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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 22, 2000
                      AND PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA

9:50 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT MANDELA: (In progress) -- the leadership of Burundi. I must assure you that in Burundi we have a leadership that is committed, that are helping us to solve this matter and to bring peace to that country. Your contribution will also give further momentum to the peace process.

I now leave the matter to you.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. First of all, President Mandela, let me thank you for the efforts you are making for peace in Burundi. I know that all the parties there appreciate it, and I can assure you that people all around the world appreciate your efforts.

I also want to say that I am joined here by our Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; my National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger; my Chief of Staff, John Podesta. We want you to know how important the United States believes it is for a peace to be achieved in Burundi.

This work began under President Nyerere, and we thank you for continuing the effort. I want to also say to the people of Burundi, America cares about the peace process there and America wants all the parties to succeed. I also want to pay tribute to President Mkapa and the people of Tanzania for hosting the talks and being good neighbors. And I thank the facilitators from the Nyerere Foundation who work each day to help their brothers and sisters from Burundi to achieve peace.

I am very glad that I can speak to you because of this modern technology. It's a symbol of our growing interdependence. And I'm thrilled that the sounds and the images of these deliberations are being beamed back to the people of Burundi.

I want to say that, in a way, my speaking to you through this technology shows that the greater openness of people and borders makes us more interdependent in ways that are positive and particularly negative, as well. As the world shrinks, we are all more vulnerable to the problems of those beyond our borders -- all those with whom we share this small planet Earth. All of us benefit when others build peace; all suffer when others suffer.

That is why you are there, Mr. President, and why I am honored to be joining you in this way today. We understand what is at stake, first, for the people of Burundi who have suffered so much death, fear and insecurity; for all of Africa and, indeed, for the rest of the world.

Just last week I attended the opening in Washington of our National Summit on Africa. More than 2,000 Americans participated; people from all 50 of our states, from every walk of life and every racial and ethnic background. All came because they believe in Africa's promise, and because they want to work with Africans to realize it, by building a more open world trading system, by standing with young democracies, by lifting the burden of debt, by supporting education in Africa and fighting malaria, TB and, of course, AIDS.

The United States wants to build a common future with all of Africa. The real question for the leaders from Burundi who have gathered with you in Arusha is whether your country will share in the promise of this future. Will you lead the way to a lasting settlement for the larger conflicts in the Great Lakes region? Will you show the way for other societies in Europe and Asia that are also victimized by these kinds of ethnic conflicts? Or will you hesitate and falter?

If that were to happen, I am afraid a disaster would befall your people, and it would seep beyond your borders. We have seen how a spark lit in one small part of this region can engulf the whole.

To most of us outsiders, the choice is clear. I know that to our friends from Burundi, who are burdened with painful memories, it is more complicated. Yet I have found that all the great peacemakers somehow find a way to let their real grievances and pain go, and walk away -- not just from imagined, but from very real grievances.

The late Israeli Prime Minister, my friend, Yitzhak Rabin, said, "you do not make peace with your friends." And, Mr. President, of course, your own life is the most powerful example of the good that comes from letting go of legitimate grievances and harm.

So I ask the people who are gathered there to remember the examples of what works in this new and exciting world, and to let go of their old hurts, even if they are legitimate -- perhaps especially if they are legitimate, because nothing that happened yesterday will take care of today and tomorrow, and the children of Burundi deserve leaders who are looking to today, and especially to tomorrow.

It requires vision to believe that in the end we'll all be better off if we work together; that people of different tribes and ethnic groups, different races and religions, all need one another; that violence is bad because it just breeds more violence; and that sustainable peace and security can be achieved only by negotiation, by what you are doing there; that everyone comes out ahead when all members of society feel that they have a common stake in the nation.

It requires courage for these leaders to accept the risks of peacemaking. It's easy for me, half a world away, to tell the leaders of the various parties they should do this. But I know they have to go back and explain it to those whom they represent. So, even though it's easy for me and hard for them doesn't change the fact that it's still true -- the courageous and brave thing to do is to find reconciliation, and to give everyone a role to play in Burundi's future.

Of course, there are those who doubt that you will succeed. There are those who believe some places are simply cursed by their past and condemned to a future of endless conflict. But, Mr. President, if that were true, your old cell on Robben Island would still be occupied today, instead of being the site that all the tourists want to see.

We can change; all of us can change. And I thank you again for helping the people of Burundi to change. I applaud the effort of all who are gathered there in Arusha, and the vision and courage that brought you there. I support the efforts to form a new social compact and a single, indivisible, democratic nation.

I call upon those armed groups still using violence to suspend hostilities and come to the negotiating table. You do not have to abandon your points of view, just to defend them with the force of argument, not the force of arms.

