Thursday, March 28, 2013

President Obama Hosts Leaders of Senegal, Malawi, S.Leone & Cape Verde

President Barack Obama meets with, from left, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Statement by Grant T. Harris
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs

The White House
March 28, 2013

Today President Obama welcomed President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde to the White House. The United States has strong partnerships with these countries based on shared democratic values and shared interests. Each of these leaders has undertaken significant efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, protect and expand human rights and civil liberties, and increase economic opportunities for their people.

President Obama and the visiting leaders discussed how the United States can expand our partnership to support their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and promote economic opportunity, both in their countries and across sub-Saharan Africa. A particular focus of the conversation was on the importance of transparency and respect for human rights, and President Obama commended each leader for their work in these areas and their commitment to join the Open Government Partnership. President Obama also commended these leaders for their leadership on food security and engaged the leaders in a fruitful conversation about how the United States can help Africa harness the potential of its young people and empower the next generation of African leaders.

While in Washington, each leader is participating in numerous meetings and events to strengthen bilateral cooperation on a range of shared priorities. Joint events include a dinner hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa to discuss trade and investment opportunities with representatives from U.S. businesses; a public discussion on democratization in Africa at the United States Institute for Peace; an economic and development roundtable with U.S. government officials; and a meeting with Secretary of Defense Hagel to discuss cooperation on shared regional security and peacekeeping objectives in Africa.

The visit of these four leaders underscores the President’s commitment to substantive engagement and strengthened partnerships with African nations.

A transcript of President Obama’s remarks following the meeting can be found below. Also below on this site is a video of the leaders’ meeting.


Cabinet Room
3:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome four leaders from Africa, all of whom are doing extraordinary work — President Sall from Senegal, President Banda from Malawi, President Koroma from Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde.

The reason that I’m meeting with these four is they exemplify the progress that we’re seeing in Africa. All of them have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges. Sierra Leone just 10 years ago was in the midst of as brutal a civil war as we’ve ever seen. And yet, now we’ve seen consecutive fair and free elections. And under President Koroma’s leadership, we’ve seen not only good governance, but also significant economic growth.

When you talk about Malawi, there was a constitutional crisis just last year. And yet, President Banda has not only been able to be in office and make sure that constitutional order was restored, but has also made significant progress on behalf of her people. And her personal story of overcoming a history of abuse and leading women throughout her country I think indicates the kind of progress that can be made when you’ve got strong leadership.

The same is true for His Excellency President Sall. There were some bumps in the road in terms of transition from the previous President, and yet, the Senegalese rose up at the grassroots level and sustained their democracy.

And Cape Verde is a real success story. We were hearing from Prime Minister Neves about the fact that just in a few decades they have moved from a per capita income of maybe $200 a year to now $4,000 a year, and are now moving into the middle of the pack in terms of development levels because of good governance and management.

So what our discussion has focused on is, number one, how do we continue to build on strong democracies; how do we continue to build on transparency and accountability. Because what we’ve learned over the last several decades is that when you’ve got good governance — when you have democracies that work, sound management of public funds, transparency and accountability to the citizens that put leaders in place — it turns out that that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government, it’s also good for economic development because it gives people confidence, it attracts business, it facilitates trade and commerce.

And all of these leaders have good stories to tell on that. They recognize that there’s still more work to be done, and so I’m very pleased that all of them are looking to move forward on the Open Government Partnership that we helped to organize through the United Nations several years ago, and that we are now seeing countries from all across the world sign up for — setting up international norms for accountability and transparency that can lead to good governance.

We also talked about the economic situation. And all of us recognize that, although Africa has actually been growing faster than almost every other region of the world, it started from a low baseline and it still has a lot of work to do. And that means building human capacity and improving education and job skills for rapidly growing and young populations. It means improving access to energy and transportation sectors. And so we discussed how the United States can continue to partner effectively with each of these countries.
And then we finally talked about young people generally and how we can mobilize the next generation of Africa leaders. And individuals like President Koroma have taken great interest in finding additional ways that we can recruit and engage young people not only to get involved in public service but also to get involved in entrepreneurship that helps build these countries.

And so my main message to each of these leaders is that the United States is going to be a strong partner, not based on the old model in which we are a donor and they are simply a recipient, but a new model that’s based on partnership and recognizing that no continent has greater potential or greater upside than the continent of Africa if they in fact have the kind of strong leadership that these four individuals represent.

And we intend to continue to engage with them through a range of programs — through the Millennium Challenge, through the USAID, through the PEPFAR programs — but we’re also looking for new models that can potentially improve our bilateral relations even more.

The last point I’d make — we all discussed some of the regional challenges involved. Obviously, economic development, prosperity doesn’t happen if you have constant conflict. And nobody knows that more than these individuals. Some like President Koroma has seen that firsthand.

Now many of the threats are transnational. You’ve seen terrorism infiltrate into the region. We’ve seen drug cartels that are using West Africa in particular as a transit point. All of this undermines some of the progress that’s been made, and so the United States will continue to cooperate with each of these countries to try to find smart solutions so that they can build additional capacity and make sure that these cancers don’t grow in their region. And the United States intends to be a strong partner for that.

So I just want to say to each of them thank you for your extraordinary work. You should know that you have a great friend in the United States, in the people of the United States, and in the President of the United States, because we believe that if you’re successful, that ultimately will help us grow our economies and contribute to a more peaceful world, as well. So thank you very much.

Thank you, guys.

CBS Special on Ghanaian Funerals

Monday, March 25, 2013

US Establishes Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Valery Ross Manokey (left), 76, of Cambridge, Md., Harriet Ross Tubman’s great great niece and oldest living descendant in Maryland, poses with a wax likeness of the renowned abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad during the unveiling of Tubman’s wax figure in the Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C.

Office of the Press Secretary

March 25, 2013



Harriet Tubman is an American hero. She was born enslaved, liberated herself, and returned to the area of her birth many times to lead family, friends, and other enslaved African-Americans north to freedom. Harriet Tubman fought tirelessly for the Union cause, for the rights of enslaved people, for the rights of women, and for the rights of all. She was a leader in the struggle for civil rights who was forever motivated by her love of family and community and by her deep and abiding faith.

Born Araminta Ross in 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland, on the plantation where her parents were enslaved, she took the name “Harriet” at the time she married John Tubman, a free black man, around 1844. Harriet Tubman lived and worked enslaved in this area from her childhood until she escaped to freedom at age 27 in 1849. She returned to Dorchester County approximately 13 times to free family, friends, and other enslaved African Americans, becoming one of the most prominent “conductors” on the Underground Railroad. In 1859, she purchased a farm in Auburn, New York, and established a home for her family and others, which anchored the remaining years of her life. In the Civil War she supported the Union forces as a scout, spy, and nurse to African-American soldiers on battlefields and later at Fort Monroe, Virginia. After the war, she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which institutionalized a pattern of her life — caring for African Americans in need.

In 1868, the great civil rights leader Frederick Douglass wrote to Harriet Tubman:
I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt “God bless you” has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism.

The “midnight sky and the silent stars” and the Dorchester County landscape of Harriet Tubman’s homeland remain much as they were in her time there. If she were to return to this area today, Harriet Tubman would recognize it.

