Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 28, 1999
As Prepared for Delivery



September 27, 1999

Let me begin by thanking C. Payne Lucas for bringing us together tonight and for all Africare does to help African communities stand on their feet. Africare's approach - listening to local needs, responding to local initiatives, complementing, rather than preempting local efforts, has become America's approach to Africa in the last several years - but you've been at it for almost 30 years. Rev. Tutu, Mrs. Machel, Secretary Herman, Brady Anderson, Ambassador Young, Ambassador McHenry, Al Freeman, members of the diplomatic community, members of Congress:

A year and a half ago, during his trip to Africa, the President went to a school outside of Kampala. Surrounded by African children and teachers and community leaders - he said it was time for America to see Africa with new eyes . . . to build a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual interest. I would like to take this opportunity, surrounded by African friends and friends of Africa, to speak about what we are doing to give life to those words.

Let me begin by talking about where we've been. As the President also said in Uganda last year, America has not, throughout history, always done right by Africa.

Let's look just at this century. During the Cold War, America's choice of friends in Africa was too often determined almost exclusively by the strength of their opposition to communism, and not by their commitment to democracy and development. Much of Africa became a battleground -- between tyrants pretending to be anti-communists to receive our aid and tyrants pretending to be Marxists to receive Soviet aid. We did far too little to help develop the potential of Africa's people and Africa's economies.

You could argue that we really didn't have an Africa policy then. We had a global policy of containing communism that saw the entire continent through East-West eyes, not through U.S.-African eyes. It did little to advance our interests in Africa or the interests of Africans.

This President has set out to change the lens through which we see Africa, to change the very contours of our relationship. He has encouraged Americans to view Africa in all its diversity: to face squarely the continuing tragedies of famine and conflict and genocide, but also to see the progress most Africans are making toward freedom and peace, and the promise it represents. We have sought to build a partnership with the agents of that progress -- not to do something 'for' them, but to work with them to advance the interests we share.

Our interests are clear. As the bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi made clear, the battle against terrorism must be waged in and with Africa. The same is true for the fight against proliferation -- both Sudan and Libya have tried to obtain weapons of mass destruction - and for the struggle to protect the global environment. Few Americans are aware that we now obtain between 12 and 14 percent of our oil from Africa, and that this could increase to 20 percent over the next decade. Africa is also home to over 700 million producers and consumers -- we have been missing out on their contributions for too long and should seize every opportunity to bring them into the global mainstream. Finally, let's remember that our country is trusted to lead in the world in part because we are trusted to do right by others. We cannot maintain our influence or our strength if we cynically shut our eyes to the problems and promise of an entire continent.

It was to advance these interests that the President traveled last year to Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Senegal. That extraordinary journey addressed virtually every issue on our agenda with Africa, from promoting trade and investment, to defending human rights and democracy, to advancing economic development, to preventing conflict and genocide.

You may have heard recently that some members of Congress have criticized that trip as a waste of money. Let me say loud and clear that the most comprehensive and serious trip to Africa of any sitting President in history was one of the best investments America could make. It was all the more successful because we took with us members of the cabinet and Congress who are working with Africans to help realize the continent's economic promise, and leaders from the private sector who are now investing in Africa's future.

If the complaint is that our Administration made Africa more than just a refueling stop on the way to someplace else, I am proud to say we are guilty as charged. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we do it again.

This is a moment when our engagement with Africa can make a difference. In the last decade, more than half of Africa's nations have embarked on transitions to democracy, none more hopeful than this year's transition in Nigeria. Economies that were shrinking in the 1980's are now growing at rates of 4 percent or more. More Africans than ever have the opportunity to improve their lives, the power to shape their destiny and the right to hold their leaders accountable. But Africa's new democracies still face enormous obstacles, many inherited from a past when their development was arrested by external design and internal failures. What are those obstacles, and what can we do, in partnership with Africans, to help overcome them?

First, let's recognize that barriers to trade are barriers to advancement for Africans who risk being left behind by the global economy. That's why the President launched a Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity, and why he has worked with the Congress to urge passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Will trade and investment alone eliminate poverty in Africa? Of course not. But without it, Africans will never have what the people of virtually every other region in the world increasingly depend upon: a chance to market the products of their labor and creativity beyond their borders. That is what Africans have told us they want and need. By passing the Growth and Opportunity Act, this Congress can make clear that, just like with the rest of the world, America wants and needs a deeper trade relationship with Africa.

