THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 25, 1998 4:51 p.m. (L)
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT MAKERERE UNIVERSITY
MRS. CLINTON: Bana? Uganda. Muli mutyano. (Applause.) It is such a great honor and pleasure for me to be here on this campus of this great university. (Applause). Before I begin, I want to thank President and Mrs. Museveni for the warm hospitality that they have extended to us during our visit. And I particularly want to thank Mrs. Museveni, not only for that kind introduction, but I want to acknowledge her leadership on so many fronts, especially her creation of the Uganda Women?s Effort to Save the Orphans. (Applause.) I also want to congratulate her on her recent graduation from the university. (Applause.)
Thank you for your warm welcome, Mr. Vice Chancellor. And, no, I do not mind at all, for you?re asking that the needs of the students and faculty here be met, and I will carry your message back to the United States. (Applause.)
It is a pleasure once again to be with your Vice President, whom I admire so much and who told me that she, too, was a student and a teacher here at the University. (Applause.) I am also delighted to be joined by the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, the Minster of Justice and Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Deputy Chief Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Gender and Community Development, and so many of you distinguished guests and faculty and students.
It is wonderful for me to have been able to return to Uganda. Last year when I visited with my daughter, I made the promise that I would return with my husband. And I?m very pleased I could keep that promise. (Applause.) I learned a lot about your country, your struggles and challenges, last year. Since then I have followed your development with great interest and very great admiration, because I have some small sense from the conversations I have had with many men and women here in Uganda and Ugandans in the United States about what you have had to overcome.
As the choir sang the Uganda National Anthem a few minutes ago, I thought about how appropriate it is for these words to fill Freedom Square today - - united, free for liberty. For 75 years,. Makerere University has stood for these principles. And yet, I know that forces of evil stole the life of Makerere?s first Ugandan Vice Chancellor. I know that the forces of evil arrested, tortured and vilified students. They pushed faculty out of the country and tried to demean those who stayed. They wanted to destroy this world class university. (Applause.)
People like Idi Amin and his ilk are not comfortable in the light of freedom and education - - they prefer ignorance and backwardness. And you did not let them succeed. (Applause.) Instead you healed the wounds of the past and you are now building this university for the future, just as Uganda is doing, just as Africa is doing.
Out of the hard soil of the Cold War, democracies, free market economies and civil societies are all taking root. Students who once fought oppression underground re-emerged as liberators and now are leaders of a free Uganda. And voices for freedom and dignity and human rights once silenced are now again echoing through the halls of this university and across this country.
Many such voices are here with us today. I could call the names of many faculty and students, government and academic leaders, members of the professions and businesses here in Uganda - - people who stood up for freedom when it really counted. We can hear the voices of freedom from Sister Rachele Frassera, the Deputy Head Mistress of St. Mary?s College in Aboke. When the Lord?s Resistance Army kidnaped 139 girls, 75 percent of the student body, she chased down the terrorists, convinced them to release 109 girls and is working day and night to make sure all of them return safely. (Applause.)
We can hear the voice of freedom from Dr. Joy Kwesiga, the former Chair of Action and Development, and now Dean of Social Sciences here at Makerere. (Applause.) She has worked hard to ensure that the victims of domestic violence are heard, that their accusations are treated seriously and that the crimes are punished.
We can hear the voice of freedom from Sarah Bagalaliwo. As a founder and Chair of the NGO FIDA, Sarah instituted a legal aid clinic, which over the last 10 years has helped thousands of vulnerable women understand and exercise their fundamental legal rights. (Applause.)
Just a few hours ago my husband and I were in Rwanda, where we spoke with survivors of the 1994 genocide. It is still hard to imagine that in the space of three months, one million people were murdered. Nowhere has that number of people ever been murdered in such a short period of time in history. We listened to a delegation of six Rwandans who spoke of their experiences. One member was a woman whom I met exactly a year ago here in Kampala. I could not myself go to Rwanda, but several women came to see me and we met here to talk about their experiences.
Last year and again today, I will forever see the faces of the people I spoke with as they described the human toll of Rwanda?s violence and what they were doing to rebuild their lives and communities. As my husband said in his remarks today, genocide destroys not only individuals, but our humanity. We must continue to bring healing to the victims, and we must bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. (Applause.) We must continue to be vigilant about the dangers that still exist and do everything we can to make sure that nothing like what happened in Uganda in the ?70s and what happened in Rwanda in 1994 happen again.
