FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMED: I am delighted to welcome Secretary John Kerry back to Nairobi, and for a second visit in the last, I think, one year. The last time you were here was in May.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes.
FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMED: Yes, so thank you very, very much for coming back. I think it’s a pure reflection of where our relationship is, and which is growing and growing very, very, I think, in a very healthy direction. Let me also say that the visit of Secretary Kerry took two phases. The first was a bilateral meeting that he held with His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta this morning, which was extremely productive. It was a meeting that is very supportive of what is happening between our two countries in the political, economic, and obviously the peace and security area as well. The second one was a regional consultation with the foreign ministers of our region, and it was also on peace and security, peace and security mainly focused on South Sudan and Somalia.
So again, Secretary Kerry, you’re very, very welcome to the region. I think the foreign secretaries that are here – I don’t know whether any of them is still here, but we’re very grateful for the visit. I think the discussions we held were candid, they were frank, they were productive. I think they were excellent. We hadn’t had such discussions for a while now. And I can tell you for sure that the region actually needed these discussions to be that candid so that we could make progress.
In Somalia, I think the picture is a good one, positive movement. Obviously, challenges remain. And we have raised some of the concerns that we have with the Secretary – items of the resources that are needed for AMISOM to carry out its mandate fully and effectively. We have talked about what the priorities are for us, including the elections, obviously, in Somalia, which we hope will be held, as indicated, on time from the 24th of September to the 30th of October, beginning with the parliamentary elections, election of the speaker, and election of the president. We hope that that will move seamlessly forward. We’re told that all the institutions are in place, the laws have been enacted, the policies have been formulated, and the only thing that was required was resources. And we were actually told how much was required for the elections to be – to go forward as planned.
I will leave that discussion to Secretary Kerry, because I think they shared resources with him directly. (Laughter.) So I’m hoping that it’s something that he can respond to.
The other issue that we discussed at length was South Sudan. Very complex, a lot of challenges, but I think we’re able together to discuss a way forward. I think I will not go into any detail on what the discussions entailed, but suffice it to say that we both insisted on the implementation of the agreement, on the full implementation of the agreement on issues relating to support for the people of South Sudan; ensuring that, in fact, reconciliation did take place; and making sure that those that are in the IDP camps could be able to go back home.
So many issues that were discussed, and I’m really happy to report that we’re encouraged by the discussions that took place. I actually came out of that meeting much more hopeful than I had been going into the meeting. So I’d like to again thank you very, very much for the manner in which you led those discussions.
So I’m going to stop there and hand over the floor to you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Amina. Hello everyone. Let me begin by thanking my very special friend and colleague, Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, for her hospitality, for hosting today, for helping to organize the day, and for helping to chair the discussions that we had today. And I would completely agree with her that it was extremely constructive, and I can talk about that in a few minutes.
I began the day with a meeting with President Kenyatta, and it was indeed, as Amina said, very comprehensive and productive on each of the topics that we touched on. And we were quite comprehensive in those topics, talking both regionally as well as domestically regarding the elections that are coming up, regarding the economy, regarding security, and other challenges.
But I had the pleasure of beginning that meeting, as I want to begin this press conference this afternoon, by congratulating Kenya on something no nation’s athletes have ever before accomplished, and that is to win both the men’s and the women’s marathon races at the Olympic Games. (Applause.) Absolutely extraordinary. When I mentioned that to President Kenyatta, he promptly said to me, “Well, we also had a hand in helping you win a silver because the person who won came from Kenya.” (Laughter.) And I said, “Actually, Mr. President, you did better than a silver and a gold. You gave us a president of the United States.” (Laughter.) So you can see we had a very friendly and positive beginning to the conversation.
But in all seriousness, as a senator who represented Massachusetts for 28 years and who ran in a marathon, in the Boston Marathon years ago, I cannot tell you how much I admire runners from Kenya. I also asked the president to come and teach us how to run more so. (Laughter). It’s quite an extraordinary record. And marathons are a big deal, especially in my hometown of Boston, so I fully understand how proud Kenya feels and should feel.
