PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER,
ADMINISTRATOR OF AID BRIAN ATWOOD,
AND SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION RODNEY
The Briefing Room
MR. BERGER: Good morning. On Sunday, the President, and many of you will accompany him, will leave for the first extended trip to Africa by a United States President in our history. That, in and of itself, is a remarkable fact. President Carter was in Africa for about three days, went to Nigeria and Liberia during his term. President Bush went to Somalia to see the troops after the '92 election. FDR made a refueling stop in Africa in 1943. But this is the first time an American President has ever made a trip around Africa of an extended nature.
One of the overriding goals of this trip is to help Americans rethink Africa, and Africans rethink America. Most of our images of Africa -- most Americans' images of Africa are those of violence and starvation. That certainly has been one reality, but increasingly, there is a far richer and diverse texture to the African experience.
There are sweeping changes that are taking place in Africa -- the spread of democracy and economic reform. Since 1990, the number of countries in sub-Sahara Africa with elected governments rose from five to 24 -- half the nations of sub-Sahara Africa. The average growth in the region rose from roughly 1.4 percent in the '91-'94 period to 5 percent in 1996. Per capita income rose in 31 countries in '96. A majority of these countries are now pursuing market-opening strategies.
We have a growing stake in Africa's success. It is a market of 700 million people with trade to Africa already 20 percent greater than our trade to the Former Soviet Union; 100,000 Americans' jobs are directly tied to exports to Africa. But we have far from realized the full potential. Our trade with Africa is only 1 percent of all U.S. trade; 7 percent of Africa's imports are American. So there are clearly economic opportunities there.
But just as important, perhaps more important, strategically and from a humanitarian perspective, stability in Africa based upon evolving democracy, respect for human rights, sustainable development will make an enormous difference for the United States. It's the difference between having partners with whom we can tackle common challenges, from drugs and disease to the environment, and failed states that are thrown into tragic chaos.
We spent, for example, $2.2 billion in our military humanitarian relief effort in Somalia, a failed state that imploded. The more that we can help to contribute to stability in Africa, the better off we will be.
As we strengthen to assist this new Africa, what South African Thabo Mbeki calls the new African Renaissance, we cannot or should not ignore or underestimate the continuing struggles and challenges that exist throughout Africa -- ethnic conflict; fragile democracies; and the persistence of authoritarian regimes which do not respect individual rights, especially for women; epidemics of malaria and AIDS; serious environmental problems -- for example, more than 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africa is arid or semi-arid, that is, below the Sahara Desert.
So there are enormous continuing challenges in this continent, but the key point here is that there is not one Africa, but many. It is a continent filled with promise which increasingly shares our values, but also with great challenges that we can and must help address in our own interest.
During the trip, the President will unveil a number of new programs to support democracy, prosperity, and opportunity, including initiatives on education, rule of law, food security, trade and investment, aviation, and conflict resolution. I'll speak a little bit more of that as I go through the itinerary. And the President will deal directly with the violent conflicts that have threatened African democracy and prosperity. We will visit Rwanda to meet survivors of the genocide, and convene a meeting in Uganda of the region's leaders to advance cooperation on conflict prevention and human rights promotion and economic integration.
Now, let me spend just a few minutes on a magic carpet through the next 12 days. We leave on Sunday and arrive -- fly during the night, arrive on Monday morning in Ghana. Ghana is one of Africa's success stories. In 1996 it had one of the freest and fairest elections in the continent's history. It's had strong economic growth. And we have a very good bilateral relationship.
The President will give a speech to a group of Ghanaians in Independence Square and highlight the broad themes of the trip. In addition, he will, of course, meet with President Rawlings and visit a Peace Corps project -- the Peace Corps first program was in Ghana, and 34 of the 35 people who were here in the White House recently when the President announced an expansion of the Peace Corps will also be present when we get to Ghana.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we will be Uganda and Rwanda. Uganda, in the minds of most Americans, is associated with Idi Amin and some of the greatest horrors of the 20th century. But the new leadership under President Museveni has worked to curb human rights abuses and embrace economic reform.