That means every one of us must act. Not just our leaders - - we must hold our leaders accountable - - it is for all of us to stand up for the rights of all people. We must work to end atrocities around the world, not just the ones that grab headlines, but the indignities that people suffer quietly, when they are denied the chance to speak or learn, to work or eat; when they?re denied the chances to live free from fear or want. In other words, we should stand up for the rights of all persons to be fully human.
You have made many steps toward that goal here at this university. I could not name them all, but I want particularly to commend the University for creating the Department of Women?s Studies, and now for creating the Human Rights and Peace Center. (Applause.) There is no better time for all of us now to reaffirm our commitment to human rights and peace, for it was 50 years ago that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born and the world acknowledged a common standard for human dignity. The document puts it very directly: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. All human beings - - not just men, not just adults, not just people of particular cultures or nations, races or religions. This declaration means that we must expand the circle of human dignity to all human beings.
And just think how much wider that circle has grown in Africa in just a few short years. Only a decade ago who would have imagined that Nelson Mandela would move triumphantly from prisoner to President of South Africa. (Applause.) Or that more than 30 years of turmoil would give way to healing and unity in Mozambique. And who would have imagined that it would have been your brave President, President Museveni, that would have taken on the scourge of AIDS with his public health campaign, and that he would and you would, working together, stem the rise of AIDS in Uganda. That is also standing up for human rights.
And who would have imagined that Uganda would produce your Vice President, the highest ranking woman in any African government. (Applause.) I could add, the highest ranking woman in many governments around the world, not just in Africa. (Applause.)
And yet, despite the steady march of progress, the commitment here to universal primary education, for example, there are still those who will claim that human rights are a luxury of the West; that they have nothing to do with Africa, or Asia; that they are just a province of people like Americans. But the beliefs inscribed in the Universal Declaration were not invented 50 years ago; they are not the work of any single culture or country. They are universal and timeless.
Sophocles wrote about universal human rights 2500 years ago, when he had Antigone declare that there were ethical laws higher than those of even kings. Confucius articulated them in ancient China. And we can look throughout this continent and find examples of ancient leaders of Africa who also said that all people walk the same way, all people must be treated with dignity. These are the core teachings of all major faiths in the world. They are the foundation of what it means to be a respected human being-- in Africa, in Asia, in America-- because they live in the human soul.
Around the globe, I have seen many women and men pushed to the margins of their societies. They may know nothing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but they are eloquent in their beliefs that they were born with God-given rights just as surely as they were born into the human family.
It is absolutely untrue that individual human rights and community rights cannot co-exist. The truth is, they are indispensable to each other. Democratic progress is possible when all citizens can be heard. Economic progress is possible when all citizens have the tools of opportunity, such as education and health care, that will enable them to support their families.
Yesterday, President and Mrs. Museveni went with my husband and me to visit a village-- the Jinja Village. We saw women who are working together through a village bank to make their lives better, increasing their income, helping their husbands support their families better, taking care of the children that were orphaned that they have taken in from their brothers or sisters or other relatives. And they are doing it because they?ve been given access to credit; they?ve been given tools to enable them to make economic progress.
Real security is only possible when we learn to live together and to respect each other?s fundamental differences. I found a quote I particularly like from a Dinak Chief, who put it like this: "If you see a man walking on his two legs, do not despise him; he is a human being. Bring him close to you and treat him like a human being. This is how you will secure your own life."
But yet, it is not an easy task, in my own country, or any country, to make human rights a reality. The work is not done when a law is passed or a constitution is drafted. Securing human rights for all people is a never-ending struggle. In my own country, it has taken most of our 222 years-- some of them bloody and a few of them easy-- to extend the benefits of citizenship to all Americans.
We went from a very small group of white, property-owning men having citizenship, and gradually expanded it to include black men, and then to include women. But then we had to work to make sure that the words in the constitution meant what they said. One of my predecessors, Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was 35 years old before she could vote. My own mother was born before women were allowed to vote in the United States. And yet, if we do not secure human for all, none of us is secure in our own rights.