And let me say to all our Burundian friends who are present there, the United States and our partners will do all we can to ensure that these talks to succeed, and to help create the economic conditions essential to a sustainable peace. My Special Envoy, Howard Wolpe, will continue to work with you. And I thank him for his dedication. We will do this because it's the right thing to do and because we, too, have a stake in your future. We will do it because we have faith in you, President Mandela, and in other African nations who have pledged to see this process through.

Ultimately, of course, the people of Burundi and their representatives will have to decide what to do. You have all known fear and insecurity and loss. I ask you, do not condemn your young children to what you have known in the past. Seize this chance to give them a different future. Give them a country where they can sleep in their homes, walk to their schools, worship in their churches and rise to their potential without being at war with their neighbors; a country that helps to fulfill the promise of Africa, that is part of the life of the world.

This will be a long and difficult journey. But as you go forward, I want the people of Burundi to know the people of the United States are prepared to walk with you. We will reach our destination together. Turikumwe -- I am with you. And I thank you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT MANDELA: My President, I thank you very much for the remarks that you've made. I am sure your remarks will be a source not only of encouragement, but of tremendous strength to all those who are searching for peace, especially to the leadership of Burundi.

I can assure you from the Internet discussions I've had with them on the 16th of January, and yesterday and today, that you have leaders of real commitment, of caliber and who are -- and who are thinking about the people of Burundi.

For us to have the support of one of the world's superpowers is something which encourages us, because we want the support of the powerful and mighty in this exercise because, unfortunately, we have not got the resources that you and other powers have. We rely on you to make sure that this process proceeds speedily, but at the same time with a sense of urgency. And I will now be approaching you, Mr. President, to say if we can raise more funds for this process, because from the point of view of the facilitation, they have informed me that we have sufficient resources only for this session, and we want to prevent that.

I think that the leaders of Burundi have heeded my appeal, that whatever we do we must do so with speed, without being reckless. To give every leader here the opportunity to study the documents that are going to come, we have more or less agreed that the next stage is that the facilitation should have the compromised proposals which are going to be considered by the leadership, because we want to round up this process.

Because the more we delay, the more people that are going to be killed. And they're killed by groups who are not attacking the military -- I don't say it's correct for them to attack the military, but if they have to conduct operations, those operations must be aimed at the military, not innocent civilians -- children who are killed without knowing why they are being deprived of the most priceless gift in creation: life. Attacking women, the aged, the disabled.

Can these be the people of Burundi? Or are these elements being manipulated by forces outside Burundi? Can a Burundian have the courage to slaughter innocent civilians? These are questions that we are considering. I have invited these groups so that I can discuss with them, and I hope I'll be able to persuade them to work with us in order to bring peace in Burundi.

But, my President, I don't know whether I'm the right person to thank you because of what you have done to me as an individual and as the leader of my organization, and then later as the leader of my country. The support that you have given me long before I was President of the country, and throughout out my presidency, is beyond words.

But I think of the statement that you made when you paid a visit to my country. You said, we Americans have been asking the wrong questions: What can we do for Africa? You say the right question to ask is: What can we do with Africa? That's a fundamental change in the foreign policy of the United States of America. And since then you have been consistent. And I admire you and I think you are doing a remarkable job.

You are now serving your last term. And it is good that a man, a head of state of your stature, should make sure that during your lifetime, you bring happiness, joy and stability to every country in the world. And that is what you're doing. And that is why we are so indebted to you.

And you are supported by Madeleine, who is a ball of energy, and we'd like to give her all the support that we can. And I forget that she is an attractive young lady -- (laughter) -- I'm just talking about her contributions. And you, Mr. President, you have got my full support in everything that you do, especially in the initiative that you have taken in the Middle East.

But I would like you to listen to my advice that the Western powers must speak with one voice in regard to the Middle East initiative. And you are the right person to mobilize everybody to speak with one voice -- to speak to Britain, France, Russia, Egypt, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and all other people who can make it possible for us to have a breakthrough in regard to the Middle East. But I am very appreciative of the role that you're playing. And I think everybody here is tremendously encouraged by your intervention.

And lastly, I want you to give my love to Hillary and to Chelsea, and to wish Hillary, and to tell her, that we wish her success in the endeavor in which she has launched now.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Let me just say very briefly how much I appreciate those remarks, and again, how much I appreciate all the parties being in Arusha. And you may be sure that the United States will continue to support this process. And if the process achieves an agreement which brings peace, we want to support Burundi. And we want to use this process, and your role in it, Mr. President, as a shining example to other troubled countries in Africa and throughout the world that there is a way to walk away from war toward a peaceful future.

So, again, I thank you; I pledge my support; and I am very impressed by what all of you have done. I urge you to stay there and keep working at it. You can do it, and the United States will be with you. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT MANDELA: Well, good-bye, Mr. President.


PRESIDENT MANDELA: Good-bye, Mr. President. Thank you.

END 10:13 A.M. EST