THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Arusha, Tanzania) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 28, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER SAMUEL BERGER, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS GAYLE SMITH AND SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE GREAT LAKES, FORMER CONGRESSMAN HOWARD WOLPE Arusha International Conference Center Arusha, Tanzania
9:38 P.M. (L)
MR.CROWLEY: Can I have your attention, please? We've got a very narrow window here as the event is wrapping up. But to kind of detail what has gone on with the Burundi peace process, we have Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser, assisted by Gayle Smith, the NSC Senior Director for African Affairs, and Howard Wolpe, who is the Special Envoy for the Burundi peace negotiations.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, P.J. I particularly want to acknowledge former Congressman Wolpe, who has been the President's Special Envoy for these negotiations for five years? Four years? It seems like forever. What we have witnessed today is an important step forward in an ongoing process to establish a secure peace in Burundi.
As you heard, this negotiating process has been going on for quite some time; and finally, as a result of leadership first of President Nyerere and then President Mandela, an agreement was drafted, and today has been signed by 14 of the 19 parties, including the government, including all of the Hutu parties and including all of the major - the largest Tutsi parties. The other parties have indicated that they are not ready to sign today, given the kind of nature of how things developed over the last 24 to 48 hours. They have not have sufficient time to review the changes that were made, but I think people are hopeful that they will sign the agreement.
When we arrived here earlier today, we honestly could not have told you exactly what would transpire when that meeting convened. There was a lot of discussion still going on among the parties, and I think that that discussion with many of the regional leaders, together with the quite extraordinary one-two punch that the parties heard from President Mandela on the one hand, I think, castigating the lesser angels of their nature, and President Clinton appealing to the better angels of their nature, I think altogether, caused a critical mass of parties to agree to sign.
The two major issues that have been the last sticking points - and then I'll ask Gayle and Howard to describe this in more detail - the relationship with implementation to the cease-fire; of course, there is no cease-fire at this point, and a number of the parties were concerned that they not begin an implementation process until there was a cease-fire. And second, the transition period and the nature of the leadership of Burundi during that transition period.
To some degree, those issues were clarified in the last 24 hours, to some degree, they remain still to be discussed. And I think as you heard, this process will continue and the reservations that have been expressed by some of the parties will be addressed over the weeks and months ahead.
The last thing I would say is, again, I think this is an important step in a very intractable -- and during conflict, we should not have an illusion that this ends all of the problems in Burundi. This is, again, a step in a process which hopefully builds confidence and leads over time to a new social fabric in Burundi by which people can live in a greater degree of peace.
Let me ask Howard to add anything, and Gayle.
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: This has obviously been a very difficult process. I think there was an expectation of agreements being reached even earlier than they were reached in testimony to how tough the negotiations were. Given the intractability of the conflict, the levels of fear and insecurity, it's understandable.
I think that the document - all the parties now understand the document as an invitation to the armed rebel groups not presently in the negotiations to now become part of the negotiations for a cease-fire, because that is absolutely indispensible, obviously, if there's going to be any basis for a secure peace. It is very important now that they have essentially all of the major parties on board a political framework that provides now much more reason for the parties, or less excuse, I should say, for the armed rebel groups to stay apart from the process. So we certainly join with all of the regional leaders and with all of the Burundian parties assigned in saying it's time now for the rebels to come to the table, be part of the process and contribute to a secure and peaceful Burundi.
MS. SMITH: I would just add one other point, which I think is quite significant in terms of what has happened here over the last 48 hours, which is that, as you've observed, there are a number of heads of state who have joined President Mandela here from around the sub-region and as far away as West Africa. Their reason for doing so is, I think they clearly recognize the intractability of the Burundi crisis, but the serious effects for the entire Great Lakes region. The fact that they have lent their weight to this process and through the course of the last two days have, themselves, been involved in helping the mediation move forward has been significant, and I think contributed a great deal to the parties getting as far as they did today. That's the only think I would add.
Q What's the next step here? I mean, we leave in sort of a point of limbo.
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: Well, there are two main outstanding issues that need to be resolved. One is the issue of the transitional leadership - who will lead the transition. The second is the issue of the cease-fire. The facilitation team has pledged to bring the parties together, the -- rebel groups, the government in the shortest possible time, and so that is one part of moving forward. Probably in South Africa is the venue of those talks.
