November 3, 2011
The trip was the first program under the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States within the Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. This MOU allows the Kingdom of Bahrain to initiate programs which will develop broader interchanges in the areas of culture, government, and trade between the United States and Bahrain. Congressman Donald Payne, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega traveled to Bahrain accompanied by Congressional staffers (see participant list) to see firsthand the current state of affairs as Bahrain undertakes political and social reforms (see photos).
On the evening of its arrival the delegation attended a dinner hosted by Dr. Al Khalafalla, President of Bahrain American Council. At the dinner the members of Congress had the opportunity to meet business leaders and journalists. The delegation explained to the assembled group that the goal of their trip was to better understand Bahrain’s reform process and to have serious, constructive engagement with an important U.S. ally. The next day the group had an early start with a morning meeting with Bahrain’s Minister of Justice, Shaik Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa . A visit to the U.S. Embassy followed; Charge’ d’Affairs Stephanie Williams and other Embassy officers discussed the importance of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship and the two countries cooperation in a wide range of activities. Ms. Williams also stressed the U.S. commitment to human rights and reform and the Embassy’s engagement on these issues with all levels of Bahrain government and society.
After leaving the U.S. Embassy, the group met with Dr. Abdullatif al Mahmoud, Chairman of the Gathering Of National Unity (TGONU). Dr. Al Mahmoud talked about how TGONU, the party of the Sunni opposition, was working within the government to achieve political reform within the existing system. The delegation was next received by the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. Prince Salam was frank in his discussion on the recent unrest in Bahrain, and how he was working hard to address legitimate concerns of the protestors. He added that at the same time he was working to prevent hostile foreign powers from generating violent unrest designed to overthrow the moderate Islamic government of the Kingdom and replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic Republic. A highlight of the visit occurred on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct 16 when the participants attended an Audience with His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain. The King spoke at length of his desire to maintain a strong partnership with the United States as well as his government’s commitment to a moderate administration which respects the rights of religious minorities and women.
The delegation was committed to hearing the viewpoints of all sides of the ongoing disputes in Bahrain. To that end, the group had a meeting with the Shia medical personal who were recently sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their activities during the uprising in March. The delegation also met with the Shia political opposition, the Wefaq Party. Representatives of Wefaq discussed their desire to see reform in the political system and presented their views on the growth of Shia political power in Bahrain.
In addition to the political, economic and cultural programs undertaken by the members of Congress, the delegation devoted an afternoon to visit the U.S. Fifth Fleet which is based in Manama, Bahrain. U.S. Naval officers detailed the activities of U.S. forces based in Bahrain and the Fleet’s crucial role in protecting U.S. interests and maintaining stability in the Arabian Gulf and the entire Middle East.
The Humpty Dumpty Institute, at the invitation of the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain, will be organizing a U.S. Congressional Staff delegation to Manama December 17-21 and a U.S. Congressional delegation Feb 20-24.
John Sandy Chief of Staff, Sen. James Risch
Eric Werwa Legislative Director, Rep. Mike Honda
Stephanie Hammond Legislative Advisor, Rep. Trent Franks
Joel Colony Legislative Aide, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
Adrienne Watson Communications Director, Rep. Loretta Sanchez
Tom Garofalo Foreign Legislative Advisor, Rep. Jim Moran
Matthew Herrmann Legislative Director, Rep. Madeline Bordallo