It was in the flat, open fields, marsh, and thick woodlands of Dorchester County that Tubman became physically and spiritually strong. Many of the places in which she grew up and worked still remain. Stewart’s Canal at the western edge of this historic area was constructed over 20 years by enslaved and free African Americans. This 8-mile long waterway, completed in the 1830s, connected Parsons Creek and Blackwater River with Tobacco Stick Bay (known today as Madison Bay) and opened up some of Dorchester’s more remote territory for timber and agricultural products to be shipped to Baltimore markets. Tubman lived near here while working for John T. Stewart. The canal, the waterways it opened to the Chesapeake Bay, and the Blackwater River were the means of conveying goods, lumber, and those seeking freedom. And the small ports were places for connecting the enslaved with the world outside the Eastern Shore, places on the path north to freedom.

Near the canal is the Jacob Jackson Home Site, 480 acres of flat farmland, woodland, and wetland that was the site of one of the first safe houses along the Underground Railroad. Jackson was a free black man to whom Tubman appealed for assistance in 1854 in attempting to retrieve her brothers and who, because he was literate, would have been an important link in the local communication network. The Jacob Jackson Home Site has been donated to the United States.

Further reinforcing the historical significance and integrity of these sites is their proximity to other important sites of Tubman’s life and work. She was born in the heart of this area at Peter’s Neck at the end of Harrisville Road, on the farm of Anthony Thompson. Nearby is the farm that belonged to Edward Brodess, enslaver of Tubman’s mother and her children. The James Cook Home Site is where Tubman was hired out as a child. She remembered the harsh treatment she received here, long afterward recalling that even when ill, she was expected to wade into swamps throughout the cold winter to haul muskrat traps. A few miles from the James Cook Home Site is the Bucktown Crossroads, where a slave overseer hit the 13-year-old Tubman with a heavy iron as she attempted to protect a young fleeing slave, resulting in an injury that affected Tubman for the rest of her life. A quarter mile to the north are Scotts Chapel and the associated African-American graveyard. The church was founded in 1812 as a Methodist congregation. Later, in the mid-19th century, African Americans split off from the congregation and formed Bazel Church. Across from Scotts Chapel is an African-American graveyard with headstones dating to 1792. Bazel Church is located nearby on a 1-acre clearing edged by the road and otherwise surrounded by cultivated fields and forest. According to tradition, this is where African Americans worshipped outdoors during Tubman’s time.

The National Park Service has found this landscape in Dorchester County to be nationally significant because of its deep association with Tubman and the Underground Railroad. It is representative of the landscape of this region in the early and mid-19th century when enslavers and enslaved worked the farms and forests. This is the landscape where free African Americans and the enslaved led a clandestine movement of people out of slavery towards the North Star of freedom. These sites were places where enslaved and free African Americans intermingled. Moreover, these sites fostered an environment that enabled free individuals to provide aid and guidance to those enslaved who were seeking freedom. This landscape, including the towns, roads, and paths within it, and its critical waterways, was the means for communication and the path to freedom. The Underground Railroad was everywhere within it.

Much of the landscape in Dorchester County that is Harriet Tubman’s homeland, including a portion of Stewart’s Canal, is now part of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge provides vital habitat for migratory birds, fish, and wildlife that are components of this historic landscape. Management of the Refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has played an important role in the protection of much of the historic landscape that was formative to Harriet Tubman’s life and experiences. The Refuge has helped to conserve the landscape since 1933 and will continue to conserve, manage, and restore this diverse assemblage of wetlands, uplands, and aquatic habitats that play such an important role in telling the story of the cultural history of the area. In the midst of this landscape, the State of Maryland is developing the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park on a 17-acre parcel. The State of Maryland and the Federal Government will work closely together in managing these special places within their respective jurisdictions to preserve this critically important era in American history.

Harriet Tubman is revered by many as a freedom seeker and leader of the Underground Railroad. Although Harriet Tubman is known widely, no Federal commemorative site has heretofore been established in her honor, despite the magnitude of her contributions and her national and international stature.

WHEREAS members of the Congress, the Governor of Maryland, the City of Cambridge, and other State, local, and private interests have expressed support for the timely establishment of a national monument in Dorchester County commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad to protect the integrity of the evocative landscape and preserve its historic features;

WHEREAS section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431) (the “Antiquities Act”), authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;

WHEREAS it is in the public interest to preserve and protect the objects of historic and scientific interest associated with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Dorchester County, Maryland;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Antiquities Act, hereby proclaim, set apart, and reserve as the Harriet Tubman — Underground Railroad National Monument (monument), the objects identified above and all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation, for the purpose of protecting those objects. These reserved Federal lands and interests in lands encompass approximately 11,750 acres, which is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, including withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing.

The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights. Lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument that are not owned or controlled by the United States shall be reserved as part of the monument upon acquisition of ownership or control by the United States.

The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) shall manage the monument through the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to their respective applicable legal authorities, to implement the purposes of this proclamation. The National Park Service shall have the general responsibility for administration of the monument, including the Jacob Jackson Home Site, subject to the responsibility and jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to administer the portions of the national monument that are within the National Wildlife Refuge System. When any additional lands and interests in lands are hereafter acquired by the United States within the monument boundaries, the Secretary shall determine whether such lands will be administered as part of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System. Hunting and fishing within the National Wildlife Refuge System shall continue to be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in accordance with the provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act and other applicable laws.

Consistent with applicable laws, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shall enter into appropriate arrangements to share resources and services necessary to properly manage the monument. Consistent with applicable laws, the National Park Service shall offer to enter into appropriate arrangements with the State of Maryland for the efficient and effective cooperative management of the monument and the Harriet Tubman — Underground Railroad State Park.

The Secretary shall prepare a management plan for the monument, with full public involvement, within 3 years of the date of this proclamation. The management plan shall ensure that the monument fulfills the following purposes for the benefit of present and future generations: (1) to preserve the historic and scientific resources identified above, (2) to commemorate the life and work of Harriet Tubman, and (3) to interpret the story of the Underground Railroad and its significance to the region and the Nation as a whole. The management plan shall set forth, among other provisions, the desired relationship of the monument to other related resources, programs, and organizations in the region and elsewhere.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.

Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of the monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


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Bill Gates Travels To Ghana On Health Mission

Photo courtesy of

Story courtesy of

March 25, 2013 | By Bill Gates

What I’m Learning about Ghana

I arrive in Ghana today to see firsthand why the country’s immunization system is working so well and meet the people involved.
For some people, health delivery systems might not seem like the most intriguing topic, but I am really interested in understanding how they’ve done so much of this right. Strong immunization systems are crucial for protecting our gains against polio and helping us reach mothers and children with new vaccines and other life-saving health services. In Ghana, for example, polio was eliminated a decade ago and an outbreak in 2008 was quickly controlled. No child there has died from measles since 2002. And Ghana was the first country to launch two new vaccines last April, against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea, and pneumococcal pneumonia.

