Friday, May 28, 2010

U.S.-Liberia Ties Remain Strong, Multifaceted

By Charles W. Corey

Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the State Department May 27 to discuss the U.S.-Liberia relationship.

"Part of our goal for this meeting was for us to reaffirm for the Liberian president the U.S. government's commitment to seeing Liberia continue to progress as a democracy and a country that is at peace and not war," the U.S. ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told at the conclusion of the meeting.


During her meeting with Clinton, the ambassador said, Johnson Sirleaf outlined some of the challenges she continues to face in terms of building capacity, creating jobs and creating "a good climate for investors."

In the past three years, Liberia has been the recipient of about $11 billion in foreign investment. During her meeting with Clinton, Johnson Sirleaf expressed her hope that the amount of foreign investment in Liberia will continue to rise.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation has invested about $130 million in loan guarantees for U.S. companies in Liberia, according to the ambassador. Thomas-Greenfield noted that there are American investments in mining, Lockheed Martin is modernizing the airport in Monrovia, and there is some interest in oil exploration by U.S. firms. Delta Air Lines will be starting a flight to Liberia in September.

"We see that as a positive sign for investors who continue to look at Liberia," the ambassador said.


Thomas-Greenfield went on to review a broad range of U.S.-Liberian bilateral issues.

The recent announcement that Liberia is a potential target country ( ) of the Obama administration's Feed the Future initiative is very important, she said, because Liberia's agriculture was largely destroyed during the country's long-running civil war.

"Trying to rebuild that agricultural base and getting people to go back to the farms" is essential, she said. "Getting people to feed themselves is an important part of the president's development agenda. So Liberia being able to benefit from this initiative really complements what the Liberian government wants to do itself."

While the Liberian president and her delegation were in Washington, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) hosted a breakfast for them and announced a $15 million Threshold Program for Liberia that will focus on fostering girls' education, enhancing the country's investment climate and eliminating corruption.

The ambassador called the Threshold Program a critical step in the country's pursuit of a possible MCC Compact. "Working with this president and the Liberian minister of planning, who has been really an outstanding partner for us, I can see Liberia in the future qualifying for an MCC Compact," she said.


Thomas-Greenfield said Johnson Sirleaf is clearly aware of the problem of corruption. At the same time, the fact that corruption is being fully exposed for the first time in Liberia's history is a positive sign, she said.

"People talk about it. People know about it. The press reports on it. There is a really outstanding, well-functioning accounting and auditing office that has been reporting on corruption, so I think this president is making progress in this area," she said.

"Does corruption exist in Liberia? Yes it does. It exists at all levels. But it is not something that is being overlooked and swept under the carpet. It really is being addressed," she said.

According to Thomas-Greenfield, the biggest challenge in terms of corruption is in the judicial sector, in "getting people convicted in a court of law."

"That has been a challenge for this government, and it is a challenge for us," the ambassador said.

Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. government takes allegations of corruption "very seriously, particularly as it relates to American companies being disadvantaged in their ability to invest in Liberia." She stressed the importance of a level playing field.

"American companies know that they cannot function in a corrupt environment, and that it will have a negative impact on investments in Liberia if this is not addressed," she said. "But I am very confident that this president is sincere in her commitment to find a way to address this very, very intractable, difficult issue."


In the almost two years since she arrived in Monrovia as ambassador, Thomas-Greenfield said, "what has been accomplished has been amazing."

"You see the changes. You see the infrastructure improving. The roads are improving. Electricity is not available everywhere, but certainly available in the center city. You see buildings being rebuilt. All of those things show that there is confidence in the country," she said.

Thomas-Greenfield said she is "very, very impressed" by the work the Liberian government has done since she has been in the country, and is "very hopeful that if they continue to go in the direction in which they are going, Liberia will be back in full swing in a matter of two to three years."

Thomas-Greenfield noted that when Johnson Sirleaf came into office in 2006, Liberia was close to $3.5 billion in debt. But the Liberian president focused her attention on the microeconomics of the country - trying to deal with the debt issues, trying to track down where all the debt was and then working with Liberia's partners to get that debt off the books.

As a result of that effort, Liberia will reach Highly Indebted Poor Country completion status, and thus be able to borrow money in the international financial markets, in June when the International Monetary Fund board meets, the ambassador said.

Thomas-Greenfield called this a "major, major accomplishment that will put Liberia back on track economically" and "allow the government to borrow and to start moving some of its major infrastructure projects forward."

The ambassador said Liberia's 2011 election will be very important. Johnson Sirleaf has announced she is running again, along with a host of other candidates. "In our view," Thomas-Greenfield said, "a free and fair election would consolidate Liberia's path to democracy."

Remarks - Secretary Clinton & President Sirleaf

Office of the Spokesman
May 27, 2010


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton & Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Treaty Room

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is such a delight and indeed a continuing honor to welcome Liberia’s president here to the State Department, someone who is not only doing an extraordinary job of leading her country and dealing with the accumulated challenges that she inherited upon becoming president, but is also, through her leadership in West Africa, playing a very important role in helping to deal with the problems that go beyond her borders but which affect her people.

So, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, welcome once again.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON SIRLEAF: Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. I’m here to report to you on the progress we have made since our last meeting on behalf of the Liberian people, to express our thanks and appreciation for the support we have received from you personally and from the government in general. We hope that this day will solidify, once again, and consolidate a partnership which we so much enjoy with the United States and the people of this country.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Madam President.



# # #

U.S.-Nigeria Nuclear Safety, Security, and Nonproliferation Consultations

Office of the Spokesman
May 27, 2010

U.S. and Nigerian officials recently discussed a range of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation issues and explored possible areas of cooperation during a May 25 meeting in New York City on the margins of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. State Department Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, led the U.S. interagency delegation for the consultations. This meeting followed President Obama’s April 11 meeting with then-Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, in which the two leaders agreed to continue to work together on matters of advancing global security, particularly nuclear security and international compliance to the NPT, and Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns’ April 24 visit to Nigeria. These discussions mark another step in U.S.-Nigerian bilateral efforts to work more closely together on commonly held international security objectives.

# # #

Presidents Ambassadorial Nominations Sent to the Senate

Office of the Press Secretary

May 27, 2010

Eric Benjaminson, Nominee for Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic, Department of State

Eric D. Benjaminson, of Oregon, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Gabonese Republic, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
Eric Benjaminson is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada.

Mr. Benjaminson previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Namibia and Burkina Faso. He was also the Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Belgium. Washington assignments include Special Assistant to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs and Economic Officer in the Office of Southern African Affairs. Other overseas posts include Beijing, Sweden, Canada and Nigeria. He received a B.A. in History from the University of Oregon.

J. Thomas Dougherty, Nominee for Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Department of State

J. Thomas Dougherty, of Wyoming, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Burkina Faso.

Thomas Dougherty is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Mr. Dougherty previously served as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs and Director for West African Affairs. He was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Malawi. Other overseas posts include Cameroon, Germany, Eritrea, the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal. Mr. Dougherty received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.

