THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Gaborone, Botswana) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 29, 1998
REMARKS TO THE POOL BY MIKE MCCURRY ON THE BILATERAL MEETING
2:20 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to give you a read-out on the meeting. Obviously, it was a very warm, cordial meeting that reflects the excellent bilateral relations that the United States enjoys with Botswana.
The President met privately with President Masire and then the two delegations joined together. President Masire introduced at some length Vice President Mogae, who will take over the day after tomorrow as President. I think you know that President Masire is vacating office just short of the end of his term, which would expire next year, and obviously the Vice President who will succeed him is expected to be a leading contender for the Office of Presidency when they have elections next year.
President Masire said, relations with the United States have been excellent since the country was founded. When it gained independence in 1966, he said, they have been very good indeed, but never better than now with your visit. The Botswana government is making a real effort to increase international tourism in the game preserve area especially. So they are especially delighted that he's going to Chobe and spending time over the next day and a half leisurely seeing the game preserve. And there were a lot of funny remarks, some of which I'll give you, about the President's upcoming visit to the game preserve. But they are very proud that he's going there. They think it'll be a big boost to tourism, so they complimented the President on the fact that he was spending some down time here.
The President said he was honored to be here. He said that, Botswana has perhaps the best government serving its people in all of sub-Sahara Africa; the record of service to people and the commitment to democracy is perhaps strongest here of all the countries that we have visited. The President said, you've had great success here and I hope more African countries will follow your lead.
The President particularly noted the progress they're making on the status of women. The government has been doing a lot to correct some of the historical inequities that women face in Botswana.
Q What are some of those?
MR. MCCURRY: They are focusing on violence against women, which is a serious problem in this society. They've got a lot of non-governmental organizations that have been working on a long-term plan to implement what the government of Botswana calls its National Policy on Women, that was adopted in 1996, focusing, really, on six areas.
First, women and poverty. Second, women in power-sharing and decision-making roles, which they've historically been excluded from in Botswana. Three, education and vocational training for women. Four, women's health issues. And, five, female children and the role that -- you know, there's historically been greater status attached to male offspring. And so they've been trying to equalize and raise the status of female children. And, last, violence against women and abuse of women.
Q Mike, is infanticide a problem?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether it is or not. There's nothing here that indicates whether it is.
Q Are they still meeting or is it over?
MR. MCCURRY: The two Presidents were just collecting the First Ladies and then they're coming over here to the reception. They're trying to stay pretty much on schedule because we have to land before nightfall in Kisane tonight or else we can't get in tonight.
Q How long was this meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: They met privately for about 20 minutes, and then met for roughly a half-hour in the delegation format.
Q Did they talk about the trade bill or the ACRI?
MR. MCCURRY: They talked about -- I'll go through some of the other subjects that they raised. President Masire was interested, as other leaders have been, in the status of the Democratic Republic of Congo and how efforts can be made to make Congo more successful.
The President complimented -- or actually General Jamerson, who's one of the members of our delegation, talked about how well trained and disciplined the Botswana Defense Force is. That then naturally led into a discussion of the ACRI. The President asked Assistant Secretary Susan Rice to give an update on the Africa Crisis Response Initiative, and she ticked off some of the countries that have started participating in joint training exercises. We will see one of those in Senegal later in the trip. But it was sort of a subtle reminder to the government of Botswana that we continue to hope that they will become productively involved in the work of the ACRI.
Q They're not participating in that yet?
MR. MCCURRY: Not currently participating, although there have been discussions that have been underway about whether or not they might consider it. We were not attempting to get their acceptance on this trip, but we certainly hope that the further discussions we have with them will lead them to consider participating.
The President talked at one point about -- or no, Sandy Berger raised the issue that we all had to be issued new phones when we were here. And we learned that that's because the emerging Botswana cellular phone system is digital-based, so that it's more advanced technologically than what our normal White House equipment works on. So the President says, that's not a comment on the United States of America, but it is a comment on the White House that you have more sophisticated technology here.
The President then talked about how much he was looking forward to going to the game preserve and told a story of a friend of his who has stayed at this same lodge that he will stay at, who woke up one morning with a baboon sitting at the end of his bed, and said the baboon was kind of in and out of the apartment the whole time that he was here. And when he left he felt like he was leaving a friend. (Laughter.)
The President then also asked about Botswana. He said, I've heard that there is one elephant for every 18 people in Botswana, and he asked if that were true and if anyone knew. One of the ministers on the Botswana side said that they thought that was probably right. And he said, well, that's both good and bad for me. He says, it's interesting, I've read a lot about the elephant population and some of the work that you're doing concerning the elephant population -- they've got a very large population and it causes some damage to ecosystems because of how much elephants eat and drink in the course of a day.
But, the President also said, the other problem I have is of course they're the symbol of the other party back home so, he said, there will probably be lots of pictures with me and elephants in the next couple of days.
That was pretty much it. They did not talk specifically about the trade initiative. Botswana, according to the Ambassador -- we were talking on the way here -- they would be less likely affected by the President's Africa trade initiative than some other countries. Their principal export item is diamonds and they're not an economy that has been heavily based on assistance from outside. They, of course, graduated from formal U.S. assistance some time ago, so they're not an aid recipient, as have some of the other countries been that we've visited.
Q Mike, there was an article in one of the papers about indigenous residents of the Kalahari area who are hoping that Clinton's visit would help them avoid a forced or encouraged move out of that area to settlement. Has that issue come up or is it likely to?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe it came up in this meeting. I can check with the Ambassador, see if we've worked on that or if that's been an issue that's come up. That's the first I had heard of that.
Q Down in Washington the pool wants to know, is the President aware of this Juanita Broderick allegations and is he planning on addressing at all back home, when he comes back?
MR. MCCURRY: There was a lengthy response -- is that the letter that the Jones side --
Q This is the woman 20 years ago who says he --
MR. MCCURRY: This is in the new filing by Jones? There was a lengthy response given by Jim Kennedy from the White House Legal Counsel's Office on that. We have not seen the filing here and have only seen one article about it, which didn't even mention the name of the person you just mentioned. So we have really nothing to add to the response that's already been given.
Q This is a stupid question, but did he have any comment on the fact that they played "Beautiful Dreamer" as he was reviewing the troops? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't hear him say anything about that.
Q What's the joke about the digital phones again, that it was a comment on the White House's equipment?
MR. MCCURRY: It wasn't a comment on advanced technology in the United States, but probably was a comment on White House technology, that they have more sophisticated cellular technology here in Botswana.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thanks.
END 2:30 P.M. (L)