Ghana’s approach works so well for a few key reasons: Rigorous data gathering and analysis, accountability at the district level, and community outreach. Just as importantly, the vaccination program is fully integrated into the health system. But there’s really no substitute for seeing it on the ground.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit a director of health services in a district in central Ghana, then a nearby clinic. We’re then going to visit a community health center where the nurses also go out to find mothers who missed appointments or children due for immunizations to make the program as thorough as possible. As I wrote in my annual letter this year, measurement is crucial for improving health care, so at every stop I want to understand how the data is collected and used for planning and decision making – and meet the people who are making this success possible.

I plan to share my experience in Ghana at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi April 24-25, where global health leaders will celebrate progress in immunization and demonstrate how the world is united to give all children a healthy start to life.

Of course, no system is perfect, so I want to learn about the obstacles and challenges in Ghana as well. I’ll speak with many of the leaders who are working so hard to reach every child with vaccines, including Dr K.O. Antwi-Agyei, who manages the national immunization program. I’m also excited to talk to some of the well-trained community health nurses and meet some of their local clients. In my next post I’ll tell you about the people I’m meeting and some of the lessons we can learn from Ghana’s success.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Black Immigrants Rally Lawmakers On The Reform Debate

Immigration: It’s a Black Thing, Too

By Joyce Jones

Comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority on Capitol Hill, mostly so lawmakers can win support at the polls from the nation’s growing Latino population.

But, of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States, 400,000 are Black, hailing from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

To call attention to their distinct needs, about 200 Black immigrants, representatives from labor and grassroots organizations, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus rallied on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20. Participants also visited congressional offices and attended a briefing hosted by New York Rep. Yvette Clarke.

“Our parishioners face many challenges in the immigration system and this is not right,” said Pastor Gilford T. Monrose, whose Brooklyn congregation includes many undocumented people. “Black immigrants are an integral part of the society and have contributed greatly to the cultural and economic fabric of the United States.” Congressional visits included one with the Senate bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” which is expected to unveil its immigration plan next month. The plan includes a proposal to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

“We were really pleased to see lawmakers care and show support for our event and an interest in learning more information from community members and experts, people who live this struggle and bear witness to a lot of the injustices that Black immigrants face,” said Opal Tometi, a national coordinator for the Black Immigration Network, one of the groups organizing the event. And, it was great to see Black leadership on the issue. It’s seen as a Latino issue but our voices have been in the fight for a long time.”

Internationally Acclaimed Novelist Chinua Achebe, 82, Dies At Boston Hospital

Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP
Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist seen by millions as the father of African literature, has died at the age of 82.

By Alison Flood
The Guardian

African papers were reporting his death following an illness and hospital stay in Boston this morning, and both his agent and his publisher later confirmed the news to the Guardian.

Simon Winder, publishing director at Penguin, called him an “utterly remarkable man”. “Chinua Achebe is the greatest of African writers and we are all desolate to hear of his death,” he said.

In a statement, Achebe’s family requested privacy, and paid tribute to “one of the great literary voices of all time. He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him.”

A novelist, poet and essayist, Achebe was perhaps best known for his first novel Things Fall Apart, which was published in 1958. The story of the Igbo warrior Okonkwo and the colonial era, it has sold more than 10m copies around the world and has been published in 50 languages. Achebe depicts an Igbo village as the white men arrive at the end of the 19th century, taking its title from the WB Yeats poem, which continues: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one,” says Okonkwo’s friend, Obierika, in the novel.

The poet Jackie Kay hailed Achebe as “the grandfather of African fiction” who “lit up a path for many others”, adding that she had reread Things Fall Apart “countless times”.
“It is a book that keeps changing with the times, as he did,” she said.

Achebe won the Commonwealth poetry prize for his collection Christmas in Biafra, was a finalist for the 1987 Booker prize for his novel Anthills of the Savannah, and in 2007 won the Man Booker international prize. Chair of the judges on that occasion, Elaine Showalter, said he had “inaugurated the modern African novel”, while her fellow judge, the South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, said his fiction was “an original synthesis of the psychological novel, the Joycean stream of consciousness, the postmodern breaking of sequence”, and that Achebe was “a joy and an illumination to read”.

Nelson Mandela, meanwhile, has said that Achebe “brought Africa to the rest of the world” and called him “the writer in whose company the prison walls came down”.

The author is also known for the influential essay An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1975), a hard-hitting critique of Conrad in which he says the author turned the African continent into “a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril”, asking: “Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind?”

According to Brown University, where Achebe held the position of David and Marianna Fisher university professor and professor of Africana studies until his death, this essay “is recognized as one of the most generative interventions on Conrad; and one that opened the social study of literary texts, particularly the impact of power relations on 20th-century literary imagination”.

Born in 1930 in Ogidi, in the south-east of Nigeria, the author won a scholarship to the University of Ibadan, and later worked as a scriptwriter for the Nigeria Broadcasting Service. He chose to write Things Fall Apart in English – something for which he has received criticism from authors including Ngugi wa Thiong’o – but Achebe said he felt “that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new African surroundings”.

His fourth novel, 1966′s A Man of the People, anticipated a coup that took place in Nigeria just before the book was first published. “I’d ended the book with a coup,” Achebe told the Guardian, “which was ridiculous because Nigeria was much too big a country to have a coup, but it was right for the novel. That night we had a coup. And any confidence we had that things could be put right were smashed. That night is something we have never really got over.”

His most recent work was last year’s mix of memoir and history There Was a Country, an account of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970. Achebe was a supporter of Biafran secession, but after the end of the civil war in 1970 he took what he described as a “sojourn” in politics. There he found that “the majority of people … were there for their own personal advancement”, deciding instead to devote himself to academia. He went on to write what he called a “limited harvest” of five novels – the most recent of which was 1987′s Anthills of the Savannah. “I go at the pace of inspiration and what I can physically manage,” he said.

In 1990 a car accident in Nigeria left him paralyzed from the waist down, and forced his move to the US. “I miss Nigeria very much. My injury means I need to know I am near a good hospital and close to my doctor. I need to know that if I went to a pharmacist, the medicine there would be the drug that the bottle says it is,” he said in 2007.

Achebe has twice rejected the Nigerian government’s attempt to name him a Commander of the Federal Republic – a national honour – first in 2004, and second in 2011. In 2004 he wrote that “for some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the presidency … Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honor awarded me in the 2004 honors list.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Republic of Namibia’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

March 20, 2013

On behalf of the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Namibia as they celebrate 23 years of independence on March 21. I hope that all Namibians will enjoy the benefits of peace and prosperity in the coming year.

The United States and Namibia share many binding ties: our respect for human rights and the rule of law, our commitment to democracy and development, and our belief in prosperity for all.

We look forward to building further on our strong friendship to achieve our common goals.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

White Smoke White Pope: Race, Ethnicity & Stereotyping at the Papal Conclave

Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
March 12-19, 2013

By Frederick Nnoma-Addison

The world seemed extremely pleased with the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. By choosing the name Pope Francis to indicate his unique style and commitment to the poor, the new pontiff became the instant darling of the world and a religious celebrity in his own right. It wasn’t the choice of Pope Francis as the next “vicar of Christ” that was problematic but rather the methodology and symbolism used in the election process, which reeks of stereotyping, more than the Catholic Church would want to be involved in.

