Monday, April 28, 2014

U.S. Issues Recommendations on Egyptian Court Sentencing

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Department of State
Washington, DC
April 28, 2014

The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 Youth Movement activities. Today’s preliminary death sentences against 683 defendants and the upholding of death sentences against 37 defendants from a March 25 decision are unconscionable.

As the Secretary has said, it is impossible to believe that such proceedings could satisfy even the most basic standards of justice, let alone meet Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law. We again urge Egyptian authorities to remedy the situation and reverse these court rulings and ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases. We continue to urge the Egyptian Government to suspend future mass trials of Egyptians.

Today’s decision by a court of urgent matters to ban the activities of The April 6 Youth Movement is also troubling. Supporters of the movement were at the forefront of the January 25, 2011 revolution that overthrew former president Mubarak, and the Government of Egypt must allow for the peaceful political activism that the group practices if Egypt’s interim Government intends to transition to democracy, as it has committed itself to do.

These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim Government says it seeks to resolve. We urge the Egyptian Government to demonstrate – through actions rather than words – its support for the universal human rights and freedoms and democratic, accountable governance that the Egyptian people continue to demand.

Secretary Kerry and South Sudanese President Kiir Phone Call – Readout

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Department of State
Washington, DC
April 26, 2014

Secretary Kerry spoke today with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to express grave concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups on both sides of the conflict. Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December. He urged President Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and noted U.S. demands that anti-government forces do the same. Both Secretary Kerry and President Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process. Secretary Kerry noted the important role played by the UN Mission in South Sudan, denounced recent attacks on UNMISS bases and personnel, and encouraged President Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry, and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.

Secretary Kerry Travels to Addis Ababa, Kinshasa and Luanda

Jen Psaki
State Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Luanda, Angola, on April 29-May 5 to encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security, engage with civil society and young African leaders who will shape the continent’s future, and promote trade, investment and development partnerships in Africa.

The Secretary’s trip will also highlight U.S. investments in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

In Addis Ababa, Secretary Kerry will co-convene the Fourth Session of the U.S.-AU High-Level Dialogue and discuss a range of issues on which we partner with the African Union (AU). Secretary Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom to discuss efforts to advance peace and democracy in the region, and strengthen important areas of bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia.

In Kinshasa, Secretary Kerry will meet with President Joseph Kabila and will discuss how the DRC government’s progress in neutralizing some of the dozens of dangerous armed groups that victimize the Congolese people can be consolidated and how to best advance the DRC’s democratization and long-term stability, including through a timely and transparent electoral process.

In Luanda, Secretary Kerry will commend President José Eduardo dos Santos for Angola’s leadership of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and encourage the President’s continued personal engagement in the Great Lakes peace process. The Secretary will also discuss bilateral policy and trade issues with Foreign Minister Chikoti.

Secretary Kerry will also be accompanied by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russell Feingold, Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issue Catherine Russell.

Follow Secretary Kerry’s travel via @JohnKerry, @StateDept, and @StateDeptSpox on Twitter and go to the Department’s Flickr account for the latest trip photos. Stay connected: and keep track of all of the Secretary’s travels at:

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker To Head Trade Mission To West Africa

Office of the Secretary
Department of Commerce
Washington, DC
Friday, April 25, 2014

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced that she will lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development trade mission to West Africa, which will visit Ghana and Nigeria from May 18-23, 2014. This mission will promote U.S. exports and expand U.S. companies’ presence in Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector. The firms joining the mission have the expertise to help African countries develop and manage energy resources and systems, as well as build out power generation, transmission, and distribution.

“The fast-growing economies in Africa are a high priority for the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.”

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce. In the coming months, the Department’s International Trade Administration will more than double its presence in Africa, opening their first-ever offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. At the same time, offices in Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, and Libya will also be expanded. With these critical investments, the Department of Commerce will be able to increase assistance to U.S. businesses navigating markets in Africa, and help them sell their goods and services in even more places around the world.

“As U.S. companies look to ship more goods to the continent, help increase electrical capacity, or help improve transportation networks, they will receive assistance and expertise from these new offices and expanded Foreign Commercial Service staff,” said Secretary Pritzker. “We will endeavor to find partners for American companies, work to navigate regulatory hurdles, and support the development that will help Africa thrive. The day-to-day work of the Commerce Department’s Commercial Service is incredibly important to building economic prosperity. Each day, this team helps American companies break into overseas markets, expand, and find new customers.”

The President approved the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Sub-Saharan Africa on June 14, 2012, which has become known as the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. The Strategy recognizes that Africa holds the promise to be “the world’s next major economic success story,” and this is the first time that promoting U.S. trade and investment has been a cornerstone of a PPD on Sub-Saharan Africa.

