September 25, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor at a Joint Press Availability – United States Department of State

26 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Pretoria, South Africa

Department of International Relations and Cooperation

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to Minister Pandor and Secretary Blinken.  We are going to start with our press conference.  My colleague and I will be facilitating.  Minister Pandor and Secretary Blinken will make statements, after which we will take questions.  The agreement is that we’ll take two questions from the South African side and the American side, and then we’ll be concluding.  Thank you for your cooperation, and a good crowd.  So Minister Pandor, would you prefer the ministers to speak from here or from where they are sitting?  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  It’s fine there.

QUESTION:  It’s fine there.

MODERATOR:  Where they’re sitting?  Excellent.

MINISTER PANDOR:  Well, good afternoon, everyone. We have spent most of the day speaking, and so I don’t really think we need to say more except to confirm that we’ve had extensive and excellent deliberations on a wide range of issues, some of which I’m sure will form the substance of the questions that you wish to pose.  We’ve confirmed the good standing of the relationship between South Africa and the United States of America.  It’s a very extensive partnership in which we cooperate in a wide range of sectors.  We had reports from four commissions that are part of our bilateral strategic structure.

We should have this kind of political dialogue on a regular basis, but we’ve had a hiatus for almost eight years.  But we’ve agreed that this is going to be a – an interaction that takes place on a regular basis.  I have had many opportunities to hold meetings and discussions with Secretary Blinken, and I’ve always found him open to listening and to sharing perspective on various world affairs.  So having said that, I’ll now hand over to him.

Secretary Blinken, over to you, and then I think we should allow the (inaudible).

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Naledi, thank you very, very much.  I may slightly abuse the privilege of having a captive audience in saying a few things, starting with the fact that it’s just an honor and a pleasure to be with you, to be here in Pretoria.  We have a joint vision, a Strategic Dialogue to get together, and I would just underscore there were nearly 50 officials and experts from across the U.S. Government, and that really is a testament to our commitment to the partnership between South Africa and the United States.  And I’m also extremely pleased to be joined today by our ambassador-designate to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, who arrived at his new post just in time for this visit and will be presenting his credentials to the president very soon.

I think for so many Americans – and I include myself among them – South Africa holds a special place in our hearts.  I was last here in 2013 with President Obama, and I remember still his words about how South Africa and the United States have been bound together throughout our history, how the freedom fighters of our Civil Rights Movement back in the United States inspired those fighting for freedom and equality here in South Africa, and how the movement against Apartheid here in turn inspired a generation of activists in the United States and well beyond.

And I had a chance to reflect on that a little bit yesterday – those of you who were with us at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto honoring the 12-year-old boy who was killed by police in 1976 during anti-Apartheid protests.  His remarkable sister, Antoinette, met us at the museum, and one of the things she talked to me about was how badly her brother wanted an education for himself, for her, for all the children in the community.  Hector and others valued something every child everywhere is entitled to.  That profound wrong galvanized global action in support of justice and equality – another demonstration of how what happens in South Africa reverberates well beyond South Africa, indeed around the world.

And still today, as two great constitutional democracies, our countries face the challenge of ensuring that all of our people can participate fully and freely in our political systems and have equal access to justice and economic opportunity.  Here too, I think our countries can learn from each other and I hope make progress together.

Today, South Africa is a leading global voice on global health, the climate crisis, democracy, security, so much else.  The South African economy is renowned for its cutting-edge tech sector, for pioneering work in medicine.  A very vibrant press is ranked as one of the freest in the world.  Cultural contributions are vast.  Universities draw students from pretty much everywhere.  In short, what happens here and the reason we’re here is because what happens in South Africa really does shape the world.  And that’s why we’re so committed to this partnership, because fundamentally we believe that together we can deliver more progress for the people of our two countries and many others across a whole range of issues that matter most to their lives and their futures.

So we had the Strategic Dialogue this morning, and I won’t go through it in detail.  We talked a little bit about it with all of you present at the start.  I think you know that it covers the four areas that President Ramaphosa and President Biden laid out after their conversation earlier this year –   health, climate, infrastructure, trade – issues that are critical to the well-being of our countries, to their security, to the strength of our economies, but especially to the well-being of our people.  So a number of things came out of this that I know we will put out and summarize in each of these areas, so I won’t belabor that for today.

