From September 26 to September 30, Ambassador Claire Pierangelo led a delegation to visit the Comoros and gave an exclusive interview to Abasse Moindjie, the Editor in Chief of the National Television ORTC. Below is the transcript of her interview.
ORTC Journalist: The United States is the world’s largest democracy, and you said you wanted free, democratic, and transparent elections, as we do too. You mentioned the good work done by the [electoral body] CENI, so how is the United States going to get involved? What concrete actions will the United States be taking to help CENI achieve free and democratic elections? How are you going to support CENI so that this good work continues right up to the final results?
Ambassador Pierangelo: So, comment about the CENI was a compliment that they have published the voters list and advanced in a transparent way. That is a good first step. Where we can help in concrete ways and what we are good at, and we have done all throughout the world is the civic education […] You have a very large percentage of first-time voters for this election. And in discussion throughout the last year, one of the issues that have been raised whether by civil societies, by politicians, by academics is that these young peoples do not have any education about what an election is or should be and how important it was for everyone to participate, young people, women, disabled people, everyone. So, working with local organizations, that’s what we are going to focus. But we will be talking with the government and with the CENI about other things that we might need to do.
ORTC Journalist: You mentioned that you’re going to meet with the government, civil society, … quite a few players in the electoral process. Will you be meeting with the opposition? If so, what will you be asking of them?
Ambassador Pierangelo: So, we have already been meeting with other political party leaders and tomorrow, I will meet with other political party leaders. But my team have met with the opposition politicians regularly. And I think what is important is that all political party, all political leaders, have the ability to speak freely and openly in a free and transparent manners and that’s up to the government. From the political party sides, what is important is that they respect democracy they respect the result, and they promote peace and participation during the election.
ORTC Journalist: There are members of the opposition who believe that everything has been flouted, that there is nothing positive, that there are no elections, that we’re going to ransack the place, we’re going to boycott, claiming that nothing has been done to date, so as a representative of the American government, what is your position on this?
Ambassador Pierangelo: I think is what I just said that all political actors need to participate and need to discuss openly. Declaring an election done six months in advance doesn’t help the process. This is a situation where politicians have to think what is good for the country not what is good for them personally.
ORTC Journalist: You talked about a banana disease and solutions. But I wonder, instead of tackling the disease itself, why not support the Comorian laboratory INRAPE so that it can help people not only with the current disease but also with other diseases?
Ambassador Pierangelo: That is a great suggestion and may be in the future as we are expanding our cooperation, that might be something that we look at, whether us, or the U.N., or one of the other partners. The first thing is to work on developing sustainable agriculture and then all the other elements that that needs to be added. The important thing is that there is so much already that the farmers can do, and others can do with a little bit of education and a little bit of technology.
ORTC Journalist: The US government and the Comorian government signed an agreement on a fishing company but to date there’s nothing concrete. Do you have any information about this?
Ambassador Pierangelo: That is, we hope, that will be a U.S. investment by U.S. company. It is not through the U.S. Government. We hope to be able to support that investment but right now it is in discussion between private parties.
ORTC Journalist: Finally, let me ask you something about students. It’s not easy to study in the United States, so how are you going to encourage Comorian students to come and study in the United States, and do you already have an idea about the type of studies that students are going to follow, or are you going to leave the choice to the students themselves or to the Comorian government?
Ambassador Pierangelo: I think the first step is helping the students to learn English and learn what opportunities they have and that what is American Corner for. That is the first step, help students to get the skills they need to apply and to succeed. I would love to see Comorian students studying in areas that can directly contribute to the development of this country, whether it in education, or in health, or agriculture or maritime resources. These are all sectors that Comoros has a lot of opportunities and possibilities if we have trained students.