# # #

Robert B. Zoellick Video Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Audio: Robert B. Zoellick Video Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from World Bank on Vimeo.


Africa's Influence Grows In Multipolar World

May 27, 2010

On May 14, World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala shared a riddle and a “big idea” with fellow Harvard alumni.

“What trillion dollar economy has grown faster than Brazil and India between 2000 and 2010 … and is projected by the IMF to grow faster than Brazil between 2010 and 2015?

“The answer may surprise you: It is sub-Saharan Africa!”

The “big idea” the former finance and foreign minister for Nigeria wanted to impart was that sub-Saharan Africa is on the verge of joining the ranks of the BRICS – the rising powers of Brazil, Russia, India and China, whose wealth and clout have increased dramatically in the last decade.

Africa can serve, she said, as a new source of global demand; its population may soon rival that of China and India. It should be a destination for investment, “not just aid.”

In the space of a few years, the Group of Seven (G7) major economies expanded to the G8, then the G20 with the inclusion of the BRICs and other newly influential economies. The developing world’s share of global gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity terms increased from 33.7% in 1980 to 43.4% in 2010.

This growth has translated into more voting power for developing and transition economies at the World Bank. The Bank’s 186 shareholder countries agreed at the Spring Meetings in April to increase developing countries’ share of the votes by 3.13% to give them 47% of the votes.

Like others, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick has made clear that he wants to see this go to 50% over time. However, that — as with the earlier reforms — is a decision for shareholders – the countries who own the Bank.

The change will make China the third largest shareholder at the Bank. Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and India will also see major increases in their voting shares, reflecting their new position in the world economy. Several poorer countries including Vietnam, El Salvador, Lebanon and Cambodia saw their voting power increase by 50%.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s share went from 5.55% to 5.86% in April. Most African nations, including Ethiopia, Liberia, Mali and Uganda, will benefit from voting share increases.

But more significantly, sub-Saharan Africa gained a new seat on the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, bringing the number of directors on the Board to 25.

“As the Bank’s Board generally operates by consensus, rather than votes, having another seat at the table—literally—will ensure that the voice and concerns of these countries are heard more loudly, and more clearly,” said World Bank Director Carlos Alberto Braga.

Africans Among Senior Bank Staff

The World Bank itself looks like the world it serves, with staff from 167 countries. Nearly two-thirds come from developing and transition countries. The World Bank has also seen a significant shift over the past three years in developing country representation at the senior-most levels.

Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria, is among that group. As a managing director, she is one of the World Bank’s most influential people.

Other Africans in senior-most positions include Leonard McCarthy, a South African corruption fighter and Vice President of the World Bank’s anti-corruption investigative arm, and Obiageli Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Vice President for Africa. The group will soon to be joined by newly appointed Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati, former finance minister of Indonesia.

All were powerful reformers in their own countries. They are now bringing their internationally recognized expertise to the benefit of the broader global community.

“It’s high time Africa saw and presented itself as the fifth BRIC, an attractive destination for investment, not just aid,” Okonjo-Iweala said in her Harvard speech.

“This is realistic and within reach. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Indeed, as countries recover from the global downturn, investment is returning to Africa—and much of it is coming from the BRICs. Sub-Saharan Africa could grow by an average of over 6% to 2015, . Zoellick said in a speech last month at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

“This is not about charity,” said Okonjo-Iweala. “Businesses are looking for new markets in which to invest and Africa is ripe for consideration.”

Source: The World Bank

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Remarks: Presidents Obama & Sirleaf (Liberia)

File Photo

Office of the Press Secretary
May 27, 2010

For Immediate Release


Oval Office

3:26 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to officially welcome President Sirleaf to the Oval Office. I have been an extraordinary admirer of her work for many years now. I fondly recall the speech that she delivered in a joint session of Congress when I was still in the Senate.

The United States and Liberia are close friends, long-standing partners, and Liberia is now emerging from a very difficult period in its history. Part of the reason that it has been able to emerge is because of the heroism and the courage of President Sirleaf. Her own personal story obviously is extraordinary -- somebody who came from being a prisoner to the first female President not just of her own country but also on the continent.

And over the last several years, what we’ve seen is a continued determination on her part to have a full accounting of some of the tragedies that took place earlier -- making sure that the country is refocused on development, being willing to tackle corruption, which obviously plagues not just Liberia but countries throughout the continent of Africa. She has been committed to rule of law. She has made strides in reforming her judiciary.

And in all these endeavors, I want to make sure that the people of Liberia understand and I certainly want you, Madam President, to understand that the United States is going to be a constant friend and partner in these efforts. We are working with Liberia on a food initiative that will help to create greater food security and independence in the country. We continue to work with the Liberian government on issues like maternal health and education.

There has been extraordinary cooperation between our two countries in the issue of counterterrorism as well as drug trafficking, because unfortunately the western coast of Africa increasingly is seen as a place where drug traffickers internationally may be able to operate with impunity. And so on all these issues, we have been able to cultivate a strong partnership, a strong relationship, and I want President Sirleaf to know that that will continue.

I also want to commend her for her commitment to democracy. There are going to be legislative and presidential elections in 2011. And part of President Sirleaf’s legacy is that she will continue to usher in a sense that democracy is the regular way of doing business in Liberia. And in that way, she can be an example for countries like Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire and Niger that I think can -- should look to Liberia as an example for democracy and rule of law.

So, Madam President, welcome. We are grateful to you for your extraordinary work. I still recall in your speech that part of the reason you ran was because you wanted to see the children of Liberia smiling again, and I want you to know that we have that same hope and that same dream for Liberia and will be there with you every step of the way.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON SIRLEAF: Mr. President, I want to thank you very much. I’m extremely proud, extremely pleased, to have this opportunity to meet with you. In 2006 when our government stopped, we inherited a broken country -- devastated by war, people displaced, infrastructure broken, institutions dysfunctional -- but we said that we were going to make Liberia rise again.

I come today on behalf of the Liberian people to say that we’ve made a lot of progress in that commitment. We’ve been able to maintain peace for seven years now. And I say that today, our children who are entering first grade have known -- not known a gun and not had to run, and that’s great progress.

Our security sector reform, with the United States’ support, has come a long way with the training of our new army. Today, we’re reopening our economy -- our mining, forestry, and agriculture sectors. We’ve tackled our debt. We’re beginning to provide basic services by restoring infrastructure such as roads, clinics, and schools and lights and water -- things that our people have been deprived of for more than two decades.

And we’re also establishing the rule of law and governance. Freedoms -- we say today, that all freedoms, basic fundamental freedoms, are allowed in the country. And we’re very proud of that.

We have challenges, and I’ll be the first to admit that -- challenges in national capacity because most of our brains left the country. I want to thank you for your approval of the DED that extended them for 18 months, allowing them to stay a little bit while we prepare to receive them. Corruption; the rule of law; our judiciary system and its weakness; unemployment among the many young who did not have the opportunity to go to school, who knew only war and violence in their young days.

