Africa Regional Media Hub
Press Briefing with
Acting Assistant Secretary Donald Yamamoto
African Union High Level Dialogue and Ministerial
November 13, 2017
OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the US-AU Dialogue and Ministerial conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session; instructions will be given at that time. If you should require assistance during the call, please press star then zero. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Tiffany Jackson-Zunker. Please go ahead.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants who have dialed in from across the continent and media gathered at our various missions in Africa. Today, we are joined by Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Ambassador Yamamoto will discuss the upcoming African Union High Level Dialogue and Ministerial, which will take place November 16th and 17th in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Yamamoto, is speaking to us from Washington.
Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is the Bureau of African Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary. He previously served as the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs in 2013 and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2009 until 2013. He has also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and to Djibouti. Ambassador Yamamoto entered the Foreign Service in 1980, serving primarily in Africa, with assignments in the Middle East and Asia. He received a Master’s Degree from the National War College in 1996 and is the recipient of several distinguished awards, including a Presidential Distinguished Service Award, Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and Secretary’s Distinguished Honor Award.
We will begin with remarks from Ambassador Yamamoto and then we will open it up to your questions. For those of you listening to the call in English, please press star one on your phone to join the question queue. If you are using a speakerphone, you may need to pick up the handset before entering star one.
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Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 30 minutes. And with that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Yamamoto.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Thank you very much for joining in this dialogue on our upcoming events on Africa. So, as you all know, President Trump hosted a luncheon at the United Nations General Assembly, with several African leaders, and really from that point on we’ve been focused on expanding and deepening our relationship with Africa. As you know, Energy Secretary Perry was in South Africa recently, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was in three countries in Africa as well, and then we’ll be having other high level visitors going to Africa. But the highlight for this year is definitely going to be the Ministerial meeting called by Secretary Tillerson, and that’s going to have 37 foreign ministers from across the continent, including the Maghreb, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to that we’ll have our annual African Union U.S. High Level Dialogue, which is going to be on November 16th, and then November 17th will be the Ministerial with the 37 foreign ministers.
Let me just say what the objectives are for this meeting. It really is overall to broaden, deepen, the relationship between the United States and Africa. The featured viewpoints during the Ministerial on Friday, November 17th will be on economic growth and trade opportunity and development, and then second is on democracy and governance, and third will be peace and security. And what we want to do is actually look at Africa in the 2100s and 2050s, Africa is going to really transform and change. It’s going to be a continent of 2.2 billion people; that’s going to be the most populous continent on earth. You’re going to have a manufacturing output that’s going to double from the current $500 billion to over $1 trillion. But more important is that 25% of the world’s labor force is going to be African. And so those are opportunities that we really can’t miss.
But more important is we want to be right there with our African partners to develop and really work with Africa, to see how we can not only develop the relationship but also address the needs of the people of Africa. If you have 2.2 billion and 70% are under the age of 30, the issue comes in as “will there be enough jobs? Will there be enough economic development?” And so that in itself is not only an economic issue, there’s also a security issue and also a developmental issue. So with that, we can turn it over for questions and we’ll try to give you the best answers we can. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Yamamoto. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. For those asking questions, please state your name and affiliation and limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: the upcoming AU High Level Dialogue and Africa Ministerial in Washington, D.C. Our first question will go to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy, Ethiopia. Operator, can you open the line, please?