I also want to express my deep appreciation to my fellow foreign ministers who traveled here today from Somalia, from South Sudan, from Uganda, and from Sudan. And we had an extremely important conversation regarding both the future of Somalia and South Sudan, and how we could meet these regional challenges together. And as Amina said, it exceeded her expectations. I think it’s fair to say that we came out with a very clear agenda, with an understanding, and we broke away some hurdles that were standing in the way of progress, and I hope we’ll move forward now.
Now, while our focus today was on these challenges, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more going on in East Africa. And much of it is encouraging, particularly when it comes to economic and social trends. As is reflected by the young leaders that I’m going to meet with a little later this afternoon, there’s really a lot of energy, particularly a lot of economic entrepreneurial energy. A new generation is coming of age that is much more committed to expanding economic opportunity, improving health care, preserving the environment, and developing renewable sources of power. So this is a very exciting time in Africa, and I am pleased to be back here.
Here in Kenya and throughout East Africa, there is a challenge that we face together, and that is that violent extremism is an obstacle to the hopes of the full living out of the aspirations described by the various undertakings that I described a moment ago. Yesterday, al-Shabaab terrorists detonated an attack in an open market in Galkayo, Somalia, resulting in the death of 15 people and more than 80 injuries. And I want to take this opportunity to express the deepest condolences of the United States of America to all those who lost family members or who were wounded in that attack.
And as the people of Kenya are tragically aware, al-Shabaab may have had its start in Somalia, but it doesn’t care about national borders. And the terrorists are a regional threat, therefore they demand a regional response, and that is one reason that our meetings today were so timely.
In our discussions we focused on three goals. The first is to maintain firm support for the Somali people and the government as they strive to protect their citizens, strengthen their institutions, and participate in a landmark electoral process.
The second goal is to ensure that AMISOM, which is the UN Mission in Somalia, has the resources that it needs in order to conduct, in partnership with Somalia, a sustained and relentless drive against al-Shabaab. We need to ensure that when the terrorists are forced to flee an area they are never able to return. And third, throughout the region we have to enhance our efforts to secure borders, to share information about terrorist threats, to train professional security personnel, and to counter radical ideology.
Let me make it clear, we have made extraordinary progress in Somalia. AMISOM has made progress. Somalians have made progress. The regional countries committed to fighting against al-Shabaab made progress. And al-Shabaab has been beaten backwards and the economy is growing in Somalia and the government is gaining in capacity and taking hold. But obviously, we need to do more, and we understand that. And today, we talked about that doing more and how we will do more in the days ahead, and we specifically agreed on a set of meetings that will take place shortly in order to up the effort, if you will, and complete the task to honor the progress and the sacrifices that have been made.
In our talks today, I heard a powerful commitment from all of the participants to cooperate in fighting an enemy whose hate-filled agenda is the complete opposite of what the people in East Africa want. Meanwhile, we are also stepping up our efforts to address humanitarian needs. This afternoon, I am pleased to announce that the United States will be providing an additional $117 million more in support for refugees, returnees, and drought victims in the region, raising our total assistance just for this year to 265 million. And we will also contribute an additional 29 million to the UNHCR’s new Supplementary Appeal in support of the safe and voluntary return of refugees to Somalia. I mentioned this to President Kenyatta today because I know he is focused on this challenge of returning people, as he should be, but obviously returning them under the rules and laws of the international community in keeping with the standards of the United Nations refugee treatment.
We also reviewed the dire situation in South Sudan. There is absolutely no question and we all agree – those ministers here today – that we need to move forward with the deployment of a regional protection force authorized by the UN Security Council in order to be part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in that country. And let me emphasize this is not an intervention force. This is a protection force with a very clear mandate to be able to protect people for their access, their freedom of movement, and their ability to remain free from attack or ambush from any source whatsoever. It is supplementary to the sovereignty and the efforts of South Sudan itself. And I think we had a good clearing of the air today in the discussion that we had with the participants on this subject.
At the same time, we urged all the parties to recommit in word and deed to the full implementation of the peace agreement, and the representatives who were here today from the government indicated their full preparedness to do exactly that. And what we’ve been witnessing in South Sudan up until the moments of this beginning of the implementation has really been tragic and in some cases even reprehensible. Warring parties have terrorized and abused noncombatants, especially women and girls. And more than two and a half million people have been forced to leave their homes. Forty percent of the population is without enough food, and they’re witnessing record levels of inflation in their economy.