On the first day we'll focus on issues in a Uganda context and the President will detail a significant education initiative for Africa, and of course, meet with President Museveni. On the second day -- we're now on the 25th of March, for those of you who are looking at your calendars -- the President will fly to Rwanda to meet with genocide survivors and to pay his respects to those who suffered and express -- and listen, which is something I think the President wants to do quite often during this trip -- to listen to Africans speak to their own needs and their own future.
He then will return to Uganda where we will hold the Entebbe Summit for Peace and Prosperity, a co-host with President Museveni. It will also include Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia, President Moi of Kenya, Mkapa of Tanzania, Bizimungu of Rwanda, and Kabila of Congo. And we will obviously be talking in that three-hour session about the region, conflict prevention, continuing violence and how to build better mechanisms including building up the rule of law and accountability and justice.
On Thursday, March 26, through Sunday, we'll have an opportunity to stay in the same hotel for more than one night, get perhaps clothes to the laundry, and most important, I think probably the highlight of the visit is the opportunity for the first American President to go to a new, multiracial democracy that is South Africa.
Our relations with South Africa are strong. They have been building over the last four years. They've been strengthened enormously by the Gore-Mbeki Commission that has a number of Cabinet members that are part of it. And we will be dealing with a broad range of issues.
On day one, the President will address the Parliament in South Africa, obviously speaking to the triumph and the trials of multiracial democracies and discussing the common challenges we face to build societies that are based on political pluralism.
On the second day in Cape Town, the President will have a meeting with President Mandela. They will have a joint press conference, and then they will go to Robben Island together where, of course, as you know, President Mandela was in prison for 18 of his 27 years of incarceration. That should be quite a special moment. And there will be a state dinner.
On the third day in South Africa the President will inaugurate the Ron Brown Commercial Center in Johannesburg and speak at that occasion to our economic agenda with Africa -- trade, investment and reform -- and will meet with a group of young leaders, again at a roundtable, where he will listen to them speak about how they see today's South Africa, today's Africa, and their own future.
On Sunday we will go to Botswana, the oldest democracy in the Continent, after the President attends a church service Sunday morning, probably in Soweto. In Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, the President will meet with outgoing President Masire. This is the day before he leaves office as he steps down after 18 years of one of the most successful democratic administrations perhaps anywhere in the world, and will be turning power over to his Vice President.
In the late afternoon we will travel outside of the city and, hopefully, a number of these places we're going to get out of town, out of the capital, and into the rural areas and see not the dark suits that the President sometimes complains about on these trips. He will be visiting the Lesomo village in attend a hota (sp) which is essentially a Botswanan equivalent of a town hall community meeting, which I think should be quite interesting.
The second day in South Africa, you will be happy to know, is a down day -- I'm sorry -- Botswana -- excuse me. And the President and the First Lady have a number of things that they may do in terms of sightseeing and enjoying and seeing and appreciating Africa's extraordinary natural environment, perhaps into a game park.
Back in Gaborone on day three in Botswana, the President will meet with a group of African environmentalists who we have gathered from around the continent, who will speak to him about the whole range of environmental issues in the continent, from desertification to wildlife preservation. There's a huge range of issues.
Finally, on Wednesday through Thursday, April 1-2, we will go to Senegal, a Francophone country with whom we have had a longstanding relationship. The President will go to a training program for the ACRI -- the African Crisis Response Initiative -- that we've been working on for two or three years now. This is an effort to try to bring Africans together and give them the capability to have a peacekeeping force, peacekeeping capability that is African. And there will be there a roundtable discussion with non-governmental organizations leaders and activists from around Africa about civil society and what is happening at the grass roots.
Finally, on the 2nd of April, the President will end the trip -- a sense where Africa's relationship with the United States first began by going to Goree Island, which is, as many of you know, is one of the best known of the exit points for the African slave trade. It has been preserved and restored to a state approximately as it was during that period. And the President obviously will reflect on the legacy of slavery, but look to the future and the opportunity to build together a stronger relationship around common values and interests. And for those of us who are left standing, we will be home on Thursday, April 2nd.
Let me turn this over to Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation.
Q What time on the 2nd?