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, this is Berhanu Fekade calling from The Reporter newspaper. Mr. Ambassador thank you for talking to us. I just want to take you back to an issue which you very familiar with, and in that, I just want to talk a little bit about peace and security in that area, especially in a country like Ethiopia we don’t have [UNCLEAR] civic conflicts and tribal [UNCLEAR]. And I want to hear your view on that regarding your assessment, if any. Thank you very much.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: You raise very good issues and challenges. On the peace and security and governance issues—I think it really falls into two—so for Ethiopia specific, you have the challenges of extremists based in Somalia coming into Ethiopia. The other issue, too, is on the governance issues that Prime Minister Hailemariam is facing. And also the tensions that we have seen, particularly between Oromia and Somalia. But I think the overall issue is looking at security across the continent. And that is on—number one, we’re looking at countries of the G5. That’s Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso, which is receiving threats from outside the region and area into Sub-Saharan Africa, just as Ethiopia also faces a lot of challenges. We’re also looking on to West Africa and Mali, Nigeria, fighting Boko Haram and ISIS West. And when I was in Ethiopia during my time, we were having threats and bombings come out of Somalia from the Shabaab. And going into internal domestic issues across the continent, and that really is an issue that is not just afflicting Africa but really across the world. And that is, if you have an extraordinarily young population, you have economic aspirations, you have the efforts to fight governance issues, corruption issues, looking for economic opportunities—those are challenges that are going to exacerbate a lot of problems, not only between regions, ethnicities, and groups, but also generation issues. And so what we’re trying to do, I think, in this Ministerial, is look at economic opportunities that will address the needs of a growing and very young population. So Ethiopia is like other countries: very young, very dynamic, very mobile, educated, and becoming more educated, and it’s really looking for opportunities. And that’s really the Ministerial issue, is how do you address the needs, and how do you bring all these people together in economic harmony? And that’s going to be the challenge of not only this Ministerial, but the subsequent meetings afterwards. And I’ll be in Ethiopia in the future to discuss this and I look forward to meeting with you all there. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will go to Alexandra Brangeon, the Southern Africa Correspondent for Radio France International. Operator, can you open the line, please?
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, good morning. This is Alexandra Brangeon from the French public radio, actually based in Paris now. Sir, good morning. A question about Niger. You talked about security, I wondered if you could talk to us about the latest attack that left four soldiers dead there, and how this will impact on the new administration’s commitment on the ground. And if I may, a second question about Somalia, there again related to security and the strikes against the Islamic State in northern Somalia just a few weeks ago, and whether these strikes mean that you see this group on the ground, which a year ago was still very small, as a real threat. Thank you.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: So, on Niger—and it’s an ongoing investigation taking place not only by the Department of Defense but certainly by the Nigerien officials, even regional organizations as well—and so I don’t want to go into too much detail on that. The issue comes in as, I think for you and your readers, the United States is there to help support and assist the African countries and their forces. I mean, one factoid is that 63% of all UN operations are in Africa. And if you look at 87% of UN troops worldwide are in Africa, and 70% of all troops—African Union, UN, etc.—are African, then the issue comes in as that the United States wants to help and support the training.
As you know, the State Department and the U.S. government, we’ve been there training some over 300,000 African troops from 26 countries. About 100,000 have remained or have served in peacekeeping operations, and almost 30,000 in UN operations. And so Africa is making a tremendous amount of sacrifices and commitments. And so towards that end, our troops—and not only troops from DOD but also our diplomats from State Department—are there to help support, to train, to advise, to give support and security for these countries. And so I don’t want you to look at it as a U.S. unilateral; it’s not. It’s really support of the security needs, the direction of these countries. And also, remember, the United States respects the sovereignty of these countries.
I think in Somalia—as you know, I was in Somalia last year, setting up our American embassy, in the context of expanding our relationship and support in Somalia—and in that context, looking at the security threats is that President Farmajo and his new government, that is a process that we’re trying to support, a transition towards a much more expansive democratic program, and of course the commitment by the people of Somalia towards 2024 and 2028 are one person, one vote. And if that’s their goals and objectives, then that’s the goals and objectives for the United States and we’re going to be there to support. So as far as the security, the threats, etc., it’s always in the context of how we can support these countries and their security needs. And that’s our role, is to support and assist and advise. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will go to the listening party at the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda. Operator, can you open the line?
OPERATOR: Line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Anita Muwanguzi with Power FM in Uganda. I’m interested to know if there was a specific criteria used to select these countries, and how they will inform this dialogue and why these specific 37 were chosen for this dialogue?
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Right. That’s a great question, and I think that we debated back and forth on how we’re going to do the invitations. Do you invite everyone, invite some people—some countries and not every country—and I think it became really a large Ministerial, and so we have the Maghreb countries. Normally, as you remember, in 2015, we had the African Leadership Meeting, and we basically focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. I think now we want to expand that focus.
So the issue comes in as we’re focusing on three areas and looking at countries which really kind of fill multiple areas, and that is on economic development. So Uganda is really a critical country—economic development, you have mineral resources, oil finds, you have large economic development, you’re a regional powerhouse. The other issue, too, is on security. In that context, Uganda is the lead on AMISOM troops in Somalia, but also in regional issues as well.