The papal conclave of 2013 was convened to elect a pope to succeed Benedict XVI following his resignation on February 28, 2013. After the 115 participating cardinal-electors gathered, they set March 12, 2013 as the beginning of the conclave. Since the two-thirds majority needed to elect a pope was not reached on the first day’s single ballot, there were two additional rounds of voting the following morning. Both second and third rounds ended without a pope being chosen, and black smoke fumed out of the Sistine Chapel chimney. It was the fifth ballot that concluded the process and elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope. Then at 7:06 pm local time (2:06pm US Eastern Time), white smoke announced to the world that a pope had been chosen. Shortly afterwards the Vatican web site published the Latin words “Habemus Papam” – we have a Pope. The Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran appeared at the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and formally announced the election of the new Pope and his chosen regnal name. Pope Francis finally made his appearance, and asked the people to bless him before he blessed the world, concluding the conclave. Hispanics were particularly ecstatic because this time it was one of their own. Blacks would have been equally ecstatic had it been one of their own too.

This tradition of the “smoke signal” used during conclaves dates back several centuries. It is low-tech, tried and tested, historic, and electrifying. It also has the potential of being environmentally unfriendly. Since between 1-2 billion of the earth’s population is black, tan, or colored, it is impossible for me to overlook the implications the black smoke out of the Sistine Chapel has on the black race. The colors black and white have some universal connotations some of which are notorious and even controversial. These two colors have generated heated debates and severe interracial problems since the beginning of biblically recorded human history.

“Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” – King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.) – Numbers 12:1

There were 11 African/black cardinal electors at the just ended conclave; I choose to call them “Popefuls” – pope hopefuls, or wannabe popes. Aside wondering how they felt about “losing” to Pope Francis, I also wonder how they honestly felt about the use of black to symbolize incompletion and failure to elect a pope, and the use of white to signify victory and accomplishment. The Bible uses white as a “heavenly” color, to describe the Great White Throne (Revelations 20:11-15) and the White Horse, (Revelations 19:6-11). There are countless occasions recorded in the Bible where angels appear in white therefore the churches use of white to signify victory is consistent with the Bible.

Black as a negative color or as the color symbolizing failure or an unaccomplished goal however does not originate from Bible. Considering the fact that the Christian Bible teaches about God creating Adam and Eve from the dust of the earth – Genesis 2 – one would think that black or tan would be the world’s preferred color. The negative notion about black seems to be largely defined by human prejudice, as we have seen it towards black people in the United States, in Africa and around the globe. Universal terminologies like black box (aviation industry), black sheep, black plague, black market, black day, black future and black death make the Catholic Church’s use of black smoke during the conclave stereotypical, to say the least. In this context black (smoke) is used to signify failure and lack of accomplishment, two characteristics still used to describe people of color everywhere, despite historic advancements and achievements by this race throughout human history.

Africans account for 16% of the world’s catholic population compared to 39% from the Hispanic world. The total number of blacks or tanned Catholics in the Americas, Asia, and around the world makes blacks an even larger and more significant constituency and the Catholic Church recognizes that. Prior to the election there were speculations of a black pope, cardinal Turkson of Ghana – 64 – being front runner. This idea of a black Pope was not misplaced or exaggerated. It resonated with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, in 2004, when he told German TV that “we are ready for a black pope” and called Africa the “spiritual lung of the world.” He repeated the same thing in 2009 during his visits to Cameroon and Angola.

While only 11 of the 115 elector cardinals are African (compared to 60 from Europe and 33 from the Americas), it is widely believed that they presented a united front in the conclave and therefore had a realistic chance of electing one of their own. The names and nationalities of the 11 African / Black cardinal electors are listed in the order their photographs appear above (L-R).

Peter Turkson (Ghana); John Onaiyekan (Nigeria); Antonios Naguib (Egypt); Polycarp Pengo (Tanzania); Wilfrid Napier (South Africa); Anthony Okogie (Nigeria); Gabriel Zubeir Wako (Sudan); Théodore-Adrien Sarr (Senegal); Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya; (Democratic Republic of Congo); John Njue (Kenya); Robert Sarah (Guinea)

Many Africans, Africans-Americans and non Africans could not have envisaged a black Pope 10years ago; but now they do, possibly because the United States has even elected a black President on two consecutive occasions.

Pope Francis has been described as a Pope of many firsts. He is the first Latino, first Jesuit, first in recent times to wear a wooden cross, and even the first Pope with a known high school sweetheart, according to the allegations of one woman. Perhaps he should be the first to review the ancient tradition that unfortunately perpetuates negative stereotypes against people of color. My suggestion for the new vicar is as follows. No smoke at all to symbolize no Pope, and white smoke to symbolize a new Pope.

Today – March 19, 2013 the Vatican will hold an installation mass for Pope Francis and display the new pontiff’s coat of arms and fisherman’s ring. More than 132 government delegations and representatives from major religions will attend the historic event and I join the faithful in wishing the pontiff and the Catholic Church the best in a new dispensation.

Friday, March 15, 2013

U.S. Dedicates New Chancery in Senegal

U.S. Embassy Photo

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

March 15, 2013

In an important symbol of America’s commitment to an enduring friendship with Senegal, U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Lewis Lukens, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Dakar today. Occupying a 10-acre site near Pointe des Almadies, the $181 million multi-building complex provides a centralized location for the mission, as well as a state-of-the-art, environmentally- sustainable workplace for embassy personnel.

The architect of record for the project was Page Southerland Page of Arlington, Virginia, and B.L. Harbert International, LLC of Birmingham, Alabama, was the construction contractor.

The new facility incorporates numerous sustainable features to conserve resources and reduce operating costs, most notably an extensive system of 1,290 photovoltaic panels; solar control shading devices to reduce solar heat gain and energy cooling costs; and on-site treatment of wastewater that is reused for irrigation. The facility has been registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) with enough points to earn LEED Gold certification.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 97 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 37 projects in design or under construction.

OBO’s mission is to provide safe, secure, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support our staff in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture, and construction execution.

African-American Leaders in Maryland Unite to Strengthen their Community

Photo: AMIP News

The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center

Annapolis, Maryland
March 14, 2013

By Frederick Nnoma-Addison

Only two weeks after the observation and celebration of African-American history month – February – in the United States, approximately 60 African-American leaders in Anne Arundel County, Maryland have held a meeting to review the state of their community and address the challenges facing it. The caucus representing clergy, business, labor, sororities, elected officials, and civil rights groups committed to work together to improve their community in the county. The meeting was appropriately held at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center and Memorial in Annapolis and was attended by the County’s Police Chief – Larry W. Tolliver and the new Publisher and Editor of the Capital Gazette, Pat Richardson and Steve Gunn respectively. [Photograph above was taken after the meeting and represents only a cross section of meeting attendees]. The leaders first came together in January to support former County Health Officer Dr. Angela Wakweya, who they believe was unfairly removed from her position by the then-County Executive John R. Leopold who is now serving a jail sentence himself for misconduct while in office. Dr. Wakweya who was the first African-American to head the County’s 81 year-old health department is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Uganda in East Africa.

