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ssistant Secretary Carson Outlines U.S.-Africa Priorities

Assistant Secretary Carson Outlines U.S.-Africa Priorities

By Charles W. Corey Staff Writer

Washington - The United States government is very much focused and enga= ged on a wide array of issues across the African continent, and WikiLea= ks has not distracted U.S. officials in any way from their overall goal= of building a strong U.S.-Africa partnership, Assistant Secretary of S= tate for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told reporters December 9.

First on the list of U.S.-Africa priorities, Carson told reporters who = had called in to Washington from across sub-Saharan Africa, is C=F4te d= 'Ivoire, where "it is the determination of the U.S. government to do ev= erything that we possibly can to ensure that the votes of all Ivorians = are counted and respected and that the legitimately elected president .= . Alassane Ouattara is allowed to take office ... as reflected by the = votes" cast in the country's November 28 election.

Additionally, he said, the U.S. government is very much focused on Suda= n. "All of you know that today is December 9. Exactly one month from to= day ... the people of South Sudan will have an opportunity to participa= te in a referendum to determine whether they will remain a part of a un= ited Sudan or whether they will vote for independence. The registration= of voters," he said, "has just been completed and we are extremely opt= imistic that things are moving in the right direction in the South." Ca= rson cautioned, however, that there are still "many hurdles and obstacl= es to be overcome before January 9."

Another area of focus, he said, is the Lord's Resistance Army and its c= ontinued activities in Africa from the eastern Congo to the Sudanese bo= rder. Carson called the group "one of the most pernicious rebel groups = on the continent."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Nigerian Foreig= n Minister Odein Ajumogobia on December 9 and nex= t week will meet with South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Masha= bane. Those meetings, Carson said, are "part of our strategic dialogues= , which we established a year ago" with Nigeria, South Africa and Angol= a.

Carson said top priorities in Africa remain the same: strengthening dem= ocracy, good governance and adherence to the rule of law. "This is why = we have focused a lot on developments in C=F4te d'Ivoire and why we app= laud the successful end to the electoral contest in Guinea-Conakry, whe= re this past week we saw for the first time in 50 years a democraticall= y elected president installed in that country. We wish President Alpha = Cond=E9 well as he leads his country forward. We also applaud his oppos= ition candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo, for accepting the will of the pe= ople, accepting the outcome of the vote and stepping aside without cont= estation and saying that he will focus on the new government and focus = his new electoral efforts on upcoming parliamentary elections."

Another priority for the United States, Carson said, is to "do everythi= ng we can to continue to help African countries grow their economies, s= trengthen economic reform and provide job opportunities and economic pr= osperity to all of their people. It is important that Africa continue t= o make the strong economic strides that are essential to providing a be= tter life for the people of the continent."

Thirdly, Carson said, the United States seeks to help prevent and stop = conflicts. "While the number of conflicts in Africa has sharply decreas= ed over the last decade and a half, there remain serious conflicts in c= onflict zones in Somalia, Sudan and in the eastern Congo. We want to wo= rk as we have been doing in Sudan, to ensure that there is a full imple= mentation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to bring an end to t= he humanitarian and political crisis that has made life so difficult an= d hard for hundreds of thousands of people who reside in Darfur."

Fourthly, the United States seeks to work with Africa to help it addres= s its public health problems, from HIV/AIDS to other maladies such as m= alaria, cholera and tuberculosis. "President Obama is committed to doin= g everything he can through his Global Health Initiative to help Africa= address its medical problems," Carson said.

Fifthly, Carson said, the United States is focused on transnational iss= ues that affect Africa, America and all regions of the world equally. "= These are issues that we have to confront as an international community= , or these things will slowly erode our global fabric," he said. They i= nclude drug trafficking, human trafficking, climate change, piracy, ter= rorism and violent extremism. To address these issues effectively, he s= aid, "we need partnerships and collaboration."

Carson told reporters WikiLeaks has not distracted U.S. officials in th= eir effort to advance a strong U.S.-Africa partnership.

While refusing to comment on any specific diplomatic cables, Carson sai= d: "Embassies carry on candid, sensitive discussions with Washington an= d Washington officials, but no one cable, no group of cables, reflect t= he policy of the United States. They are a snapshot in time, perhaps ab= out one small issue or concern, but they do not represent the totality = of all of the interests that we have."

The cables that have come to light as a result of WikiLeaks are the "eq= uivalent of reading private correspondence between you and your wife," = Carson said, "in which you in fact may be talking about your mother-in-= law or father-in-law, both of whom you love dearly, but you may in fact= have some disagreements about the suits that they wear or the shoes th= at they put on in the morning. This is stolen information" and he asked= that people not trade in "stolen mail."


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