And then the other issue, too, is governance issues, and that is looking at how we can look at governance and have a transition across the continent. And so given those three, we picked out 37 ministers from countries. But that does not mean that we’re ignoring all the other countries not invited. And what we did was we’re having all the African ambassadors in Washington to a series of luncheons, leading to the Ministerial and Post-Ministerial. And really, the big work is going to be after the Ministerial, because the Ministerial in itself is raising issues and topics, but what’s going to happen is that we really need to follow up, and that’s going to be the critical crunch issue.
And let me say that Uganda plays a very important role—so we’re going to be looking to countries like Uganda, like South Africa, like Nigeria, like Ethiopia, Senegal, Ghana, a lot of countries, to help define, articulate, focus on these critical issues. Then we’re going to look at all the countries throughout Africa to support and really kind of give us viewpoints of where the United States and the international community should be.
So I don’t think you should look it as just a limited number; it’s going to be a start of an expansive, continuous dialogue, and we’re going to look to every country, from Cabo Verde to Mauritius, all the way from Libya and Egypt all the way down to South Africa. So it’s going to be a continent-wide issue on your needs and your challenges. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Kevin Kelley from Nation Media Group, Kenya. He’s based in New York.
OPERATOR: Your line is open, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, hi, thanks for doing this, first of all. So, Ambassador Yamamoto, I’m wondering if you can address what appears to be a pattern of backsliding regarding the democratic norms in parts of Africa, central Africa specifically, with term limits being extended, constitutions being changed to enable long-serving rulers to serve even longer, and I’m wondering if you can specifically address the electoral situation in Kenya—a fairly confusing one, conflicting claims about the validity of both the elections that were held. What’s the United States’ view of Raila Odinga—who was recently in Washington—his complaints that the election process is rigged and unfair? Thanks a lot.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: You’re right, very cogent and very crucial issues and questions. So, let me try to give you one of our overarching issues. So when I started out in Africa, all but two decades ago, we’re looking at the various international NGO groups looking at democracy and governance in Africa, and, you know, you only had several countries in Africa that were really truly under the national democratic, and others saying that these were democratic countries. And then today, we have, you know, two dozen countries that are certified, qualified, as really democratic, democratic-leaning.
And I’ll give you, kind of one side note is: we do a lot of analytical assessments of countries around the world, and we’re looking at evacuations of American embassies worldwide, and we’ve done something like 388 since the late 90’s. That’s about 19 a year. And that doesn’t mean we’re evacuating countries or embassies full-fledged, but partially or whatever. And a lot of it in the beginning was based on instability crises, non-democratic institutions, whereby you had transitions in governments through coup-d’états and others, but what you’ve seen in Africa is actually a decrease in the number of evacuations led by or initiated by the United States embassies. And I think that’s a testament to a lot of effort made by the international organizations, by international donors, and by the African leaders themselves, to hold governments accountable to the people.
Now, do we have a long road to go? Yeah, we still have a long way to go. We still have issues. Over multiple administrations, including this administration, we’ve gone out to look at how we can have more democratic processes, because we believe through that and through governance issues, that we can have more—not only stability, but also addressing the needs of the people. And if we are looking at a continent that’s going to be 70% under the age of 30, we better have the governance issues right down pat now, otherwise it’s not going to work.
And so as you know, Ambassador Nikki Haley was in [South] Sudan talking to President Salva Kiir on the governance issues there [UNCLEAR] and she was very direct, as well as with President Kabila and the DRC. But that just doesn’t stop there; it’s really across the continent. We’ve been following the elections very closely in Liberia, and also in Kenya. We’ve been looking at the transition issues in Cameroon and across the continent.
And so going to your issue on Kenya, so I met with the former Prime Minister, Reila Odinga, this year, and the conversation obviously we can’t go into great detail, but both President Kenyatta and Reila Odinga have stated very clearly that there are areas where they need to have reform of the electoral process. And because they want it, we want it, and we’re going to work with both parties to ensure that they do have the means, the support, the assistance, to look at reform areas.
We point also to the international community in Nairobi, Kenya, certainly our Ambassador Robert Godec—our ambassador as well as other ambassadors from Great Britain, France, the European Union, also our African Union, EAC, and IGAD partners as well—have joined in looking at how to support the political process in Kenya.