But I think what’s so important is we agreed not only to shared approaches on a number of issues but also to concrete steps that we are going to take to deepen our cooperation.  And the foreign minister and I talked about the importance not only of trying to forge a shared perspective, but actually implementing what we say and holding ourselves accountable to the progress that we’ve agreed to make.

So I think that’s the most important thing coming out of today.  Let me just add quickly that beyond our bilateral relationship, which is what the Strategic Dialogue focused on, our countries are poised to drive progress together across the region and around the world.  We talked about a whole range of leading global issues today, including regional security challenges, the future of multilateralism and the United Nations, and global food security.

We’ve seen the repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine which are felt across the planet and especially across Africa in rising food and energy prices.  We’ve supported the efforts by the United Nations and Turkey to broker a deal so that Ukraine can start shipping all of the agricultural commodities that had been held back by Russia blocking their export.  We’re committed to helping as many people as possible suffering from rising food insecurity.

Since the Russian aggression began, we have provided $5.5 billion in food aid worldwide.  A few days ago, our Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced an additional $150 million in humanitarian funding for Africa.  But we also want to strengthen the foundation of food security across Africa, to increase local agricultural capacity, local resilience, so that more people have access to affordable, nutritious food over the long term, not just in response to an emergency.

Finally, a little bit later today I’m going to have an opportunity to speak to our broader approach to Sub-Saharan Africa.  For now, let me say this:  Across all of the work that we’re doing together, what we seek most of all is a true partnership between the United States and Africa.  We don’t want an imbalanced or transactional relationship.  And our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone else.  We’ve all heard that narrative, that South Africa and the continent as a whole are the latest playing field in the competition between great powers.  That is fundamentally not how we see it.  It’s not how we’ll advance our engagement.

The truth is South Africa is a powerful, dynamic country helping write the future of the region and the world.  We know in the United States by working together in the spirit of a true partnership we can advance a whole host of mutual interests and the collective interest.  We can do good for our people, we can do good for our countries, we can do some good for the world.  So that’s really what today is about, and that’s what we want this relationship to be about.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Excellencies.  We will now take a question from the SABC’s foreign editor, Ms. Sophie Mokoena.  There’s a roving microphone in front of you.  Please, go ahead, Ms. Mokoena.

QUESTION:  Thank you, my name is Sophie Mokoena from the South African Broadcasting Corporation.  Secretary of State and Minister, you spoke about world affairs.  As we speak, the war in Ukraine, South Africa and the U.S. holding to frank views, and then you have a situation in the Middle East, the Gaza conflict.  We saw what happened a few days ago.  And finally, in Asia, the visit of the Speaker of the U.S. Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has also caused a major tension between the U.S. and China.  What is it that both countries can do in maintenance of peace and prosperity, looking at these three issues?

And finally, the elections in Kenya, your message on the eve of the elections, the biggest economy in East Africa?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Naledi, would you like me to start?

MINISTER PANDOR:  Yes, please..

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There’s a lot there.  Let’s see if I can – first of all, on the eve of elections, we, and I think everyone in the region and beyond is watching to see that they go forward peacefully, freely, openly, and that’s certainly our expectation.

Let me try and put this in broader context because in our conversations that we’ve had over many months but also that we had today, there is a fundamental agreement between us.  And that is that this is a time of tremendous challenge across a whole host of issues that are affecting our people – obviously COVID, also climate change, also the impact of new technologies on all of our lives.  And the shared desire of the United States and South Africa is to focus our energies, our attention, our resources, our time, to engaging these issues.  That’s what I think our people expect, and that’s where – what we prefer to be doing.

So we don’t seek conflict anywhere.  We did not want the Russian aggression against Ukraine.  We tried very hard to – diplomatically to ward it off because that’s not how we want to be spending our time.  And similarly, the reaction now by China with regard to Taiwan and the military actions it’s taken allegedly in response to the peaceful visit of a member of our Congress, that too doesn’t help things.

Nor does the fact that China has said it’s ceasing cooperation with the United States on dealing with climate change.  That’s not punishing the United States; that’s punishing the entire – the entire world and especially the developing world, and notably Africa, because China and the United States are the number one and number two emitters in the world.  We have a special responsibility to make sure that we’re leading on dealing with climate change.  It’s deeply unfortunate that China has chosen, for now at least, to stop that engagement.