Making the introduction Carl Snowden, Member of the Board of Directors, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee and Host of Upfront & Personal recounted this recent history of unfair treatment of blacks in the community and stressed the need to work together so that such an incident never occurs, “on our watch”.

Almost 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act (1964), the historic March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and 100 years after the birth of Rosa Parks, also a Civil Rights Activist, African-Americans who represent about 12% of the national and County population still face discrimination and race-related challenges. By convening this meeting and dialoguing with the Capital Gazette and the Police Chief the caucus hopes that this will be a first step in addressing disparities and discrimination in hiring and distribution of resources among other concerns. The caucus is scheduled to dialogue with the new County Chief Executive, Laura Newman, at 5pm on April 10th at the same venue.

Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel County is named after Anne Arundell (1615-1649), a member of the ancient family of Arundells in Cornwall, England and the wife of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore. Its county seat is Annapolis, which is also the capital of the state. In 2010, its population was 537,656, a population increase of just under 10% since 2000. Anne Arundel County forms part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

City of Annapolis

Annapolis is the capital of the state of Maryland in North East United States, and the county seat of Anne Arundel County. Located just 29miles east of Washington, DC, It is a diverse, world-class city open to tourists and business people from around the world. Annapolis is also home of the United States Naval Academy, founded in 1845. Described as America’s Sailing Capital and the gateway to North America’s largest estuary – the Chesapeake Bay – its location makes it a prime destination for water-tourism. The Bay is a source of bountiful seafood and a host of sailing, boating, recreational sports-fishing, and water-sports activities to residents and tourists from around the world. Also described as a “Museum without Walls”, it is a lively, contemporary city where four centuries of architecture embrace 21st-century living. The city has trendy boutiques and specialty shops amidst 18th century brick buildings especially in the Historic Downtown area.

Annapolis is noted for proudly celebrating African & African-American heritage. It is home to important monuments like the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, the Banneker-Douglas Museum (Maryland’s official repository for African-American heritage), the Thurgood Marshall Memorial, and the Coretta King Memorial Garden located on the campus of Sojourner-Douglas College.

The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center and Memorial

The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center and Memorial are part of a $27 million dollar complex called The Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park which opened in a public celebration in September 2006. The Legacy Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Wiley H. Bates High School (1932 to 1966), formerly the only high school for African Americans in Anne Arundel County. It is a unique cultural arts heritage center displaying historical documents and collections that preserve the African American experience.

Ghanaian, Nigerian & Sudanese Among 2013 Internet Freedom Fellows

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

March 8, 2013

The U.S. Department of State welcomed the 2013 Internet Freedom Fellows to Washington, D.C. March 10 -13. This program, in its third year, was sponsored by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and brought online journalists, and human rights activists from across the globe to meet with fellow activists, U.S. and international government leaders, members of civil society, and the private sector to engage in discussions on freedom of expression, Internet freedom, technology, and human rights.

The Fellows began their program on March 4 in Geneva, participating in meetings with human rights professionals, diplomats, media and civil society, as well as an event at the UN Human Rights Council. Their stay in Washington, D.C., hosted by the State Department Bureau of International Organization Affairs, featured meetings with Department officials, civil society groups, media, and more. The Fellows concluded their program in Silicon Valley with meetings with leading technology companies engaged in promoting human rights globally, and a public seminar at Stanford University.

The 2013 Internet Freedom Fellows are:

                     Mac-Jordan Disu-Degadjor of Ghana

                             Edetaen Ojo of Nigeria

                          Usamah Mohamed of Sudan

The rest are: Michael Anti of China; Grigory Okhotin of Russia and Bronwen Robertson of New Zealand.

For more information on the Internet Freedom Fellows visit


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Former Snr. U.S. Diplomat (Frazer) Warns U.S. Of Risk Of Being Alienated in Kenya

File Photo
By Kennedy Kangethe, 12 March 2013

Nairobi — A former senior diplomat under President George W. Bush has criticized the United States for not formally recognizing Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in last week’s elections. Jendayi Frazer, a former United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said the US and Europe were playing a dangerous game for their delayed endorsement of Kenyatta’s presidency. “If the US, the UK and the Europeans don’t want to deal with Uhuru Kenyatta, he has another option,” she cautioned. Speaking in an interview with American TV channel PBS, Frazer said that Kenya is a strategic partner to the United States and a key ally in the fight against terrorism in addition to being East Africa’s economic hub.

“Many American businesses like FORD, General Electric and others are based there so it’s key to the region as whole,” she said. However, she warned that the West risked losing it’s strategic influence in the region.”The geo-strategic environment has changed entirely and particularly (in favor of) China. The Chinese have changed the playing field (and) if the US, the UK and Europeans don’t want to deal with Uhuru Kenyatta, he has another option,” she explained.

Frazer who says she has been to Kenya twice this year said the fact that the Chinese ambassador and Foreign Ministry have already welcomed Kenyatta by referring to him as President-elect.

Frazer accused the US, Canada and Britain of meddling in Kenyans domestic affairs by threatening to put trade sanctions to Kenya, if they elected Kenyatta.

“They are in a bad situation because prior to the election, they threatened the Kenyan electorate by saying ‘if you elect Uhuru Kenyatta, there will be consequences; we may put trade sanctions,’ which was extra ordinary because the case for Kenyatta is not proven,” she explained.

She said that the diffusion of power, the expectations about the new institutions as well as the lessons learnt from the 2007 General Elections had accounted for the lack of violence this time.

Frazer also explained that the tribal competition is still imminent and that this election was based on community voting for “their boys”.

“The need for healing and reconciliation is still much there in Kenya,” she said.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Secretary Kerry’s Statement on Formation of New Tunisian Government

Department of State
Washington, DC

March 13, 2013

The United States welcomes the establishment of a new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Laarayedh. We encourage Tunisia’s leaders to work together quickly to finalize a constitution that respects universal human rights, and to develop a plan for elections so Tunisians can vote on their country’s future. Announcing a fixed election date will provide clarity about the direction of Tunisia’s democratic transition and will help stabilize the political, security, and economic situation. We look to the Government of Tunisia to foster an environment of justice and accountability that is conducive to a free and fair election process, including freedom of the press and access for domestic and international observers.

The United States remains a friend of the Tunisian people and will continue to support the transition to an enduring democracy in which the rights of all Tunisians are respected and protected.

Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Remarks With Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan

Photo courtesy of

Benjamin Franklin Room
State Department
Washington, DC

March 13, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to offer a very warm welcome to Prime Minister Zeidan of Libya. This is the first visit to Washington of the Prime Minister as prime minister, but it’s an historic visit, and the reason is very simple: He represents his country’s first democratically elected government in more than 40 years. And we all join in celebrating what has been accomplished in Libya: the liberation of a country that had been under the yoke of a dictator for decades.

The community of nations is very, very proud that we helped to give the Libyan people a fighting chance for their future and that we helped to prevent the slaughter of thousands of lives. So the fact that the Prime Minister is here with us today is testament to how far Libya has come, and frankly, how quickly it has come that far.