But those challenges we see as the ones that we have to tackle. And the progress we have made enable us to have the commitment and capacity to meet those challenges.

I want you to know that the United States has been a great partner to us. We could not have achieved the progress that we have had if we had not had the support in those initial days when we were just scrambling and looking for the ways to be able to go forward. The U.S. was there as a great partner.

And so the administration as well as the Congress have been very supportive of us. It has continued through these four years. And I’m just here to say that the return on your investment is beginning to come. We hope that that return will be even greater in the next few years when we consolidate the peace and when we are able to deliver basic services to our people. I bring you greetings on behalf of the Liberian people.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Excellent. Well, thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you, guys.

END 3:33 P.M. EDT

U,S, State Department Travel Alert - South Africa

Travel Alert

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

South Africa

May 25, 2010

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in South Africa to safety and security issues related to the FIFA World Cup taking place in nine cities across the country from June 11 to July 11, 2010. This travel alert expires July 31, 2010. Full information about the World Cup for American visitors is available on the U.S. Mission to South Africa's dedicated World Cup website.

TERRORISM: Large-scale public events like the World Cup may present a wide range of attractive targets for terrorists. There is a heightened risk that extremist groups will conduct terrorist acts within South Africa in the near future. While a number of terrorist threats against the World Cup in South Africa have appeared in the media in recent weeks and months, the U.S. Government has no information on any specific, credible threat of attack that any individual or group is planning to coincide with the tournament. In the event the U.S. Government receives information of any specific and credible threat, the Department of State will provide information on that threat to the public immediately through an updated Travel Alert or Travel Warning. All USC citizens in or traveling to South Africa are urged to register with the U.S. Mission to South Africa in order to receive these alerts as quickly as possible.

CRIME: The vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without problems; however, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, including violent crime, is prevalent throughout the country. Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, looking out for your own personal security. While driving, keep doors locked and windows closed, avoid having purses, phones, bags and luggage in plain view, and when stopping at intersections at night or in isolated locations, leave enough space in front of your vehicle for a quick exit. Be wary of street vendors at traffic lights, planted obstacles and staged “accidents” that may be traps for unsuspecting motorists. Do not stop for cars with flashing lights unless they are clearly marked as police or emergency service vehicles. Park your car in secure, gated parking lots or garages wherever possible, and do not leave bags or valuables in plain view. Travellers to South Africa should avoid carrying or displaying expensive items or wearing eye-catching jewelry, stay in a group, and avoid walking at night. Keep a photocopy of your passport with you, leaving the original in a hotel safe or other secure location. Lost or stolen passports should be reported to the local police and nearest U.S. Consulate.

PUBLIC DISTURBANCES: Organized or wildcat labor actions and protests in poorer communities against shortfalls in public services may occur during the World Cup. While localized and normally well away from typical tourist destinations, these disturbances can develop quickly and unpredictably, sometimes turning violent. Use caution and avoid any areas where protests, demonstrations or other public disturbances are taking place.

IMMIGRATION, CUSTOMS, PUBLIC HEALTH: Scrutiny of foreign travelers arriving at South African ports of entry will be tightened during the World Cup. U.S. citizens should ensure they have two blank pages marked “Visas” in their passports as required for South African entry formalities. Those travelers with criminal records should consult the nearest South African Consulate or the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., before traveling. Questions about carrying firearms or other unusual items into the country may also be directed to the nearest South African embassy or consulate. Any traveler coming from or passing through the so-called “yellow fever belt” of Africa and South America must carry certification of having received a yellow fever vaccination upon entry into South Africa. The yellow fever belt is defined to include the following countries/territories:

Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.

South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Peru, and Suriname.

LODGING: Extreme shortages of hotel rooms are likely during the World Cup, particularly in the smaller World Cup host cities including Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, and Rustenburg. Visitors are urged to book rooms well in advance. See the FIFA 2010 World Cup Fan Guide for commercial accommodation services covering all World Cup host cities. Assistance with last-minute accommodation needs can also be obtained by calling South Africa Tourism at 087-803-INFO (4636), or from outside South Africa at 27-87-803-4636 (available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day).

TRANSPORTATION: While South Africa has adequate and generally safe intercity air and surface transportation including planes, buses, and trains, public transportation within cities is poorly developed and not nearly up to U.S. standards. Travelers are advised to use rental cars or book private transport from one of the many commercial operations available. While park-and-ride and park-and-walk facilities are being established around all 10 World Cup stadiums, space for parked cars is expected to be extremely limited. The website Find Your Way, operated by the South African Department of Transport and still under construction as of mid-May, promises to provide useful transportation-related information in time for the opening of the tournament. Assistance with transportation can also be obtained by calling South Africa Tourism at 087-803-INFO (4636), or, from outside South Africa, at 27-87-803-4636 (available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day).

U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. For additional information, please refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad."

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site where the current Worldwide Caution, travel warnings, and travel alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Additional travel-related information may also be found in the State Department’s Country Specific Information for South Africa, and the World Cup Fact Sheet.

U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia, Pretoria
Telephone: (27-12) 431-4000 (from South Africa 012-431-4000)
Fax: (27-12) 431-5504 (from South Africa 012-431-5504)

U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall just west of the intersection of Sandton Drive and Rivonia Road), Johannesburg
Telephone: (27-11) 290-3000 (from South Africa 011-290-3000)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 079-111-1684 (outside South Africa: +27 79-111-1684)
Fax: (27-11) 884-0396 (from South Africa 011-884-0396)
Consular jurisdiction: the Pretoria area and the Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and Free State provinces.

U.S. Consulate General Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945, Cape Town
Telephone: (27-21) 702-7300 (from South Africa 021-702-7300)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 021-702-7300 (outside of Africa +27 702-7300)
Fax (27-21) 702-7493 (from South Africa 021-702-7493)
Consular jurisdiction: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces.

U.S. Consulate General Durban
Located at: The Old Mutual Building, 31st floor, 303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street, Durban 4001
Telephone: (27-31) 305-7600 (from South Africa 031-305-7600)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 079-111-1445 (outside South Africa: +27 079-111-1445)
Fax: (27-31) 305-7691 (from South Africa 031-305-7691)
Consular jurisdiction: KwaZulu-Natal Province.

U.S. State Department Travel Warning - Nigeria

Travel Warning
United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

May 24, 2010

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and continues to recommend U.S. citizens to avoid all but essential travel to the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers; the Southeastern states of Abia, Edo, and Imo; and the city of Jos in Plateau State, because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas. Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, is a problem throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated July 17, 2009, to update information on violent activity and crime in Nigeria.

Since January 2009, over 111 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria, including 18 in 2010. Six foreign nationals were killed in connection with these abductions; two U.S. citizens were killed in separate abduction attempts in Port Harcourt in April 2010. Local authorities and expatriate businesses operating in Nigeria believe that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria is underreported.