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Companies that will join Secretary Pritzker on the trade mission to West Africa include:
• ABB Inc. (Cary, NC)
• Acorn Energy, Inc. (Wilmington, DE)
• Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. (Kansas City, MO)
• Canary, LLC (Denver, CO)
• Candies Shipbuilders (Des Allemands, LA)
• Cargill (Minneapolis, MN)
• EEC (Burlingame, CA)
• Ellicott Dredges, LLC (Baltimore, MD)
• Electric Knowledge Interchange (Chicago, IL)
• GE (Fairfield, CT)
• Hightowers Petroleum Co. (Middletown, OH)
• HPI (Houston, TX)
• Intermarine, LLC (Houston, TX)
• MacLean Power Systems (Fort Mill, SC)
• PW Power Systems (Glastonbury, CT)
• Scimitar Global Markets, LLC (Stamford, CT)
• SEWW Energy, Inc. (Charlotte, NC)
• SolarReserve (Santa Monica, CA)
• Symbion Power LLC (Washington, DC)
• Unified Electrics, LLC (Longview, TX)

U.S. Issues Statement on Madagascar’s New Government

Prime Minister Roger Kolo
Photo courtesy of

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

The United States welcomes the formation of a new government in Madagascar following the presidential and National Assembly elections held in late 2013. The installation of a new government marks a critical step in Madagascar’s return to democracy after five years of political and economic instability.

The appointment by President Rajaonarimampianina of Prime Minister Roger Kolo and a new slate of ministers presents an opportunity to break with the past and begin to rehabilitate the economy, strengthen the country’s democratic institutions and rule of law, protect Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, and restore respect for human rights. The United States looks forward to working with the new government to promote a prosperous, democratic, and healthy future for all Malagasy.

The United States remains one of Madagascar’s largest partners, providing over $55 million in FY 2013 for food security and health programs. Nearly 150 Peace Corps volunteers serve throughout the country.

Secretary Kerry Issues Statement on South Africa’s Freedom Day

Department of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend warmest wishes to the people of the Republic of South Africa on your Freedom Day on April 27.

This year’s celebration is especially poignant: it marks the 20th anniversary of your nation’s first democratic elections and follows the recent passing of the Rainbow Nation’s beloved son, Nelson Mandela.

Madiba was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation. On this 20th anniversary, we reflect on South Africa’s transformation in these two decades as a testament to the power of reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope.

This year also marks an important milestone for the United States as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which expanded voting rights to racial minorities. Our own commemoration is yet another reminder of the work ahead in our shared struggle for democracy and human rights.

As you prepare to hold general elections next month – your fifth in the post-apartheid era – we remember the spirit of that historic election in 1994, one filled with tremendous hope, goodwill, and promise for a better future.

Secretary Kerry Issues Statement on the United Republic of Tanzania’s Union Day

Department of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the citizens of Tanzania as you commemorate 50 years since the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar into the United Republic of Tanzania.

The United States remains committed to working with the people of Tanzania and building on the strong history of friendship between our nations.

We continue to work together in the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS, and we celebrate our shared achievements in agriculture, education, and the environment. These accomplishments lay the foundation for a more secure and prosperous future.

As you celebrate in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Zanzibar, the American people wish you a joyous and peaceful Union Day.

Hongera na Kila la kheri!

Secretary Kerry Issues Statement on the Republic of Togo’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Togo as you celebrate your independence on April 27.

Our two countries enjoy a strong partnership. The United States appreciates Togo’s efforts to promote regional peace, expand economic opportunity, and fight transnational crime.

We look forward to continuing to work together in the years to come.

Secretary Kerry Issues Statement On The Republic of Sierra Leone’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to Sierra Leoneans as you celebrate 53 years of independence on April 27.

We are all profoundly aware that Sierra Leone is becoming one of Africa’s greatest success stories. When I was Senator from
Massachusetts, the suffering of Sierra Leone was not just an issue on the Foreign Relations Committee; it became personal because my state became a haven to so many Sierra Leoneans fleeing violence and grievous wounds. I came to know children who had lost parents and parents who had carried on after losing their children. They dreamed of a day when their home would be peaceful again.

Today, that is much more than a dream. Sierra Leone is a model post-conflict country. Although so many lost so much during the civil war, we have proudly witnessed how Sierra Leoneans summoned the will to pick themselves up and rebuild their country.

We are pleased to continue helping train and equip Sierra Leone’s own troops. Sierra Leoneans are not just beneficiaries of peace.

They are performing admirably as contributors to peace and security not just across the region, but around the world.