The Libyan people have begun to chart the course for their own future, and they’re defining it. Obviously, there are challenges ahead – we all understand that – from building political consensus to strengthening the security, protecting human rights, and growing the Libyan economy, which we were just talking about a few minutes ago.

The Prime Minister, I think, understands, but I want to reiterate to him today, that the United States will continue to stand with Libya during this difficult time of transition. We will cover a great deal in our meeting, but in the meeting that we just had, we talked about the difficulties of this transition period and the challenges, but also the wonderful assets that Libya has – great, intelligent people, not that big a population, and wealth through the oil resources. Libya is a country that can win this future, and we believe in that.

We also want to thank the Government of Libya for its cooperation after the attacks in Benghazi. As President Obama has made very, very clear, those who killed Americans in Benghazi will be brought to justice, and I emphasize that today. Prime Minister Zeidan and I know what a good friend Chris Stevens was to all of the Libyan people, and the thousands of everyday Libyans who marched in outrage carrying homemade signs thanking Chris for what he had done for them, thanking the United States for what all Americans had done for them, all of that underscores why we must not walk away from the difficult work that Chris Stevens and his cohorts were so dedicated to.

That work will continue, Mr. Prime Minister, and I am pleased to tell you that we will soon be sending Deborah Jones to Libya as our new ambassador. And she is a very capable and experienced diplomat, and I have no doubt that she’s going to help to strengthen the partnership between us.

With respect to other issues, let me just say quickly that the United States is committed to promoting stability in Libya, in North Africa, and in the Sahel. So we’re going to discuss further the cooperation on security issues. Just last month at the ministerial meeting in Paris, the United States pledged more assistance for security reform in Libya with particular emphasis on border security, rule of law, building a professional security force and institutions, and the control or destruction of chemical weapons that have been left over from the old regime. We will look for other ways to work together as we go forward in order to make Libya safer and to live up to its full potential.

Finally, in terms of our economic partnership, the United States wants to create an economic environment in Libya that will spur outside investment and foster entrepreneurship. Libya’s long-term prosperity will depend on creating greater opportunities for more people, for all of its citizens, for being an open society and an open economy. So we’re encouraging American businesses to take a look at Libya and to work to promote the kind of stability that will make investment in Libya even more attractive.

So I close by saying once again it’s a great privilege to have you here today, Mr. Prime Minister. I congratulate you and your country, as all the American people do, for this remarkable transition that you’re going through, and we look forward to working together with you in the days and months ahead. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ZEIDAN: Shukran, thank you.
(Via interpreter) – the United States of America and I would like to give my thanks to the American Government and people and President Obama and his Administration for the important role that the United States played in supporting the revolution in order to achieve democracy and stability, and the role that was played by President Obama and his Administration. It was very important in the success of the Libyan revolution.

I wanted to give my thanks to the American people and to the American Administration for this role, and I would like to confirm the importance of the relationship with the United States and the strategic aspect with the – of this new Libya. This relationship will be at the best level in various aspects – political, economic, and education and oil and the area of security cooperation – in order to achieve stability and peace in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and North Africa and the coast and the desert.

And was received today by several officials in the State and the National Security Advisor. We were honored with the passage of President Obama during the meeting. And it was a very productive meeting that dealt with various aspects and issues that are important in the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have confirmed certain factors that are in the service of this relationship. And I can say that the ambassador – that your ambassador who came to us when he visited us at the beginning of the revolution and stayed with us for a long time and presented great services to our country, and we consider him a very dear friend and a friend of the Libyan people. And he met our officials and lived with them and helped them and cooperated with them, and we lost a very dear man and a very nice and great human being.

And here I would like to confirm that the Libyan Government insists to work with the United States of America in order to reach the truth – who are the perpetrators of the crimes that were committed, who killed this dear friend and his colleagues. And they must be put to trial, and we will reach this conclusion because this is a principal issue in our heritage, Islamic heritage, and in accordance with our morals. And inasmuch as we regret the killing of the American dear ambassador, we are keen on reaching the truth and to see that justice is achieved and that – so that the American public opinion wants this and we will work with President Obama seriously in order to achieve this goal.

We dealt with various aspects of our relationship, and various issues of cooperation in the future, regardless of the education of Libyans here in America or our military cooperation, security cooperation, and economic and political cooperation, particularly trying to retrieve the money that was stolen from Libya, and the American Administration is committed to help us. And in the area of training and various other fields, the most important is the security cooperation in order to establish security and stability in the world and in the area of the Middle East and North Africa.

I’d like to reiterate my thanks to the American Administration and his excellency the Secretary of State for this opportunity. And I would like to confirm that our relationships will be – take a very – the best track, and will achieve the interests of the American people and the Libyan people. Thank you very much.

# # #

Friday, March 8, 2013

Secretary Kerry's Remarks at the International Women of Courage Awards

Melinda Gates: Observing International Women’s Day – March 8, 2013

File Photo Courtesy:
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) – Washington, DC-June 2012
Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)
Department of Labor (DOL)

Article by Melinda Gates
Co-chair the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

This piece was published in collaboration with the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, a platform for accelerating entrepreneurial approaches and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social issues.

The calendar is overflowing with occasions to mark. It seems like there’s a special day for almost everything. For example, September 19 is celebrated by some as International Talk Like a Pirate Day. But the surplus of observances shouldn’t detract from the really important ones, like Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day.

The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, but it was international only in the technical sense that women in four European nations marched. These activists were ahead of their time in thinking about women’s economic and political equality; they may not have been so far ahead of their time that they envisioned what it has come to mean for many of us today. Now, International Women’s Day represents a movement that is for every woman and girl, no matter where they live. This year, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history by risking her life for the cause of universal girls’ education. Her courage has inspired women across the world. Some of the bravest, most revolutionary voices about empowerment are coming from women and girls like Malala who are calling the world’s attention to social norms that prevent women from realizing their full potential.

I just spent some time visiting the poorest parts of Northern India, where I met a courageous woman named Sharmila Devi. Because the government has invested in its basic health system, she received a visit from a trained health worker who told her that spacing her pregnancies was safer for herself and her children. Sharmila decided to use contraceptives despite the opposition of her mother-in-law. In India, husbands and mothers-in-law have been at the core of family decision making power structures for generations. Sharmila’s courage in seeking outside information and defying her parents-in-law as a way to determine her own future and improve that of her children represents a huge leap forward for women throughout the country.

Here is the reality we must confront on International Women’s Day: The decisions women make about their families are the key to improving life for many of the poorest communities in the world.

The evidence shows that in the developing world, women play a different role than men and are more likely to take care of their family’s health care and nutrition, things that children need to become productive adults and contribute to the economic and social development of societies.

In fact, research has shown that a child’s chances of survival increase by 20% when the mother controls the household budget. Yet in many places, women, especially young women, have very little decision-making authority to be able to effect this kind of change.
The work of making sure that women and girls everywhere can seize their potential is about making specific changes that will set into motion these longer term outcomes. For me, it means making sure they have access to the contraceptives so many women tell me they want and need. It’s also about harder to measure changes like whether they have the information and the power to plan their families on their own terms.

