|For Immediate Release||September 28, 1999|
Let me begin by thanking C. Payne Lucas for bringing us together tonightand for all Africare does to help African communities stand on theirfeet. Africare's approach - listening to local needs, responding tolocal initiatives, complementing, rather than preempting local efforts,has become America's approach to Africa in the last several years - butyou'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 toa school outside of Kampala. Surrounded by African children andteachers and community leaders - he said it was time for America to seeAfrica with new eyes . . . to build a relationship based on mutualrespect and mutual interest. I would like to take this opportunity,surrounded by African friends and friends of Africa, to speak about whatwe are doing to give life to those words.
Let me begin by talking about where we've been. As the President alsosaid in Uganda last year, America has not, throughout history, alwaysdone right by Africa.
Let's look just at this century. During the Cold War, America's choiceof friends in Africa was too often determined almost exclusively by thestrength of their opposition to communism, and not by their commitmentto democracy and development. Much of Africa became a battleground --between tyrants pretending to be anti-communists to receive our aid andtyrants pretending to be Marxists to receive Soviet aid. We did far toolittle to help develop the potential of Africa's people and Africa'seconomies.
You could argue that we really didn't have an Africa policy then. Wehad a global policy of containing communism that saw the entirecontinent through East-West eyes, not through U.S.-African eyes. It didlittle to advance our interests in Africa or the interests of Africans.
This President has set out to change the lens through which we seeAfrica, to change the very contours of our relationship. He hasencouraged Americans to view Africa in all its diversity: to facesquarely the continuing tragedies of famine and conflict and genocide,but also to see the progress most Africans are making toward freedom andpeace, and the promise it represents. We have sought to build apartnership 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 Nairobimade clear, the battle against terrorism must be waged in and withAfrica. The same is true for the fight against proliferation -- bothSudan and Libya have tried to obtain weapons of mass destruction - andfor the struggle to protect the global environment. Few Americans areaware that we now obtain between 12 and 14 percent of our oil fromAfrica, and that this could increase to 20 percent over the next decade.Africa is also home to over 700 million producers and consumers -- wehave been missing out on their contributions for too long and shouldseize every opportunity to bring them into the global mainstream.Finally, let's remember that our country is trusted to lead in the worldin part because we are trusted to do right by others. We cannotmaintain our influence or our strength if we cynically shut our eyes tothe problems and promise of an entire continent.
It was to advance these interests that the President traveled last yearto Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Senegal. Thatextraordinary journey addressed virtually every issue on our agenda withAfrica, from promoting trade and investment, to defending human rightsand democracy, to advancing economic development, to preventing conflictand genocide.
You may have heard recently that some members of Congress havecriticized that trip as a waste of money. Let me say loud and clearthat the most comprehensive and serious trip to Africa of any sittingPresident in history was one of the best investments America could make.It was all the more successful because we took with us members of thecabinet and Congress who are working with Africans to help realize thecontinent's economic promise, and leaders from the private sector whoare now investing in Africa's future.
If the complaint is that our Administration made Africa more than just arefueling stop on the way to someplace else, I am proud to say we areguilty 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 ontransitions to democracy, none more hopeful than this year's transitionin Nigeria. Economies that were shrinking in the 1980's are now growingat rates of 4 percent or more. More Africans than ever have theopportunity to improve their lives, the power to shape their destiny andthe right to hold their leaders accountable. But Africa's newdemocracies still face enormous obstacles, many inherited from a pastwhen their development was arrested by external design and internalfailures. What are those obstacles, and what can we do, in partnershipwith Africans, to help overcome them?
First, let's recognize that barriers to trade are barriers toadvancement for Africans who risk being left behind by the globaleconomy. That's why the President launched a Partnership for EconomicGrowth and Opportunity, and why he has worked with the Congress to urgepassage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Will trade and investment alone eliminate poverty in Africa? Of coursenot. But without it, Africans will never have what the people ofvirtually every other region in the world increasingly depend upon: achance to market the products of their labor and creativity beyond theirborders. That is what Africans have told us they want and need. Bypassing the Growth and Opportunity Act, this Congress can make clearthat, just like with the rest of the world, America wants and needs adeeper trade relationship with Africa.
A second obstacle to Africa's progress is the burden of debt. That'swhy we and our G-7 partners have adopted a plan to reduce by up to 70percent the outstanding debt of the world's poorest countries in a waythat will free resources for education and health. Enough pledges havealready been made to allow the first group of nations to start seizingthe benefits of this program now.
