THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aboard Air Force One) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 31, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER SANDY BERGER Aboard Air Force One
5:45 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: The President had a brief farewell meeting with President Masire at the airport. Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Masire were also present. President Clinton thanked him enormously for obviously the hospitality and warmth of the last three days. He congratulated President Masire -- as you know, today is the day on which he leaves office, after 18 years of government, turns over power. And the President said that what he had accomplished -- what President Masire had accomplished in building and sustaining a democratic government with high rates of growth, with well-being of people quite widely shared, the actions he's taken to preserve the environment, are an enormous legacy that he is leaving behind for his people.
And the President specifically talked about today, as he drove around Gaborone today and saw people going about their daily lives in a normal fashion, this truly is the peaceful transition of power. One could not have known from driving down the streets or walking around the streets that anything unusual was happening today, and that speaks very loudly about what's been established here.
Q What did President Masire say in response to President Clinton's assessment of his building of democracy?
MR. BERGER: He was very grateful, that he had a great deal of confidence in the vice president, who will become president sometime -- excuse me, its's tomorrow, not today; I should correct myself. He thanked the President very much. He said it was very important that the President had come, that it had been a high point for him. I'm not sure he said "the high point," but he said "a high point." And that it was a wonderful present as he left office.
Q Why is he leaving office?
MR. BERGER: His term is up next year, and I think that he felt, as I understand it, that it would be better to have the vice president established as president, whom he will appoint tomorrow, and have a period to establish himself with the Botswanan people. Q Does Gore know about this practice? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: No comment.
The last thing, the President obviously talked about how wonderful Chobe was, and they really do want tourism to be -- they have an economy now that is quite heavily dependent on diamonds. They have quite a long time in which they can mine these diamonds -- the length of time -- up to 50 years' worth. But they obviously want to diversify their economy.
And one of the ways they want to diversify their economy is tourism. It's very, very high on the list. And the President said that he hoped in some way he had helped that, by having all of you here and having the world see what a beautiful country this was.
MR. MCCURRY: Senegal. What are we going to do in Senegal?
MR. BERGER: In Senegal, we are going to meet with President Diouf. The three high points of this -- obviously in addition to meeting with President Diouf -- will be going to see the training of the African Crisis Response Initiative, the ACRI. This is an extraordinarily important thing that's happening here, which we originally launched in 1996. And quite a number of African countries have indicated their interest in it.
And even, actually, President Mandela, in the context of saying there must be an African commander, which was always envisioned, for us to participate, that was actually a step forward because they had previously said they would participate in the context of the southern African group participating together. So I think that's number one.
Q Can I ask a question along those lines? Would President Mandela allow his troops to be under American authority during training? Did your clarify that? Isn't that part of the problem?
MR. BERGER: Well, they aren't under our authority during training. If we're doing training exercises here in Senegal, those folks aren't under our authority. We have military training with other militaries around the world. It's sort of technical assistance. It doesn't change the chain of command or authority. So that's one thing I think will be interesting.
Second of all, we're going to do the fourth of these roundtables, which I think have been really wonderful. We did the Rwanda one and we did the South Africa one and we did one today. Tomorrow we'll meet with a group of NGO leaders from around the continent, people who are engaged in development issues from various perspectives around the continent.
And then of course we will go on Thursday to Goree Island, and the President will talk about the trip.
Q I was reading an article today about people expressing concern that the Socialist Party in Senegal is far too dominant and some of the minor parties are getting squeezed out, and there were questions about the honesty of the elections in '96 and in '88.
MR. BERGER: I think by and large the international community has deemed the elections to have been fair. There may have been some problems. I think we're going to be meeting with some other leaders as well as President Diouf along the way.
Q Is the United States satisfied with the extent of multiparty democracy in Senegal?
MR. BERGER: My understanding is it quite brisk and vigorous.
Q Have you heard from the government of France about this trip to Africa in general and the trip to Senegal in particular?
MR. BERGER: The President wrote to President Chirac before he left, and he may call President Chirac before we get to Senegal.
Q He may?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q Has he gotten any impressions on how it's being received in France?
MR. BERGER: No, I haven't received anything on that. The press secretary doesn't share that with me, his clips. But I think he will, if the call goes through, the President --
MR. MCCURRY: -- expressed appreciation for the American president's interest in African affairs, if I understand correctly.
Q Has the President talked to any other African leaders during the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Charles Taylor.
Q Any others since then?
MR. MCCURRY: The summit, the summit in Rwanda.
Q Sandy, how many nations are involved in the ACRI, and what is that about?
MR. BERGER: As I began to talk about it, I knew I didn't know the answer to that question.
MR. MCCURRY: We're going to have a fact sheet on the ACRI and also I think a fact sheet on the NGO.
MR. BERGER: I think this is either the second or third country that's gone through training. There are countries are in various stages. Some of them have said they want to participate. What they do is they designate their own units, who will then train in a way that could make them interoperable.
MR. MCCURRY: Remind your colleagues that Joe Wilson and Susan Rice did a whole review of the status of ACRI when we were in Kampala.
MR. BERGER: What is the purpose of it? The purpose of it is to give Africans an indigenous peacekeeping capacity. Africans have been -- a lot of African countries have been huge participants in peacekeeping. The Botswanan army is one of the best armies in the developing world, and other countries. But they don't have something that can connect with each other. And this will take awhile, a few years, but hopefully they will then have the capability to go in a Rwanda situation, a Liberia situation --
Q This would help avoid the sort of genocide that happened in Rwanda; is that right?
MR. BERGER: It would be another resource that would be available.
Q What exactly will the President be viewing tomorrow?
MR. BERGER: He'll be viewing a training exercise. I don't know exactly -- whether it's just --
MR. MCCURRY: They've got some kind of exercise they're going to do.
MR. BERGER: It's actually -- I think it's an ongoing training exercise.
END 6:00 P.M. (L)