There are still miles to go to build durable, democratic institutions, provide services, and improve governance. But Sierra Leoneans will not face these challenges alone. The United States remains deeply invested in peace and stability in Sierra Leone and will continue to lend its support.

On this historic occasion, we celebrate Sierra Leone’s progress and its promise for the future. I offer best wishes for a safe and joyous holiday.

Friday, April 25, 2014

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns Travels to Libya

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
April 23, 2014

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns is in Tripoli, Libya to meet with senior Libyan officials, including interim Prime Minister Thanaie and General National Congress First Deputy President Ezzidine Mohammed Al-Awami, and to hear from civil society and political leaders on the full range of issues related to Libya’s ongoing transition. This trip reaffirms U.S. support for the Libyan people as they work to achieve the aspirations of the revolution: a sovereign, democratic, prosperous, and secure country.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Travels to Nigeria

State Department Photo
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
April 24, 2014

Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) Rick Barton will travel to Nigeria April 24-29.

Assistant Secretary Barton will be in Nigeria for the premiere of “Dawn in the Creeks,” a CSO-funded, Nigerian-led television program that showcases stories of non-violent problem-solving in communities throughout the Niger Delta. Part of a mass media campaign led by a group of influential Nigerian leaders, including civic activists and Nollywood stars, the show will help to amplify a new narrative for the Niger Delta to drown out the adage that only violence pays.

The Assistant Secretary will also meet Nigerian Government officials to discuss preventing conflict and violence. He will also discuss non-violent problem-solving with members of the Niger Delta Legacy Board of Directors and local communities in Lagos and the Niger Delta.

For more on the Niger Delta work, visit CSO’s website.

More information on Assistant Secretary Barton and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations is available on Twitter and Facebook. For more information on the State Department’s work on civilian security, democracy, and human rights, follow @civsecatstate or visit

Secretary Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy Speak

File Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Department of State
Washington, DC
April 22, 2014

Today, Secretary Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy to inform him that he is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States – including by countering transnational threats such as terrorism and weapons proliferation – and that Egypt is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. He reaffirmed that Egypt remains, as it has been for decades, an important strategic partner for the United States. The Secretary noted that he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition. He urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy – including by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, and easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and the media – as Egypt will be more secure and prosperous if it respects the universal rights of its citizens.

U.S. Appoints Special Representative for the Central African Republic

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
April 22, 2014

The Bureau of African Affairs is pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador W. Stuart Symington as Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR).

As Special Representative, Ambassador Symington will play a leading role in shaping and coordinating U.S. strategy toward the CAR to end the violence, address humanitarian needs, and establish legitimate governance in CAR. He will work closely with African, European, and other bi-lateral partners, as well as with the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations, to address the complex security, political, economic, social, and assistance issues arising in CAR. Ambassador Symington’s extensive background in, and commitment to Africa, including as the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda and Djibouti and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Niger, make him an ideal candidate to help advance U.S. goals in CAR.

This Administration is deeply committed to stopping human suffering in CAR and supporting a peaceful and durable resolution to the ongoing crisis. The United States has committed up to $100 million this year to support the African Union and French forces that are currently working to restore security for the people of CAR. In addition, the United States is providing nearly $67 million in humanitarian assistance for CAR civilians, as well as $7.5 million for conflict mitigation, peace messaging, and human rights programs in CAR. We have sponsored high-level inter-religious dialogues to help establish a basis for national reconciliation in CAR.

We commend the leading role of the African Union and French forces in CAR, whose efforts have laid the groundwork for greater security in CAR, and we welcome the UN Security Council’s April 10 decision to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation. Ultimately, however, the people of the CAR hold their future in their own hands. We continue to urge all parties in CAR to end the violence, establish judicial mechanisms for ensuring accountability for those suspected of perpetrating human rights abuses, and move ahead toward an inclusive political transition process leading to democratic elections in February 2015 and a better future for all Central Africans.

Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to Visit U.S.

Office of the Press Secretary
April 15, 2014

On Monday, May 5, President Obama will host President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti at the White House. President Guelleh’s visit underscores the strength of the strategic partnership between the United States and Djibouti, including the important role Djibouti plays in preventing conflict, promoting regional stability, and countering extremism as host to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonnier. The President looks forward to discussing a range of issues of mutual interest with President Guelleh, including security and counterterrorism, development, trade, and energy cooperation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

U.S. Issues Statement on Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Guinea-Bissau

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 15, 2014

The United States congratulates the people of Guinea-Bissau on the successful completion of peaceful and orderly first-round elections on April 13. These elections are an important step toward building a more stable, prosperous, and democratic future for the Bissau-Guinean people.