So it’s a work in progress, it’s something we will continue to focus on. And it’s probably not the answer you’re looking for, but let me just say that the United States remains firmly committed to moving the democratic processes and reform practices, not just in Kenya but across the continent, because in many instances, the countries themselves and the people themselves have asked for it. And I think we are going to be very, very supportive of those efforts. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ve received a question in advance from our colleagues in Madagascar at the U.S. embassy there. The journalist Edmond Rakotomalala of Midi Madagasikara asked: the U.S. seems to be interested in defense and security issues in Africa. What about the U.S. foreign policy in the economic sector in Africa?
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Yeah, and that really is one of the highlights. As you know, our Undersecretary Ambassador Tom Shannon, two months ago, spoke at USIP on the foreign policy of the United States Government towards Africa. One of the main pillars is economic development. Again, looking at Africa going towards 2100, if you see a high rate of youth, a great population growth, then the issue comes in as economic issues remain critical.
One area that we’re looking at is that a lot of African countries, their main trade partnership is each other. Granted, you have very strong, robust relationships with Europe, United States, Asia, but ultimately in the final analysis is that economic trade and investment between countries is going to be critical and crucial, as the European Union has shown, and other economic programs. And so one of the areas that we’ve really pushed hard, through AGOA and other areas, is ending and overcoming non-tariff trade barriers and inter-state economic barriers. And those are areas that we really need to look at, because by increasing the inter-state trade, we can see possibly billions of dollars in added economic stimulus to countries, and areas where we’re trying to meet needs of a growing population, that’s another economic opportunity for youth employment as well.
The other area that we’re looking at is branding. And one of the things that the United States has been really focused on is looking at where countries have specific advantages in certain economic areas. For instance, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya and South Africa are really the world leaders in leather products and a lot of agricultural products. Just as it is in West Africa, etc. And so how do you get these products branded and noted around the world? And so when you see sports people wearing leather gloves, you say, “Oh, that’s Adidas,” or “That’s Nike,” and the answer is no, it’s not. It’s from Africa. How do you get those brandings? How do you get to keep those economic issues for Africans? The other issue, too, is you look at cell phones. You look at other things. Where are those minerals and resources coming from? It’s coming from Africa! And it’s going to increase dramatically in the future. And so what we want to do is help keep resources tagged by the Africans and really on target.
So, for instance, Madagascar has probably one of the leading world producers of vanilla beans. So that’s really an issue of branding. We can expand those brandings to other areas and products. Another thing on economic development is economic development also stems from ensuring that not only resources are developed properly and appropriately by the countries themselves, but also that we protect and defend those economic opportunities. So, for instance, in Madagascar after the coup-d’état, we had to impose sanctions, and that really hurt because it came at the same time they had a locust plight in Madagascar and it was destroying a lot of economic areas. And we tried to overcome that, and through working with the government, working through [UNCLEAR], instituting the free elections, and now we’re coming up to a new election, that really gave us an opportunity to help expand the resources of Madagascar and also economic opportunities and also good governance.
The other issue, too, right now, is Madagascar has addressed and is pushing back on bubonic and pneumonic plague areas. And that really is a testament to the cooperation, not only of the people of Madagascar and their health services, but also international support. And that’s a partnership and cooperation that we need to address and to promote, because that also helps the economic vitality of each country. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from our listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Operator, can you open the line please?
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, I am [UNCLEAR] from the Ethiopian Herald newspaper. My question is that what do you think [UNCLEAR] opportunities [on the challenge for Africa. You have noted that most of the countries [UNCLEAR] these opportunities are [UNCLEAR] expanding from time to time [UNCLEAR] how do you [UNCLEAR] in the region [UNCLEAR] peace and security? At the same time, how do you also see the current human rights situation in [UNCLEAR] each year? Thank you very much.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s not only the specific challenges that each country has, and you know we’ve worked with your government from Prime Minister Meles to the current Prime Minister Hailemariam and your government, on a wide range of issues, because you and your government and the people have raised those challenges and issues, everything from broadening the democratic interchange, particularly among journalists, opposition groups, looking at much more support for regional states, how do you integrate the dynamic ethnic, and the [UNCLEAR] ethnic divide between the Oromos, the Amharas, the Somali regions, the Tigre group.
The other issue, too, is how do you bring peace and security and support between Ethiopia and Eritrea? You’ve had a long border war and dispute, which is very tense, and we’re looking at trying to resolve that. And that’s something the United States is committed to because Ethiopia and Eritrea are also committed to finding a way forward, and so we’re going to look at.