MR. BERGER: I'm not sure of the answer. I'm not sure. I'll find out.
Q What's the time difference?
MR. BERGER: I'm glad you're going right to the big questions.
Q What's he going to wear?
SECRETARY SLATER: A lot of things. A lot of things. Let me just say that the President said in his State of the Union address that as America enters the 21st century, the global economy requires us to seek opportunities not just at home, but in all markets around the world. And what an appropriate backdrop on which to look, then, to the future as it relates to the limitless potential that exists and that the blossoming partnerships between the United States and the nations of Africa hold.
The winds of democratic and social and commercial reform are sweeping the continent. As Sandy noted, since 1990, the number of democracies in sub-Sahara Africa has almost quadrupled. Half of the region's 48 countries freely choose their leaders. Our message on this trip, the message that the President will deliver in many, many ways, will be clear and unequivocal: America wants Africa as a full partner in the cause for freedom, democracy, economic liberalization, and prosperity. Also, it will be made clear that the days of the marginalization of Africa are over, and over forever.
In the coming age of global competition, American industries and workers have a golden opportunity to benefit from Africa's turn to free market economics. And it is an opportunity that we must seize. Nearly 700 million people live in sub-Sahara Africa, as has been noted. It represents one of the world's largest potential markets. Last year 30 African nations posted positive growth rates. Foreign trade with Africa has doubled in but five years. And Africa only buys 7 percent of its imports from the United States. That compares to 12 percent from Asia. So there is clearly room here for growth, even though, as Mr. Berger also noted, U.S. trade with Africa is already 20 percent than with the former Soviet Union, and currently supports 100,000 American jobs.
Let there be no doubt, American prosperity is powered by world trade. Today some 12 million American jobs are supported by exports, and that number will continue to grow. The President, through some 240 trade agreements, has opened markets across the globe. Now -- now we embark upon a new and exciting venture -- to do so on the mighty continent of Africa as well. President Clinton is committed to making the mosaic, the beautiful mosaic of Africa's mighty nations full partners with the United States and with the rest of the world.
Now, just a few comments about transportation. Transportation is the tie that binds. It is more than concrete, asphalt, and steel. It brings people together. It gives them mobility and the opportunity to pursue happiness. It encourages the free flow of people and ideas. Without infrastructure, good roads and ports and railroads and airports, access to the global economy is difficult if not impossible.
DOT has launched an extensive and comprehensive Africa Transportation Initiative. Just a few examples before closing. On the aviation front, vital to the ability of any nation to be active and prosperous in the global economy, you must have a transportation system that has an international reach. Aviation gives us that international reach. As it relates to Africa, we must deal with issues of safety and security before we can build the strong foundation that we have seen represented and evidenced by bilateral open skies agreements with Japan.
Seeking more liberal aviation partnerships will be a goal of my discussions with my counterparts. We have already had recent conversations with Senegal. We look forward to having conversations with Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and others. I also sent a delegation to Africa last October to start discussing the possibility of liberalizing and expanding U.S.-Africa aviation services and relations, and some 25 African nations participated.
Roads and opening highway technology transfer centers will be a priority as well. We've already done so in South Africa. We hope to do so in Tanzania and other countries soon as well. Hoping to bring attention to road safety will also be a major focus, because traffic crashes account as the second highest cause of death for young Africans. So we really need to do something about this.
As it relates to the maritime industry, we're working with the government of Ghana to buy American-made power barges to produce electricity. Again, this promises to be an exciting trip, and you can see that the United States will go in a most serious, a most serious way.
ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: I'll try to be very brief, I know you want to get to questions. I just want to make three quick points. One, I think it's obvious from what you've heard from Sandy Berger and Rodney Slater that it's very difficult to pigeonhole this trip. This is not a development assistance mission, it's not a trade mission. It's not even a mission just to promote democracy and market economics. It's basically all of that and much more. It's the most comprehensive effort to try to cover the continent of Africa, with all of its opportunity and all of the serious challenges that exist in that country, and in all of the geographic regions of Africa. That is why I think it's so significant. So if you want to use one word, you can use the word "historic."