So help is urgently needed in order to save lives, and that is why President Obama asked me to come here today to be here in order to help work with our friends to respond to this emergency, this crisis.
Today, I am also announcing nearly $138 million in new aid from the United States to the people of South Sudan, and we are already the largest donor in the world to the effort to help sustain the people of South Sudan on a humanitarian basis with 1.6 billion that we have contributed. The new funds, the 138 million, will be used to provide food, water, and medicine to those in need. But I want to make this clear, and I particularly think it’s important for the people back home who are engaged in trying to help. I’m talking about our taxpayers in the United States. We made it crystal clear that this is not forever. We’re not just going to fill in a void. We’re not just going to provide help incessantly if they’re not willing to accept responsibility and do the things necessary to deliver to their people. And that message was delivered loud and clear today.
In addition, I want to make clear that part of our understanding today is that the parties in South Sudan will allow unfettered access for the delivery of this and other humanitarian relief. The overriding need in South Sudan is to re-invigorate an inclusive political process and to implement the reforms that are set out in the agreed-upon peace process, the peace agreement, so that this young country can stand up its economy, create effective security institutions, and bring an end to the sectarian division and fighting. And every neighbor in the region is demanding the same thing. The leaders of South Sudan have to live up to their responsibilities. They have to put the interests of their citizens first, and they have to refrain from violent and provocative acts. And the time has come to replace confrontation and impunity with reconciliation and accountability, and the minister from South Sudan and the delegation here today committed that they understand that that indeed has to happen.
Finally, I want to emphasize how deeply the United States values and respects our friendship with Kenya. Today, our annual 2A trade exceeds 1.5 billion and U.S. investors are increasingly attracted to the possibilities here, especially in such sectors as energy, agri-business, and ICT. Our governments work together on a range of issues, including climate change, where I might add Kenya is a regional leader, both through its engagement in the international climate negotiations and through its own ambitious domestic efforts. On that note, I congratulate the Kenyan parliament for recently passing legislation to create a National Climate Change Council to further drive climate action.
And in addition, our nations also cooperate on ocean and wildlife conservation, expanding access to energy, particularly through President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, on supporting democracy, on fighting corruption, and on strengthening the rule of law. Let me just say that the rule of law matters particularly, because in East Africa, as elsewhere, it’s really hard in today’s global marketplace to have prosperity or security without good governance.
And that is why preparations for next year’s national elections are so important, and I talked about them with President Kenyatta. I’m pleased to see that progress is being made in reforming the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and I urge in the most emphatic terms that disagreements about policy and process be resolved through peaceful means. Kenya has come a long way since the elections of 2007; it is up to leaders on all sides to ensure that the violence that took place in the aftermath of that election is never repeated. And President Kenyatta could not have been more firm or clear in his commitment to this election process.
The United States does not favor one party over another, but we strongly support a fair, accountable, transparent, orderly, credible, nonviolent electoral process, and we will do everything that we can to assist Kenyans as they work towards that goal.
We also discussed our shared interest in combating violent extremism here in Kenya and the importance of ensuring that counterterrorism efforts are conducted in a manner that is fully consistent with international law and in keeping with our shared commitment to the preservation of basic human rights.
In closing, I once again thank Cabinet Minister Mohamed for her hospitality; for, frankly, the skill with which she contributed to the discussion today, the thoughtfulness of her leadership; and I appreciate enormously Kenya’s leadership in hosting today’s meetings. And I want to express again my appreciation to my very busy and distinguished colleagues for their readiness and willingness to come here and meet today. They are part of a vital effort to coordinate ongoing efforts to provide for a stable, dynamic, prosperous, peaceful East Africa, and I thank everybody for their hospitality. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMED: Well, thank you very, very much for recognizing the progress of compatriots on the fields, something we’re extremely proud of and that we appreciate every day. In fact, we consider them to be the best ambassadors that this country has ever had.
Thank you also for appreciating the colleagues that came to join us; they did it at very, very short notice, really short notice, which basically speaks about the esteem that they hold both Kenya and the United States in – because it’s not easy to cancel a foreign minister’s agenda and fly out for consultations, but I think it also speaks to the importance of the issues that we are discussing today. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Excellencies will take two questions. Please. One from the local press and another from the national media. So just (inaudible) your name and the media you represent, and yeah, we’ll be good to go.
