a horrific war in this country.
I think – I had a hearing on the Hill today and I said we saw the problems, but none of us saw that it was going to turn this badly this quickly. I think there was a feeling that we were going to work with them to help them address what were clearly political tensions within the party between Riek and Salva Kiir, and also some leadership issues that Salva Kiir exhibited very, very early on. Again, I just – I don’t think – and I would encourage you to ask the question to Don Booth as well, but I don’t think any of us saw that this was going to turn into a full-fledged war with thousands of people being killed.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, actually, I look forward to speaking with him too. But just to press you a bit on that point, I mean, the enmity between those two and the potential for that to blow up was foreseen to a degree at the beginning, which is why Riek Machar was made vice president. I mean, there was an attempt at the start to head that off, so it wasn’t as if this was like, oh my goodness —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. No, it wasn’t.
QUESTION: — no one saw any of this coming, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. They saw that, and that attempt failed. And when he left the party, there was some concern that this was going to turn into violence. And Riek Machar said very, very clearly he was going to wait until the party conference that took place in December, and he was going to fight it out politically.
What happened on December 15th, we’re still not 100 percent clear on. But that’s when the fighting started and Riek went into the bush. There is this narrative of a coup. I don’t think any of us – off the record – bought into that narrative. I’ve said it actually on the record that we didn’t buy into the narrative of a coup attempt. But what happened has led to a major civil war in the country.
QUESTION: And one last follow-on on that. You mentioned December 15th. Is it correct that any sanctions you would move for now would cover activities on both sides from December 15th forward? Is that – you’re looking at this period, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It will definitely cover activities from both sides. I don’t know the start date, but it could be December 15th. I – we can get back to you with that. But it will cover activities from both sides.
QUESTION: I thought that’s what the executive order covered.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I just don’t recall.
MODERATOR: We’ll check in.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll check that, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: The – so the Ethiopians were hosting the Ugandan and Kenyan foreign ministers, so it’s four foreign ministers, right? The Secretary —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
QUESTION: — Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
QUESTION: — on South Sudan. The U.S. dialogue with the AU on CAR, is there a Boko Haram-Nigeria component?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There’s not a Boko Haram. Well, let me say that we’re going to talk broadly about peace and security across the continent, and so there could be a Boko Haram component to that discussion, but we have not – there are no AU troops that are involved in Nigeria.
QUESTION: What about —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the reason we’re focusing on CAR and Somalia is because those are places where we have cooperated with the AU in providing peacekeeping troops.
QUESTION: What about Sahel-AQIM terrorism in general and the AU component of that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We will talk about that.
QUESTION: What about Somalia? I’ve seen an uptick in violence recently in the Sahel.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have, and we’ve actually invited the president of Somalia to come to Addis to meet with the Secretary.
QUESTION: What’s the – at one point, maybe even as recently as eight to nine months ago, there was talk about opening an office or establishing some kind of permanent office in Mogadishu, in the green zone there, and obviously that is not happening anytime soon, but —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s not. We’re still talking about it and we’re still looking at how we might do that. The uptick in violence has caused us to pause and rethink our timeline for doing that. I think part of the uptick in violence that we’re seeing in Mogadishu, the attack in Kenya, is a result of what we view as the success of AMISOM in pushing Boko Haram – sorry, I’m mixing up my – pushing al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and then moving into areas outside of Mogadishu. They’re now coming back into Mogadishu because they’re being pushed out, and they’re looking for opportunities to make a statement, such as what they did in Kenya.
QUESTION: Any U.S. kind of commitment to – is it Sheikh Hassan Mahamud —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We are committed to supporting him. And we’d like to see that – we’d like to see his government be successful. We have been working with his government on some capacity-building activities. We’ve been working on some training activities with the Somali National Army as well.
QUESTION: The – on DRC, you said that there’s been some success after many, many years of conflict. And you talked about what the Secretary will discuss with Kabila – Joseph. But what – are you satisfied that the Ugandan and Rwandan governments are doing what they need to do to keep their side of responsibility for Kivu’s security?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well —
QUESTION: I know they’re sort of conspicuously not on this trip.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. So no, they’re not on the trip. But so far, they have. I mean, it was hard getting all of them to the negotiating table and getting an agreement for M23 to lay down their arms. We could not have gotten that without the cooperation of the Ugandans and the Rwandans. So they have, at least for now, made a commitment to supporting this effort. We’re looking at, with M23, the next steps in amnesty, holding those who will be held accountable – to hold those accountable, and to look at reintegration of others back into the country. Some of them are in Uganda, some of them are in Rwanda, and some of them are still in DRC.
QUESTION: Do you envision an AU mechanism for holding M23 accountable. I don’t recall what the – or is that a Congolese judiciary —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we’re still working on that. But I think we’re looking at the Congolese judiciary doing that, although we’ve had a couple go to the ICC.