The other question of the conditional leadership with be for the Burundian parties themselves to continue to negotiate and then to come to a consensus decision on. And the agreement that has been signed stipulates that that process is to be concluded within a 30-day period.
Q Excuse me, I'm sorry, but the process to go forward now is the process spelled out in the agreement signed today despite the fact that there were some groups that didn't sign.
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: Exactly. Exactly. And we would certainly have a - the critical mass. I think really, the significant interests are all now identified with this political framework. And now, there are other issues still in contention, some details to be worked out. But I must say, within the last 48 hours, enormous progress was made. The pressure, the deadline, the constant pressure on the parties to begin talking seriously, really began two weeks ago.
The first face-to-face discussions were among the principals. And when you think back two years ago when people were so demonized on each side of this ethnic divide, that it was impossible to even contemplate them coming to one room together, this is really a very significant achievement, a very important step forward. But it is just that. It is a step that hopefully now will produce other important steps as well.
Q But how do you go forward with a peace process if five parties to the agreement haven't signed it, or five parties involved in the process haven't signed it?
MS. SMITH: Well, I think there is an important qualification there, number one. They have said that they will not sign this evening, but they haven't ruled out the possibility of signing. They wanted more time to review the agreement and the stipulations that have been agreed to today.
The other thing that I think is important, and this applies to those parties as well as to the rebels as how it suggests - they have signed on to a political agreement, a political framework here that enables them to resolve the outstanding issues, including the tough issues of cease-fire and transitional leadership. Those five parties and the rebels now have a process into which they can come, and I think it will be interesting to watch those five parties over the next several days, at least, as this process unfolds, and we sincerely hope that they will recognize that there's something in it for them to engage over the next month.
Another important point here. Those five parties are small, Tutsi-based parties from what is called the G-10 - the major Tutsi political parties have signed onto the agreement. Yes, obviously in the government.
Q But President Clinton and the rest of the leaders stayed for only seven of the parties - at that point, did it seem like only seven parties were going to sign?
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: As I said earlier, I think when we arrived, the President met with President Mandela and then with President Buyoya. This was very much a work in progress. And I think some of those absent parties were in rooms in the back with other leaders who were part of the facilitation team trying to iron out last issues.
I think the fact that the meeting - the President came - the fact that the meeting convened became an essentially ultimately action-forcing event for a number of those parties.
Q President Mandela seemed to be urging the government and the other Tutsi groups to put pressure on the ones who didn't sign and perhaps to isolate them. Is there any prospect with these groups to be isolated and perhaps even cut out of the process and the process going forward without their involvement?
MS. SMITH: Let me just make a brief point and then Howard has obviously worked this on a day-to-day basis. But that applies to both the five small parties that didn't sign, but also to the rebels in what was stipulated this evening. In other words, is now a framework, and those parties which choose not to participate, there is agreement significantly that they will not be afforded the benefits, including participation in government. So that potential isolation would apply to both rebels on the Hutu side of the equation or the small Tutsi parties.
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: When you see the final document, you will see in the cover of the document, of the front part of the document, what was referred today as a chapeau. Language that says very clearly that if young rebels, given this opportunity, are not yet prepared to still come forward, that there is an expectation that the parties can prevail upon the international community, the region, to put all possible pressure and to make very clear that there is an expectation out there. There's no excuse for the continuation of the war.
Q Couldn't you interpret President Mandela's remarks about the cease-fire and the Hutus holding on to their arms as somewhat in contrast to what you just said?
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: No. In fact, in other times that President Mandela has spoken to the assembled Burundians, he has usually oftentimes distinguished between the commitment to lay down arms in advance of a cease-fire and the importance of once you've gotten an agreement, to suspend hostilities and even finally to cease hostilities. And in fact, he has cited at times the South African experience in that regard where the, as he pointed out today, the ANC never abandoned the principle of the right to hold arms, but you may recall, the ANC itself, suspended hostilities in advance of the final agreement in order to create the confidence and the conditions necessary for the agreement that finally emerged. And he, himself, makes that distinction.