Your first question.
QUESTION: All right, Olive Burrows from Capital FM and my question goes to Secretary Kerry. I’d like to correct you, first of all. You called AMISOM a UN mission, but it’s actually an African Union Mission in Somalia.
SECRETARY KERRY: Correct.
QUESTION: But President Kenyatta has called or has asked that UN Security Council upgrade it to a UN mission, so I’d like to know how your conversation went in regards to that. And you spoke about elections. How exactly is the U.S. planning to support credible polls in Kenya come August 2017?
SECRETARY KERRY: You’re absolutely correct. Even as I was saying it, I was saying that, you know what, it’s an AU mission. But I was not counting on everybody here being – holding me accountable. (Laughter.) I appreciate it.
We actually didn’t talk about changing its shape or form. What we did talk about, however, is augmenting it, and we talked very seriously about the need for the AMISOM mission to finish the job. Now, as you know, the mission goes until 2018. It’s now still 2016, and we believe that in the intervening time, before there is any need for a drawdown, we have an ability to empower the national forces of Somalia, which need to be strengthened in order to have a reduction in force of AMISOM not be negative in its impact.
And I think we all were agreed, and I know that both the Somali, I know that Kenya, and I believe the Ethiopians are prepared to work with the United States in order to put greater pressure on al-Shabaab in the meantime.
So I feel confident about what came out of today’s discussion is a way to see the AMISOM mission – AMISOM mission complete its task successfully. And I think that will be a great feather in the cap for African leadership and for the willingness of regional countries to take on major responsibilities on something that affects people far beyond just in this region, because terrorism affects all of us.
So I hope that is going to be the outcome that we will see over the course of the next months. And the meetings that I referred to in my opening comments, I believe will take place very soon and help make a difference in implementing what was talked about here today.
Now, with respect to the election process here in Kenya, let me just emphasize that holding a free and fair, peaceful, credible election next year is a really critical step in consolidating Kenya’s democracy and unlocking the full promise of the 2010 constitution. I’m very confident from my conversation with President Kenyatta he fully understands that. For him, he has made it clear there is no going backwards and he only sees the future in a context that I think is very, very promising.
He also understands, as we do, that holding a successful election is a whole-of-society effort. You need your government, your political leaders, your business community, all the people, civil society, to come together to resolve differences, not through violence, not through hate language or other kinds of talk, but with a real dialogue, with a real political discussion. And I think in that context I made it clear – and I think the President agreed completely because he’s already taken steps to move in this direction – that Kenya must have a trusted electoral body that is capable of running that kind of transparent and credible election. You’ve already taken steps to do that. Before I arrived here, there’s already proposals before your parliament that will change commissioners and begin to move the process forward to give people confidence that the electoral commission is going to be what people want it to be. And I think that it is critical, needless to say, that everybody in the country feel confident about that process.
Now, what is the United States prepared to do beyond the conversations we had today and our urgings of everybody to participate? We are investing over $25 million in this year in order to support your electoral process coming into next year. What does that mean? It means we want to strengthen your election operations. We want to have you have the ability to carry out election observation during the elections. It means we want to see the full participation of women and youth in the election, and that there are mechanisms there to support any kind of dispute resolution so people have confidence that it’s not a free-for-all, it’s not left to some random process; there’s a clear and orderly process in place.
So we’re invested, but in the end, this is your country and these are your processes and this is your parliament and we don’t want to step on any toes. We’re not doing anything that your government isn’t comfortable is going to enhance the process, and help them to build the confidence that your government wants. And we do it in a helpful and permissive way, and in no other way could it work.
FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMED: Well, let me say this on AMISOM. We made our pitch to the UN with the Security Council members to encourage them to allow for the re-hatting of the AMISOM troops. And we did that because, as you know, the budget of AMISOM has been cut by 20 percent. And the region was not going to come in and contribute both resources and boots on the ground. And therefore we talked to the Security Council. We will continue having that discussion. We haven’t given up on it yet. We are going to New York in September, and that conversation will continue both with the Security Council but also with the United Nations peacekeeping department.