A second obstacle to Africa's progress is the burden of debt. That's why we and our G-7 partners have adopted a plan to reduce by up to 70 percent the outstanding debt of the world's poorest countries in a way that will free resources for education and health. Enough pledges have already been made to allow the first group of nations to start seizing the benefits of this program now.

A third obstacle is the lack of access to education and to the technology that unlocks the door to the information economy. That's why we have launched an Education Initiative, to support primary schools in Africa, to improve the prospects of women and girls, to link African and American educational institutions, and to improve access to the Internet.

A fourth obstacle to development is chronic disease. Over the next 10 years in Africa, AIDS is expected to kill more people than all the wars of the 20th century, combined. Each year, diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and pneumonia leave millions of children without parents and millions of parents without children. Yet today, only 2% of all global biomedical research is devoted to the major killers of the developing world. This is both an injustice and an economic calamity for Africa, for no nation can defeat poverty if it is overwhelmed by the needs of the ill.

That's why we have asked the Congress for an additional $100 million to fight, with Africa, the epidemic of AIDS. And in his address to the UN last Tuesday, the President committed the United States to a concerted effort to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines for diseases like malaria, AIDS, and TB, working with the private sector to create incentives for medical research that will save lives, and liberate nations from this crippling burden.

But the greatest obstacle to Africa's progress may well be the persistence of conflict, including in Sierra Leone, the Congo, Sudan, Angola and between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

These wars have different causes, but common features. They have brought into stark relief the need for stronger institutions in Africa to ensure that disputes are resolved by peaceful means. Unregulated borders are vulnerable to the spread of small arms and illegal trade; judicial institutions are often too weak to settle grievances and satisfy claims for justice; the regional organizations necessary to guarantee collective security are only now coming into their own.

But something new and promising has also begun to emerge from the horror of these conflicts. In each case, African nations have taken the lead to work for peace. And their leadership has allowed us to address these conflicts in partnership with African leaders and institutions. Instead of facing a choice between abdicating America's responsibility and imposing America's solutions, we have a golden opportunity to support African efforts to stop wars and save lives.

In seizing that opportunity, our first step has been to work with Africans to help strengthen their capacity to unite for peace. For example, we have launched the African Crisis Response Initiative, which has already trained over 4000 African peacekeepers, some of whom have been deployed to Sierra Leone. And we have launched the Great Lakes Justice Initiative, to help strengthen legal institutions and to counter the culture of impunity that has plagued that region.

We have also tried to play an active supporting role when African nations have taken responsibility to end conflicts on their continent.

In Sierra Leone, for example, West African nations took the lead when their peacekeeping organization, ECOMOG, intervened and its leaders finally forged a peace agreement. But I am proud that throughout the process, the United States played a helpful role. Over the last decade, we have provided over $100 million to ECOMOG. Our Special Envoy for Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson, with Ambassador Howard Jeter, facilitated the signing of a cease fire without preconditions, paving the way for the agreement the regional countries forged in July.

In the Congo, the parties to the conflict forged a cease fire, under the leadership of President Chiluba of Zambia, and with the involvement of Presidents Mbeki of South Africa, Mkapa of Tanzania and Chissano of Mozambique. But here too, I am pleased with the role we played.

For the last year, former Congressman and now Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Howard Wolpe, has flown more than 20 missions in the region, trying to keep the nations talking about common interests, even as they fought over their differences. For the last several months, quietly and behind the scenes, we have facilitated a dialogue between opponents in this tragic war.

Within days of the clashes last month between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in the Congo, a US team worked with those countries to reach a cease fire and an agreement on securing rebel signatures to the Congo-wide peace agreement. And that agreement reflects the dialogue we've had with the region since last fall about the need for a new regional security arrangement in Central Africa, and for greater citizen participation in shaping Congo's future.

The OAU has taken the lead to resolve the deadly conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and thanks to their efforts peace is closer today than at any time in the last fifteen months. My predecessor Tony Lake has made a half dozen trips to the region on our behalf to support this process. The President has actively engaged President Isaias and Prime Minister Meles.

On Thursday, we will be holding the first session of the US-Angolan Consultative Commission, which will address among other things that country's continuing conflict. We are working with the UN to strengthen enforcement of multilateral sanctions against UNITA, and to find ways to cut off the illegal trade in diamonds that has fueled this and other African wars.

