View Header


                    Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Kampala, Uganda)
For Immediate Release                                     March 25, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                         Botanical Beach Hotel
                            Kampala, Uganda   

7:44 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: I wanted National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, to have an opportunity to talk to particularly the American pool before we leave, and then take any questions that you have about the summit meeting that's just occurred, or anything from earlier in the day. And then I've asked the three Secretaries who were introduced by President Museveni earlier who are here, members of the President's Cabinet, to talk a little bit about some of the activities they've had. Sandy will take some questions and go through anything, any questions you have about the communique first, and then we will take on the three Secretaries.

MR. BERGER: Since I can't see, I suspect I have some reporters and people who don't want to be around mosquitoes outside.

Let me try to -- let me do this in the following way -- rather than my usual absolutely lucid and coherent briefing, et me simply go through the meeting and try to draw out for you the highlights. And as you can imagine, it was not a meeting that went to one topic and then went on to another topic and on to another topic. There was a good deal of doubling back, and I'll try to at least underscore the key points.

Let me first say that this is a unique gathering between the President of the United States and the leaders of East Africa -- an honest discussion in the beginning of what I believe will be a very important process of partnership between our government and the governments of this region.

In the beginning of the meeting, President Museveni, who essentially was the moderator for the meeting, said that there were four issues of great interest based upon a meeting that they had had earlier in the day: infrastructure in the region -- roads and highways, and aviation, and energy; trade with the United States, issues of debt and their relationship to financial institutions; and finally, the nature of our engagement, which I'll come back to.

President Clinton in his opening remarks said that he thanked them all, of course, for coming. They had come to Africa for a number of reasons to try to draw the attention of the American people to what is happening here in this diverse continent. Second, to establish a more complete partnership across a range of economic and political issues, from development to advancing democracy and human rights, economic growth to avoiding the kinds absolutely unspeakable tragedies that we addressed this morning in Rwanda. And third, to listen and learn, to hear the differences, and to find areas of common agreement.

Most of the speakers then went around the table -- the two sessions sort of melded into one. President Meles of Ethiopia thanked the President, first of all, for what he said earlier today in Rwanda. It was my impression that today's statement today by the President had made quite an impact on the neighboring countries.

He picked up on the President's word of "partnership." He said it is partnership that we seek. And what is partnership to us? He says, partnership only if the Americans, only if the United States is continuously engaged in Africa, if you're engaged in Africa the way you're engaged with Europe and Asia. He said, we have made a lot of progress in Africa, but we are not yet out of the woods. It's not for you to do our work, but you can help us do our work.

He welcomed the African trade bill, as did most of the leaders -- no one said anything to the contrary; they all didn't address it -- as a very important step.

He talked about the international financial institutions. There was a number of Presidents who specifically made reference of the World Bank, and President Wolfensohn's recent visit to the region, where he clearly engaged the leaders on a new basis. And I think it's not unfair to say there was some comparison made between the World Bank and the IMF in terms of the nature of the relationship.

President Mkapa from Tanzania talked about regional cooperation and talked about this trip as being an important vehicle for accelerating the process of regional cooperation. He said, everyone around the table agrees that growth will be led now by the private sector, but we're at different stages of development, different stages of that process. And they all believed -- I guess he was not ascribing this to them all, but he talked about the need for politics of participation.

President Bizimungu from Rwanda spoke. I think that most of you who heard him speak today heard a flavor of his remarks. He talked a lot about human rights and about the importance of people having a sense of a justice system, judicial mechanisms that work. He said one very, particularly good quote. He said, most of us have been in the bush -- most of these people, of course, have been revolutionaries, they have been people who have brought change to their country -- but not for our pleasure, but because of the abuse of fundamental human rights. And so they understand what that means. And he talked about the need for skills and education, and urged our partnership to put an emphasis on this going forward.

President Kabila spoke briefly. He said it was good to see the President in Africa. He talked about huge problems that were faced by the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he essentially asked the President to talk about how the under-developed countries can be assisted by the developed countries.

The President then responded to this go-around the table. He talked about the Africa trade legislation and the initiative that you've heard him describe -- the education initiative, the Great Lakes justice initiative, and others. He also said as he said before -- and I'm not sure if people picked up on this -- that he is committed to increasing developments assistance for Africa to its historically high level in future budgets. That development assistance increases in our budget we've just submitted from, I believe, $700 million to $730 million. But he is determined to try to bring it pack to historic levels, which I believe, Susan, were $850 million -- $813 million.

He said that to get meaningful relief there needs to be agreement on a program of economic reform -- this is the President, at the end -- that investors will come if there is a climate that they see as stable, and that there needs to be a proper mix of policies that make economic sense and that are politically sustainable in very harsh circumstances.