QUESTION: Can you – what is the status of the peacekeeping effort in South Sudan and what remains to be done?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’re still —
QUESTION: It’s been a while since I wrote about it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: But it was inadequate, they were looking for resources, they were having a hard time finding them.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’re still working out the details of what the new peacekeeping component will look like in South Sudan. We know that what we have there now has to be rethought.
QUESTION: What do we have there now?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the UN is there, but it’s not a peacekeeping mission. And so what we’re hoping is that we are able to get the AU. And there’s still not agreement on how the AU troops will be integrated into the UN operation, or whether they’ll be integrated. So that’s all being worked out right now in New York as well as in —
QUESTION: What’s hanging it up?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think part of it is there was an initial concern that the AU wanted to be a little bit separate from the UN. They wanted to go in as a separate peacekeeping force. And we’re concerned that – we don’t want two lines of security there. So they have to be part of the UN system when they go in.
QUESTION: And how big will it be when it happens?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That has not been decided. I’ve seen numbers that go from 5,000 upward.
QUESTION: And what assets is the U.S. Government making available?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We will do as we have always done. If it’s a peacekeeping mission, we’ll provide the kind of support at the levels that we have provided to peacekeeping missions. But we’re also looking at how we might be more proactive in supporting the training and the equipping of the African peacekeeping forces, as we’ve done in CAR.
QUESTION: What is the interaction with the Khartoum government like? I mean, that – it’s been an issue of cross-border movement and havens and so forth. Are they being at all helpful, any more helpful, talking at all, what?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll leave that question for Don Booth to answer. I think they are kind of playing both sides. They – at least on the surface, they appear to be helpful. One of the negotiators has been participating, is from Sudan. But I think we’re seeing them playing both sides.
QUESTION: You talked about working with the Kenyans and the Ugandans and the Ethiopians on sanctions and travel bans on South Sudan. Is Khartoum part of that conversation?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We – I don’t think we’ve had discussions with Khartoum on that. I think what we realize is that a lot of the South Sudanese own property and travel to Kenya and Uganda and Ethiopia. And so without a – without them participating, we think the sanctions will be weaker.
QUESTION: What do you mean by codify? You mean that they wouldn’t implement their own sanctions and —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Or participate – do their own sanctions or participate in something that may be broader from the UN.
QUESTION: Is there any history or culture of that? So is that a high hurdle for you?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it’s going to be a hurdle. But I was somewhat buoyed by the statement that President Kenyatta made stating that they can’t stand by and watch the beginnings of a genocide and the killings continue. So that was a pretty strong statement coming out of Kenya.
QUESTION: But what is the expectation that the sanctions will change the course of events in South Sudan?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we’re hopeful that it will be – serve as a deterrent. But given everything that has happened already, we still have a lot to hold people accountable for.
QUESTION: You had said that it appears that both the Salva Kiir and the Riek Machar – both sides appear to believe they can win militarily in South Sudan. Can I presume from that it’s the view of the United States Government that neither side can win militarily, that there is not a military solution? Or might one run the other out?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think there’s no military solution to this. The issues in South Sudan are much more complex than that. There are political issues, there are issues of what kind of constitutional government they will have, what kind of democracy they want to have in the future. These are things that cannot be fought on the battlefield. They have to be fought at the negotiating table.
MODERATOR: We can do one or two more here.
Nicole, do you have anything on the phone?
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you hear me?
QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to ask about the human rights component of the trip. It seems very heavily weighted toward security. I saw that the Secretary is going to meet with civil society in at least one of the stops and in Angola – I think it was Ethiopia and Angola?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As well as in South Sudan.
QUESTION: Okay. So could you just talk a little bit more about that and say why there’s no civil society or NGO sort of element to the DRC stop? Because it seems like in every country, there’s an issue with repression and a lack of a space for things like civil society and democratic movements. And I was also wondering if the Secretary is going to be pushing Ethiopia at all on reconciliation with Eritrea.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We don’t have Eritrea on the agenda, but it could – it certainly could come up because it’s an issue that is very high on certainly the Ethiopians’ agenda.
But on the issue of civil society, we do have a civil society component in every single stop that the Secretary is making. This is very, very high on his agenda and human rights is very high on his agenda. And these will be issues that will be raised in our bilateral meetings with the Ethiopians, with the Government of DRC, with the Government of Angola, as well as certainly with Salva Kiir, where the human rights violations and the lack of humanitarian space have been major, major issues.
QUESTION: Can we go back to DRC and the Great Lakes? The fact that we don’t go to Rwanda, is it a sign that the U.S. policy to the Great Lakes has slightly shifted, that there is a king of rapprochement with DRC and that the relationship between the U.S. and Rwanda are not as good as they used to be?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I wouldn’t come to that conclusion. The Secretary is making a trip. Our special envoy thought that the time was right for him to make a stop in DRC to push the agenda for finding political solutions in DRC, that the Secretary could actually help move that agenda. And we added Angola because of Angola’s role as the president of the Contact Group for the Great Lakes. So Rwanda didn’t come into play as being part of this trip, but it has – it’s not a relationship issue.