A loose alliance of militant groups in the Niger Delta region has conducted a number of attacks against oil installations and posts of the Nigerian military’s Joint Task Force (JTF), which had attempted to close the militant camps. In June 2009, the Federal Government of Nigeria offered unconditional amnesty to any militant willing to surrender his/her arms and accept the government’s amnesty program. While almost all major militant leaders accepted the offer and the amnesty remains in effect, the potential for violence and the risk of kidnapping remains high. Violent incidents involving “ex-militants” continue.

Travel by foreigners to areas considered by the Nigerian government to be conflict areas without prior consultation and coordination with local security authorities is not recommended, as the Nigerian government may see this activity as inappropriate and potentially illegal and it may detain violators. Nigerian authorities detained six U.S. citizens, including journalists, on six occasions, in areas where militant groups had operated in 2008. The Nigerian government interrogated these U.S. citizens for lengthy periods of time without bringing any formal charges before ultimately deporting them. Journalists are required to obtain a special accreditation from the Ministry of Information prior to traveling to conflict areas in the Niger Delta region states. This special accreditation is in addition to the general press accreditation and a valid Nigerian visa which are required to conduct such activities elsewhere in Nigeria.

Many foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers have implemented “essential travel only” policies for their personnel. The U.S. Mission currently requires advance permission for U.S. government travel to these states, as well as the states of Abia, Edo, and Imo, and the city of Jos in Plateau State, given the safety and security risk assessments and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General's limited ability to provide assistance to people detained by Nigerian authorities in these states. U.S. citizens who are resident in these states are advised to review their personal security in light of the information contained in this Travel Warning.

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in which different ethnic and religious groups often coexist in the same geographic area. Travelers throughout the country should be aware that, in areas where such circumstances prevail, there is the potential for ethnic or religious-based disturbances. The States of Bauchi, Borno, and Plateau have experienced violence by fringe sects or inter-ethnic groups in the past year.

Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by some persons wearing police and military uniforms, is an ongoing problem throughout the country, especially at night. Visitors and resident U.S. citizens have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjacking, rape, kidnappings, and extortion - often involving violence. Home invasions remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls; following, or tailgating, residents or visitors arriving by car into the compound; subduing guards and gaining entry into homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos also access waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery at banks and grocery stores and on airport roads during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, Nigerians and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. Traveling outside of major cities after dark is not recommended due to both crime and road safety concerns.

8. U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria are strongly advised to register through the State Department's travel registration website. U.S. citizens without internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos for up-to-date information on any restrictions. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is open Monday-Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos is open Monday-Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies, at [234(9) 461-4000]. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies at [234(1) 460-3600] or [234 (1) 460-3400]. You may also visit the U.S. Mission's web site.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's most recent Country Specific Information for Nigeria and the Worldwide Caution, which are located on the State Department's website. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

First Working Group of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, May 25-27


Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release

May 20, 2010

Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs María Otero to Launch First Working Group of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, May 25-27

Under Secretary María Otero will lead the U.S. delegation to launch the Good Governance, Transparency and Integrity (GTI) Working Group of the Binational Commission in Nigeria on May 25-27. This is the first of four working groups to convene on this issue. In Abuja, she will engage with senior government officials and non-governmental stakeholders on critical topics including the promotion of democratic institutions and processes, and fighting corruption. She will also hold meetings with senior government officials on global issues including health and trafficking in persons.

On May 26, Under Secretary Otero will participate in several preliminary discussions with stakeholders, including a dialogue with Nigerian civil society leaders to discuss good governance, transparency, and integrity in Nigeria. This session will be followed by a meeting with officials on states’ roles in good governance, as well as a discussion with private sector representatives on building stronger enabling environments for business and investment.

Undersecretary Otero and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ajumogobia will co-chair the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission Working Group Meeting to be held on May 27. The dialogues will discuss efforts to create an environment for free, fair, and transparent Nigerian general election in 2011, progress and implementation of electoral reform, and enhancing anti-corruption efforts.

Under Secretary Otero will hold a press availability to discuss this meeting at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel on May 27. Please contact David Renz at +234 9 461 4093 or for more information.

As Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Otero oversees the bureaus of Population, Refugee and Migration; Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. She also serves as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

# # #

U.S. Appalled by Sentencing of Couple in Malawi

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release May 20, 2010


The United States is appalled by the conviction and sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years in jail with hard labor under Malawian law for violating Malawi Penal Code Chapter 15, Section 153 and 156, under which they had been charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” The conviction and sentencing are a significant step backward for the Government of Malawi’s human rights record. Malawi must abide by its human rights obligations.

We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and sentencing to 14 years hard labor as a deeply troubling violation of human rights. Decriminalization of homosexuality is integral to the continued protection of universal human rights in Malawi. It is also crucial to the urgent need to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS – a fight in which the United States is closely allied with the Malawian people.

We remain disturbed by harassment, persecution, and exclusion based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever it occurs. The State Department will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gender community worldwide. We urge Malawi and all countries with similar laws to take the necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular arrests, detentions, or executions.

# # #

U,S, State Department Travel Warning - Burundi


For travel information, call 888-407-4747.

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520


May 19, 2010

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burundi before, during, and after nationwide elections scheduled from May to September 2010. This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Burundi, dated July 22, 2009, to provide information regarding travel to and within Burundi during the election period, as well as revised information on security restrictions for Embassy personnel.

Burundi was plagued by a civil war from 1993 to 2006 that often involved non-governmental and non-combatant targets. In December 2008, the government and the last rebel group, the PALIPEHUTU–FNL, signed their final cease-fire agreement. The rebels have since demobilized and were transitioned into an officially-recognized political party known only as the FNL. In the past, Burundi has experienced violence in Bujumbura and other areas of the country throughout campaign seasons, elections, and in the weeks following the announcements of election results.

Between May and September, Burundi will conduct five, possibly six, nationwide elections. These include: May 21 – Communal Councils; June 28 - President, with a possible runoff election three weeks afterward; July 23 - National Assembly Deputies; July 28 - Senate; and September 7 - local 'colline' councils. As the political situation intensifies, the U.S. Embassy expects sporadic incidents of violence to occur. The U.S. Embassy has requested curtailment of official U.S. government travelers on temporary duty (TDY) to Burundi from May 1 to September 15, 2010, while Burundi is conducting elections. Although U.S. citizens are unlikely to be targeted, the possibility of being caught in violence remains. The U.S. Embassy encourages all U.S.citizens living and working in Burundi to exercise prudence; citizens considering travel to Burundi should avoid arriving before mid-September 2010.

U.S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent. U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Burundi during this period are reminded to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind. Even seemingly peaceful sporting events can become politicized and turn violent. U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid polling places on election days. All election days are recognized national holidays; U.S. citizens are encouraged to stay home. U.S. citizens should monitor the situation via local media sources and the internet. Significant traffic congestion, shortages of lodging availability, and large crowds throughout the country, particularly in Bujumbura, are likely to inconvenience travelers.

Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors to both Bujumbura and Burundi in general. Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, robberies, and carjackings. Visitors should keep vehicle doors locked and windows up, and be careful when stopped in heavy traffic due to the threat of robbery. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of armed criminals ambushing vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time. Due to a lack of resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.

The U.S. Embassy continues to caution U.S. citizens that travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. The U.S. Embassy restricts travel of its personnel in Burundi: within 30 km of the city, employees may travel in single vehicles, but must check in and out with the Embassy. The Embassy’s Regional Security Officer (RSO) must pre-approve all embassy personnel travel outside this approximately 30-km radius of Bujumbura, and employees must travel by an approved itinerary in two-vehicle convoys equipped with satellite phones and emergency equipment. All employee movement outside the city after dark is forbidden; the Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. The RSO may also place further restrictions on employee movement due to changing security conditions during the electoral period.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Burundi despite this Travel Warning are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura for information on the latest Embassy security guidelines, and to register at the State Department's travel registration web site. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura at Avenue des Etats-Unis. The hours for non-emergency American Citizen Services are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Fridays. The Embassy Consular section can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies, at (257) 22-20-7000, or by fax at (257) 22-22-2926. Security information for U.S. citizens in Burundi is posted at the Embassy's website.

For further information, consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Burundi and the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at Updated information on travel and security in Burundi is available at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, and for callers in other countries, a regular toll line at 202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Sudan: Recent Offensive Actions in Darfur

Office of the Spokesman
May 18, 2010


The United States condemns the recent offensive actions in Darfur, particularly the Government of Sudan’s use of aerial bombings and local militias against Darfur rebel positions in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur. Such operations endanger civilians and lead to mass displacement. Subsequent incidents of looting and attacks on infrastructure by the Justice and Equality Movement further endanger civilian populations and must immediately cease.

We urge both the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel movements to refrain from any further actions that would undermine the Darfur peace process or endanger civilians, and we urge all parties to return to active negotiations in the AU/UN-mediated peace process in Doha, Qatar, to reach a political settlement to the conflict in Darfur. We also call on the Government of Sudan to grant access to the affected areas to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and to humanitarian organizations.

# # #

U.S. Troubled By Reports from Ethiopian Election Observers

By Stephen Kaufman

Washington, DC May 26, 2010 - The Obama administration praised the people of Ethiopia for participating in a peaceful May 23 parliamentary vote, but expressed concern over reports by international observers that the elections "fell short of international commitments." It urged Ethiopian authorities to address concerns over the vote with "good faith and impartiality."

In a May 25 statement, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer described limitations placed on independent observers, such as preventing U.S. Embassy officials from leaving the capital to observe the vote and harassing independent media representatives. He called such actions "deeply troubling."

"An environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place even before election day," Hammer said.

According to preliminary results, incumbent Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party is believed to have won a landslide victory. Ethiopian opposition leaders reportedly have said they will not accept the results and have called for a new vote.

Hammer urged all parties to reject violence as the electoral process concludes and said the United States is waiting to hear the final assessments of the current vote by independent observers.

He said that in recent years the Ethiopian government "has taken steps to restrict political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment," as well as by tightening its control over civil society and curtailing the activities of independent media in the country.

"We are concerned that these actions have restricted freedom of expression and association and are inconsistent with the Ethiopian government's human rights obligations," Hammer said.

"We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that its citizens are able to enjoy their fundamental rights. We will work diligently with Ethiopia to ensure that strengthened democratic institutions and open political dialogue become a reality for the Ethiopian people," he said.

The European Union's Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Ethiopia released a preliminary statement May 26 that cites "several positive improvements" over previous elections, but concludes that the electoral process "fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties."

The election observers said the political arena leaned in favor of the ruling party "in many areas," noting that the main opposition had been fragmented after the 2005 elections and that important opposition figures had left the political scene. In addition, "changes to the legal framework have resulted in a cumulative narrowing of the political space within the country," the preliminary report says.

The report says that although Ethiopian media coverage of campaign events generally was neutral and proportional, the Voice of America's Amharic Service had been jammed during the last two weeks of the campaign, which "contributed to reduce the possibility for voters to receive information from a wider range of sources."

The EU EOM statement says the mission plans to publish its final report approximately two months after the electoral process in Ethiopia has ended.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Security Council on Ethiopian Elections


Office of the Press Secretary



Statement by National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer on Ethiopian Elections

We acknowledge the conclusion of Ethiopia’s parliamentary elections on May 23, 2010. We commend the people of Ethiopia for their civic participation and note that the voting proceeded peacefully.

We are concerned that international observers found that the elections fell short of international commitments. We are disappointed that U.S. Embassy officials were denied accreditation and the opportunity to travel outside of the capital on Election Day to observe the voting. The limitation of independent observation and the harassment of independent media representatives are deeply troubling.

An environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place even before Election Day. In recent years, the Ethiopian government has taken steps to restrict political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment, tighten its control over civil society, and curtail the activities of independent media. We are concerned that these actions have restricted freedom of expression and association and are inconsistent with the Ethiopian government’s human rights obligations.

As voting concludes and the results are announced, we call on all parties to reject violence. We await the final assessments of the electoral process from independent observers, and encourage the government to address in good faith and impartially any concerns and disputes that are raised.

Ethiopia and the United States have a multifaceted relationship and share a number of important interests. We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that its citizens are able to enjoy their fundamental rights. We will work diligently with Ethiopia to ensure that strengthened democratic institutions and open political dialogue become a reality for the Ethiopian people.


Second Green Revolution Taking Root in Africa

By Charles W. Corey

Washington, DC May 24, 2010 - A second Green Revolution is starting to take root in Africa, says Cameroonian-born agriculture specialist A. Namanga Ngongi. And that is important because agriculture is the largest private sector occupation in Africa and could fuel economic growth and development across the continent.

Speaking to the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security May 20 in Washington, Ngongi, who is president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, said African farmers must take a private sector and collaborative approach to their vocation, working with nongovernmental organizations, governments and banks to help solve their problems - which often involve scarcity of credit.

[The introduction of high-yielding varieties of seeds after 1965 and the increased use of fertilizers and irrigation that provided a dramatic increase in production in developing nations are known collectively as the Green Revolution.]

Ngongi, who earned a doctorate from Cornell University, said: "We all know how risk-averse the banks are to lend to agriculture. Here, if I wanted to start a farm in America, I am sure I would find a bank that would have some support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would give me credit at a lower rate" than what is available commercially.

Ngongi said commercial credit available for agriculture in Africa is not in proportion to its importance in the economy. "In Africa, 2 to 3 percent of commercial credit goes to agriculture ... which occupies 70-75 percent of the population and generates something like 40 percent of the gross domestic product in most countries and contributes 50-60 percent of the export earnings of most countries," he said.

