Trip Summary: Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson Returns From Travel to Africa

Posted by Russell Brooks
February 26, 2010

About the Author: Russell Brooks serves as an Information Officer for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of African Affairs.

Following a two-week visit to Africa that encompassed the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa and visits to Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson briefed journalists at the Washington Foreign Press Center on Wednesday, February 24 ( Journalists from the African continent also participated via satellite from the Regional Media Hub in South Africa.

The top news of the day was President Yar'Adua's sudden return home to Nigeria. The President of Nigeria had spent months in Saudi Arabia where he was receiving medical treatment. His return was the cause of much speculation both in Nigeria and internationally. Assistant Secretary Carson read a brief statement in which he welcomed home President Yar'Adua and wished him good health. Carson noted that "Nigeria needs a strong, healthy, and effective leader to ensure the stability of the country and to manage Nigeria's many political, economic, and security challenges." Responding to the suggestions that President Yar'Adua's return was connected to the elevation of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to Acting President, the Assistant Secretary said “we hope that President Yar'Adua's return … is not an effort by his senior advisors to upset Nigeria's stability and create renewed uncertainty in the democratic process. Nigeria is an extraordinarily important country to its friends and partners, and all of those in positions of responsibility should put the health of the President and the best interests of the country and the people of Nigeria above personal ambition or gain."

In addition to the political situation in Nigeria, Assistant Secretary Carson responded to questions about the security at the World Cup, upcoming elections in Ethiopia, the political reform process in Kenya, and recent events in both Cote d'Ivoire and Niger. Carson said the ouster of President Tandja was a military coup and called upon the Nigerien military to set a date for elections and swiftly return the country to constitutional, democratic rule. With regard to Cote d' Ivoire, the Assistant Secretary said the parties must return to the Ouagadougou Accords, settle their disagreements over the electoral commission which set off the current crisis, and promptly move toward elections.

Published reports that the U.S. was "politicizing” the distribution of humanitarian food aid in Somalia were raised by one reporter. Carson strongly asserted that the U.S. continues to be the largest provider of humanitarian food assistance to the people of Somalia and it is the actions of violent extremists such as the group al-Shabaab that have impeded the distribution of much needed food assistance in southern Somalia.

Questions relating to the al-Qaeda offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and the Chinese role in Africa capped-off the briefing. Ambassador Carson called on the African states of Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania to increase their cooperation in order to effectively meet the common threat posed by AQIM. With regard to the Chinese, he noted their interest in Africa as a source of natural resources as well as an expanding market for their products. However, Carson placed the responsibility upon African governments to “carefully and responsibly” manage their affairs with the Chinese.

For more information on the Bureau of African Affairs:



New Mexico, USA
March 1, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Russell,

In regards to this;

"Published reports that the U.S. was "politicizing” the distribution of humanitarian food aid in Somalia were raised by one reporter."

If the archived comments were actually readable, you might get an interesting perspective from the conversation some of us were having last week.

Instead, one has to left-click, hold and drag a box to highlight those comments in order to know there's some public debate on the matter.

You are an information officer so perhaps you can recomend Dipnote use a lighter background in the archives to make the text actually visable to the naked eye?

Then send the link to that unnamed reporter with my best regards if you would please (chuckle), 'cause I'd like to offer him/her "continuing education" beyond the one Mr. Carson offered.

What about trying to save lives do people not understand, eh?


New Mexico, USA
March 1, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:


Would it be possible to officially invite Mr. Bowden to a public debate on Dipnote? I think he could stand to be nuked by logic. (chuckle).

"But Mark Bowden, the United Nations official in charge of humanitarian operations in Somalia, said the accusations of aid diversions to the Shabab were “ungrounded.”

“What we are seeing is a politicization of humanitarian issues,” he said, adding that when he recently went to Washington to discuss the matter with American aid officials, “the comment we met was, ‘This is beyond our pay grade.’ ”"

Published: February 17, 2010
New York Times
"UN agencies, however, have not seen any evidence from the U.S. government that the aid is being diverted to the group, which is fighting the UN-backed Somali government, said Mark Bowden, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Somalia.

"The problem seems to be that it has escalated to a higher political level," Bowden said. "And our concern is that … what we're seeing is a politicization of humanitarian issues.""

CBC News
It's not really the reporter's fault that his editors make assumptions based on quotes that the UN actually is neutral about all of this.

If I were to speculate on "pay grade", my guess is a smart desk officer decided that it was a question best answered by senior officials.

But gosh! It just makes this citizen just want to wade into this fray with vebal guns blazing, and nuke smallmindedness at the UN level back to the stone age!

I don't want that UN man's head on a platter.

I want his job, because I can do better than make poor excuse any day of the week.

I hope folks will take this under consideration.


Maryland, USA
March 3, 2010

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Hi, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson...:).

I think your doing an Awesome Job supporting our country and working to ensure a productive a peaceful Africa.

I hope your encouraging words and support of the hard working people of Africa. Will help bring more jobs to their communitys and eventually make their lives, feel more productive and meaningful.

I liked the networking in your video conference. Good Questions and Answers.

Thanks for Blogging this video,Information
Officer Russell Brooks...:)

See-Ya ..:):)

Alabama, USA
March 15, 2010

Rik in Alabama writes:

Regarding the political environment in Abidjan you're right by saying that the election is taking a very long detour however some "leaders" are very determinant for their own political ambitious. We want to move up but we have to be careful. Some of them are corrupts and they will do everything to take power. Can u assist the current government to build a strong transparency election and let the people of Cote d'Ivoire to decide for their future,thanks


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