MODERATOR: And wasn’t – Ambassador Power was just —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. And I was just there as well.
MODERATOR: Two weeks – I believe two weeks ago or so.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: And is this the first time that the Secretary has been to South Sudan? Did he go last year?
MODERATOR: It’s not the first time he has personally been there.
QUESTION: But as Secretary?
MODERATOR: As Secretary, yes.
STAFF: He said he was there for there for the referendum as senator.
MODERATOR: But not – he – the only – he’s been to Ethiopia before as Secretary. He’s been to South Sudan previously in his – as senator.
MODERATOR: All right.
QUESTION: Can I ask one tiny question on Somalia? You said that the timeline had shifted because of the violence. Could you just give me a better sense of what that means? Because I thought that after the military forces got into Somalia, the embassy would be kind of right behind them.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we’re making plans for having an embassy. We’ve identified a location. We’re ramping up our visits. But we also are very conscious of the security environment there, and we certainly need to make sure, as we’re making these decisions about putting our people in places where there’s danger, that we have done a good assessment of the security situation before we send them there. So we’re still working on it and we’re still moving forward, but I think we’ve kind of slowed down a bit while we determine how best to provide the best security for our people. That’s the highest on our agenda. If we lose – if anything happens to anyone in Somalia or anyplace, there will be hell to pay. So we want to make sure that we – when we make these decisions, we’ve taken into account every single possibility.
QUESTION: Do you agree – you must have seen the SRSG’s – SG, the special representative, the UN dude who was here last week – (laughter) – who said that if there was one more massive hit, that that would probably result in the UN having to pull out its headquarters, and he suspected that other foreign offices would close as well. Do you agree with that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think that was a little overstated. I think it will require that we look, continue to monitor our security posture in these countries. When things happen, I have the responsibility of, along with several other people in the Department, of signing on the orders for people to go into Somalia. So I look more closely when something like that happens, and we make a determination about the timing, whether this is the right timing and where we want people to go. So I think the UN will do that, but I don’t see the UN pulling out. I hope they don’t.
QUESTION: And just to clarify, pulling out would mean to close their office in that green zone —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, and I just don’t —
QUESTION: — as opposed to just working out of Nairobi and coming up, like you all are doing.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I mean, there have not been any successful attacks in the green zone. There was one attack at the gate going into the airport, but nothing has entered into the green zone.
QUESTION: I like your Lalibela Cross.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. I love it, too. The Ethiopians love to see me in this, and I’ve just had it for years. I never take it off.
MODERATOR: (Laughter.) She’ll have it on tomorrow.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. And I forget I have it on, and they’re just all excited and they see me, and I’m like, “What? Oh, yeah. My husband gave me this for an anniversary present like 30 years ago.”
QUESTION: So you’re with us the whole trip?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m with you the whole trip.
QUESTION: But if you could periodically explain what the hell is going on, that would help. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: If I know, I’ll explain it. I’ll ask [Moderator] and then I’ll come and whisper it to you.
QUESTION: You’ll know more than we do, so —
MODERATOR: And to answer Anne’s earlier question, the executive order covers from December 15th to the present.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
QUESTION: December, I’m sorry?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: December 15th.
QUESTION: And that’s on – and I’m sorry, I know you keep trying to —
MODERATOR: South Sudan.
QUESTION: But it’s on – I know – but on individuals and what, on like travel, or on asset freezings, or what? What exactly does it cover?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It covers travel and it covers assets, and it is – it’s a broad sanction for South Sudan, but it also covers individuals that we will do on a case-by-case basis. So we will come up with a list of individuals who will be held accountable for blocking the peace efforts and who have committed gross violations of human rights and atrocities.
QUESTION: Because the —
QUESTION: And the hope is that the travel would include to the other three countries, right? Ethiopia, Kenya —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it’s – our hope is that they will take the initiative to also impose sanctions on South Sudan. They have not indicated to us that they intend to do that, but it’s something that we —
QUESTION: We’re talking about the neighbors now?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ve had a conversation —
QUESTION: A travel ban by the U.S. wouldn’t have as much teeth as it would to some of the neighboring countries surely.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: And could that list include Salva Kiir and Riek Machar?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I suppose it could.
QUESTION: It sounds like you’re at the beginning of the process of really working with the Kenyans and the Ugandans and the Ethiopians about the travel ban. It’s not —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, it’s not – it hasn’t gone – we’ve had discussions with them. They have initiated discussions. We know that a lot of the assets that are held by South Sudanese – they own houses and property in Kenya and Uganda, so if this is to have teeth, they too ought to participate in it.
MODERATOR: All right.