Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Christian Lusakueno of Top Congo FM
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary of State, hello, welcome to the DRC. Thank you for granting this exclusive interview, our first network in the country. Many African countries abstained from condemning Russia. You were co-author of the resolution condemning Russia, and you have credible information, and you are working Rwanda. First question: do the United (inaudible) plan on working on this UN report?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) Two things - first of all, yes, indeed, we have awareness of the report, and I think estimates are (inaudible) with the report, and this is entirely credible indeed. And overall there's one thing that has to happen. There has to be peace for the people in - live in eastern Congo. That's the first thing that is absolutely fundamental.
Number two, in order for there to be peace, of course, you need negotiations, diplomacy, and we need to stop arming those groups which are non-state armies. And they are creating instability, violence, and insecurity which force the people who live in the eastern Congo to suffer for years. So I'll talk about this. I've talked about it here and I'll talk about it tomorrow in Rwanda.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Congo is pretty much under an embargo; it has to declare everything. But are you ready to submit this expert report to the UN Security Council so that we come up with clear decisions who - about those who are responsible?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) I'm focusing on diplomacy. That means two things: first of all, support for the mediation efforts, which are conducted by Angola, by Kenya and soon-outgoing President Kenyatta, who is still in charge of this issue. And we ourselves, directly with the Government here of the RDC and the Government of Rwanda, we are trying to help them come up with a diplomatic solution via negotiations.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) But this solution must include the idea that we have condemned these groups such as M23. (Inaudible) changed on the ground, the east still occupied - there are many expectations of your visit. But do you fear the worst?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) Well, one visit is not enough. We need continuous follow-up, and that's what we're doing. And prior to this visit, we engaged in support of the mediation of diplomatic efforts to put an end to impunity and violence in the east. This will continue after the visit. But for me, it's important to speak directly to the heads of state and the people here, with President Tshisekedi, President Kagame in Rwanda, but also the neighbors. We are in touch with Uganda, with Congo-Brazzaville, and the countries concerned because this is a problem not just with the people, but it's also the east - but it's also a regional problem. And we are using - focusing our diplomacy,
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) But the regional problem is the exploitation of the mines, the hegemony of two countries, Uganda and Rwanda. Diplomacy for 25 years has shown its limits. So are you ready to help armies to be more capable? I do know that 10 years ago you were the number two person on the NSC. In 2012, Barack Obama had called (inaudible) for him to stop. And at the time, the fighting had stopped. Can we expect the same contribution from President Biden, from the Secretary of State so that this will stop in 2022?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) I'm not going to put forward our own diplomacy, but I'll tell you, number one, that with respect to the armed forces of the DRC, there's a reform underway, a major reform. And I think this reform will open opportunities with respect to our support so that this defense support can take place. And of course - and also some context of the armed forces (inaudible), and that's also important.
Secondly, I will talk directly of the M23 problem in Rwanda with President Kagame, and we'll see after that what happens. But for the time being, I think there's a momentum in this diplomacy. We ourselves are trying to make progress for peace.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) diplomacy has meant that the ADF was designated a terrorist group. The RDC wants that will also be the case for the M23. Will you do that, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) Well, in the past, we've sanctioned leaders of the M23. This is an issue that we're following on a constant basis. We don't have a final conclusion. We have already sanctioned in the past individuals and leaders of the M23, and we'll continue to look at the issue.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) And the MONUSCO has been asked to leave by the population after 25 years - what results?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) MONUSCO - well, we are the first donor of MONUSCO, so it's in our interest to allow MONUSCO to continue its mission and its mandate with the necessary resources and with the necessary authority to do so. I do know that there's major frustration in the east of the country about insecurity, about the problems on the ground that MONUSCO was not able to manage. I think we need to ensure that there's real coordination between the various elements. You need to have the necessary resources and, of course, it is very hard to see lost lives because of the conflict between MONUSCO and the citizens. On both sides, things have to stop. But I think MONUSCO is very important, but it's not enough, because without a diplomatic opening, without real negotiations to put an end to the situation and to restore security, MONUSCO alone cannot do it. The whole things have to happen together.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) General elections in the country will take place next year, 2023. CENI may not be ready. You met the leaders. You met Mr. Kadima also. If there's no election, what will you do?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) I'm not going to be working on hypotheticals, but I mentioned that with the president. I mentioned that with the president of the electoral commission as well. Both of them confirmed to me that the elections will take place on deadline under open conditions, conditions of inclusiveness. It's very important, of course, for the DRC, but also it goes beyond the DRC. We, in a period of democratic setbacks in many countries around the world, the example that the DRC will try to show with timely elections which will be truly inclusive, that may have an impact throughout the continent and throughout the world. And that's what we are hoping for, and thanks to the conversations that I had with the president and the president of the CENI, I'm leaving here with somewhat confidence that this will be the case.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I have two questions. I would like to talk about corruptions - solution - just very quickly, two questions.