Again, he said there needs to be a sense that all of you are pursuing economic and political reform, human rights. We understand that there are different patterns of development with different patterns of evolution, but the important thing is the direction -- are these moving towards political reform and human rights.

I'm trying to avoid things that are essentially duplicative. Come back to Meles, who I think was particularly insightful in these conversations. Museveni said -- there was discussion of history -- Museveni said we should not spend time blaming external causes, we should get on about the business of building. President Meles then came back to -- said, I want to talk to you about a few points that don't have dollar signs -- there had been a lot of sessions -- President Moi, for example, suggested that we have a mini Marshall Plan for Africa. He said, the U.S. has to define its strategic interests in Africa. It has to recognize that while the direction is towards political and economic reform, there's not one economic program for all.

That was pretty much the end of the first session, which was three-quarters, or 40 percent of the meeting.

The President, during the break, had a meeting with President -- a brief one-on-one with President Moi of Kenya. He said to President Moi Kenya was a key country and has been an important friend to the United States; that it was important to use your leadership to open Kenya's economy, strengthen the rule of law and deepen democratic reform, and we will help you as you move on that agenda.

There was some discussion -- and the second meeting was ostensibly about security. There was a discussion of genocide, which I think paralleled and was not as compelling as what you saw this morning.

President Meles had a wonderful turn of phrase about the ideology of intolerance that threatens all of us. The President said, the communique, which we can talk about, is an important document; it commits us all to form a coalition against genocide. And let's take that seriously -- I take that seriously -- and let's work from that document, from that commitment, to try to prevent such a thing from happening again.

The President also talked about how slow the International Tribunal had been on Rwanda and once again repeated what he has been talking about since 1994, I believe, at the United Nations, which is the need for a permanent international criminal court.

The President ended the session by saying that he saw this meeting as the beginning of a long-term commitment. It is a commitment -- a long-term commitment to Africa and to this region. He said, obviously, I can't do all the things you want me to do, I can't meet all of the needs that you've asked me to meet, but we will work to try to do the best we can. And we'll do it all together in the spirit of partnership.

The only other thing -- let me finally end with -- there was then the second break; the President then had a one-on-one with President Kabila in the next room, and it lasted for quite a long time, I think, 15 minutes or so. And essentially, what the President said to President Kabila is, you've done important things. You had a hard struggle to liberate your country -- and "liberate" was not the word he used -- to free your country from authoritarian rule. And you haven't come this far to fail. We want you to succeed, but you have to help us help you, and you have to do that by political inclusiveness, by elections, by political participation, by giving the U.N. folks access and moving ultimately towards a genuine democracy.

President Kabila listened attentively to this. He talked to the President quite a bit about the nature of, the lack of institutions that he found when he arrived in Kinshasa and what he is working from. But he did say to the President, we will have elections, fair elections with the participation of all, including those who are in the political opposition. And I think that's a significant statement and one obviously that we hope that he will fulfill.

The end.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: The question was, can I tell you what President Moi said in response to what President Clinton said. The answer is, no. These two really were one-on-one. I heard some of it, and didn't hear -- in both cases, was de-briefed by the President. Did not get a very good read on what Moi said in response. I'll try to find out.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: I think he's talking about the next two years. I believe that's correct. What he has said in the past is two years from when he took power.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: Well, I think clearly, Rwanda is a country that neither has fully recovered from, nor has escaped the clutches of genocide. There continues to be fighting going on and genocidal violence in Northern Rwanda that has taken literally thousands of lives. And so I think it clearly is very important.

But there has been, historically -- genocide in Burundi, for example. And I think that what the President has been saying is that the world -- the international institutions of the world are not terribly well-organized to deal quickly with that kind of crisis. And one of the reasons why we began the African Crisis Response Initiative was to help Africa build its own indigenous peacekeeping capability. There now are regional -- sub-regional groups that come together from time to time around particular crises. The vision here is of a larger African peacekeeping force. That's going to take several years to build.

And the international community -- for example, when the President spoke today in his speech about building better systems to identify potential countries that could have this problem -- we now have analytical tools that enable us to predict failed states with a much higher degree of accuracy than we've ever had before. And what we want to do is try to put that methodology, put that analysis to work on seeing if we can see this coming more quickly.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: I think we would be quicker to understand what was taking place. I mean, we all saw the horrible pictures. There is no question that there was massive bloodshed. There was more confusion about what the international community could do about it in the context of this kind of internecine battling going on village to village, house to house.