The other area, too, is water resources. One of the biggest challenges that we’re seeing in East Africa particularly is the issue and challenge of water, not only because it’s an issue for Ethiopia, but it’s an issue for the area, East Africa. I’ll give you one example: I’ve been going in and out of Ethiopia for the last two decades, and in some areas we had three harvests a year. Today, we have one or no harvest because of climatic changes, lack of water, and the need for more water and irrigation. And I’ll give you an example, Harar, which is where you have the best coffee in the world, and wherever you buy it, is from Harar coffee. But also we have the AID program and project. And so the challenge is that trying to get water in also limits the number of production of khat, and we’re in favor of cash crops like coffee and agricultural products. And so those are some of the things that we’re looking at and trying to foster.
But going back to your issue on security in Ethiopia and regionally, that’s a very good point, is that IGAD—as you know, Ethiopia is the head of IGAD—Prime Minister Hailemariam is critical in leading efforts in [South] Sudan. But that’s not just in that area, but also Ethiopian troops are in Somalia, trying to stabilize issues there. And so the security of Ethiopia is not only dependent on what happens in Ethiopia, but what happens outside of Ethiopia as well. Just as it is for Uganda, for Kenya, for South Africa, for Nigeria, for Niger, and across the continent. It’s that we’re living in a very inter-related and inter-operative environment, and so therefore we need to have a lot more interaction and coordinated cooperation.
Going back to your issue on good governance and democratic values, that’s something that we remain very focused on, because we firmly believe that in advancing democratic values we will have much more stable electoral processes, you also have governments that are more accountable to people, and those, I think, across the continent, is one of the key things, not just from the United States and the donor community, but also from the people and broad governance in Africa. How do you increase civility and accountability and fighting corruption? And every country across the continent is looking at corruption, I think, with a much closer viewpoint. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Brooks Spector, Associate Editor at The Daily Maverick in Johannesburg, South Africa. Operator, open the line, please.
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Good morning. This is Brooks Spector. I want to ask—in your responses to various questions, we’ve talked a bit about security issues in West Africa and other places, obviously. The deaths of the U.S. military personnel in Niger came as a bit of a surprise to a lot of people, largely because most people were probably unaware there were military personnel on the ground in that country. Does your administration plan to enlarge that kind of activity, and if so, can you lay out an architecture for why these are there and why they will expand, and then an ancillary question that I really need to put out there for you is: there were reports in recent weeks that there was a North Korean weapons assembly point in Namibia. It subsequently closed. Was your government aware of that, and if so, did you have any relationship to the closure of that plant?
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Wow, that’s very expansive. So going back to a previous question and answer, on the issue in Niger, that’s still under investigation by the Department of Defense, the government of Niger, and regional states. But I think in the broader context, what is the United States military doing, and again, as I said before, it’s that we have a focus and commitment to train African troops in Niger, to Ethiopia, to across the continent. And as I said, we’ve trained through a [UNCLEAR] process which is run by the Department of State. Over 300,000 African troops from 26 countries, and again about 100,000 have or are currently serving in peacekeeping operations. And of course, 70% of all peacekeepers in Africa, African Union and the UN, are African troops. Africa is carrying the heavy weight of their own security. And so in that context, that’s what our U.S. military but also our diplomats are doing, as well as supporting each country to assess and address security needs.
As you know, recently in Nigeria was the sales of A-29 aircrafts to meet the needs of the Nigerian government, which had requested those equipment. Most of the equipment we give is non-lethal support and a lot of training, a lot of training. And so, as you know, our troops, not only from Niger but to Ethiopia, to Kenya, to Uganda, down to the G5 countries and West Africa and Central Africa, have been equipped to support, assist, train, and that’s really the main issue.
On the DPRK, as you know, this administration—and really all administrations, but this administration in particular—is focused on containing, limiting, the influence of North Korea. And what you mentioned in Namibia is something that I’ll look into. I don’t have an answer for you. But looking at North Korea’s unhelpful role not only in selling arms but also in selling and trying, just in contraband materials—I’ll give you one example. Several years ago, the North Koreans were dumping a lot of supernotes—in other words, fake hundred dollar notes and U.S. money—in order to earn foreign exchange but also to destabilize economies and also undercutting the fabric of the banking system. And so we worked with several countries to eliminate this threat, because it was a threat undermining the stability of countries. And so North Korea has been extraordinarily unhelpful in that area.