The second point -- this trip will highlight several important changes in the U.S. philosophy on foreign aid. Perhaps most importantly, we now view our development assistance program as a part of a continuum that will lead eventually to trade and investment. It's a prerequisite for trade and investment. Our goal in Africa and elsewhere is to remove the obstacles to trade in those countries, and to help those countries create local capital. We want these countries to joint the global economy. We have an obligation under the World Trade Organization to help them with the technical assistance they need to reform their economies. That process is already started.
We welcome the new leadership in Africa. These are leaders who don't wish to be don't wish to be aid-dependent. They want aid to be targeted; they want it to be part of a strategy so that they can achieve self-sufficiency and independence. And this is the kind of catalytic aid that we provided to Europe during the Marshall Plan era. These new leaders want the kind of aid that will produce trade.
Finally, there is agreement that aid will not achieve results if governments are not committed to political and economic reform. We no longer operate under Cold War criteria. We can now choose our partners, and they are governments and NGOs who wish to create strong, democratic institutions and open markets.
The third and final point: Africa remains the most difficult development challenge we face. I think that's indicated in the kinds of initiatives that Sandy Berger mentioned to you before -- education, food security, health. These are the kinds of issues that African countries face and African governments are challenged with every day.
Twenty-two of the world's poorest countries -- of the 30 of the world's poorest countries -- are in Africa. Infant mortality rates are twice those of Asia and Latin America. Africa's population is still expected to double between now and the year 2020. And, of course, literacy rates are still at around 50 percent for adults in Africa, as compared, for example, to 84 percent in Latin America.
If the new partnership the President will be espousing succeeds, these people -- these extra people -- these people that are going to be born between now and the year 2020 will end up not being wards of the national community, but possibly consumers of American and other products; perhaps products that they produce on their own as well. If modern science and technology combines with a renewed commit to education and health care, these people will be productive participants in growing economies.
So if all goes well with development, in other words, we Americans will pay less for humanitarian disasters, protect ourselves better against the infectious diseases that result from poverty and environmental decay, and we'll discover new markets for American exports.
Now, that's the President's mission -- to create a new partnership based on mutual respect, democratic values and a common commit to achieve sustainable development based on economic and political freedom. Thank you.
Q Sandy, what do you say to critics who say that the United States is not backing up its rhetoric with sufficient money, that the United States gives, say, Israel $3 billion a year in assistance and gives Africa a fraction of that? And I'd like somebody to tell us exactly how much the United States does give to Africa. But the idea that there's no money backing this up.
MR. BERGER: Well, I'll say a few things and then perhaps let Brian address the question. First of all, I believe the current level of our bilateral assistance to Africa is about $700 million. I know that the budget for FY'99 increases that -- the President's budget -- that level. We will hope to increase if further. Moreover, one can't only look at bilateral assistance, we need to look as well, increasingly, at the international financial institutions where we obviously are the cornerstone, but our contributions are leveraged four or five to one. And they increasingly are playing an important role -- World Bank and others -- in African development.
So we have a very strong and historic commitment to African development. I wish we had more support in the Congress for larger levels of development assistance. We've tried very hard to get larger levels of development assistance not only for Africa, but for other poorer countries. But I think that the effort has been substantial.
ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: In terms of the overall volume of aid to Africa, we are one of the top three donors in the world. And Sandy's point is correct -- it's not just the bilateral aid program which has been about $700 million, it's also the aid that goes through the World Bank and the U.N. system that makes us the top donor.
Last year, in addition to the $700 million of development assistance, we've provided about $600 million of humanitarian relief and disaster assistance as well. So the total for '97 was $1.3 billion.
That makes us a significant donor. But what makes us, I think, the most significant donor is the innovative kinds of programs that we put in place in Africa. We've been able to lead the rest of the donor community, I think, to collaborate, for example, in support of democratic institutions -- something that other donors hadn't done until a few years ago. We've been able to lead them in terms of the -- for example, in East Africa, the President's Greater Horn of Africa Initiative, to collaborating to try to increase food production and liberalize trading standards for agricultural products in that region; and generally, to avoid famine, which is a common occurrence in that region of the world. So there have been innovative efforts I think that make the United States a leader, even though the volume of our aid isn't what we'd hope it would be.