So Secretary Kerry, we’ll also continue encouraging you to support that effort, because we truly need the resources. We talked to you about force multipliers and enablers today, but that’s not all that we need. We actually need additional support. Our commitment is our men on the ground. We want the rest of the international community to also commit as much as we’re doing, because, as you know, this is an international engagement. International peace and security is not a regional issue, and therefore we’ll continue raising that issue with the UN.
On elections and the processes, let me just say this – that the president made it clear today that not just the government, but we truly believe that there’s no Kenyan that would want to go back to that really traumatic period of 2007-2008, and that commitment has been, I think, made by all of us. And therefore we hope that as we move forward, the rest of the international community will actually see the steps that we’re taking to ensure that we ourselves would like to have a credible, democratic, transparent, and an open election that will be acceptable first and foremost to our own compatriots and then also to the international community.
MR KIRBY: Our final question today comes from Lesley Wroughton from Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, if I could address you first. Secretary Kerry said there was a need to move forward on the deployment of this protection force in South Sudan. Can you give us more details on when do you think that can happen? And is Kenya going to be part of that deployment or that force? Can you see that happening?
And then Mr. Secretary, also coming back to that force, what difference do you think 4,000 additional people will – UN peacekeepers will make in Sudan given that the mission could not stop or prevent the violence that occurred recently in which civilians and aid workers were attacked and raped? What – so what difference can that 4,000 make? Also, are you going to push the opposition leader Machar to return to Juba once they are in place, or do you want to see him there before that force is deployed? Also, are they – you’ve said it was important that the leaders take responsibility. Are there other concrete measures or steps that the U.S. or the UN can take to prevent further descent into conflict in South Sudan?
And if I may, just one more on Russia. Iran today said it would stop Russia using the Hamadan Air Base to launch strikes on Syria. Is this U-turn a result of U.S. pressure on Iran? If not, how did you see this coming about? And when do you expect your next discussions to be with Minister Lavrov, and are the – are – is an agreement on Syria still feasible this month?
FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMED: Okay, well – (laughter). Not all the questions were posed to you. I will answer the one that was for me, that was asked of me. First of all, the issue of the protection force – that came up immediately after the conflict began on the 7th of July. And as we watched the situation deteriorating, we in the region decided that we’d quickly come together and agree on a way forward, because we were not going to sit back and watch the situation just go from bad to worse.
So we came together and we came up with this communique – foreign ministers’ communique. And one of the main pillars of that communique was actually this whole idea of a protection force in Juba. And we immediately started conversations amongst the chiefs of defense forces to see what was possible in the shortest period of time. So in terms of when should it be there, I think sooner rather than later. But we moved out of Nairobi to Kigali with that communique, which was then adopted by the heads of state in Kigali, and then to Addis where it was again reinforced.
And so after that, I think what happened was basically complementary to what the region had done already. The Security Council resolution is complementary to what we had done as a region and the issue – and I think that’s really, really important to underline, that the whole issue of a protection force was brought up by the region and did not come from the Security Council in New York. And if you look at it from that angle, right, then you begin to understand why it must come in and why it must be deployed. And so since then, we’ve had additional meetings of the chiefs of defense forces. They’re looking at modalities in which this can be done and how many can go in and when they can go in.
We’ve also talked about – and today we discussed that as well – about the gradual deployment of these troops. And I’ll let the Secretary respond to the 4,000 question. But let me tell you that any number of soldiers that go in in the name of a protection force would be welcome, right, and that would open, I think, the door to everything – everything else. And so we are, I think, of one mind. All of us that spoke today discussed and addressed that issue of the protection force, and we agreed that it was something that needed to happen. We had a serious discussion with our colleagues and friends from South Sudan urging them to allow for that deployment as quickly as possible.
So basically, I hope I’ve answered that question.
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the protection force, let me make it clear: The protection force is limited by definition, not a response to the overall crisis within the country as a whole, because clearly, there are many people with weapons in many parts of the country, and a protection force of 4,000 people will not have the capacity to cover all those bases. But the hope is that with a transitional government that is now committed to the full implementation of the peace agreement and that has already begun to implement that peace agreement, that a force with a presence in Juba itself, which is where most of the violence took place during the last round, will be able to guarantee access for everybody, and that includes people trying to prevent the violence.