The fight against corruption, no U.S. companies possible in the DRC as long as there is corruption. That's what the Ambassador Hammer told us a few months ago. During your visit, you also talked about business in the DRC, American companies. Can they come? Are you satisfied with the work by the DRC?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) I think that there's a greater awareness now that corruption is a cancer that attacks democracy, that attacks the Congolese people, and that also attacks the possibility of foreign investments. We've seen positive approaches by the government. I mentioned them with my - your colleagues. But there's still some work to be done, especially about transparency from the government, contracting, et cetera.
But I think that there's an approach underway, there's a direct connection between this approach and the possibility for investments. For example, in the mineral sector, we have now established a partnership for mining for minerals, and we need to exploit minerals but not human beings. And what's important in this partnership is namely possibly to have investments. What we are asking for is that this exploitation take place according to real values - namely, respect for the workers, respect for the environment, respect for transparency.
The DRC, I think, will take part in this partnership, and this is quite promising for the future. So if there's no corruption, U.S. companies will come, yes.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) A solution country, that's what Congo says for its maintenance of its ecosystem and its forests. But financially, we are not very much supported. Just recently there was this call for tenders for oils that was much talked about. Do you agree that we can exploit our oil just like Angola does, which has the same deposits of Angola? And do you agree with this call for bids?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) We talked about it, and I will say several important things. Number one, for the United States, we have a responsibility, a major responsibility, around this climate issue, for two reasons. First of all, today we are unfortunately the number two emitter in the world after China with emissions. We're the number two polluter. But historically also what we did for our own development, we did things that we are asking other countries not to do today. So it's normal that countries will tell us, well, you exploited your forests, you exploited your - and we're continuing to do this, and we are asking you not to do this. So it's entirely normal and appropriate. So what we are doing, in fact, is we are supporting adaptation, resiliency of these countries which need help, which need support. And that's what we are doing.
So with respect to the Congo Basin and this extraordinary rainforest, these forests, as you know, the captured emissions by these forests are greater than all of the emissions of the African continent, so to fight against climate change it's fundamentally essential to preserve this forest. But we do understand fully that you need to maintain the ecosystem, you need resources, technology. So we agreed yesterday with the government to establish immediately a working group that can be - both ensure that we protect the forests, and at the same time provide assurances that the necessary resources for the DRC, not only to allow them to protect their ecosystem, the forests, but also give them the economic opportunities for the Congolese people. There's already a commitment by the international (inaudible) for the DRC, several billion dollars in this direction, and we'll do - follow through immediately.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you once again for this interview, your only one day RDC. Thirteen years to the day, in August 2009, with your predecessor, Hillary Clinton; I'll ask you the same question that I asked her. In 13 years, two secretaries of state in DRC. Why so much time? Is it possible for the DRC to hope one day the visit of a president of the United States?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) I will talk to you about the President, the future. And I can tell you that for now and for the future, we have a partnership which is broadening and getting deeper. We've talked about a dozen topics with our colleagues at the government and civil society, and your remarkable young people who are engaged in a competition for IT projects for the elections to inform the Congolese people about the upcoming elections next year.
So for me, in the present, this is an important partnership; it will become even more important in the coming years.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary of State, thank you very much.