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Remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder at the African Union Summit
Excellencies, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Honorable Ministers, Leaders of the African Union, Leaders of the African Commission, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am honored to be with you all. I am grateful for this opportunity to salute, and to help strengthen, the critical work of the African Union. And I am proud to bring greetings from President Barack Obama and the American people.
President Obama recognizes the growing importance of the African Union; he understands that a stronger Africa means a stronger America; and he appreciates the work that you are leading to strengthen political and economic cooperation across this continent.
Today, I want to extend my personal thanks to Chairperson Jean Ping and the AU leadership for helping to facilitate my visit and welcoming my participation. I was pleased to receive Chairperson Ping and his delegation in Washington a few months ago, during the first high-level U.S.-AU bilateral meetings, and I look forward to continuing our discussions.
I also want to thank President Museveni and the citizens of Kampala for welcoming me to this beautiful city and for hosting this important summit.
It is fitting that we’ve gathered here in Uganda – the nation that has been called “the pearl of Africa” – to determine how the potential of Africa and her people might be unlocked.
In the last 30 years, the people of Uganda have made progress that, once, had seemed impossible – the restoration of law and order; the reopening of schools and colleges; and the reconstruction of government, health care, and financial systems. The fact that we are here today – and that Kampala is now a center of international politics, learning, culture, and commerce – is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Ugandan people.
This strength has never been more obvious. This resilience has never been more inspiring.
I am proud to stand with the people of Uganda – and with her partners across this continent and around the world. But I am deeply sorry that we are now bound, not only by friendship and partnership, but also by a shared loss, a shared threat, and a shared grief.
Two weeks ago today, Uganda awakened to a new danger and began a new chapter in a history that, too often, has been scarred by violence. As the World Cup’s final match was being played, men, women, and children across Kampala were enjoying life’s greatest blessings – the joys of friendship and fellowship. That evening, the eyes of the world were fixed upon this continent – bearing witness to historic progress, to hard-won unity and, then suddenly, to heartbreaking tragedy.
Fourteen days after bombs ripped through the Kyandondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village restaurant, we now know the statistics that have been assigned to this tragedy – 74 killed, 85 wounded. But we will never be able to measure the grief, the anger, and – above all – the compassion that followed these attacks. Al-Shabaab – a terrorist group operating in Somalia with ties to al-Qaeda – has claimed responsibility for murdering and injuring these innocent victims. And its leaders have infamously described these bombings as warranted acts of vengeance. But make no mistake: these attacks were nothing more than reprehensible acts of cowardice, inspired by a radical and corrupt ideology that systematically denies human rights, devalues women and girls, and perverts the peaceful traditions and teachings of a great religion.
America is among many nations now in mourning – grieving the loss of all of those defenseless victims, including one of our own citizens, and praying for the others who were injured. My nation is also among many working to bring the perpetrators of these vicious acts to justice. To assist Uganda in its investigation, we’ve provided a team of FBI forensic experts and offered both technical assistance and intelligence resources.
The United States also recognizes that ending the threat of al-Shabaab to the world will take more than just law enforcement. That is why we are working closely with the AU to support the African Union’s Mission in Somalia. The United States applauds the heroic contributions that are being made on a daily basis by Ugandan and Burundian troops, and we pledge to maintain our support for the AU and the AU Mission in Somalia.
As our countries work together, with the support of the international community, my hope is that we will also always remember what was irreplaceably lost here in Kampala. Individuals with families. Individuals with futures. And individuals afflicted with the most tragic of fates – dying while doing good.
To his students, Nate Henn was known as “Oteka” – The Strong One. He had traveled from the United States to help Uganda’s most vulnerable children, to provide them with an education, and to reveal to them a simple truth: that great futures await them. Tragically, Nate’s own future has been lost to the ages.
Stephen Tinka, a Ugandan journalist and radio presenter, and one of
the many Ugandans who were killed, was known for his infectious
personality and his distinctive voice – a voice now silenced.
Ramaraja Krishna, a Sri Lankan father of two daughters, came to Uganda two years ago to help advance this nation’s economy. Today, his body rests, once again, at home.
Marie Smith of Ireland was a missionary who spent 30 years helping Africans less fortunate than herself. But her work came to an abrupt end – not because of who she was or what she believed, but because of the seat she’d chosen on that catastrophic Sunday evening.
That is profoundly wrong. And any attempt to justify these murders of innocents is unimaginably shameful. As we struggle to make sense from the unfathomable, and as we seek justice from the ashes, we can take comfort – and find faith – in the Ugandan proverb that reminds us, “When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly.” Yes, it is darker out today than it was just weeks ago. But we must believe – and we must make certain – that the stars of goodwill and grace and, above all, of justice will shine brighter now than before.
In this time of new threats and unprecedented challenges, the importance of the African Union’s mission and work is brought into stark focus. Over the last eight years, you have united a diversity of nations around common goals. You’ve paved new paths for communication and cooperation, and for prosperity, peace, and healing. Together, you’ve established agreements to strengthen democratic institutions, to prevent and combat corruption, and to ensure the integrity of your elections and the strength of your justice systems. And you’ve pooled your resources and knowledge to increase Africa’s participation in the global marketplace and to provide Africa’s people with goods, services, and opportunities, as well as with leadership that honors their will and their best interests.
At the beginning of this year – your membership declared 2010 to be the “Year of Peace and Security.” Together, you ignited a “flame of peace” that was placed in the care of President Mutharika. From Malawi, this flame began a year-long journey to all 53 AU member nations.