So my point is I think there is profound agreement between us that we want to be spending our time focused on the issues that are really having an impact on the lives of our people, and together – that’s what we did with the Strategic Dialogue today – we can make a real difference.  But it’s also important that when some of the basic principles of the international system, of the international order are being challenged, that we stand up and defend them.

So the problem that we have with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is that it’s not only an aggression against another country, it’s an aggression against the foundational principles of the international system.  Multilateralism is something that we both believe in and invest in.  The United Nations Charter, which puts at its heart the sovereignty and independence of nations, and it was created in large part to try to – after two World Wars to make sure that there wasn’t another one.  And the basic principles that it established were designed to do that.

But if we allow a big country to bully a smaller one, to simply invade it and take its territory, then it’s going to be open season not just in Europe but around the world.  It will have repercussions here and repercussions everywhere, which is why we’ve felt it important to stand up for those principles.  And we hope to see, as the Ukrainian president has said, this resolved diplomatically over time.  But meanwhile, we have to defend the proposition that Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence matter.  They matter to Ukrainians, but they also matter to the world.

On the Middle East, I’ll just say that we’re pleased to see that there is apparently a ceasefire now, and I want to note the important role that Egypt has played in helping to achieve that.  We’ve talked about this a lot over these months and again today.  It’s very important that all of the parties also find ways to pursue peace, to pursue a resolution of their differences.  It’s been very encouraging to see, for example, Israel and so many countries in the region normalize their relationships.  That’s good for peace.  That’s good for security.  It’s good for the well-being of people.  But it’s also not a substitute for resolving the differences between Israel and the Palestinians.  And we believe strongly in the need to find a two-state solution that has, for Palestinians and Israelis alike, equal measures of democracy, dignity, and opportunity, and we’ll keep working toward that.

MINISTER PANDOR:  Thanks very much, Tony, and thank you, Sophie.

Firstly, on the matter of Russia and Ukraine, there is no one in South Africa who supports war.  We’ve made that very clear.  And we have said that we wish to see intensified efforts at increased diplomacy utilizing the good offices of the United Nations, particularly the secretary-general and other leaders who may be of weight in terms of persuading the interlocutors to come around a table and negotiate a settlement of this awful conflict.

This is the position of South Africa.   We support a search for peace.  We are appalled by war.  We abhor war because it brings untold suffering, which is something we experienced under Apartheid.  So this is the position that we have.

With respect to the role that multilateral bodies such as the United Nations should play, we believe that all principles that are germane to the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law must be upheld for all countries, not just some.  Just as much as the people of Ukraine deserve their territory and freedom, the people of Palestine deserve their territory and freedom.  And we should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine.

We’ve not seen an even-handed approach in the utilization of the prescripts of international law, and we encourage that the world should have greater attention to ensuring that we are equal to everybody else.  This has been a concern, and this is what at times leads to cynicism about international bodies and a lack of belief in their ability to protect the weakest and most marginalized.  We have to change that belief and cynicism and ensure that all international institutions treat all human beings in a fashion that shows them – whether we are ICC, ICJ, UN Security Council, G20, EU, whoever we are – we will protect those interests.

Also, on Taiwan, clearly as South Africa we have very clear separation between the executive and the legislature.  And recently, the speaker of the national assembly was invited to be part of a group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a group of speakers who were a delegation that would visit Ukraine.  I could not say to the speaker, “Speaker, don’t go there, don’t go there.”  It is parliament’s decision as to what they do.  This is what separation of power means.  So I think for us, decisions by presiding officers, whether we agree with them or not, as the executive they would have to live with our decisions, we have to live with their decisions and repair any breaches in relations that they may cause.  That’s our duty to do that.

Of course, we welcome the ceasefire in Palestine.  However, we do express concern that many civilians have been killed, infrastructure that provides services to ordinary civilians has been destroyed, the people of Palestine are living in buildings that are shells.  And this worries us, having experienced Apartheid ourselves and living in corridors.  So we do think there’s world for the work – work for the world to do insuring that we create peace in the territory of Palestine and have a two-state solution where you have two nations existing in peace side by side.

We also think we’re not satisfied that there’s been an independent investigation of the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, and we still call for a full, independent investigation and a full report on who actually shot her, because you can’t say bullets shot a person.  It’s an individual who wields the gun, and we need to get to the truth of that.  This is what will show that we are truly committed to being honest and even-handed toward all people, and in particular toward media practitioners, who must be given the security to practice their craft.