So I think there is a greater sensitivity, and I think the important thing of the President going to Rwanda was a statement about genocide. Genocide is not just what happened, tragically, in World War II. Genocide is what happened in 1994. So, number one, our awareness is higher, but I think we have to strengthen our institutions.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: Let me do the second first. That was purely a matter of security. It was not a -- as far as the security people were concerned, it was not an option. In terms of -- I think that the President was very moved by what he heard today, as I think was reflected in what he said. And I think he is very determined that we be in a better position if something like this arises again than we were before.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: Yes. There was some discussion of Sudan. President Meles raised it as another threat to the security of the region; what he described as fundamentalism seeking to destabilize the region. And, of course, we share his concern about that.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: Well, maybe at another point I'll give you a fuller preview of South Africa. Obviously, I think an historic and particularly poignant moment for any American who has been alive for the last generation, for an American President to go to a multiracial, democratic South Africa -- I think it's one of those things that many of us thought we would never see in our life. So, first of all, there is a certain degree of simply paying -- just because it's been a couple of years, we should not lose sight of the extraordinary triumph here.

The President will talk about democracy and other related issues and to the South African Parliament. We will be speaking at the Ron Brown Center about the larger economic and trade initiatives for the region.

South Africa is obviously in a different state of development than these countries. Most of these countries -- take Uganda -- was totally destroyed physically, economically, spiritually, by Idi Amin and Obote. And where Museveni is to come in, and others -- you have no base. And so you start building from the bottom up.

At least in South Africa there was an economy and it is still one that has many challenges facing it that we'll talk about. But I think it will be a really important opportunity to talk about how societies can live with racial harmony and build a new economy.

That's a pretty lousy answer to your question, by the way. I will give you a better answer.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BERGER: Well, we have, ourselves, quite a forward-leaning program of debt relief for our bilateral debt. We don't have a large bilateral debt problem with Africa and with the countries of Eastern Africa. We've also been instrumental in establishing something called HIPPC (highly indebted poor countries), which allows you to go from the 67 percent debt relief that we provided to 80 percent debt relief for the poorest countries that are engaged in economic reform.

A number of the Presidents today raised the issue of debt, raised the issue of the IMF, and conditionality. The President listened, indicated that, obviously, with IMF loans came a degree of discipline, but that he would raise these concerns with the G-7 leaders when he met with them in Birmingham later next month.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. BERGER: There was some discussion of Burundi -- not extensive.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. BERGER: Well, they talked a lot about the evolution of democracy -- not so much today, but when they had their bilateral -- and a large contingent from our delegation met with opposition leaders yesterday.

Let me just do one thing before we close and ask Howard Wolpe perhaps to say a few words about the communique itself. Howard is our absolute star in traveling around helping to build consensus for this summit and for the statement of principles.

AMBASSADOR WOLPE: I think what I would emphasize about the document that's in front of you is that it reflects what has been a very extensive process of compilation. The summit, in fact, was more than a single event. It was a culmination of a process. And it was a process where we sought, and I think achieved, a document that is neither exclusively an American document, nor an African document, but really a marriage of African and American perceptions on a host of issues.

The document sets out at its outset the concept of partnership and the importance of establishing a partnership that is based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and equally upon frank and open dialogue. And that's what we had today at the summit.

The document identifies what merge as very broad common ground in a number of areas, but also identifies perspectives from the African side of its own frustrations with one-size-fits-all economic models, its own frustrations with sometimes the way we talk about political institutions. The leaders affirm and they affirm in this document the commitment to certain core principles to relate to human rights, to democracy, principles of the rule of law, the right to elect leaders regularly, the principle of inclusiveness, the notion that you cannot have political stability unless everyone has a sense of ownership of their own institutions. All of that is spelled out in some detail.

And also there's the assertion that there are different institutional forums all throughout the democratic world, and that every society must struggle with its own means of democratically managing culturally plural societies and taking account of the unique and strength of those societies.

It was a remarkable kind of dialogue that took place over the past several weeks. And I think a product of that is that what has been put in place is the foundation for a real partnership, a new way of doing a dialogue. There's a sense that in the past the United States has reacted and dealt with Africa only as a donor responding to humanitarian emergencies. There's very little appreciation of America's own interests in a different kind of sustained engagement with Africa. And what was established in this document is an acknowledgement that Africa and the United States recognize that we do have vital interests in common -- in expanding Africa's economic transformation and integration to the global economy, in expanding democratic participation and human rights, of establishing the foundation for the kind of political stability that's required for economic growth and for economic development, and finally, a common interest in really advancing common problems and solutions. We all face transnational problems -- all of that is laid out.

It's a long document. And it's a long document because of the care that was taken in fashioning a set of propositions that would really reflect both broad consensus and a direction for the future.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 8:13 P.M. (L)