We congratulate the Bissau-Guinean people for their patience and civic engagement, and commend the hard work of thousands of Bissau-Guineans who operated more than 3,000 polling stations throughout the country. Their dedicated efforts are powerful testimony of the strong desire of the people of Guinea-Bissau for constitutional and democratic government. We also recognize the Bissau-Guinean security services for their professional conduct on election day, which aided citizens in expressing their will without intimidation. We encourage them to continue to uphold those standards throughout the transition period as a newly-elected government takes office.

The United States looks forward to working with Guinea-Bissau as it seeks to return to democratic rule and to achieve lasting peace in the region. We urge the country’s leaders, both civilian and military, to hear the voice of their people and bring the political transition period to a successful conclusion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

President Obama's Message to the Young African Leaders Initiative

YALI Network – Connecting Young African Leaders with the U.S. and One Another

File Photo
By Macon Phillips
Coordinator, Bureau of International Information Programs
U.S.Department of State.

What do you do when nearly 50,000 young Africans apply for 500 spaces in President Obama’s inaugural Washington Fellowship program, the opportunity for young African leaders to learn new skills and build lasting partnerships in the United States?
President Obama announced his answer to this question today:

The Young African Leaders Initiative Network – or YALI Network – is a virtual community that connects young African leaders with resources from the U.S. government and to one another. Thousands of young Africans have already joined the YALI Network. They have participated in virtual programs, signed up for online courses, and are eager to shape Africa’s future. That’s why President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the United States are committed to helping them succeed.

With nearly two-thirds of Africa’s total population below the age of 35, it has never been more important to support these young African leaders as they gain the skills and develop the networks to thrive in business, government, and civil society.

Through the YALI Network, the United States can help these young African leaders as they strengthen their democratic institutions, spur their economies, and forge an enduring partnership between Africa and the United States.

To get the latest information about the Network, visit:
Macon Phillips (@Macon44) previously served as the White House’s Director of Digital Strategy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

President Obama’s Statement on the 20th Year Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide

Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, DC
April 6, 2014

We join with the people of Rwanda in marking twenty years since the beginning of the genocide that took the lives of so many innocents and which shook the conscience of the world. We honor the memory of the more than 800,000 men, women and children who were senselessly slaughtered simply because of who they were or what they believed. We stand in awe of their families, who have summoned the courage to carry on, and the survivors, who have worked through their wounds to rebuild their lives. And we salute the determination of the Rwandans who have made important progress toward healing old wounds, unleashing the economic growth that lifts people from poverty, and contributing to peacekeeping missions around the world to spare others the pain they have known.

At this moment of reflection, we also remember that the Rwandan genocide was neither an accident nor unavoidable. It was a deliberate and systematic effort by human beings to destroy other human beings. The horrific events of those 100 days—when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor—compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man. The genocide we remember today—and the world’s failure to respond more quickly—reminds us that we always have a choice. In the face of hatred, we must remember the humanity we share. In the face of cruelty, we must choose compassion. In the face of intolerance and suffering, we must never be indifferent. Embracing this spirit, as nations and as individuals, is how we can honor all those who were lost two decades ago and build a future worthy of their lives.

# # #

Thursday, April 10, 2014

US and Tunisia Issue Joint Statement

President Obama and Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, Oval Office
Photo Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing
Office of the Press Secretary
April 4, 2014

In their meeting today at the White House, President Obama and Prime Minister Jomaa reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Tunisia. The two leaders discussed the historic progress made in Tunisia as its political and civil society leaders have worked together to advance Tunisia’s democratic transition and secure a more peaceful and prosperous future for Tunisia. The two leaders also emphasized their commitment to advancing our shared interests in a secure, stable, and prosperous Maghreb, Africa, and Middle East and to furthering the strong friendship between the peoples of the United States and Tunisia.
Support for Tunisia’s Historic Democratic Transition:

Prime Minister Jomaa briefed President Obama on recent developments in Tunisia’s transition to democracy, including the ratification of the new Tunisian Constitution on January 26, 2014, that enshrines equality between women and men. He also noted the establishment of the Independent Elections Commission and the progress that the National Constituent Assembly has made towards finalizing an elections law. Prime Minister Jomaa reiterated the Tunisian government’s intention to give all necessary support to ensure the holding of free, fair, and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of 2014. The President commended the compromises made by all of Tunisia’s political parties to secure the country’s democratic progress and to set out a pathway towards elections later this year. He lauded Tunisia’s efforts to advance its democracy through the adoption of a progressive constitution that protects the rights of all its citizens. The President welcomed Tunisia’s efforts to hold elections this year and noted that the United States is prepared to provide additional assistance for the elections and to participate in the delegation of international election observers. Since the revolution began over three years ago, Tunisia has been a model in the region and beyond.