On the elections in Kenya, we’ve been very pleased that thus far the campaign up to its end yesterday seemed to have been largely peaceful.  We hope that the election which occurs on our Women’s Day in South Africa, that it will result in a stable, free, and fair election.  We wish the people of Kenya well in this process.  We recall the last election, and we are hoping that tomorrow everyone will be able to exercise their democratic right to vote in a condition of peace and security.

MR PRICE:  Missy Ryan from Washington Post.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  First for you – oh, sorry.

First for you, Minister Pandor, the U.S. Government has been adamant, as Secretary Blinken just reinforced, that it is not asking African nations to choose between Russia and China and the West.  At the same time, the United States clearly is hoping to marshal support at the UN and elsewhere for its isolation of Russia along with American allies.  You made reference in a recent article to the failure on the part of some to appreciate the principles of sovereignty and freedom of choice that African nations must consider in this regard.  Do you think that the United States and its European allies sufficiently appreciate the complex interests of African nations in this arena, and did you discuss that today with Secretary Blinken?

And then, Secretary Blinken, for you:  One thing we noticed during Foreign Minister Lavrov’s recent African visit was his promotion of Russia’s model of arms sales with few strings attached, and the fact that Russia typically refrains from criticizing African nations on human rights.  I know you’ve talked about an affirmative American vision for the continent, but how do you see that competing with the appeal that easy access to arms or state-backed loans from China might have to some leaders in Africa?  And just really quickly, how would you respond to the minister’s statement she just made about inconsistency on the part of some global actors in regard to principles the U.S. is advocating for in the Ukraine conflict, which seemed to be an allusion to the U.S. position in the conflict in the Middle East?  Thanks.

MINISTER PANDOR:  Well, let me start this time.  I’m glad that Secretary Blinken has confirmed that America is not asking us to choose.  I don’t recall any attempt by the United States to do that.  But in terms of our interaction with some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying toward “you choose this or else,” and the recent legislation passed in the United States of America by the House of Representatives we found a most unfortunate bill that we had hoped the media would say more about.  Because when we believe in freedom – as I’m saying, it’s freedom for everybody – you can’t say because Africa is doing this, you will then be punished by the United States.  So that’s been a disappointing passage of legislation by one house, and we hope the other house will not agree to such offensive legislation.

So indeed, it is important that all of us accept our ability to hold different opinions.  We are, after all, sovereign nations that are regarded as equal in terms of the United Nations Charter.  We may differ in terms of economic power and economic ability to influence development in different parts of the world, but what will make the world work is if we respect each other.  This is very, very important.  And one thing I definitely dislike is being told “either you choose this or else.”  When a minster speaks to me like that, which Secretary Blinken has never done but some have, I definitely will not be bullied in that way, nor would I expect any other African country worth its salt to agree to be treated.

On Russia, I’ve tried so many times to explain to so many people, Russia is a very negligible economic partner for South Africa.  Our trade with Russia is less than $4 billion annually compared to the $20 billion that I referred to earlier with respect to the United States.  So this fear that we exist under some push is, I think, a totally – a really unfounded belief in the relationship that we have with either country.  And we’ve been quite clear in saying we really advocate peace because we knew what would happen.  We knew there’d be destruction, there’d be death, there’d be desolation.  And that’s what we’re all seeing.  And what we’ve always asked is: where is this going to end?  Let us make every effort to get peace.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think the most important point I would want to emphasize is what Neladi just touched on and also what you noted in your question, which is, first, as we’re here in South Africa – we’ll be going on to the DRC and Rwanda; I’ve spent time in Nigeria, Kenya, other places – and again, the purpose of our engagement, which I’ll talk about at some length a little bit later this afternoon in laying out our broader approach to Africa, is about Africa, is about the relationship between us, is about what we can do together as partners to the benefit of our own people and I think to the benefit of people around the world.

By 2050, one in four people on this planet will be African.  Over the next couple of years, half the population of this continent will be 25 years old or younger.  So this is the future, quite literally.  And what we’re investing in is that future.  And this gets to the point that when it comes to other countries that may be engaged here, our purpose is not to say you have to choose; it’s to, in effect, offer a choice.  And the choice that we offer – at least that we hope and expect to offer – is an affirmative one, a positive one, where we hope together to engage in a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s health, whether it’s climate, whether it’s security.

