Office of the Press Secretary
(Gaborone, Botswana)

For Immediate Release March 29, 1998


Lawn of State House
Gaborone, Botswana

3:10 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Foreign Minister, President Masire, Lady Obebile, Vice President Mogae, Mrs. Mogae, and all the other people who have previously been recognized by a previous speaker. I am glad to be here and to receive such a warm welcome --and a standing ovation from all of you.

For Hillary and for me, this has been an extraordinary trip for our entire American delegation. It has taken us from Africa's Western rim to its Southern shore; from its smallest villages to its most modern cities; from its youngest democracy, South Africa, to its oldest, Botswana.

We have seen the promise of a new Africa whose roots are deep here in your soil, for you have been an inspiration to all who cherish freedom. At your independence three decades ago, Botswana was among the poorest countries on Earth, with only two miles of paved roads and one public secondary school. Today you have a vibrant economy, a network of major highways, almost full enrollment in primary schools, and the longest average lifespan in sub-Saharan Africa. Congratulations to all of you.

Africa needs more Botswanas, and America is determined to support all those who would follow your lead. Today I'm pleased to announce our intent to establish Radio Democracy for Africa, a Voice of America service aimed directly at encouraging progress toward freedom and democracy, respect for human rights, and an independent and objective media.

I the Congressman Royce in particular for his leadership in promoting this program, as well as the other members of our congressional delegation.

Botswana's success was built by its people and by the dedicated leaders they chose. President Masire, I am deeply honored to be among those here as you leave your distinguished tenure. As Vice President and Finance Minister, you sparked the engine of an economic miracle by establishing the first joint ventures for mining diamonds. You created Botswana's sound fiscal and monetary regimes. You negotiated Botswana's access to European markets. You earned the trust of your fellow citizens.

As President, you've ensured that human rights and the rule of law could make their home in Botswana. Your stand against apartheid and your support of the ANC gave hope to all who yearned for dignity and equality in South Africa. You have been a leader in conserving wildlife. You've sent your troops on missions of peace in Somalia, Rwanda, and Mozambique. And as a founding member and host to the SADC Secretariat, you have helped bring countries in this region closer together and create new opportunities for your people.

Now, as you step down from public office after 18 years of leadership, you're ensuring the peaceful transfer of power that has come to characterize this land.

Mr. President, on behalf of all Americans, I salute you and your achievements. I would say you have earned the right to go back to your cattle ranch.

The United States has been very proud to support Botswana's progress. Botswana's success led to the bittersweet closing of our AID and Peace Corps programs. But though these development programs have finished, their legacy endures. Lady Obebile, I know you taught many Peace Corps Volunteers their first words in Setswana. You helped to ensure that countless young Americans came home with a lifelong love for your country and this continent.

Now we're building on that spirit of cooperation to renew our partnership for the future, based on common values, common vision, and mutual respect. Together we can help all men and women in Africa secure the freedom that is their birthright. We can deepen our investment in trade and bring the prosperity to all citizens. We can work together to deter conflicts before they explode into crises. And together, we can protect this fragile Earth for future generations.

Visitors to Botswana will never forget the beauty of your environment. Tomorrow, Hillary and I will have the great pleasure of visiting Chobe ourselves. You have been blessed with abundant resources, but none of those is more precious than your people. Because of them, the future looks bright for Botswana and for the region as well.

So, Mr. President, on behalf of all Americans, thank you again for the extraordinary example you and the people of Botswana have set. I wish you all the best. America is proud to be Botswana's partner and friend. Thank you very much.

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