This journey continues. This flame still burns. And this Year of Peace and Security must live on. For too much is at stake. Too much has been sacrificed. And too much is yet to be realized.
Like President Obama, I believe that the 21st century will be shaped by what happens here in Africa. Your security and prosperity, the health of your people and the strength of your civil society, will have a direct and profound impact on the world’s communities and on the advancement of human rights and human progress everywhere.
During his early days in office, President Obama traveled to Africa. In Cairo and in Accra, he described what he saw as “an extraordinary moment of promise” for this continent – a new era for international cooperation; a new beginning.
President Obama also made clear that “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” And, today, I want to reaffirm America’s commitment to ensuring that this future is not hijacked or compromised; and that the progress you’re working to achieve is not derailed or delayed.
I am proud to be counted among the African Diaspora - this continent is my ancestral home, I am of this place. Your work is of special and emotional importance to me – and not only because I am proud to serve alongside my nation’s first African-American President or proud to be its first African-American Attorney General. I also join with you, and with my fellow citizens, in celebrating Africa’s success because I recognize that the fate of my own country is intertwined with each of yours.
The future we will share depends on what we do today – on the goals we set, the relationships we forge, the commitments we make and the actions we take. And despite today’s many challenges and uncertainties, one thing is clear: As your historic efforts to promote peace, development, justice, and opportunity continue, the United States will act in partnership and in common cause to help the African Union achieve its goals and fulfill its mission.
There are four specific areas where, I believe, America’s support must continue and where I hope our partnership can be strengthened: in combating global terrorism and international crime; in promoting good governance and the rule of law; in creating the conditions and capacity for economic development; and, finally, in ensuring that Africa’s women and girls are no longer disproportionately affected by violence or denied basic rights and equal opportunities to learn, to dream, and to thrive.
In each of these areas, the United States intends to serve, not as a patron but as a partner – as a collaborator, not a monitor.
First of all, because opportunity and prosperity cannot be realized without security, the United States will continue to direct every resource and tool at our command – from diplomacy and military tactics to our courts and intelligence capabilities – to defeat the global terror network. In protecting our people and defending our allies, we will respect the sovereignty of nations, as well as the rule of law. And we will look to engage more AU member nations in this work.
Second, we will strengthen current efforts to promote good governance and to combat and prevent the costs and consequences of public corruption. Today, when the World Bank estimates that more than one trillion dollars in bribes are paid each year out of a world economy of 30 trillion dollars, this problem cannot be ignored. And this practice must never be condoned. As many here have learned – often in painful and devastating ways – corruption imperils development, stability, competition, and economic investment. It also undermines the promise of democracy.
As my nation’s Attorney General, I have made combating corruption, generally and in the United States, a top priority. And, today, I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended – and proper – use: for the people of our nations. We’re assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build upon efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources.
And although I look forward to everything this new initiative will accomplish, I also know that prosecution is not the only effective way to curb global corruption. We will continue to work with your governments to strengthen the entire judicial sector, a powerful institution in our democracy which depends on the integrity of our laws, our courts, and our judges. We must also work with business leaders to encourage, ensure, and enforce sound corporate governance. We should not, and must not settle for anything less.
Third, the United States – guided by President Obama’s international economic development plan – will work to expand current economic development efforts. Here in Africa, President Obama has signaled his commitment to foreign assistance, with the goal that such support will, over time, no longer be necessary. This goal is driving our work to help Africa develop new sources of energy, to create green jobs, to grow new crops, and to develop new education and training programs.
Finally, because we’ve seen that the global struggle for women’s equality continues – in many aspects of American life, as well as in countries across this continent and around the world – we know that our work to promote security, opportunity, and justice must include a special focus on women and girls. The unique challenges and urgent threats facing women and girls across Africa have inspired unprecedented action, collaboration, and investments by the U.S government. In particular, I am proud of the contributions that U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors and law enforcement agents have made here in Africa, through the Women’s Justice Empowerment Initiative – a three-year, $55-million-dollar program that was developed by the U.S. Departments of Justice and State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Benin, this initiative has helped to train attorneys, investigators, law enforcements officials, and medical professionals in an effort to improve prosecutions and to raise awareness about the special needs of victims.
Through this initiative, we are joining with partners across this continent to educate Africans about violence against women and girls, to build the capacity of local governments to serve and assist victims, and to strengthen the ability of Africa’s legal systems and law enforcement communities to protect women and girls. This work is making a difference. It must be a priority for all on this continent. This work is changing lives, families, and communities. And while I believe it has the power, the possibility, to transform entire cultures and countries, I am certain that its ongoing success and impact is directly linked to the engagement and commitment of you: Africa’s leaders.
I have great hope for what can be achieved through ongoing international initiatives and strong AU partnerships. But I do not pretend that the progress we all seek – and the conditions and opportunities that all African citizens deserve – will come easily or quickly.
And yet, we all can be – and should be – encouraged that the state of the African Union is strong. And we have good reason to feel hopeful that this extraordinary moment of progress is, indeed, a new beginning – the start of a journey toward greater peace and unity, toward freedom and prosperity, toward opportunity and justice for all.
And although we may take our first steps beneath dark skies, our path forward will be guided by the flame of peace – and by the bright flicker of stars. In this Year of Peace and Security, America is proud to walk at your side, privileged to count you as partners, and grateful to call you friends.