When I try to imagine the future, I am optimistic because I see women demanding information and opportunities in the face of social norms that say they’re not permitted to do so. I’m also optimistic because no matter where I go, people ask me, “What can I do to help?”

Malala and Devi aren’t the only heroes. Millions of people—men and women—stand by the conviction that empowered women are a source of progress, and they want to take action. That’s why I’m proud to announce the launch of my team page on, a crowd-funding platform dedicated to supporting women and girls. I identified these three great projects from GirlUp, Breakthrough, and Jacaranda Health and hope you can join Catapult to help fund them.

Our foundation will match every dollar donated to these projects. Together, we can help women and girls determine their own future, no matter where they’re from. To me, this is why marking International Women’s Day is important. It’s a chance for so many people to move beyond “celebrating” and take action to create meaningful and sustainable change for women and girls.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Melinda Gates.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Republic of Ghana’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

March 6, 2013

On behalf of the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Ghana as they celebrate 56 years of independence on March 6 and congratulate Ghana on completing its sixth presidential and parliamentary elections. I hope that all Ghanaians will enjoy the benefits of peace and prosperity in the coming year.

The United States and Ghana share many binding ties: our respect for human rights and the rule of law, our commitment to democracy and development, and our belief in prosperity, all of which were born out of our respective struggles for liberty.

We look forward to building further on our strong friendship to achieve our common goals.

U.S. Senator, Coons On increasing U.S. Economic Engagement with Africa

File Photo
Embracing Africa’s Economic Potential
Recommendations for Strengthening Trade Relationships between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: The Africa Society

March 7, 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, today released a report with concrete, substantive recommendations to increase U.S. trade with African markets. Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world and is a critical emerging market for American businesses. The report is entitled “Embracing Africa’s Economic Potential: Recommendations for Strengthening Trade Relationships between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

“The United States faces dramatic challenges in Africa – and enormous opportunities,” Senator Coons said. “This report offers specific, concrete recommendations to meet the need for increased economic engagement in sub-Saharan Africa. If we don’t take action now to invest in trade and development across the continent, we will fall behind our global competitors and potentially shut American businesses out of these fast-growing markets for decades to come.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs convened two hearings in the 112th Congress to explore economic opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa and identify steps to increase U.S.-Africa investment and trade. This report analyses the findings of these hearings and provides a roadmap for developing a more cohesive, effective strategy for U.S. economic engagement with Africa in both the public and private sectors.

The report’s six recommendations to achieve a cohesive, effective U.S.-Africa economic engagement strategy are:

1. Support African-led efforts to improve the business climate on the continent and remove barriers to trade;

2• Reauthorize and strengthen AGOA to diversify exports, expand country and product coverage, and increase its mutual benefit well in advance of its expiration in 2015;

3• Improve coordination between U.S. government agencies and develop a comprehensive interagency strategy for increased investment in Sub-Saharan Africa;

4• Increase the presence of U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Officers in Sub-Saharan Africa to help U.S. companies navigate the business climate in the region;

5• Provide increased long-term support for agencies that provide financing to encourage U.S. commercial engagement overseas, mitigate investment risks, and generate a profit for American taxpayers; and

6• Engage the African Diaspora community in the United States to strengthen economic ties.

“The Chamber and our membership are extremely encouraged by the leadership that Senator Coons has shown in driving home point that Africa’s development will be accomplished through greater economic investment by U.S. companies,” Scott Eisner, Vice President for African Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce said. “This report establishes a terrific benchmark to guide Congress and the administration on the next generation of Africa trade policy. The business community will continue to work with Senator Coons and like minded members of Congress and the administration on an economically driven, private sector led policy for this country’s engagement with key African markets.”

“The Corporate Council on Africa represents nearly 85 percent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa, and supports all six of Senator Coons’ recommendations,” Stephen Hayes, President of the Corporate Council on Africa said. “We think all six are vital and are at the heart of the issues that separate the U.S. from becoming far more engaged in Africa. The reality is that Africa is of far greater importance to the United States than most people realize, and we need to make Africa a national priority economically, politically and socially.”

Engagement with Africa is critical to America’s economic interests now and in the years ahead. Meeting Africa’s growing demand for American goods and services will strengthen our economy, help U.S. businesses grow and create jobs here at home. In addition, greater attention to Africa is required in the security sector as well, in order to keep our country safe and meet increasingly complex global security challenges.

Senator Coons recently returned from a congressional delegation visit to South Africa and hosted his second annual Opportunity: Africa conference to give Delawareans a seat at the table with some of the nation’s leading voices on sustainable development and trade with Africa.

The full report can be found here:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

U.S. Issues Statement on Elections in Kenya

Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

March 5, 2013

The United States applauds the Kenyan people for participating peacefully in the March 4 national elections.

Although there were scattered acts of violence in two areas of the country, the vast majority of Kenyans voted in a calm, patient, and orderly manner. The final results are not in. Kenya’s Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission is in the process of tallying the ballots and we expect final results soon. We encourage the electoral commission to continue its work in a thorough, transparent, and professional manner.

We encourage all Kenyans to come together and move forward peacefully to realize the full promise and benefits of the new constitution. We urge that any election disputes be resolved peacefully through the Kenyan legal system. It is critical that Kenya avoid the post-election violence that marred the December 2007 presidential contest.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Secretary Kerry Meets Egyptian Business Leaders

AP Photo

Marriott Zamalek Hotel
Cairo, Egypt

March 2, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: I apologize to everybody for being detained, but I had a very, very spirited, as you can imagine, conversation with members of the opposition, and it was really valuable – very, very valuable. And I’m very grateful to them for taking the time to come and share thoughts. It was really a conversation – we could have gone on for a couple of more hours, and I wish I’d had the time actually to do that because I thought it was very productive.

But I particularly am glad to be back here in Cairo and back here with some of you I met previously and others for the first time. But this is my first trip to Cairo as Secretary of State, obviously, and a lot of things have been happening in the course of the last year, so I wanted to have a chance to be able to talk with you a little bit about the economic challenge that Egypt is facing.

We’ve been a longtime friend and partner, and the American people support Egypt and want its political and economic success. And we really look forward to being able to work with Egypt as it continues to play a very critical role in the region’s economy and in its security issues. We come here – I come here – on behalf of President Obama, committed not to any party, not to any one person, not to any specific political point of view, but filled with the commitment that Americans have to democracy, to a robust commitment to our values – to human rights, to freedom of expression, to tolerance.

And these are things that, historically, the strong civil society of Egypt has cared about. We believe it’s very important for the Egyptian people to come together around those values, but also to come together to meet the economic challenge at this particular moment. It is paramount, essential, urgent that the Egyptian economy get stronger, that it get back on its feet. And it’s very clear that there’s a circle of connections in how that can happen. To attract capital, to bring money back here that will invest, to give business the confidence to be able to move forward, there has to be a sense of security and there has to be a sense of economic and political viability.

