THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON AND SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI IN STATE ARRIVAL CEREMONY The East Room
10:18 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Mbeki, Mrs. Mbeki, distinguished members of the South African delegation, we welcome you back to America and to the White House, where we hope, despite the rain, you feel our warm welcome and you feel very much at home.
Sometimes the most important history is made quietly. Last June was such a day, when the people in townships in South Africa waited patiently in long lines to vote for President Mbeki, to elect him the new President of South Africa and complete the first transition from one democratic government to another.
It reminded us that for all the setbacks, the 1990s were a time of extraordinary liberation for human kind, with democracy spreading to more people in 1999 than it did in 1989, the year the Iron Curtain came down.
President Mbeki, you embody both the courage of the long struggle that brought democracy to South Africa and the vision now needed to define South Africa's critical role in the new century. You are leading your nation and an entire continent forward, supporting peacemaking and peacekeeping; fighting against poverty and illiteracy and for economic opportunity.
Our nations have drawn closer together over the last few years, thanks in no small part to the remarkable work that you and Vice President Gore have done together to deepen our ties. Today, we will move forward on many fronts, fighting common threats and removing barriers to trade and investment. Last Thursday, I was proud to sign into law a bill that will build commerce and investment between us and many other nations in Africa and the Caribbean region.
As I said in South Africa in 1998, I believe in Africa's future, in its progress and its promise. Just one small example, last year three of the world's five fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Of course, terrible problems remain in the Horn of Africa, where a senseless war is again claiming new victims; in the Congo and Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, in Angola, and across the continent, where so many millions are too burdened by debt, and so many innocents are dying of AIDS, TB and malaria. These are hard challenges without easy answers, and they will test our partnership. But that is what partners are for -- to solve big problems together.
The United States can, and must, work with South Africa and all our friends in Africa to fight poverty, disease, war, famine and flood. We do so because it is right and because it is in our interests. If we want a world of rising growth and expanding markets -- a world in which our security is not threatened by the spread of armed conflict, a world in which bitter ethnic and religious differences are resolved by force of argument, not force of arms, a world in which terrorists and criminals have no place to hide, a world in which economic activity does not destroy the natural environment for our children, a world in which children are healthy and go to school, and don't die of AIDS in the streets or fight in wars -- then we must be involved in Africa.
That is why we have passed the Africa trade bill; why we support debt relief for the poorest countries; why we have been working to recognize AIDS as a security threat to the United States and why we have moved to make critical drugs available at affordable prices; and to lead an international effort to develop vaccines for AIDS, TB, and malaria.
A few weeks ago, President Mbeki announced a new Coat of Arms for South Africa. The motto of the Coat of Arms, written in an ancient African language, means, "people who are different join together." That sentiment strikes close to the heart of what it means to be an American, as well as a South African. And it concisely summarizes our goal today and for the future, advancing a partnership between two nations that will always be different, but are joined together by a profound commitment to freedom and to our common humanity.
We welcome you here, Mr. President, and we look forward to working with you. Thank you. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Mr. President and Madam Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, Mr. President, let me say thank you very much, indeed, for inviting us to visit the United States. We're happy to respond positively to this invitation because we are convinced that the government and people of the United States are critical and longtime partners in our struggle to address the many challenges facing both our two countries, as well as many other parts of the world.
These challenges, which require our collective wisdom and action and to which you've referred, Mr. President, include the human threat posed by deepening underdevelopment, widespread poverty, diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as violent conflicts and wars afflicting especially the continent from which we come, Africa.
As we meet today and the next four days with the government of the United States, members of the U.S. Congress, various business people and community leaders, academics and media people, in the context of a world defined in part by the vast inequalities between one person and another, between one country and another, between one continent and another, we're compelled to act together as partners to bring about peace, social and economic justice for the billions of poor people who inhabit our common world. We also see these challenges in the ever-widening income and development gap between the rich and the poor, both within and between states.
We believe, Mr. President, we must act together in solidarity with as many people around the world, and especially in Africa. The best possible ways have to be found to end poverty and disease, and to help people to extricate themselves from the indecencies of wars and violent conflicts. These challenges require of us not just standard responses, but urgent and extraordinary interventions that will ensure that the benefits of the current scientific and technological advances are shared by everyone, including those in the most remote and isolated villages of the world.
Indeed, Mr. President, as we grapple with all these problems facing most of humanity, we witness on the other side of the same universe an abundance of resources, and an unprecedented economic prosperity occasioned in great measure by vast technological advances. As has happened before the offensive against poverty and underdevelopment, calls for interventions that are comprehensive, integrated, deliberate and driven by all of us.
At the same time, we must continue to encourage the further entrenchment of democracy and the institutions that underpin it. We have to continue to strive for an answer to the seemingly elusive but important question of peace, particularly on my own continent. We must ensure that we end the wars, the military coups and violent conflicts that continue to disfigure the face of Africa, and bring up all the required levels of stability.
Together we have to adopt the measures we need to bring about a world where women everywhere are free to participate fully in the affairs of their nations; where children are given the space to enjoy their childhood without being forced into premature adulthood; where we deal a decisive blow against the insult of racism.
I have no doubt that humanity has a leadership capable of responding accordingly to all of these challenges, in the interest of the entire humanity. You have yourself, Mr. President, on numerous occasions, called on all of us to meet these challenges. And I can assure you that we share with you the desire not just to act on all of these problems, but to do so as a matter of urgency.
I'm pleased, Mr. President, that we'll also have the opportunity to look at ways and means further to strengthen our already excellent bilateral relations, among others, through that important agency, our binational commission.
I'd like to take this opportunity, Mr. President, to express my sincere appreciation of the fact that in the years that we've worked together, you and your administration have treated us with dignity, whatever our differences on specific matters; with sensitivity for our problems, and an unwavering commitment to help us resolve these; and with a willingness always to learn so that you could assist us better.
We, for our part, Mr. President, will not relax our efforts to create the possibility for all our people to realize their dream of a better life.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Applause.)
END 10:30 A.M. EDT