Q And your new budget request?
ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: The new budget request, the Fiscal '99 contains an increase of $30 million -- $730 million for development assistance. And of course, the standard -- we don't actually ahead of time indicate where we're going to use our PL-480 programs because a lot of it is to respond to emergencies.
Q Sandy, a more serious complaint about the whole economic thrust of the President's argument is that it helps American businesses who want to do business; it helps entrepreneurs who are already on the ground in Africa, but does very little for most of the population. Is American -- the whole thrust of the President's program missing the people in Africa who really need it?
MR. BERGER: No. And let me -- I think the aid point complements the trade point and the investment point. Brian has talked about how are aid programs are trying to help build Africa at the grass roots. One of the things that we're going to be doing is visiting a village where a microcredit program that AID has helped to sponsor, particularly directed towards women, have re-energized and vitalized an entire little village and community. So, number one, we're trying to work at the grass-roots level through our aid programs.
Number two, on trade the trade legislation, for example, which the President has supported and which passed the House and is now pending before the Senate, is legislation that will open the U.S. market to more African goods. Africa now qualifies for duty-free treatment under the generalized system of preferences, the GSP program. But all African countries, under that bill, would be entitled essentially to a 50 percent increase in the number of products that would be eligible for duty-free entry. And then a second tier of countries that were further along on the reform process would be entitled even to a greater breadth of duty-free treatment. So Africa exports to the United States as well as we exporting to Africa.
Finally, we have been very active in trying to promote investment in Africa. There is -- the Overseas Private Investment Corporation has set aside $500 million to support investment in Africa to create African jobs. And I think the one thing that we have learned in the last five or 10 years is that trade is not a zero sum game, that we benefit from expanding trade as the level of our potential customers and consumers -- their standard of living increases. They benefit because it creates jobs in their own countries that are associated with that trade.
Q Sandy, President Kabila is complaining that the United States is quick to make demands, but slow to give aid. When the President sees him in Uganda, what demands will the President make of Kabila?
MR. BERGER: First of all, let me say that we have, since President Kabila arrived in Kinshasa, have provided assistance, particularly assistance directed towards the grass roots, towards targeted programs that will build democracy in the Congo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and build a greater civil society in that country. We would hope and like to continue to do that.
At the same time, it is important for President Kabila to continue and pursue a path of political inclusiveness, of openness to the U.N. to continue its inspection of possible abuses that may have taken place during the fighting that took place in former Zaire, and greater freedom and democracy in the Congo.
So I think we've invited President Kabila to this summit because we do think it is important that we talk; that the President and the other leaders of the region try to bring him into a path towards greater democracy, greater respect for opposition, greater respect for political pluralism, et cetera. And those are the messages the President will be delivering.
Q Sandy, in the past week Secretary Albright, and in particular the Assistant Secretary -- have taken a very strong rhetorical position on Nigeria, saying that it basically would be unacceptable for the current ruler to get himself elected President. Why is it okay -- how come Jerry Rawlings gets to take off the uniform, have himself elected President and get lunch with President Clinton, but it's unacceptable for Sani Abacha to try to do the same thing?
MR. BERGER: There's no comparison here. First of all, President Rawlings was elected in 1996 in what is generally considered to be a free and fair election. He has served -- he's a democratically elected President that has helped to rebuild Ghana and to make Ghana into one of the important countries in that region.
We have serious problems with the lack of progress in Nigeria towards the transition to civilian rule that General Abacha promised would take place and would be actually now very much in the active stage. Instead, we may not see that. And so, we have said that we want to see that transition to civilian rule in Nigeria.
Q Aside from South Africa, which is obvious, why were these nations picked? And also, has President Carter been consulted, because he's been so into Africa deeply?
MR. BERGER: There has been communication back and forth with President Carter and the Carter Center on African issues on a continuing basis over quite a long period of time. In terms of the selection of the countries, I think we wanted to both underscore and highlight some of Africa's success stories, some of the places where the process of democracy and economic reform is moving in a fairly steady way. But at the same time, we wanted to deal with some of the harder issues in Africa -- for example, the Rwanda genocide issue, the entire problem in the Great Lakes region in Eastern Africa. So we tried to -- and we wanted to have some geographic diversity.