Advancing Economic Cooperation and Development:
The two leaders emphasized that the United States and Tunisia are dedicated to working together to promote economic development and business opportunities in Tunisia. The Prime Minister briefed the President on steps his government is taking to implement economic reforms, keep on track with its International Monetary Fund program, and improve Tunisia’s prospects for long-term economic stability. To respond to Tunisia’s near-term economic challenges and support the Prime Minister’s reform agenda, the President announced the Administration’s intent to provide a second loan guarantee for $500 million to facilitate Tunisia’s access to international capital markets.

The United States and Tunisia seek to broaden and deepen bilateral trade and business relations. To that end, the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council will next meet on June 16, 2014 in Tunis. The TIFA Council plans to address specific issues aimed at facilitating trade and investment, including in the areas of market access, entrepreneurship, information and communication technology services, and intellectual property. It also expects to explore additional ideas for building a more robust bilateral trade and investment relationship and for liberalizing the exchange of goods and services.

Recognizing the central role of the private sector in creating economic growth, the United States and Tunisia will organize a U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference this fall in Tunis that will bring a high-level U.S. business and government delegation to Tunisia.

Educational and Cultural Cooperation:
In keeping with the importance of people-to-people ties between Tunisia and the United States and of education for advancing long-term development, the United States has provided $10 million through the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship program to support Tunisian students . The United States has requested from Congress an additional $10 million to expand these opportunities to other deserving Tunisians. This effort builds on the long history of educational exchange under the U.S.-Tunisia Fulbright Program and other educational and cultural exchanges. Both leaders committed to strengthening ties and increasing mutual understanding between Tunisian and American youth and expanding the existing university linkage programs.

The Governments of Tunisia and the United States underscore their shared desire to enhance their cooperation by negotiating and concluding a new Science and Technology Agreement. Both sides stressed the economic, educational, and commercial benefits of expanded scientific and technological cooperation.

The President commended the Prime Minister for the support he expressed for Tunisia’s participation in the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative and for his dedication to the values it seeks to promote by connecting youth from all different age groups in the Middle East and North Africa with youth in the United States through virtual exchange.

Security and Counterterrorism Cooperation:
The United States and Tunisia have a shared interest in increasing security cooperation to address common threats in Tunisia and across the region. The two leaders committed to advancing increased bilateral contacts between our governments regarding security and defense cooperation, counterterrorism programs, and security assistance. They look forward to continued progress in these areas at the meeting of the Joint Military Commission to be held in Tunis in May 2014.

Broader cooperation on legal matters is a priority for both countries to help advance our security goals and to combat transnational crime. The leaders noted the progress made in negotiations on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and committed to finalizing the treaty as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Jomaa expressed to President Obama Tunisia’s deep and sincere regret for the September 14, 2012 attack against the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis. Prime Minister Jomaa stated that his government intends to do everything in its power to resolve remaining issues, including bringing to justice those involved in the attack. The Prime Minister emphasized the importance Tunisia places on the security of all diplomatic facilities in Tunisia and confirmed that Tunisia is continuing to provide all requested security assistance to U.S. Government facilities and personnel.

The President and the Prime Minister closed the meeting by emphasizing their shared commitment to advancing ties between the United States and Tunisia. They welcomed the progress made during the inaugural session of the U.S.-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue led by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi at the Department on April 3. They look forward to a future session of the U.S.-Tunisian Strategic Dialogue to be held in Tunis in 2015. Today’s meeting between the two leaders demonstrates the depth and breadth of the partnership and friendship between the United States and Tunisia as well as our shared commitment to supporting Tunisia’s historic democratic transition and its economic growth and security.

Sec. Kerry Speaks at Opening Plenary Sessions of U.S.-Algeria Strategic Dialogue

Photo: Algiers, Algeria
April 3, 2014

Shukran, thank you. Good morning, everybody. It’s nice to be here. I want to thank Foreign Minister Lamamra for his – Ramtane for his very thoughtful, very wise and encouraging opening comments, a really very comprehensive statement, Ramtane, with a great deal of thought about the things that we need to cooperate on and work on. So I’m particularly encouraged at the opening of this plenary session to have heard the broad prospects of increased cooperation between us. I want to thank you for your welcome here today, and particularly all the members of your team and the government for such a generous welcome. We’re really appreciative.