To help change that, Ngongi said, his organization has partnered with the National Microfinance Bank in Tanzania, Equity Bank in Kenya and Standard Bank in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana, to put together millions of dollars of funding that could be leveraged as credit from those banks for use by farmers. That program, he said, has brought about a new way of thinking and of doing business on the part of the participatory banks. To illustrate his point, he told of a woman farmer in Kenya who told him that, with the onset of that program, for the first time she could enter a bank as a farmer in Kenya and expect to be served.

Ngongi also credited telephone banking with helping pave the way for progress.

"Telephoning has reduced the cost of the administration of credit to the point where the banks added 2 million new customers and only added 100 new staff members" to service that expanded customer base. "They were able to reduce interest rates from 18 percent to 12 percent," and that 12 percent, he said, is now dropping to 9 percent in Kenya. "It can be done in many other countries," if the banks and governments accept and implement certain reforms, he said.

In addition to improvement on the credit front, Ngongi said, Africans now are seizing new opportunities in the areas of seeds, soils and markets - all working in concert with realistic farming policies that increasingly are being adopted by African governments.

"We all know that you need good seed. You need to plant good seed" if you are going to prosper as a farmer, no matter the location and size of the farms, he said.

Small African seed companies are developing new-high yield seeds and making a difference, Ngongi said. His organization, he added, supports 32 African seed companies that are now producing 15,000 metric tons of seeds annually.

He cited the example of the Faso Kaba Seed Company in Mali, which started with nine tons of seed four years ago. Last year, it produced 300 tons of high-quality seed that was made available to farmers in Mali, both small and large.

Small farms, like the larger farms, can produce bumper crops, he said, when all things are equal. If both small and large farmers have equal access to good seeds and technology, there is no reason why the small farmer cannot produce just as much as the large farmer per hectare, he added.

On fertilizer use, Ngongi said African farmers average nine kilograms per hectare. In the United States it is 100 to 150 kilograms per hectare and 300 kilograms in China, he explained. Using micro-dose technology, he said, African farmers can use 20-30 percent of what other farmers worldwide use and still harvest as good a crop because of the richness of the soil and the often-abundant rainfall.

What African farmers urgently need are working markets where farm crops can be bought and sold at rational and realistic private sector, market prices, he said. For years, he explained, many African governments imposed dysfunctional fixed-price markets in which farmers could not sell their crops at a profit. For that reason, he said, they often chose not to grow food crops because they would have to sell their harvest at a loss. This often sparked food shortages.

To illustrate his point, he said Uganda is the second-largest worldwide producer of bananas, but ranks 75th on the list of commercial banana exporters by volume.

"Why?" he asked rhetorically. "Most of the crop is lost because they cannot keep it. They cannot process it. They cannot transport it. They cannot package it. They cannot add value to it."

While many of those issues still need to be addressed, he said, his organization has made progress recently by working with farmers in Uganda and Kenya to triple their income by selling bananas by the kilo and not by the bunch.

What is also needed, he said, is close coordination between farmers and African leaders to change African agriculture policies so they make more sense for everyone. "You can develop policies at the ground level, people can come with their ideas of what to do - we all know what to do - but the people who can drive the change are the people who are leading the countries - the presidents."

African governments must create the conditions to allow agriculture to thrive, he said, and that, in turn, will fuel economic growth and development across the continent - and feed the continent.

Algerian Enriches Rural America One Plate of Couscous at a Time

By M. Scott Bortot

Washington, DC May 24th, 2010 - One of the most remarkable things about Elkader, Iowa, is its name: Settlers in 1846 chose it to honor the hero of far-away Algeria's fight for independence, Abd al-Qadir.

Another remarkable thing about this rural town of 1,500 people in the middle of the United States is that one of its newest residents chose to move there from a city 1,000 miles away because he, like the town's name, is from Algeria.

Now, this Algerian American and the townspeople embrace each other in a relationship that highlights the good that comes from caring about people who live down the street, or on the other side of the world.

In 2008, Elkader faced a natural disaster when the Turkey River flooded. Residents piled up sandbags to hold off the deluge. Frederique Boudouani was among them.

"He probably worked 72 hours straight just sandbagging to keep the river out," said longtime resident Donald Harstad. "You couldn't tell the difference between him and somebody who had been born here."

Since moving from Boston in 2006, Boudouani has put a mark on Elkader. He and his partner have started a restaurant along the river on Main Street - Algerian-American, of course - and he has revitalized Elkader's sister-city association and is planning to launch a business incubator.

But his vision for the town is bigger still.

"What is interesting about Elkader ... is that it has the potential of being a cornerstone for global peace and understanding," Boudouani told "I really, truly believe in that."

Why would an Algerian-born American computer engineer, who never lived in a city with fewer than 2 million people, move to rural Iowa to cook chicken bastilla, couscous and cheeseburgers for farmers and shop owners?

As with many Muslim Americans, the September 11, 2001, terror attacks led Boudouani to soul searching. He said Arabs and Muslims, already often defined by negative stereotypes, needed to react.

"Any good Muslim or Arab trying to change that image would do anything they can to change it," Boudouani said. "I am here to show people that we are not part of the extreme fringe. People in the media tend to focus on that, but there is a flip side to the coin."

In trying to make sense of September 11, Boudouani researched the history of Islam in America. And what he found amazed him. It turned out that the first mosque built in the United States is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was even more intrigued when he discovered that a town in the state was named for a historic Arab leader.

"To my great surprise, and a lot of jubilation, it happened to be Abd al-Qadir, the George Washington of Algeria," Boudouani said. Three Americans, who were not of Arab or Muslim heritage, founded the town and named it to honor the Algerian nationalist who resisted French colonial occupation.

"There isn't a month in the year when we don't have some Algerian, or someone who knows about Abd al-Qadir, who travels great lengths to come to this town," Boudouani said.

Visiting Elkader turned out to be easy for Boudouani. Brian Bruening, his business partner, is from another Iowa town not far from Elkader. Boudouani and Bruening made their way to Elkader several times while on visits from Boston and fell in love with the place. Shortly after, they decided to relocate.

Boudouani holds a doctorate degree in computer engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Bruening has a master's degree in creative writing, but those credentials would do them little good at first in Elkader. So they opened a restaurant, Schera's, named for Boudouani's sister, Scherazade, and to honor the character in One Thousand and One Nights.

Schera's serves a medley of Algerian and American foods and offers customers the chance to learn more about the Arab and Muslim world by speaking with Boudouani.

"Every time there is something in the news, and I don't think this is a particular phenomenon to Arabs and Muslims, you are the de facto representative for millions of people, and people need to talk to you for information and for your thoughts," Boudouani said.

Harstad said Boudouani helps people learn about the world at the restaurant.

"If anybody has any questions, he is able to talk about anything, even the French in Algeria," Harstad said. "He is very well informed and will give you as much a history lesson as you can take that day."

History lessons aside, Boudouani just likes to cook and serve good food. He said food unites people from different cultures.

