Before his trip, President Obama appointed a special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa. During his trip to Africa, AFJN has urged the President to directly address the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Specifically, AFJN has requested that he support President Kikwete of Tanzania’s policy towards the Great Lakes region. AFJN has compiled some pertinent excerpts from the President’s speech at the University of Cape Town and the joint press conference with Kikwete in Tanzania.
Remarks by the President at the University of Cape Town, South Africa
“And this brings me to the final area where our partnership can empower people — the pursuit and protection of peace in Africa. So long as parts of Africa continue to be ravaged by war and mayhem, opportunity and democracy cannot take root. Across the continent, there are places where too often fear prevails. From Mali to Mogadishu, senseless terrorism all too often perverts the meaning of Islam — one of the world’s great religions — and takes the lives of countless innocent Africans. From Congo to Sudan, conflicts fester — robbing men, women and children of the lives that they deserve. In too many countries, the actions of thugs and warlords and drug cartels and human traffickers hold back the promise of Africa, enslaving others for their own purposes.
America cannot put a stop to these tragedies alone, and you don’t expect us to. That’s a job for Africans. But we can help, and we will help. I know there’s a lot of talk of America’s military presence in Africa. But if you look at what we’re actually doing, time and again, we’re putting muscle behind African efforts. That’s what we’re doing in the Sahel, where the nations of West Africa have stepped forward to keep the peace as Mali now begins to rebuild. That’s what we’re doing in Central Africa, where a coalition of countries is closing the space where the Lord’s Resistance Army can operate. That’s what we’re doing in Somalia, where an African Union force, AMISOM, is helping a new government to stand on its own two feet.
These efforts have to lead to lasting peace, not just words on a paper or promises that fade away. Peace between and within Sudan and South Sudan, so that these governments get on with the work of investing in their deeply impoverished peoples. Peace in the Congo with nations keeping their commitments, so rights are at last claimed by the people of this war-torn country, and women and children no longer live in fear. (Applause.)”
Read the full version of the President’s remarks here.
Remarks by the President at the Joint Press Conference, Tanzania
“Regionally, I thanked President Kikwete for Tanzania’s contribution to security, including its peacekeepers in Darfur and the Congo. On the Congo, we agreed that all parties need to implement their commitments under the Framework for Peace, that armed groups need to lay down their arms, and human rights abusers need to be held accountable.”
“Well, the people of Congo need a chance. They need a fair chance to live their lives, raise their families. And they haven’t had that opportunity because of constant conflict and war for way too many years. And of course, the tragedy is compounded by the fact that Congo is so rich in natural resources and potential, but because of this constant conflict and instability, the people of Congo haven’t benefitted from that.
I want to congratulate, again, President Kikwete and others who have helped to shape a peace framework. Because one of the things that I’ve said throughout this trip is, the United States doesn’t seek to impose solutions on Africa. We want to work with Africans to find solutions to some of these ongoing security and regional problems.
And so, the fact that you now have a peace framework that the various parties have signed onto is critical. But it can’t just be a piece of paper; there has to be follow-through. And so, one of the things that I discussed with President Kikwete is how we can encourage all the parties concerned to follow through on commitments that they’ve made in order to bring about a lasting solution inside of Congo. That means, for example, that President Kabila inside of Congo, he has to do more and better when it comes to dealing with the DRC’s capacity on security issues and delivery of services. And that’s very important, because if there’s a continuing vacuum there, then that vacuum sometimes gets filled by actors that don’t have the best interests of Congo at heart. And we’re prepared to work the United Nations and regional organizations and others to help him build capacity.
The countries surrounding the Congo, they’ve got to make commitments to stop funding armed groups that are encroaching on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Congo. And they’ve signed onto a piece of paper now, now the question is do they follow through.
And so, we’re prepared to work with anybody to try to make this happen. Ultimately, though, the countries involved have to recognize it is in their self-interest to do so. We can’t force a solution onto the region. The peoples of the region have to stand up and say that’s enough; it’s time to move forward in a different way. And, by the way, that means holding those who’ve committed gross human rights abuses accountable for what they’ve done.
But there’s an opportunity for peace here. And the countries surrounding the Congo should recognize that if the Congo stabilizes, that will improve the prospects for their growth and their prosperity, because right now, it’s as if you have a millstone around your neck. If you have one of the biggest countries in terms of geography in all of Africa with all these natural resources, but it’s constantly a problem as opposed to being part of the solution, everybody suffers.
Tanzania should be doing more trade with the DRC. Rwanda should be doing more trade and commerce with the DRC. One of the things we’re talking about it how do we get more inter-Africa trade, because if countries like Tanzania are going to improve their economic position in the globe, the first thing they have to do is to make sure they can trade with each other more effectively.
Right now, in Africa — this is true not just in Tanzania, but in Kenya and Uganda and other places — it’s easier to send flowers or coffee to Europe than it is to send it across the way. And that means that fewer businesses are getting started and fewer jobs are being created.
So we want t
o work with the existing international structures like the United Nations, and we’re supportive of the brigade that’s been shaped and in which Tanzania is making a contribution. But ultimately, it’s going to be the African countries themselves that have to follow up on the commitments that they’ve already made. “
Read the rest of Obama and Kikwete’s remarks from the press conference here.