A third obstacle is the lack of access to education and to thetechnology that unlocks the door to the information economy. That's whywe have launched an Education Initiative, to support primary schools inAfrica, to improve the prospects of women and girls, to link African andAmerican educational institutions, and to improve access to theInternet.
A fourth obstacle to development is chronic disease. Over the next 10years in Africa, AIDS is expected to kill more people than all the warsof the 20th century, combined. Each year, diseases like malaria,tuberculosis, and pneumonia leave millions of children without parentsand millions of parents without children. Yet today, only 2% of allglobal biomedical research is devoted to the major killers of thedeveloping world. This is both an injustice and an economic calamityfor Africa, for no nation can defeat poverty if it is overwhelmed by theneeds of the ill.
That's why we have asked the Congress for an additional $100 million tofight, with Africa, the epidemic of AIDS. And in his address to the UNlast Tuesday, the President committed the United States to a concertedeffort to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines fordiseases like malaria, AIDS, and TB, working with the private sector tocreate incentives for medical research that will save lives, andliberate nations from this crippling burden.
But the greatest obstacle to Africa's progress may well be thepersistence of conflict, including in Sierra Leone, the Congo, Sudan,Angola and between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
These wars have different causes, but common features. They havebrought into stark relief the need for stronger institutions in Africato ensure that disputes are resolved by peaceful means. Unregulatedborders are vulnerable to the spread of small arms and illegal trade;judicial institutions are often too weak to settle grievances andsatisfy claims for justice; the regional organizations necessary toguarantee collective security are only now coming into their own.
But something new and promising has also begun to emerge from the horrorof these conflicts. In each case, African nations have taken the leadto work for peace. And their leadership has allowed us to address theseconflicts in partnership with African leaders and institutions. Insteadof facing a choice between abdicating America's responsibility andimposing America's solutions, we have a golden opportunity to supportAfrican efforts to stop wars and save lives.
In seizing that opportunity, our first step has been to work withAfricans to help strengthen their capacity to unite for peace. Forexample, we have launched the African Crisis Response Initiative, whichhas already trained over 4000 African peacekeepers, some of whom havebeen deployed to Sierra Leone. And we have launched the Great LakesJustice Initiative, to help strengthen legal institutions and to counterthe culture of impunity that has plagued that region.
We have also tried to play an active supporting role when Africannations have taken responsibility to end conflicts on their continent.
In Sierra Leone, for example, West African nations took the lead whentheir peacekeeping organization, ECOMOG, intervened and its leadersfinally forged a peace agreement. But I am proud that throughout theprocess, the United States played a helpful role. Over the last decade,we have provided over $100 million to ECOMOG. Our Special Envoy forAfrica Rev. Jesse Jackson, with Ambassador Howard Jeter, facilitatedthe signing of a cease fire without preconditions, paving the way forthe agreement the regional countries forged in July.
In the Congo, the parties to the conflict forged a cease fire, under theleadership of President Chiluba of Zambia, and with the involvement ofPresidents Mbeki of South Africa, Mkapa of Tanzania and Chissano ofMozambique. But here too, I am pleased with the role we played.
For the last year, former Congressman and now Special Envoy for theGreat Lakes Howard Wolpe, has flown more than 20 missions in the region,trying to keep the nations talking about common interests, even as theyfought over their differences. For the last several months, quietly andbehind the scenes, we have facilitated a dialogue between opponents inthis tragic war.
Within days of the clashes last month between Ugandan and Rwandan forcesin the Congo, a US team worked with those countries to reach a ceasefire and an agreement on securing rebel signatures to the Congo-widepeace agreement. And that agreement reflects the dialogue we've had withthe region since last fall about the need for a new regional securityarrangement in Central Africa, and for greater citizen participation inshaping Congo's future.
The OAU has taken the lead to resolve the deadly conflict betweenEritrea and Ethiopia, and thanks to their efforts peace is closer todaythan at any time in the last fifteen months. My predecessor Tony Lakehas made a half dozen trips to the region on our behalf to support thisprocess. The President has actively engaged President Isaias and PrimeMinister Meles.
On Thursday, we will be holding the first session of the US-AngolanConsultative Commission, which will address among other things thatcountry's continuing conflict. We are working with the UN to strengthenenforcement of multilateral sanctions against UNITA, and to find ways tocut off the illegal trade in diamonds that has fueled this and otherAfrican wars.