"In all honesty, it warms my heart to see someone who is raised in Elkader and has been a farmer his whole life come in, order couscous, loves it, and comes back again and again," Boudouani said.

Boudouani also has taken charge of Elkader's sister cities program. One of the smallest communities in the sister cities network, which is designed for cultural exchanges, Elkader formally ratified its relationship in 1984 with Mascara, Algeria. The pairing makes sense: Mascara is Abd al-Qadir's birthplace.

Harstad said the sister cities program helps Elkader residents learn about Arab culture.

"We have sent people over to Algeria many times, and vice versa, and they have always had a fine time," Harstad said. Boudouani facilitates the visits of Algerians and other Arabs to the town. "They are very cooperative and a very nice people."

The relationship also has a humanitarian dimension: After the 2008 flood, the Algerian government sent $150,000 to the people of Elkader to help them get on with their lives.

The flood nearly ruined Schera's, which sits along the riverbank. It sustained about $250,000 in damage and was closed for several months, Boudouani said. Part of the dining area remains closed.

"It is one thing when you're in business for 20 years and a flood of epic proportions happens, but it is a completely different story when you are in business for a year and a half," he said. "You are still building your infrastructure, you are still building your reputation, and something this devastating happens."

The flood also highlighted the kindness of Iowans. Boudouani and Bruening received help from people they didn't even know.

"We had people drive in from Des Moines, people we had never met, spend the whole day cleaning for us. And cleaning after a flood is no fun job," Boudouani said. People even sent checks to help them re-launch Schera's. "The outpouring of support was just amazing. I still get choked up about it."

While continuing to run the revived restaurant, Boudouani also is moving forward with a computer business, Elkader Technologies. And he aims to make the town a small center for high-tech work.

Boudouani said he has noticed since moving to Iowa that many university graduates must leave the state in search of jobs. To give them an alternative, he said, he plans to create a business incubator through Elkader Technologies.

"The mid- to longer-term vision is that we are in discussion with some colleges and universities in the area, and the idea is to expand their geographical reach by offering classes within our business," Boudouani said. "It's a win-win situation for both entities."

The business incubator would serve as a step in Boudouani's greater vision for Elkader, the vision that attracted him to the town in the first place.

"Within the building that is going to house the business incubator, there is another side that we can turn into the Algerian-American Center for Global Peace and Understanding," he said. "I didn't come to Elkader to become a millionaire. I came here because it is a labor of love, and because of the vision."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lord's Resistance Army & Northern Uganda Recovery Act


May 24, 2010

Statement by the President on the signing of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009

Today, I signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. The legislation crystallizes the commitment of the United States to help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa.

The Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival. It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts. By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.

Of the millions affected by the violence, each had an individual story and voice that we must not forget. In northern Uganda, we recall Angelina Atyam’s 14-year old daughter, whom the LRA kidnapped in 1996 and held captive for nearly eight years -- one of 139 girls abducted that day from a boarding school. In southern Sudan, we recall John Loboi -- a father, a husband, a brother, a local humanitarian assistance worker killed in an ambush while helping others in 2003. Now, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, the people of Dungu and of Obo, too, have their stories of loss and pain.

We mourn those killed. We pray for those abducted to be freed, and for those wounded to heal. We call on the ranks of the LRA to disarm and surrender. We believe that the leadership of the LRA should be brought to justice.

I signed this bill today recognizing that we must all renew our commitments and strengthen our capabilities to protect and assist civilians caught in the LRA’s wake, to receive those that surrender, and to support efforts to bring the LRA leadership to justice. The Bill reiterates U.S. policy and our commitment to work toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict in northern Uganda and other affected areas, including northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic. We will do so in partnership with regional governments and multilateral efforts.

I commend the Government of Uganda for its efforts to stabilize the northern part of the country, for actively supporting transitional and development assistance, and for pursuing reintegration programs for those who surrender and escape from the LRA ranks.

I also want the governments of other LRA-affected countries to know that we are aware of the danger the LRA represents, and we will continue to support efforts to protect civilians and to end this terrible chapter in central African history. For over a decade, the United States has worked with others to respond to the LRA crisis. We have supported peace process and reconciliation, humanitarian assistance and regional recovery, protection of civilians and reintegration for former combatants, and have supported regional governments as they worked to provide for their people’s security. Going forward, we will call on our partners as we all renew our efforts.

I congratulate Congress for seizing on this important issue, and I congratulate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized to respond to this unique crisis of conscience. We have heard from the advocacy organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, humanitarian actors who lack access, and those who continue to work on this issue in our own government. We have seen your reporting, your websites, your blogs, and your video postcards -- you have made the plight of the children visible to us all. Your action represents the very best of American leadership around the world, and we are committed to working with you in pursuit of the future of peace and dignity that the people of who have suffered at the hands of the LRA deserve.


President Sirleaf to Visit the White House


Office of the Press Secretary


May 24, 2010

On Thursday, May 27, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House. The United States greatly values its historic bonds with Liberia. Liberia is an important democratic partner of the United States that has made tremendous strides in consolidating stability, improving governance, and contributing to regional peace and development in recent years. The American people have maintained our links to the Liberian people through some of the country’s most challenging times, and we remain deeply engaged now as Liberia continues to look to its future. President Obama welcomes the opportunity to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual importance with President Sirleaf.


President Sirleaf to Visit the White House


Office of the Press Secretary


May 24, 2010

Statement by the Press Secretary on the visit of President Sirleaf of Liberia to the

White House

On Thursday, May 27, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House. The United States greatly values its historic bonds with Liberia. Liberia is an important democratic partner of the United States that has made tremendous strides in consolidating stability, improving governance, and contributing to regional peace and development in recent years. The American people have maintained our links to the Liberian people through some of the country’s most challenging times, and we remain deeply engaged now as Liberia continues to look to its future. President Obama welcomes the opportunity to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual importance with President Sirleaf.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Liberian President Addresses Global Agriculture Symposium

Feed the Future Program Is Right for Liberia

By Charles W. Corey

Washington - The Feed the Future initiative - which seeks to enhance food security and reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition - is exactly the right program at the right time for Liberia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said May 20, while also applauding the Obama administration's strong support for the Global Agriculture Development Initiative.

"What is most appealing from the Liberian perspective about these initiatives is that they encourage the participation of key groups, including farmers, civil society organizations, women, and they also promote strong regulatory policies such as governance and accountability," she told the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington.

"We see this new [Feed the Future] initiative as a complement to the Millennium Challenge Corporation," she said. The Millennium Challenge Corporation recently qualified Liberia for its Threshold Development Program, which supports home-grown strategies and rewards governments that invest in their own people and govern responsibly.

Sirleaf said Liberia is pleased to have been selected as one of Feed the Future's 20 potential target countries and that it "will strive hard to achieve status as an investment plan country." The other potential Feed the Future target countries are Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal and Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua in Latin America.

Sirleaf commended the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) teams in Liberia "who support our goals in the development of Liberia's agriculture and rural sector in promoting sustainable peace."