Q So essentially you have secrets?
MR. BERGER: The agreement, which we have today, framework agreement, cessation of hostilities, which hopefully then can lead to a negotiated cease-fire and whatever kinds of disarmament provisions might be included in that.
Q I have several questions - small ones. First, how many foreign leaders ended up showing up today? Anybody know?
MS. SMITH: I think at last count, we had -
MR. BERGER: How do you define a leader?
Q Anyway, you -
MS. SMITH: We had 13 heads of state and several foreign ministers. So I think you could easily say that 20 governments were represented at very high levels.
Q And a semantic question. You said that we have an agreement now. There is an agreement, even though there are people not signing? I mean, how do you -
MR. BERGER: I would say there is a framework agreement that has been signed by the vast majority of the parties, except for the handful, the smaller parties that didn't sign and the Hutu rebels who are still outside the regime.
Q And just one last small question. When did these people sign? Was it after the one-two punch, as you called it?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q It was after, when the signatures actually happened?
MR. BERGER: Yes. It literally was happening as we were walking over again, as we were getting to the concertina wire to get to the press.
Q So no -- signed before that, or some people had signed before that?
MR. BERGER: No one had signed it.
MS. SMITH: Nobody had signed. There were different indications of whether they would sign or not. But the formal signing took place after the remarks by President Mandela and President Clinton.
Q Based on the fact that it was a snap decision for some of these parties to cave in under that kind of rhetorical pressure, and they may not have so much influence on events on the ground, what should the international community do if there is either violence sustained or escalated as it has been in the last few weeks as a result in the coming days and weeks and months of this agreement?
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: First of all, we don't want to assume that that will, in fact, be the scenario that unfolds. There have already been some preliminary contacts between two of the armed rebel groups and the facilitator. There was even some preliminary contacts between the FDD and the delegation of the government a month ago in Arusha. So there are indications of an interest in beginning to engage. So we're not going to assume the worst.
But if, indeed, they were to stay out of a process that is so clearly defined, that has such clear, broad support of the largest part of the Hutu and Tutsi leadership in these negotiations, then I think that you will find that the region will be joining in unanimous fashion pressing the international community to do everything possible to isolate and essentially to marginalize people who are refusing to permit peace to go forward.
MR. BERGER: Let me answer - that's a very good question. A couple of facts here. First of all, when President Mandela asked President Clinton to come here several months ago, a few months ago, and in several contexts since, he has made it clear to President Mandela that he will come regardless, that he did not - regardless of whether or not, in fact, this meeting resulted in an agreement, precisely because while he wanted to bring, I think, whatever moral force to bear, he could, and while his presence, I believe manifests the international community's concern about Burundi, ultimately, these are decisions voluntarily choices that the parties, themselves, have to make and live with the consequences.
The second thing I would say is, in his remarks, he was very clear in saying that what happens here is very important, but what happens when the parties go back to Burundi and what happens in terms of implementing these commitments is really by far the greater test.
MR. CROWLEY: Last question.
Q Can we go back to the two outstanding issues - commitment. What is the next actual deadline? You said there are 30 days within which they will agree to a cessation of hostilities if that - and could you also address the elements of the transition?
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: I think the hope is to resolve the issue of who will lead the transition within that time frame, and secondly, to begin the process and if possible to include it, but at least certainly launch the process to negotiate the terms of the cease-fire agreement concluded between the rebels and the government.
Q Within the next 30 days?
CONGRESSMAN WOLPE: That's the objective they have laid out, and the agreement.
Q Sandy, did Clinton and Mandela agree to this good-cop, bad-cop buzz scenario that they ended up doing in advance?
MR. BERGER: No. President Mandela gave President Clinton a briefing on where he thought things stood, was not quite as somber as listening to him in the room; it was a pretty tough speech he gave. And the President improvised, I think, a fair amount in terms of what he said and I think said well about what's at stake from his perspective for the parties. So I think they probably fed off each other, but there was not, as far as I know, any design to it.
Q Was Mandela as angry as he seemed, or does he deserve an Oscar?
MR. BERGER: Far be it for me to question President Mandela's intentions. I think he's invested a lot in this process.