The other issue, too, is that they’ve been selling, I won’t say fake, but substandard AK-47s and other types of weapons to the continent for these peacekeeping troops. And we’re looking at that, that really is not the way to go because these troops are being well-trained and they deserve and merit to have good equipment as well, and not cheap, knock-off North Korean equipment, which is substandard. And so that’s what we’re trying to eliminate is the unhelpful North Korean element.
The other issue, too, is we’re seeing North Korea looking at resources, and as you know, the greatest resources today are in Africa, from the Congo to—the country you mentioned, Namibia—down to West Africa. So the presence of North Korea has been extraordinarily and consistently unhelpful. I hope that helps. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Cara Anna, the Africa Desk at AP, here in Johannesburg. Operator, can you open the line, please?
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Going back to Somalia for a second, you mentioned that you were involved in setting up the American embassy. The question is what is the U.S. diplomatic presence inside Somalia now, and when will the embassy open? Thank you.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Well, actually, we have an office operating already. That was a commitment made in the last several years, and that continues, and really it’s to support and assist President Farmajo and his government, but also, when I was there, really talking to all the governors in Somalia and finding ways to bring them together, not only the central government but also the federated states, particularly Puntland, Somaliland, and other areas. We obviously have tensions between the UAE and Qatar that have posed some challenges for the federated states in Somalia, and so those are areas where we’re trying to help the government eliminate tensions.
So as far as what are we going to continue? We’re going to continue what we’ve been doing now, which is provide aid and assistance, we provide a couple hundred million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Somalia and to the people there. As you know, they continue to face food insec-…
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Yes, hi.
MODERATOR: Oh, there we go.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Now we can hear you, thank you.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Okay, so let me just go back. So the overall pronged approach that we have for Somalia is number one, continued humanitarian assistance. As you know, we provide over $200 million in assistance for food assistance, healthcare, education, that we’re trying to look at, basically healthcare and humanitarian assistance.
The other area, too, is governance and supporting the government and its relationship with the federated states and to set up eventual ‘one person, one vote,’ because that’s what they’ve focused on, and the other area too is economic development and assistance. And then finally, on the security side, it’s to train and equip a national Somali force that can address its own security needs. And so that’s kind of an expansive approach, but that’s the basic focus of our approach in Somalia. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time, unfortunately, for only one more question, and that will go to Peter Fabricius, also from The Daily Maverick in Johannesburg. Operator, open the line, please?
OPERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Peter Fabricius. I just wanted to ask you about the position of Riek Machar. I’m sorry if this question’s been asked, I missed a bit of the call, but you know, he’s been kept under what people are describing as de facto house arrest in South Africa. He’s certainly been restricted from returning to the region. And I wanted to ask you two questions, one is I’ve heard that that decision by South Africa was originally taken with the advice and support of the U.S. government. And two, so does the U.S. government still believe that’s helpful to the solution of the problem in South Sudan to have Riek Machar effectively taken out of the equation? Thank you.
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Ooh, that’s obviously a very sensitive question and area. As you know, our Ambassador Nikki Haley was in South Sudan talking with President Salva Kiir, and in the follow-up to the IGAD high level dialogue led by Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia, I know that the IGAD had gone to South Africa to talk to Riek Machar. But again, these are ongoing political dialogues and I don’t want to add or, you know, misinterpret what the efforts are of the IGAD process.
As you know, one of our representatives from the United States is traveling with some of the international envoys to Sudan to discuss these very questions and issues, and they’ll be coming back with a report about next steps, and this is something in close conversation with the government of South Africa, obviously, and also the IGAD.
So I apologize for not going into too much detail, but it’s an ongoing, highly-sensitive area that we really have been focused very clearly on, is how to stabilize South Sudan. And also, if you’ll look at the 1.3 million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and in neighboring states, that becomes a security challenge as well as a challenge for the people. So again, as soon as we get our report I think we’ll have more information and assessment for you. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Yamamoto. Did you have any final words?
AMB. YAMAMOTO: Just to say thank you very much for listening to us and also we hope you will report positively on the upcoming Ministerial, because really this is the start of a long-term and very comprehensive dialogue that we’re going to have with all countries in Africa, and we’re going to be listening and we’ll be taking your advice, and we’re here to provide assistance and support, but also a stronger partnership. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and that concludes today’s call. I want to thank Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.