I want to thank our Ambassador, Henry Ensher, for his and the entire Embassy’s efforts that they perform on a daily basis here in order to build our relationship and to help to address many of the issues that we talk about (inaudible). And I particularly want to call attention to the fact that we have a very high-level, competent, experienced team here today. This is not a secondary effort. I’ve never seen one news outlet make as much effort to put its microphone right – kudos. (Laughter.)

But I want to say that our team is really ready to engage. We have people here who are deeply steeped in every sector that we will discuss today, who – I was about to say this is not a secondary stop. This is a very important moment for us because we believe deeply that this relationship can grow significantly, that there is much to be done to be able to advance our mutual interests. And in the end, diplomacy and relationships are built on the ability of countries to be able to find those interests and to find ways to be able to meet them together.

As Ramtane said to all of you, this is a relationship that goes way, way back, and it’s very special for us in the United States in that regard. The present-day American city of St. Augustine, Florida was actually founded 450 years ago in honor of a man from this corner of the world, the great scholar Augustine of Hippo. And as Ramtane mentioned a few moments ago, the treaty that was signed in 1795, the Amity and Peace Treaty that brought our countries together way back then, all the way through Algeria’s fight for independence – the United States and Algeria have worked together in support of peace and in support of self-determination.

And obviously, as a former senator for some 30 years and with the privilege of meeting John F. Kennedy as president, I am particularly proud of the fact that he did have that foresight to speak to Algeria’s rights as a country. And you have been through very difficult battles even since then in order to be able to live the right of self-determination and to be able to fulfill your dreams and aspirations.
So we come here today very sensitive to this history. We need to grow it. There’s much more that we can do. We need to trust each other. We need to build trust. And we need to think carefully about the challenges that we all face. This is a time when peace and self-determination are facing more complex threats than ever before, and it’s easy to say the words but it is not easy to achieve the goal. And I just want to say a word about that because it is what makes the cooperation between nations like ours so important.
Ramtane a moment ago said how Algeria is one of the strongest nations in the region, and it is one of the most homogenous, notwithstanding that there are moments of conflict. And the fact is that this country has resources, it has a civil society, it has people greatly committed to these values, and so there’s a natural ability for our nations to be able to come together. We face particular challenges.

Vast numbers of young people – actually all through Africa but throughout the region from the Maghreb to the Sahel into the Levant, all the way into South Asia – huge populations under the age of 30, nations where 60, 65 percent of the population is under the age of 30; 50 percent under the age of 21; 40 percent under the age of 18. The median age of Algeria is 27 years old. So we need to make sure that we can find jobs for these people, that their future is defined through education and opportunity, and not through IEDs and violence.

Those who offer the violence that comes with terrorism that Ramtane talked about don’t offer jobs. They don’t offer education. They don’t offer healthcare. They don’t have a program to pull the country together around its common identity. They destroy it. And they tell people, in a direct confrontation with modernity, that everybody has to do what they say and live the way they tell them. We’ve been through these struggles for too long as common humanity to be cowered by that, intimidated by it, or ruled by it. And so it is absolutely vital in this Strategic Dialogue that we work to find common ground.

And today, experts from both parties are going to participate in working groups that are focused on three areas: security, political cooperation, and economic and commercial opportunities, education and civil society engagement. So let me quickly just offer a few thoughts on each.

First and foremost, our security cooperation: The United States will absolutely continue to stand with Algeria to fight the scourge of terrorism which I just talked about. And we will continue to work with youth through the Global Counterterrorism Forum in order to combat drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, both of which fund terrorism in North and West Africa. We will look to increase our security assistance to Algeria. We really want to work in a cooperative way, and we want to do this so that Algerian security services have the tools and the training needed in order to defeat al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. And we will work to address the instability that has spread throughout the Maghreb and Sahel.

We are grateful, very grateful, for Algeria’s efforts in Mali and Niger which underscore Algeria’s constructive role in regional stability not only in the east, but to the south also. In the years to come, the United States hopes to partner with Algeria to build a more robust defense relationship based on mutual respect, and obviously, what I mentioned earlier, our shared interests. Together, we can help other nations in the region secure their borders, strengthen rule of law, and build stable democratic institutions.

Second, on our economic cooperation, we will do everything that we can in order to continue to strengthen business, trade, and investment ties between our countries. Joint efforts like the one that connected Algeria’s energy needs to General Electric’s energy expertise not only benefit both Algerians and Americans, but they also bring our economies closer together. And that’s why I’m very pleased to announce that our Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, will attend the Algeria International Trade Fair in June. And the United States is delighted to be the guest of honor at this year’s trade fair, which Secretary Moniz will be on hand to talk about opportunities that American companies in Algeria can unlock for Algerians and Americans together.