And on security, I think what we’re seeing Russia mostly export to the most challenged places on the continent is its proxy, the Wagner Group, which is resulting in increased death and destruction in far too many countries.  But part of the reason that the Wagner Group has some traction is that in the absence of an alternative to building security, countries may sign on and sign up.  So this comes to offering an alternative.  Congress passed and we’re implementing something called the Global Fragility Act, which allows us to focus resources in a sustained way and in a comprehensive way in helping countries, mostly in Africa, address challenges in a way that does not lead to violence, to insecurity, to terrorism; that tries to get ahead of the problem.

And our perspective on security is, yes, there is obviously an important part for the hard security element of this, including arms sales with principles that we attach to it.  But that is, while necessary, totally insufficient.  And what we really need and what we’re focused on is a much more holistic approach that gets at some of the root causes that lead to state failure, that lead to people having deep frustration and seeing no hope for the future, and changing that trajectory.  So that’s our focus.  I’ll speak a little bit more about it in just a little while.

In terms of inconsistency, sure, I think it’s – we have these conversations, and we like to think that we’re engaged consistently on every issue.  But we all have our shortcomings, and we can probably look back at a number of things that suggest that we’re applying principles in one place in one way but not the same way in another.  And that’s a really important conversation to have, and I learned a tremendous amount from my friend and colleague in having these conversations.

But in the case here, whether it’s Ukraine and the aggression by Russia, whether it’s Taiwan and China, or whether it’s the Middle East, we are working to uphold some of these basic principles.  We may have different ways we think it most effective to do it in a given case.  But again, in the case of the Middle East, we both believe strongly in a two-state solution; we both believe strongly in the need for Israelis and Palestinians to live with equal measures of democracy, of opportunity, of dignity; we both believe strongly that diplomacy is the most important tool that we can bring to bear on any problem, any challenge.

Now, within that there may be different tactical approaches.  There may be concerns that we’re spending too much time on one thing and not enough on another, and that’s exactly what we talk about.  And one of the great strengths of the relationship that we have is we talk about things and lay out our differences in how we approach problems.  And what I find is I learn a tremendous amount from each one of these conversations.

MODERATOR:  Right, last but one question, Ziyanda Ngcobo, Newsroom Africa.  There’s the microphone behind you.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Ziyanda Ngcobo from Newsroom Africa.  Quite important that Minister Pandor mentioned the Section 232 tariffs which I think would speak to the implementation part of the two countries’ cooperation.  Was there any discussion, then, on the removal of these – the Section 232 tariffs on aluminium and steel inputs?  How soon would that happen as well, and at what percentage?

And then with regards to Rwanda and the DRC, Secretary Blinken, you’ll be heading there next, but of course, you’ll know about that report which basically said that there’s hard proof that Rwanda is funding the M23 rebels in the eastern part of DRC.  So what will your approach be as you’ll also be visiting both these countries?  As you prepare for that visit, what kind of stance will you be taking going in?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I don’t want to put words in my colleague’s mouth.  I think I can safely say that, yes, this question of the tariffs was raised, but I’ll let the minister address that.  And similarly, my colleagues back home in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office are looking at this as we speak, and – but I’ll defer to them about that process.

I also don’t want to get ahead of the visit to the DRC and to Rwanda except to say that I think there are deep concerns about the violence that we’ve seen, about the potential for that getting worse and spreading in eastern Congo.  And there is a shared determination to see if, through our own diplomacy in coordination with other partners, we can help reduce the tension, reduce the violence and help put these countries on a path to both resolving their differences, but also looking at what steps can be taken to actually address the well-being of the people who live particularly in eastern Congo, and to make sure that we’re focused on that.  But I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the next couple of days.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  Edward Wong, New York Times.

QUESTION:  Hello.  Secretary Blinken, our understanding is that the Blinken administration’s approach to Africa and its Africa strategy is predicated on democracy promotion and a promotion of open society as the underpinning for its priorities here.  There’s been a history of many American projects that are done under the name of democracy promotion ending poorly or with disastrous outcomes, whether it’s during the Cold War or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.  How will that approach be different here in Africa and lead to different outcomes?  And why is the approach seemingly different in a place like the Middle East, where you don’t have the same demands of partners like the UAE or Saudi Arabia compared to your approach in Africa?

