2:20 P.M. (L)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Gaborone , Botswana)
For Immediate Release March 29, 1998
REMARKS TO THE POOL
BY MIKE MCCURRY
ON THE BILATERAL MEETING
MIKE MCCURRY: I'm going to give you a readout on the meeting. Obviously, this is a very warm, cordial meeting that reflects the excellent bilateral relations that the United States enjoys with Botswana.
The president met privately with President Masire and then the two delegations joined together. President Masire introduced at some length Vice President Mogae, who will take over the day after tomorrow as president. As you know, that -- President Masire is vacating office just short of the end of his old term, which would expire next year, and obviously the vice president will succeed him and is expected to be a leading contender for the office of the presidency when they have elections next year.
President Masire said relations with the United States have been excellent since the country was founded, when it gained independence in 1966. He said they have been very good, indeed, but never better than now, with your visit.
The Botswana government is making a real effort to increase international tourism in the game preserve area especially. So they're especially delighted that he's going to Chobe (ph) and spending time over the next day and a half for leisurely seeing the game preserve.
And then a lot of funny remarks, none of which I'll give you, about the president's upcoming visit to the game preserve, but they are very proud that he's going there. They think it'll be a big boost to tourism. And so they complimented the president on the fact he is spending some down time here. The president said he was honored to be here. He said that Botswana has perhaps been the first government serving its people in all of sub-Saharan Africa, the record of service to people and the commitment to democracy is perhaps strongest here of all the countries that we have visited. The president said, you've had great success here and I hope more African countries will follow your lead.
The president particularly noted the progress they're making on the status of women. The government has been doing a lot to correct some of the historical inequities that women faced in Botswana. Q: What are some of those? MCCURRY: They have -- they are focusing on violence against women, which is a serious problem in this society. They've got a lot of nongovernmental organizations that have been working on a long-term plan to implement what the government of Botswana calls its ``national policy on women.'' That was adopted in 1996, and it -- they're focusing there on six areas. First, women in poverty. Second, women in power-sharing and decision-making roles, which they've historically been excluded from in Botswana. Three, education and vocational training for women. Four, women's health issues.
Five, female children, and the role that you know -- there've historically been greater status attached to male offspring, and so they're trying to equalize and raise the status of female children. Last, violence against women, and abuse of women.
Q: Mike, is infanticide a problem (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: I don't know whether it is or not. There's nothing here that indicates whether it is.
Q: Are they visiting here?
MCCURRY: No, they're -- they're down in the -- the two presidents were just collecting their first ladies, and then they're coming over here to the reception. They're trying to stay pretty much on schedule because we have to land before nightfall in Kasane tonight, or else we think we can't get in tonight. They met privately for about 20 minutes, and then met for roughly a half hour in the delegation format.
Q: Did they talk about the trade bill or the ACRI?
MCCURRY: They talked about -- let me just go over some of the other subjects they raised. President Masire was interested, as other leaders have been, in the status of the Democratic Republic of (AUDIO GAP) Botswana defense force.
And that then naturally led into the discussion of the ACRI. The president asked Assistant Secretary Susan Rice to give an update on the Africa Crisis Response Initiative, and she ticked off some of the countries that have started participating in joint training exercises. We will see one of those in Senegal later in the trip.
But it was sort of a subtle reminder to the government of Botswana that it -- that we continue to hope that they will become productively involved in the work of the ACRI. They have been...
Q: They're not participating in that?
MCCURRY: They are not currently participating, although there have been discussions that have been under way about whether or not they might consider it. We were not attempting to get their acceptance on this trip, but we certainly hope that the further discussions that we have with them will lead them to consider participating. The president talked at one point about -- no, Sandy Berger raised the issue that they had to get -- that we all had to be issued new phones when we were here, and we learned that's because the emerging Botswana cellular phone system is digital-based so that it's more advanced technologically than what our normal White House equipment works on. So the president said that's not a comment on the United States of America, but it is a comment on the White House, that you have more sophisticated technology here.
The president then talked about how much he was looking forward to going to the game preserve; and told a story of a friend of his who had stayed at the same lodge that he will stay at, who woke up one morning with a baboon sitting at the end of his bed; and said the baboon was kind of in and out of the apartment the whole time that he was here, and when he left, he felt like he was leaving a friend.
The president then also asked -- asked about Botswana's -- he said I've heard that there is one elephant for every 18 people in Botswana, and he asked if that were true and if anyone knew. And they -- one of the ministers on the Botswana side said that they thought that it was probably right. He said, well, that's both good and bad for me. He says: It's interesting. I've read a lot about the elephant population and some of the work that you're doing concerning the elephant population.
They've got a very large population, and it causes some damage to ecosystems because of how much elephants eat and drink in the course of a day. But the president also said that the other problem I had is of course that it is the symbol of the other party back home. (LAUGHTER)
So he said that there would probably be lots of pictures with me and elephants in the next couple of days. (LAUGHTER)
That was pretty much it. I mean, it was a very -- they did not, unless they -- they did not talk specifically about the trade initiative.
Botswana, according to the ambassador -- we were talking on the way here -- they would be less likely affected by the president's Africa trade initiative than some other countries. Their principal export item is diamonds, and they're not an economy that has been heavily based on assistance from outside. They, of course, graduated from formal U.S. assistance some time ago. So they're not an -- an aid recipient as have some of the other countries that we've visited.
Q: Mike, there was an article in one of the papers about the indigenous residents of the Kalahari area who were hoping that --to -- the Clintons' visit would help them avoid a forced or encouraged move out of that area to a settlement. Do you know -- has that issue come up? Or is it likely to?
MCCURRY: OK. I don't believe it came up in this meeting. I can check with the ambassador to see if we have worked on that, but that's not an issue that's come up. That's the first I have heard of that. Q: Mike, (OFF-MIKE)
MCCURRY: No, he's -- that was -- there was a lengthy response --is that the letter that the Jones side...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) years ago.
MCCURRY: This was in the new filing by -- by Jones? There was a lengthy response given by Jim Kennedy from the White House legal counsel's office on that, and we have not seen those filings here and have only seen one article about it, which didn't even mention the name of the person you have just mentioned. So I've -- we have nothing to add to the response that's already been given. OK.
Q: This is a stupid question. But does he have any comment on the fact that they played ``Beautiful Dreamer'' as he was reviewing the troops? (LAUGHTER)
MCCURRY: No, I didn't hear him say anything about that.
Q: Well, (OFF-MIKE) talk about this -- the (OFF-MIKE) once again, that it was a comment on the White House...
MCCURRY: It wasn't a -- it wasn't a comment on advanced technology in the United States, but it probably was a comment on the White House technology that they have more sophisticated cellular technology here in Botswana.
Q: Thank you.
2:30 P.M. (L)