There are just an enormous amount – energy, as we think about the challenge of climate change in the world, as well as the challenges we see with the recent events of Ukraine – energy must not be used as a weapon, as a tool of conduct in international affairs. And it is vital for us to diversify and to find ways to produce as much low-cost energy as possible so it is available for growth and development throughout the world. We have an ability to build on that capacity in our partnership very significantly. We think there’s an ability for the United States technology to marry with Algerian ingenuity and creativity in order to be able to build economic strength, and so that’s a huge opportunity.

Third, on strengthening the people-to-people ties that are critical to the success of any international partnership, we have a number of important initiatives in place today. And we hope to see even more in the future. We look forward to building on programs like those that are funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative, aimed at strengthening civil society throughout the region, and the Fulbright student exchanges. That program here in Algeria is a very, very important one, time-honored between us. And in order to meet the extraordinarily high demand among Algerians to learn English, we are training more English teachers throughout the country. Every person in Algeria who wants to learn English ought to be able to have the opportunity to access the resources needed to do so, and we are working very, very hard to make that happen.

Finally, let me just mention quickly the external events that Ramtane referred to. It is critical for the world that we find a way to resolve the crisis of Syria, and we’re very appreciative for the cooperative effort with Algeria and other countries of the region to do so. We also believe there is no solution other than a political solution. There is no military solution. But we also believe that because of what has happened, the nature of the weapons used, gas, chemical bombs against children, indiscriminate killing of civilians, starvation as a tool of war, more then 140,000 people killed – we believe that it is impossible for Bashar al-Assad and his regime to ever regain the legitimacy to be able to govern the country. So the difficulty has been the absence of an ability to be able to change the dynamic where we can get that political solution, but we will remain committed, and we want to work with Algeria and others in order to help make that happen.

On the Middle East peace process, we remain committed. The parties met even last night and they are continuing to have their discussions. We will continue, no matter what, to try to facilitate the capacity of people to be able to make peace. But in the end, my friends, as all of you know, you can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises. The leaders have to lead, and they have to be able to see a moment when it’s there. There is an old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Now’s the time to drink, and the leaders need to know that.

Lastly, you have an election coming up here in Algeria two weeks from now. We look forward to elections that are transparent and in line with international standards, and the United States will work with the president that the people of Algeria choose in order to bring about the future that Algeria and its neighbors deserve. And that is a future where citizens can enjoy the free exercise of their civil, political, and human rights, and where global companies, businesses, are confident in being able to invest for the long haul.
So I look forward to the developments that come out of the working group meetings today. I particularly look forward. President Obama is very, very anxious to see this working effort, this dialogue produce a stronger relationship. President Obama is committed to enhancing the cooperation between the United States and Algeria in the months and years to come, and it’s a privilege to be here.

One last thing: We will cooperate in everything except the World Cup, where our teams may have to clash. (Laughter.) Thank you. (Applause.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

First Generation American From Ghana Accepted Into All 8 Ivy League Colleges

Photo: William Floyd School District
Story: Greg Toppo, USATODAY

In the next month, Kwasi Enin must make a tough decision: Which of the eight Ivy League universities should he attend this fall?
A first-generation American from Shirley, N.Y., the 17-year-old violist and aspiring physician applied to all eight, from Brown to Yale.
The responses began rolling in over the past few months, and by late last week when he opened an e-mail from Harvard, he found he’d been accepted to every one. School district officials provided scanned copies of acceptance letters from all eight Monday. Yale confirmed that it was holding a spot for Enin.

The feat is extremely rare, say college counselors — few students even apply to all eight, because each seeks different qualities in their freshman class. Almost none are invited to attend them all. The Ivy League colleges are among the nation’s most elite.

“My heart skipped a beat when he told me he was applying to all eight,” says Nancy Winkler, a guidance counselor at William Floyd High School, where Enin attends class. In 29 years as a counselor, she says, she’s never seen anything like this. “It’s a big deal when we have students apply to one or two Ivies. To get into one or two is huge. It was extraordinary.”

For most of the eight schools, acceptance comes rarely, even among the USA’s top students. At the top end, Cornell University admitted only 14% of applicants. Harvard accepted just 5.9%.

But Enin has “a lot of things in his favor,” says college admissions expert Katherine Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, a New York-based consulting firm.

For one thing, he’s a young man. “Colleges are looking for great boys,” Cohen says. Application pools these days skew heavily toward girls: The U.S. Department of Education estimates that females comprised 57% of college students in degree-granting institutions last year. Colleges — especially elite ones — are struggling to keep male/female ratios even, so admitting academically gifted young men like Enin gives them an advantage.