Some of you may recall the words of the Protestant minister living in Nazi Germany who said: "In Germany, first they came for the Communists, but I didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a Jew. Then they came for trade unionists and I didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a trade unionist. Then they came for Catholics and I didn?t speak out because I was a Catholic. Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak out."
At the dawn of the millennium, those of us who have the power to speak, and all of you here affiliated with this great university, by virtue of you being here and attaining this education, not only have the power to speak, but the obligation. We must speak up wherever we see injustice and inequality.
And particularly today, I want to speak up for women in African and all over the globe. Too many of them everyday do the work that needs to be done-- managing the home, feeding, schooling, and caring for the children; providing water and fuel. But every day, too many women are also being fed less and last; too many are trafficked like drugs and sold into prostitution; too many are left out when important decisions are made about their lives and their families and in their communities.
I want to commend Uganda for your new Local Government Act, which will help more women be a part of the decisions that will affect their lives. (Applause.) I am pleased to announce today that the United States government will provide $2 million to help train these elected official women as they assume their new roles and responsibilities. (Applause.)
Because, yes, women?s rights are human rights. And everywhere I travel, I meet women who are struggling to make sure that occurs. We have to speak out when either laws or customs treat women like children or second class citizens, when women are blocked from owning land, receiving inheritances, securing credit, or participating in the political process. We also have to speak out for more countries like Uganda to make sure that girls are educated.
Two-thirds of the 130 million children out of school worldwide are girls. I wish that some of those people in those countries that still prevent girls from being educated would come and visit the classrooms I have seen here in Uganda-- the bright faces of the young boys and girls ready to learn so they can become better citizens. I am so pleased that universal primary education is a critical part of Uganda?s future.
There is much else we must speak against: violence against women; the practice of genital mutilation; women and children who are brutalized by conflict whenever it occurs.
In Uganda, a pilot program here has reduced the number of women who endure genital mutilation by more than one-third. And when I go to Senegal in a few days, I will meet with a group of women who over the past year have voted in their villages to end this practice and they are helping others to do the same.
We must also speak up for women and children caught up in war in and conflict around the world. It used to be that women, children, and civilians were to be protected during a war. Today, they are increasingly the targets of war. Since the turn of this century, civilian fatalities during war have increased from 5 percent to 90 percent, and 80 percent of war?s refugees are women and children.
You have seen this here in your country, because nothing so offends any definition of human rights than the use of children as pawns of war and the mistreatment and abuse of women as a tactic of war. The war in Rwanda was waged against the lives and dignity of women. Rape and sexual assault were committed on a mass scale. Here, according to a U.N. report, the children of northern Uganda, like children throughout the world, are also at risk.
Last year when I spoke with President Museveni, he talked to me about the more than 10,000 Ugandan children who have been abducted by the Lords Resistance Army. One of those children is Charlotte, and she is one of the girl?s that Sister Rachele tried to save. I met with her mother, Angelina, at the White House a few weeks ago before we came on this trip. She told me what had happened the night that the LRA kidnaped Charlotte and the other girls from St. Mary?s school; how they broke the windows, tied up the girls, beat them if they cried; took them away into a life of unspeakable horrors. Thankfully, many have been rescued or escaped, or their freedom has been purchased. But many others, like Angelina?s daughter, have not returned.
Like terrorists and dictators throughout history, the LRA claims to be doing the Lord?s work. But there is no greater sin than forcing children to murder each other, family members, and even the parents who brought them into existence. There is no greater sin than raping young girls and sending them into slave labor. And there is no greater sin than using children as human shields in battle.
The LRA call themselves soldiers, but they are cowards, for only cowards would hide behind children in battle. (Applause.) Through a group called Concerned Parents Association, Sister Rachelle, Angelina and other parents are working to save their children and all children.
One of Charlotte?s classmates who escaped talked about what happened when another girl tried to escape. Listen to her words: "The girl who is brought in front of us and the rebels told us to stomp her to death. We killed the poor innocent girl. If we did not kill t he girl, we were going to be shot by guns. We prayed for that girl in our hearts, silently, and asked God to pardon us and forgive us because it was not our will to kill her."
Another girl who was rescued wrote: "I?m pleading with you to find a way of stopping this rebel activity, so that we children of northern Uganda could also share in the peace that other children around the world are sharing in. We need peace."