As a trip that is an attempt to go throughout Africa, we wanted to make a stop, obviously, in -- two stops in West Africa, two stops in sort of southern Africa, and two stops in Eastern Africa.
Q Sandy, will the trip provide the occasion for an announcement of any new targeted sanctions on Nigeria?
MR. BERGER: I would not expect that to happen during the trip, but all those issues are under review. I don't expect to have any announcements on that during the trip.
Q What about after the trip?
MR. BERGER: Well, as I say, we have been quite dissatisfied with what is happening in Nigeria, with the -- notwithstanding General Abacha's promises to transition to a civilian rule through a democratic process, that process does not appear to be moving forward. There are areas with Nigeria where our cooperation with Nigeria continues to move forward -- for example, some of the regional issues -- Liberia and other regional struggles where the Nigerians are playing an important role. But I think in terms of the general trend, it is not a positive one.
Q -- of sanctions is an option for the White House?
MR. BERGER: I said to Mark, I don't anticipate any further announcements while we're traveling.
Q Sandy, did the United States get to exercise any veto or filter on who got to participate on the Uganda summit on democracy? Why should somebody like Moi -- he gets to sit on a panel with the President of the United States talking about democracy.
MR. BERGER: The answer to your first question is yes.
Q But who didn't make the cut, if some of these guys did? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: I think we made a judgment, John, and the judgment was that it was better to have Kabila and President Moi present. Kenya is obviously an extraordinarily important country in that region, perhaps the most important country in that region. The elections that have just taken place were not perfect, by any means, and there have been a number of concerns that we have had. I think it's an opportunity for the President face to face with President Moi to raise those concerns.
And with Kabila, I think it was the same judgment. I think he has been there now for nine or 10 months, whatever, and I don't think we should give up on a country as important as the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly when the regional leaders with whom we consulted felt it was important that he was there. We will take that opportunity to try to bring him into a path of democratic reform, rather than excluding him.
Q Were those people excluded for logistical reasons or because you did make a judgment that they just simply didn't seem to be on any kind of reasonable path toward democracy?
MR. BERGER: This is a regional meeting. I think the only country -- there were a few people who were not able to attend. President Isaias and President Mugabe will be sending a representative. These were just conflicts of schedule. The President of Burundi was not invited.
Q Sandy, when the scholars are with us, they emphasized that they wanted the President, as he left each of the countries -- substantive initiatives in each of the areas that Brian spoke of. What do you expect the President to leave behind in the long-term sense above and beyond what you and Secretary Slater and so forth have already mentioned in terms of economic development, in terms of democratic reform, in terms of all of the different areas? Are there specific --
MR. BERGER: Yes, there will be specific initiatives that the President announces as he travels along this trip -- an initiative on education and food security, which will be announced in Uganda -- Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who is a Special Assistant to the President for Africa, who you will see much of over the next 10 days. We will have a justice initiative that we'll talk about in Uganda which will provide assistance to countries in building independent nonethnic or multiethnic judicial systems, the economic and trade initiative that I mentioned.
There is one I'm leaving out here. Hold on a second. The aviation initiative that Secretary Slater spoke about and a rule of law conflict resolution initiative that we'll talk about in Uganda. And each of these involve sums of money that will be dedicated in a very specific and targeted way towards trying to advance those objectives.
Q And to follow, one of the areas the scholars said was the African Crisis Response Initiative. They said there were significant infrastructure problems with this and overarching institutional problems and so forth. How does the President plan to address that, for example?
MR. BERGER: Well, I'm not sure I accept your premise.
Q Well, it's not mine, it's the scholars.
MR. BERGER: Well, sometimes scholars are wrong. The African Crisis Response Initiative, which was initially and officially launched by Secretary Christopher when he went to Africa in 1996, as you know, is an effort to try to pre-train and prepare for crisis response an African peacekeeping force. We are training now in two countries, including Senegal where we will see a training exercise. I believe there are 15 countries that have indicated a desire to participate and are at various stages of joining this.