And so we understand that. You have to get people back to work, and the energy of this country needs to hopefully be able to move from the streets to enterprise and to work and to daily life and to building the strength of that civil society. And so I’m here primarily to listen to you and you tell me what you think you need to do that. But it’s clear to us that the IMF arrangement needs to be reached, that we need to give the marketplace the confidence. And that very capable and entrepreneurial Egyptian Diaspora that is currently in many parts of the world with its capital, needs to feel comfortable that it could come back here and that there’s a viability in going forward.

So when I speak with President Morsy tomorrow, I will be speaking with him about the very specific ways that we, the United States, that President Obama, would like to see us engage, including economic assistance, support for private businesses, growing Egypt’s exports to the United States, investing in Egypt’s people through education. There are some very specific things that we need to do, and all of them we would only do in consultation with the government of this country. These are not things that we would do on our own without a government desiring it or wanting it or being part of it, obviously. But they are only things that we can do with the same confidence that you make your choices, knowing that Egypt is going to make the right fundamental economic decisions with respect to the IMF and that it stands ready to provide the foundation for sustainable and inclusive growth.

So we’re working on a number of initiatives towards supporting greater trade and business development. Last September, we brought more than 100 representatives from American businesses to Cairo in order to explore these very opportunities. We’re certainly ready to try to do that and try to do more. And I spoke in the last days with Prime Minister Qandil, with President Hollande of France, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, yesterday with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey – all of them are prepared to be helpful, but all of them believe that Egypt needs to make some fundamental economic choices.

The sad thing is that shortly after the visit of those 100 businesses last year, there was a problem in terms of the violence with respect to the Embassy and the community and it deterred people from following up on that. So a clear message: The United States is committed to helping Egypt become an economically successful, democratic nation. And I know that most of you here are – or all of you here are too. And I look forward for hearing from you your thoughts about the ways in which that can happen rapidly and what we can do most effectively to try to help make it happen. And I thank for listening to those opening comments.

On that note, I invite any members of the chamber or any of the businesses here to speak up. We’re going to – sorry – wait for the press. Apologize. Thank you all very much. Appreciate your being here.

U.S. Assistance in Support of Free, Fair, and Peaceful Elections in Kenya – Facts

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

March 1, 2013

For 50 years, Kenya has been a stalwart and reliable partner in a strategically important but volatile region. As the economic powerhouse and transport hub of East Africa, Kenya’s stability is crucial to the security and economic prospects of its neighbors. The success of Kenya’s upcoming presidential, parliamentary and local elections depends greatly upon the degree to which the country has reformed and strengthened its democratic institutions, increased transparency and accountability, and deepened respect for the rule of law and human rights. The United States has focused significant diplomatic and programmatic effort, particularly in the time since the December 2007 post-election violence, to support Kenya’s ambitious reform agenda, the centerpiece of which is a new, progressive constitution, which was adopted in 2010.

The upcoming March 4 elections will be an important test of Kenya’s progress on reform. They are the first national elections since 2007 and will be the first under the new constitution. Since 2010, the U.S. Government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, civic education, and elections preparation in Kenya. In addition, since 2008, we have provided more than $90 million to support constitutional reform, conflict mitigation, civil society strengthening, and youth leadership and empowerment, all of which contribute significantly to the goal of free, fair, and peaceful elections in Kenya. U.S. support, which is coordinated closely with international partners, includes:

The Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC): The U.S. Government has provided assistance to strengthen the institutional capacity of the IEBC to hold free, fair, and peaceful elections. This includes technical assistance and support for boundary delimitation; voter registration; development of enforcement mechanisms for electoral laws; elections results transmission; outreach and communication. We have also assisted the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties in developing a software template for the submission of membership lists.

Civic and Voter Education: Civic and voter education are important components of successful elections. U.S. support includes funding for the production and dissemination of non-partisan voter education materials and ad campaigns; technical support to plan and prepare a national civic education curriculum; and funding for a national civic and voter education program targeting ten million Kenyans using social and mainstream media, as well as face-to-face training.

Elections Observation: The United States, in close coordination with international partners, is providing assistance for a robust elections observation effort. Together, we are supporting three elections observation missions: the Kenyan Elections Observation Group, a coalition of Kenyan civil society organizations, which will field 9,500 to 12,000 short-term domestic observers and 450 long-term observers; the Carter Center, which will field 14 long-term observers and approximately 30 short-term observers; and a U.S. embassy-based elections observation mission, which fielded 20 observation teams during the political party primaries and will field 35 teams during the general elections.

Elections Security: Particularly in light of the poor performance of police forces during the 2007-2008 violence, the U.S. Government has engaged the Kenyan Government, the IEBC, and civil society to emphasize the need for a clear and well-coordinated elections security plan, and to offer assistance. We have supported local efforts by police and community leaders to develop relationships and plans for addressing tensions and potential violence surrounding the election. At the national level, U.S. contributions to a UNDP basket fund are providing support to the IEBC to improve elections security.

Media: Inaccurate and sensationalist reporting contributed to the violence following the 2007 election. The U.S. Government is funding nationwide programs to help professionalize the media and strengthen the reporting skills of journalists. This support is designed to help the Kenyan media’s understanding and accuracy of reporting on elections and electoral processes. We are also supporting programs that build journalists’ capacity to investigate and report on local issues, including sensitive matters such as land reform, devolution, and local violence. To complement the work with the media, we are also assisting civil society in their efforts to engage with the media and to monitor hate-speech and other inflammatory rhetoric.

Political Parties: The U.S. Government is providing assistance to Kenya’s political parties to help them become more professional, comply with the new election laws, and embrace the spirit of inclusiveness envisioned in Kenya’s constitutional reforms. This assistance includes training for more than 9,000 individuals from major political parties in methods of developing party policies and platforms and to improving grassroots outreach and recruitment, especially of women and youth. It also provides training for 1,200 potential election candidates. U.S. assistance supported the formation of the Inter-Party Youth Forum, which brings together youth representatives to the major political parties; many of the members will also be candidates for office in the county or national elections.

Conflict Prevention and Mitigation: The ability of communities and local security services to prevent and mitigate conflict, including through early warning and early response mechanisms, will be important during the March elections. We are supporting programs in potential hotspot areas of the Rift Valley and Coast Province to deter elections-related violence by strengthening linkages among diverse Kenyan organizations. Strengthening theses connections enables these organizations to promote constructive participation in the election, defuse political tensions, and strengthen early warning and response mechanisms. We are also supporting small-scale social and economic development activities that provide opportunities for people of different backgrounds to work together toward common goals. Our extensive work with civil society includes support for local District Peace Committees, youth, and women to disseminate peace messages through personal contacts, and through traditional and social media. Finally, the U.S. Government is coordinating contingency planning with humanitarian assistance organizations for response to the possibility of large-scale election-related violence as well as ensuring that humanitarian analysis is incorporated into election preparation planning.

Youth Engagement: Seventy-five percent of Kenyans are under 35 years of age. Kenyan youth were both perpetrators and victims during the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The United States government’s Yes Youth Can! program supports Kenyan youth leadership, livelihoods, and empowerment. The program has supported formation of 20,000 village youth councils and assisted 500,000 youth in registering for national identity cards, which are necessary for voter registration. Other efforts include contributing funding to a civic education campaign and a series of peace concerts specifically targeting youth in the run-up to the election.