I?m hoping that every government around the world and every citizen joins your government and people in Uganda in your fight for peace and in your efforts to save these children. Already Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are shining a spotlight on this tragedy. UNICEF is helping to get assistance to groups working at the local level. And non-governmental organizations like World Vision and Gulu Save the Children Organization are caring for children who escape.
There are three of those children here with us that I just had a chance to meet before I came out to see you. Their names are Isaac and Janet and Betty. They were kidnaped by the LRA in the north. They managed to escape, eventually finding refuge. As I looked into their faces and their eyes, I saw the faces and eyes of children the world over. And I thought to myself as I looked at these young men and women of Uganda that we owe them and the thousands more like them everything we can do to make sure that they, too, have a chance, like the children I saw yesterday, to grow up in peace, to be educated, and to look forward to their own families and futures.
There are no easy answers, but I want Janet and Betty and Isaac to know, and I hope that someday Angelina will be able to tell her daughter, Charlotte, as well, that America cares about your children, and we want to work with you to try to stop this tragedy and to care for the children who are its victims. (Applause.)
That?s why I am very pleased to announce new steps our government is taking through the United States Agency for International Development. First, we will provide $500,000 directly to local groups like the Concerned Parents Association and GUSCO, to help them find abducted children and give them the medical care they need to heal. (Applause.)
Second, we will provide $2 million over the next three years for a new Northern Uganda Initiative that will help the people living there plagued by rebel activity get jobs rebuilding roads, dams, schools, health clinics and their own communities. (Applause.) I am very pleased that other donors, including the World Bank, have agreed to support these efforts.
Third, we will provide $10 million to local African NGOs who are working to improve food security and to prevent, ease and respond to conflict in the region. (Applause.)
And, finally, my husband and our government will increase their efforts to pressure Sudan to end its support for the LRA and their cowardly abductions of children. (Applause.) We will work with you to end this terror, and we will work with you to continue your rebuilding of your country.
But I want to add just one more thought, because when we talk about democracy and human rights we know how important laws and institutions are. We know that strong and free markets are also important because they unleash so much creative entrepreneurial energy from people like the women I saw in Jinja yesterday. But, ultimately, the struggle to protect human rights depends upon the millions of decisions and actions that are taken every day by ordinary people like us.
It is what Alexis de Tocqueville called, the habits of the heart. It is what we tell our children. Do we continue to tell them to hate those who our grandparents hated, or do we try to help them give up that hatred? It is what we tell each other in our neighborhoods, our villages, our workplaces when we hear someone making disparaging comments about someone of another ethnicity or tribal or racial or religious background. Do we say: Why do you say that about a person?s group? Do you know the person? Can you make a judgment about that person as an individual? If you cannot, don?t engage in stereotypes. There have been too many stereotypes between us. (Applause.)
In so many ways every day each of us can stand up for human rights. We don?t have to be as brave a Sister Rachele rescuing girls. We don?t have to be as brave as these three young children who have endured so much, but have come back to build their own lives. We can in so many ways stand up for human rights every day.
That is why I?m pleased that the Human Rights and Peace Center is developing a curriculum to be used throughout the campus, so that the lessons taught and learned here will stay with everyone forever. Because, ultimately, all the work that the President or Mrs. Museveni, or the Vice President or the Vice Chancellor, any of those who are currently leaders in Uganda can do will not be successful unless the students at this University and the children in the schools today understand how important it is to stand up for democracy and freedom and human rights.
No one understand better the importance of human rights than Ugandans. You understand the nightmares that come when they are abused. No one is in a better position to honor the past generations by passing these lessons on to the next generations. I hope that you will accept this challenge, not only now as you are doing, but for many years in the future. Many of us will look to Uganda as an example; as a country that is putting the past behind it in ways that the rest of us not only can admire, but follow. You have a historic opportunity to build a future that is not only one that you are proud to pass on to your children, but one that stands as a beacon not only for Africa, but for the world.
Many of us know what you suffered. Today we stand in admiration of what your are doing now to build a better future. And we will look to you as we move toward this new century and new millennium to show us how people develop new habits of the heart, to make it clear that every person is worthy of dignity and respect, and that peace and freedom, democracy and human rights will always bee part of Uganda?s life.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)