This is not going to be something that happens overnight. This is a question of bringing -- it's a new concept and it's a question of bringing diverse countries and diverse militaries together in a way that enables then to be effective as a peacekeeping operation. But I think it's moving forward.
Q On crime and justice, will you be addressing the rampant crime rate in South Africa and how that impacts on Americans traveling there or doing business in South Africa?
MR. BERGER: It is a very serious problem and one that we will be speaking of. Brian, there is a particular program, I think.
ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: There is no particular program, but the Gore-Mbeki Binational Commission considers this. And we have, of course, a program with a justice ministry there to try to deal with that problem, to help them deal with that problem. But essentially, this is a home-grown problem. They're going to have to create a justice system and law enforcement that will take care of it. A lot of it is also dealt with because of the poverty that exists in the country and the inequities that built up over the years of apartheid.
Q Sandy, to what extent does the President see this 12-day trip as a respite from the current climate in Washington with grand juries and allegations and Ken Starr?
MR. BERGER: This is a trip that the President has wanted to take since he arrived here, actually, 4 or 5 years ago -- 5 years ago, I guess -- and has been long planned. The First Lady announced this trip last year when she traveled in Africa. We put together the actual stops in the trip in early January. And I think the President considers this an extraordinarily important trip. And I think that as you look at security and America's national interest in a post-Cold War way, excluding Africa from that calculation I think is a gross mistake, and the opportunity to be the first President to make an extended trip I think is important.
Q So there's no side benefit for just getting out of town for a couple of weeks for him?
MR. BERGER: Well, you come with us. (Laughter.)
Q That's true.
Q Sandy, in his bilateral meetings and in these different conferences -- multi-country conferences he's going to attend, what type of a tone do you think the President will set? Obviously, being the first President to go to this part of the world, he can't lecture, can he, when he calls for reforms? What kind of a tone will he --
MR. BERGER: That's a very good question because that's something we've thought about a great deal. I think there's a balance here to be struck on a number of issues, but this is one of them. And I think the President wants to listen a lot -- we have at least four different situations where he's going to be with environmentalists, with human rights activists, with NGO activists, and with South African young people, much like the Sarajevo meeting that he had, where I suspect he will do a lot of listening and learning and then transmit that back here.
At the same time, there are some messages that we want to be very clear about -- the importance of democracy, the importance of human rights. There are some very specific leaders with whom the President, I think, wants to have, at least in private, candid exchanges with, and we've kind of referred to those before. So I think it's a balance between -- let me go back to where I started, which is where I think I will end. I do think this is an opportunity -- enormous opportunity -- I'm sure you're delighted to have the authority to use the word historic that Mr. Atwood has given you, to help Americans re-think Africa and help Africans re-think America.
We have a very -- we have to demystify Africa for Americans. We have a very one-dimensional view of the Dark Continent and this is a -- there's a sea change going on and there's change going on, and there's opportunity, and there's still enormous problems, and it's 700 million of our fellow citizens. And so we have I think a great opportunity here.
Q -- Cuban issues, your going to announce today?
MR. BERGER: No, Secretary Albright gets Cuba today and I get Africa.
Q -- Museveni, will you be talking to him about multiparty democracy? Will there be a strong message there? Because there's some critics who say the United States has not been tough enough on Museveni in terms of pushing forward for multiparty democracy.
MR. BERGER: Yes, I think -- let me answer it this way. You have to, first of all, give President Museveni the credit he's due. This is a country that not so long ago was Idi Amin and Obote, and it has come an enormous way and there is a great deal of democracy in Uganda. Now, he has a particular view of kind of a one-party democracy that seeks to end ethnic divisions. And that is something that we will talk -- there's not one model of democracy, but there needs to be a way for political pluralism to be expressed and we will be talking to President Museveni about that.
I've got to go.
Q Fidel Castro called today the easing of sanctions positive and constructive and said it would help create a better climate in relation between the U.S. and Cuba. Would you agree with this characterization?
MR. BERGER: Secretary Albright is going to do a briefing I think at 1:00 p.m.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
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