What happened in the last round was that it was very difficult for people to move between the warring parties, the airport became at risk, the government institutions, the UN quarters itself – the UN compound at one or two points was under attack. Our embassy itself had rounds going over it and around it, and we were – spent quite a bit of time concerned about the safety of the diplomatic personnel that are hosted in Juba. So the effort here is to really create a capacity for the process to go forward in Juba, which will reduce the need to have presence in other parts of the country because you have a working governance, because you have people implementing the peace agreement, and then there would be a series of cantonments, which would begin to house people with weapons in a way that begins to separate them from the general population.
Now, all of this depends, obviously, on the efficiency with which the process will be implemented, but I think Amina would agree with me that today there was a clear agreement about the immediate implementation process continuing, and about next steps of meetings that will take place in order to guarantee some momentum builds up, and particularly in an acceptance of and understanding of what the definition of the protective force is. Let me be clear again – I said it, I think, in my opening comments – this force is not an intervention force. It is there to protect innocent civilians, to protect people’s access to and egress from Juba, and to be able to permit the people working on the issue of peace and its implementation to be able to move around without fear or interference. And I am confident that a force of the size that is being discussed with the participants who are going to take part – and you just heard from the foreign minister, cabinet secretary, about her – the commitment of Kenya to this. It will have an impact.
With respect to Machar, it’s not up to the United States; it’s up to the leaders of South Sudan and the people of South Sudan and the political parties and the political process, and their neighbors, to weigh in on what is best or not best with respect to Machar. But I think it’s quite clear that legally, under the agreement, there is allowance for the replacement in a transition of personnel, and that has been effected with the appointment of a new vice president. And what they decide to do is going to be dependent on them in the context of the implementation of the peace agreement.
With respect to responsibilities that we might accept or – excuse me. With respect to the issue of people being held accountable and being responsible for actions they’ve taken to date, there is within the peace agreement a specific section that refers to the existence of a hybrid court that is there specifically for the purpose of holding people accountable for abuses that are perpetrated during the course of the implementation. Exactly how that will take shape is something we can contribute to in our discussions with them as we go forward, and our Special Envoy Don Booth and our ambassador will be deeply engaged in those discussions and in that process. Ultimately, the Government of South Sudan is going to have to decide what they’re willing to do implementing internally. There are, obviously, always external capacities for potential accountability, but those involve a lot of other collateral impacts that I think we would want to be sensitive to and thoughtful about before anybody starts going down that road.
With respect to the question of Russia and the bombing and Iran, you’d have to ask the Iranians and the Russians why they made whatever decision they made to something that I’m not sure anybody had admitted previously was in fact going on. So I’m not going to comment on it except to say that we are indeed engaged currently in ongoing conversations that have been going on now for several weeks, and it is my hope we are reaching the end of those discussions one way or the other. In the next days, our team will meet – this week – and depending on where those discussions go, it is very possible, even likely, that Foreign Minister Lavrov and I would meet as a consequence of that, but that decision has to be made on the basis of where we are in the next couple of days. But I wouldn’t be surprised, if they are positive and constructive, that we do get together sooner rather than later. And therefore, it is possible that something could be agreed at – upon before the end of the month, but I can’t tell you whether it’s likely. I wouldn’t express optimism; I would express hope.
I will say this: This has to end – this Syrian travesty. It has gone on far too long. It has cost many too many lives. Day to day, there have probably been dozens if not hundreds of photographs that were similar to the one that somehow caught the attention of the world in the last few days. And it is imperative that Russia, Iran, the regime, all of the parties supporting the opposition, people come together in order to find a way forward. And our hope is not that what we agree to with Russia is going to be the ultimate declaration of the end of the process; it’s going to be a means of absolutely, legitimately, in the right atmosphere, in the right way, bringing the parties to the table in order to engage for the first time in the real discussions about the political transformation that needs to take place. But that has to be empowered by a legitimate cessation of hostilities and that is what we’re working to achieve.
MR KIRBY: Thank you, everybody. That concludes the press conference today.
Source: U.S. State Department.