He ranks No. 11 in a class of 647 at William Floyd, a large public school on Long Island’s south shore. That puts him in the top 2% of his class. His SAT score, at 2,250 out of 2,400 points, puts him in the 99th percentile for African-American students.

He will also have taken 11 Advanced Placement courses by the time he graduates this spring. He’s a musician who sings in the school’s a capella group and volunteers at Stony Brook University Hospital’s radiology department. Enin plans to study medicine, as did both of his parents. They immigrated to New York from Ghana in the 1980s and studied at public colleges nearby. Both are nurses.
Being a first-generation American from Ghana also helps him stand out, Cohen says.

Enin says he got the idea to apply to all eight in 10th or 11th grade, discovering that each has “their own sense of school spirit” and other qualities he liked. He also applied to three State University of New York campuses and Duke — and yes, they have all accepted him.

In a phone interview, Enin said Princeton so far has offered the most generous aid package. But he has yet to get offers from Columbia, Cornell or Harvard. Either way, he’ll need to accept a place in the class of 2018 somewhere by May 1. He wants to pursue both music and medicine.

Cohen says he’s “sitting in a very good place right now — I think he can negotiate the very best financial aid package he can get” at his top-choice school. “Almost any of them would do anything for this type of candidate,” Cohen says.

She advises that Enin call or write each of the eight and let them know that he’s got a slot in each other’s freshman class. They’ll compete to get him to show up in the fall.

Once he decides, she says, he should write letters to the seven runners-up saying he’s “honored to have been admitted.” After all, he’s got to keep his options open for graduate school.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

US Delegation to Attend 20th Year Commemoration of Rwandan Genocide

File Photo – Rwandan National Flag
Office of the Press Secretary
March 28, 2014

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Rwanda to attend the 20th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide on April 7, 2014.

The Honorable Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:
. The Honorable Donald W. Koran, United States Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda, Department of State
. The Honorable Karen Bass, Member of the United States House of Representatives (CA-37)
. The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
. The Honorable Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Department of State
. The Honorable Russell Feingold, Special Representative for the African Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Department of State
. The Honorable Michael Gerson, Senior Fellow at the ONE Campaign and Columnist for the Washington Post
. Mrs. Christine Hjelt, former Program Coordinator for the United States Agency for International Development

National Museum of African Art Turns 50

Honorary Campaign Chair Maya Angelou’s Video Launches Celebrations
March 24, 2014
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014–2015, presenting a series of public programs and exhibits to commemorate the opening of the original Capitol Hill museum founded by Warren Robbins June 3, 1964, in a townhouse that was originally the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass from 1871–1877. The anniversary year will honor Robbins’ vision of “cross-cultural communication through education in the arts of Africa.”

Maya Angelou, the honorary chair of the museum’s national campaign, is featured in a three-minute video about the importance of the museum and what it has to offer the American public.

“It gives me great pleasure to be the honorary chair of the National Museum of African Art’s national campaign as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary,” said Angelou. “To celebrate African art is to celebrate our shared humanity. I want everyone to visit the museum to enjoy the wonderful exhibitions, performances, workshops and lectures.” Video is available on AMIP’s home page, mid left section.

Visitors will experience special performances and events this year intended to inspire and encourage them to learn more about the people and cultures of Africa and its diaspora through the museum’s longstanding collection of traditional and contemporary African art, as well as music, dance, film, lecture, celebrity tours and art workshops. Additional information can be found on the museum’s website. Friends of the museum are encouraged to follow updates on Facebook and Twitter; the hashtag for the 50th anniversary is #Africanartat5

50th Anniversary Highlights

• “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone” will be open at the museum April 9 through Aug. 17. The exhibition features 70 artworks from the collection of William Siegmann (1943–2011) that survey the traditional arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

• “Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin” Nigeria opens Sept 17. This major exhibition showcases the photographs of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911–1994), one of Nigeria’s premier photographers and the first official photographer to the Royal Court of Benin. Alonge’s historic photographs document the rituals, pageantry and regalia of the court for more than a half-century and provide rare insight into the early history and practice of studio photography in West Africa.

• An opera commissioned by the National Museum of African Art and created by Tony Small will celebrate the cross-cultural influences of Oman and East Africa. Mezzo soprano Denyce Graves will perform in and direct part of it; it will be choreographed by Ray Mercer of the Lion King. The opera will be performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in September.

Throughout 2014 the museum will offer special discounts and early bird specials to members on its signature programs, including the Director’s Discussion Series, Africa Underground and more.

About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is America’s only museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines.

For more information about this exhibition, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.