Finally, in Sudan, we have taken the lead, working with our European and African partners, to revitalize the regional peace process led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. We recently appointed a Special Envoy, Harry Johnston, to redouble our engagement.

In each of these cases, our role has been to help Africans find African solutions to African conflicts, and, perhaps as important, to do so in a way that strengthens the regional capacity to prevent conflicts in the future. I know many of you are asking if, in the wake of Kosovo and East Timor, America and others should intervene more directly in Africa's conflicts. Let me try to provide an answer.

First of all, I do not believe that the international community's actions in Kosovo and East Timor shift our attention from Africa's conflicts. On the contrary. They have focused the whole world's attention on the need to strengthen our collective capacity to respond to death and suffering on a massive scale - wherever it may happen. This was the main subject of debate at the UN General Assembly last week. And everyone engaged in that debate understands one of the main challenges we face lies in Africa.

Let's be clear about what that challenge is. Africans are not asking us to respond to conflicts such as those in Sierra Leone, or the Congo, or Ethiopia-Eritrea, with NATO bombing, or by doing the job for them.

Africans are asking us to recognize that their crises are not merely African problems -- any more than Kosovo was purely a European problem or East Timor was purely an Asian problem. Africans are asking the international community to lend tangible support when they take appropriate action to address these crises, or keep the peace. Africans are asking for help in building the institutional capacity to sustain the leadership they are willing to provide. And they are asking the United States in particular whether we are prepared to provide a share of the resources needed to back up the peace we help broker.

The President is deeply committed to meeting this challenge. In his speech last week to the UN, he made clear that neither America nor any other country can do everything, or be everywhere. But he also said: "Simply because we have different interests in different parts of the world does not mean we can be indifferent to the destruction of innocents in any part of the world." He said that "when we are faced with deliberate, organized campaigns to murder whole peoples, or expel them from their land, the care of victims is important, but not enough. We should work to end the violence."

That's why we supported the deployment of additional observers to Sierra Leone in July. It is why we are actively engaged in shaping a peacekeeping mission in that country, a mission that must include ECOMOG, the African force that took the lead when it was time to intervene, and the United Nations, which can mobilize the support of the whole world.

It's why we supported UN Secretary-General Annan in July when he swiftly deployed military liaison officers to the Congo. We will work with the region to consolidate the Congo agreement, which provides not only a cease fire but a blueprint for the region's long-term collective security.

When we reach an agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia - and we must, because the consequences of another round of war would be tragic and devastating -- the United States will directly support the planned OAU mission to keep the peace.

We can and must do more to meet these challenges, and to do that we must pose a challenge to ourselves.

First, we need leadership. I can assure you that President Clinton's commitment to a new relationship between the United States and Africa is strong and deep-rooted.

Second, our Congress must recognize that it is in our national interest to invest in Africa's future, and to provide the resources necessary to keep the peace and prevent the wars.

Congress has been willing to fund aid to the victims of conflict and famine in Africa. Right now, our spending on humanitarian assistance for a handful of African crises is twice as high as our spending on development for the entire continent. It is more than 10 times as high as our spending on peacekeeping. And this year's spending bill for foreign operations cuts our request for development assistance to Africa by more than 40 percent. We will fight that, because we'd save money as well as lives if we invested more in prevention.

Third, we need the continuing commitment of the American people to their own partnership with the people of Africa. The friends of Africa gathered here tonight, as individuals and as participants in the National Summit on Africa, the Constituency for Africa, and the untiring campaign of C. Payne Lucas and Africare, are key to our collective success.

I've described to you our efforts to make good on the promise of a new partnership with Africa. We are headed in the right direction on a long road. I ask for your continuing support and leadership in keeping us moving down that road.

History provides no guarantees, but neither does it place artificial barriers on what we can achieve. The last decade of this century has seen so many hard earned miracles, from the end of the Cold War, to the spread of democracy to more than half the world's people, to the birth of freedom in South Africa and Nigeria. Surely, if all this is possible, Africa can overcome its difficulties and find its way into the global mainstream -- with peace and rising prosperity for all its people.

We are united here today not just by our hope, but by our belief that this will happen if we seize the opportunities before us. And we are united by our conviction that working with Africans to reach that goal is not only right, but right for us.

Thank you.

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