And for Minister Pandor, do you think that this emphasis on democracy will be well received across all of Africa given the different political systems and traditions here on the continent, or do you think there will be some pushback against this?  And in the case of what Secretary Blinken views as America’s main challenger, which is China, that country doesn’t make these kinds of demands of political assistance or governance in its diplomatic relations, so do you think that will give China an advantage in some areas in its dealings in Africa?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Ed, very much.  I’m tempted to say stay tuned because we’ll talk about this in a couple of hours, I think at the minister’s alma mater, which I’m really looking forward to.  And this – the question you raised is part and parcel of what I’ll be talking about, but maybe for now just a couple of things.

First, this is not our demand, insistence, whatever you want to call it, for democracy.  It’s a reflection of what people in Africa want and are looking for.  And that’s clear in poll after poll.  They want openness.  They want the ability of – on an individual basis, of communities, and countries for that matter, to choose their own path.  And that’s – that’s what we’re focused on.

But fundamentally, our proposition is that as a democracy – and we happen to be two of the leading constitutional democracies – or countries that aspire to strengthen their democracies, or for that matter countries that may be falling back from democracy, the challenge is, as we’ve said and President Biden has talked about a lot, the need to demonstrate in very concrete ways that democracies actually deliver for their people.  That’s what our focus is.

And so as we’re focused between us in this Strategic Dialogue on these core issues that go to the heart of what people are looking for now, similarly in Africa writ large you’ll see a focus on similar issues and an effort to demonstrate that in partnership we can actually make a difference in the lives of our citizens.  That’s what the approach is about.  That’s what the strategy is about.  And we happen to believe that in order to do that effectively, in order to do it equitably, that democracy is the best system for doing that.  But it has to continuously prove itself, and that’s a lot of what we’ll be talking about this afternoon.

So let me leave it there for now and just ask you to stay tuned, and we’ll come back to it in a few hours.

MINISTER PANDOR:  Thank you very much for the question.  I think that when you approach a strategy you need to think very carefully about the kinds of tactics that you would utilize.  So your overall strategic intention might be to advocate for democracy and support its presence on the African continent.  However, if your tactic is to approach African countries and say that, listen, you must be democratic either and use our model, it works, I think it’s bound to lead to some failure.

I do agree with Tony that all countries and peoples deserve the right to exercise their civil and political rights, but I think given history the approach has to be somewhat different.  And I would recommend a greater attention to tools that Africans have developed, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, as a way into broader discussions about governance and democracy, rather than we will – there are 44 African countries that have now agreed to be transparent and evaluated under the African Peer Review Mechanism principles of democracy and good governance.  It’s extremely important too – we’ve already had over 40 such evaluations.  Let’s discuss the outcomes of those reviews with each of the African countries and look at areas where it was found there are gaps that must be addressed, and look at how we work together.

And in that way, you build a platform toward the objective you eventually seek to achieve.  But to come in and seek to teach a country that we know how democracy functions and we’ve come to tell you, you do it, it’ll work for you – I think it leads to defeat, so we need to think in different ways.

I also think that one of the lessons we also need to learn and perhaps draw lessons from – one of the experiences we should draw lessons from is the reality that there has been a lot of external interference in Africa.  And a lot of that external interference has fueled conflict in many African countries, has fueled instability and supported opposition groups against liberation fighters and so on.  You know the history perhaps better than myself.  This is a reality.

So in my view, while there may be concern about Wagner Group or Van Dyck, which is another security group which was in Mozambique, there’s also a concern about countries that have mineral interests in African countries and are there as a destabilizing force.  So I think we need to look at the full plethora of problems that give rise to insecurity, bad governance, and the absence of democracy on the African continent.  It’s not a one country problem.  It’s a world phenomenon which is – results from Africa’s rich mineral wealth that has made it a significant target of external players that don’t always have the interests of Africa at heart.

Then countries are free to establish relationships with different countries.  African countries that wish to relate to China, let them do so, whatever the particular form of relationships would be.  We can’t be made party to conflict between China and the United States of America, and I may say it does cause instability for all of us because it affects the global economic system.  We really hope that the United States and China will arrive a point of rapprochement where all of us can look to economic development and growth for all our countries because that’s extremely important for all of us.  And these are two great powers, the two biggest economies in the world.  They’ve got to find a way of working together to allow us to grow.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Your Excellencies.  Thank you everyone.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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