Finally, in Sudan, we have taken the lead, working with our European andAfrican partners, to revitalize the regional peace process led by theIntergovernmental Authority on Development. We recently appointed aSpecial Envoy, Harry Johnston, to redouble our engagement.
In each of these cases, our role has been to help Africans find Africansolutions to African conflicts, and, perhaps as important, to do so in away that strengthens the regional capacity to prevent conflicts in thefuture. I know many of you are asking if, in the wake of Kosovo and EastTimor, America and others should intervene more directly in Africa'sconflicts. Let me try to provide an answer.
First of all, I do not believe that the international community'sactions in Kosovo and East Timor shift our attention from Africa'sconflicts. On the contrary. They have focused the whole world'sattention on the need to strengthen our collective capacity to respondto death and suffering on a massive scale - wherever it may happen.This was the main subject of debate at the UN General Assembly lastweek. And everyone engaged in that debate understands one of the mainchallenges we face lies in Africa.
Let's be clear about what that challenge is. Africans are not asking usto respond to conflicts such as those in Sierra Leone, or the Congo, orEthiopia-Eritrea, with NATO bombing, or by doing the job for them.
Africans are asking us to recognize that their crises are not merelyAfrican problems -- any more than Kosovo was purely a European problemor East Timor was purely an Asian problem. Africans are asking theinternational community to lend tangible support when they takeappropriate action to address these crises, or keep the peace. Africansare asking for help in building the institutional capacity to sustainthe leadership they are willing to provide. And they are asking theUnited States in particular whether we are prepared to provide a shareof the resources needed to back up the peace we help broker.
The President is deeply committed to meeting this challenge. In hisspeech last week to the UN, he made clear that neither America nor anyother country can do everything, or be everywhere. But he also said:"Simply because we have different interests in different parts of theworld does not mean we can be indifferent to the destruction ofinnocents in any part of the world." He said that "when we are facedwith deliberate, organized campaigns to murder whole peoples, or expelthem 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 SierraLeone in July. It is why we are actively engaged in shaping apeacekeeping mission in that country, a mission that must includeECOMOG, the African force that took the lead when it was time tointervene, and the United Nations, which can mobilize the support of thewhole world.
It's why we supported UN Secretary-General Annan in July when he swiftlydeployed military liaison officers to the Congo. We will work with theregion to consolidate the Congo agreement, which provides not only acease fire but a blueprint for the region's long-term collectivesecurity.
When we reach an agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia - and we must,because the consequences of another round of war would be tragic anddevastating -- the United States will directly support the planned OAUmission to keep the peace.
We can and must do more to meet these challenges, and to do that we mustpose a challenge to ourselves.
First, we need leadership. I can assure you that President Clinton'scommitment to a new relationship between the United States and Africa isstrong and deep-rooted.
Second, our Congress must recognize that it is in our national interestto invest in Africa's future, and to provide the resources necessary tokeep the peace and prevent the wars.
Congress has been willing to fund aid to the victims of conflict andfamine in Africa. Right now, our spending on humanitarian assistancefor a handful of African crises is twice as high as our spending ondevelopment for the entire continent. It is more than 10 times as highas our spending on peacekeeping. And this year's spending bill forforeign operations cuts our request for development assistance to Africaby more than 40 percent. We will fight that, because we'd save money aswell as lives if we invested more in prevention.
Third, we need the continuing commitment of the American people to theirown partnership with the people of Africa. The friends of Africagathered here tonight, as individuals and as participants in theNational Summit on Africa, the Constituency for Africa, and the untiringcampaign of C. Payne Lucas and Africare, are key to our collectivesuccess.
I've described to you our efforts to make good on the promise of a newpartnership with Africa. We are headed in the right direction on a longroad. I ask for your continuing support and leadership in keeping usmoving down that road.
History provides no guarantees, but neither does it place artificialbarriers on what we can achieve. The last decade of this century hasseen so many hard earned miracles, from the end of the Cold War, to thespread of democracy to more than half the world's people, to the birthof freedom in South Africa and Nigeria. Surely, if all this ispossible, Africa can overcome its difficulties and find its way into theglobal mainstream -- with peace and rising prosperity for all itspeople.
We are united here today not just by our hope, but by our belief thatthis will happen if we seize the opportunities before us. And we areunited by our conviction that working with Africans to reach that goalis not only right, but right for us.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only
Africare Dinner, September 27, 1999