"We strongly believe that with our commitments, with our hard work, together with your continued support, we can indeed bring stability" to Liberia, she said. "We can bring prosperity to a nation once characterized as a 'failed state.' We can become a post-conflict success story, building upon our agriculture potential."

Sirleaf, a former banker, chronicled the important role agriculture is playing in the development process in Liberia, a country that has been traumatized by years of civil war. The Liberian leader told her audience she was dressed in bright green to denote the great agricultural potential of her nation.

"In 2006, Liberia started the long road back from a civil conflict that decimated the country's infrastructure and institutions," she said. The country's development potential has also been hobbled, she said, by a population that fled to the urban areas during the unrest - leaving the land unproductive.

In the past four years, Sirleaf said, her government has made progress: restored economic growth to an average annual rate of 7 percent; tackled a $4.9 billion external debt; made strong advances in consolidating peace and national security; reactivated the country's mining, agriculture and forestry sectors; promoted the institutions of good governance, including the rule of law; and rehabilitated infrastructure to extend basic services to the Liberian people.

Despite such progress, the "challenges remain awesome," she said, and the nation remains "fragile in the face of raised expectations and the several stumbling blocks" in its path, such as the global financial crisis, which "has slowed the pace of recovery and reform."

Poverty in Liberia, she said, continues to be the most significant determination of food access, even though some 70 percent of all Liberians depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. "Recognizing that agriculture growth is more effective in reducing poverty than any other effort in any sector, our government is placing emphasis on this strategic sector both in terms of exports and food security at home," she said.

The immediate goal, she told her audience, is to revitalize operations and activities that contribute to sustainable economic growth and development to provide food security and nutrition and to increase farmer employment and income - all aimed as well at measurably reducing poverty.

Sirleaf said while her government's commitment to agriculture is "unequivocal," public financing of the sector is still "woefully inadequate," with the share of the national budget allocated to agriculture still at only 2 percent.

The Liberian people are still "highly vulnerable" to chronic food insecurity stemming from physical and human capital constraints, poor natural resource and farm management practices and poor health and nutrition practices, she said.

"We are, nevertheless, intensifying our efforts to achieve the desired results," she said. Her government, she added, has embarked on a "back-to-the-soil campaign" that has resulted in significant increases in food production, particularly in staples such as rice and cassava.

Rice production has increased from 85,000 metric tons in 2006 to more than 200,000 metric tons in 2009, a 43 percent increase. That increase, she said, has led the World Food Programme for the first time to purchase locally produced rice for use in the school feeding program. Additionally, Sirleaf said, more than 30,000 farmers have now been trained in new farming methods and some 15,000 vulnerable farmers and more than 100 farmer groups have been provided with seed rice.

Success in the agricultural sector will be even greater, she said, if farmers are able to make greater use of fertile lowlands to grow rice where yields are the highest and where up to three crops can be harvested annually.

At present, farmers are not able to make full use of the lowlands because of health concerns brought on by schistosomiasis and other waterborne diseases, which multiplied during the country's long civil war, she said.

"It is very clear to us that agriculture has the potential to become a major source of employment - most especially for thousands of our citizens, women and youth, who as casualties of the war lack essential skills but who can learn to farm the land."

Her government's objective, she said, is to "consolidate them into a productive and dynamic entity for national development." Creating jobs in the farming sector, she added, is one way to accomplish that aim.

The Liberian agriculture sector, she said, is transitioning from emergency status to that of a key development sector, which will include sustainability and improved livelihoods that are well integrated into private sector markets.

The private sector is playing a pre-eminent role in developing Liberia's agricultural sector she said, while the government is charged with creating the enabling environment in which private sector-based agricultural development can flourish.

Feed the Future ( ) is a U.S. government development initiative based on partnership, not patronage, and seeks to coordinate the efforts of many U.S. government agencies to contribute to global food security efforts.

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Initiative is administered by the World Bank. The United States has donated $475 million to that program in concert with a host of other international donor nations. At the Group of Eight meeting of major industrialized nations in L'Aquila, Italy, ( ) in July 2009, President Obama pledged at least $3.5 billion for food security. More than 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population, suffer from chronic hunger.

Source: U.S. Department of State

U.S. Announces Aggressive Approach to Reduce World Hunger

By Kathryn McConnell

Washington, DC May 21, 2010 - The United States plans to take an aggressive approach to reducing world hunger and malnutrition by investing in countries that have made plans to produce more food, create strong markets and spur private-sector investment in their agricultural sectors.

The initiative - called Feed the Future ( ) - will increase the incomes of at least 40 million people over 10 years and reduce chronic child malnourishment, said Rajiv Shah ( ), administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Shah outlined Feed the Future at a May 20 symposium in Washington sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Feed the Future involves the expertise of several U.S. agencies, including USAID, the departments of Agriculture and Treasury, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Peace Corps, working in collaboration with a potential 20 "focus countries" in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In June 2009, President Obama pledged at least $3.5 billion over three years for agricultural development and food security, which is ensuring that people have consistent access to nutritious food and sufficient income to purchase it. The initiative's full budget will have to be approved by Congress.

The Feed the Future initiative's potential countries in Africa are Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia; in Asia they are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal and Tajikistan; and in Latin America, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua. These countries have low incomes, large rural populations and high rates of child malnutrition. Most have already involved their local communities and nongovernmental groups in improving farm productivity and increasing regional trade in food. The results achieved in these countries will provide the basis for deciding on investments by the United States beyond the announced three-year period.

By the end of 2010, the United States expects to deliver Feed the Future resources to 15 of the 20 potential focus countries. The investments will be aligned with the countries' priorities and with private-sector investments in such areas as grain storage and market information systems, Shah said. African participants in Feed the Future are courting U.S. investments to increase regional agricultural trade.

Shah said several countries have already exhibited leadership in food and investment strategies. He noted that since 2006, Rwanda has raised food production as a result of a nearly 50 percent increase in government investment in its own agricultural sector.

Some countries have created partnerships with large-scale international food buyers to create durable demand and supply systems. For example, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, works with farmers in Central America to help them improve their post-harvest food handling.

The strategy announced by the administration places a priority on women farmers, who grow most of the food in developing countries. "When women control gains and income, they're far more likely to spend those gains improving their families' access to health, education and nutrition," Shah said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that the administration plans to expand credit, extension services and research fellowships for women. Feed the Future will also emphasize increased research into farm techniques and biotechnology. Research coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and USAID will involve U.S. and international universities and the private sector. Vilsack said Feed the Future also will devote considerable resources to school feeding programs, which often are children's main source of nutritious meals. "It's about building healthy individuals and healthy countries. In order for that to happen you need well-educated people," he said.

He noted that volunteerism also will play a role. Programs like Farmer-to-Farmer, which is administered through nongovernmental groups, link volunteer U.S. farmers and agribusiness experts with counterparts in developing countries to share their skills.

Source: U.S. Department of State