|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Joint remarks with Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
December 11, 2000, Gaborone, Botswana
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I haven't been introduced that way in a long time. (Laughter) I'm very glad to be here with Foreign Minister Merafhe. We had a very good meeting and I'm delighted that he is here by my side. This is my very first trip to beautiful Botswana and with every trip to Africa, I discover new reasons to return. I visited the continent several times as Ambassador to the United Nations, and I have been back every year since I became Secretary of State.
With each trip, I see countries that are more democratic than ever before, with more open markets, a greater commitment to human rights, and the bustling energy of a growing civil society.
The United States places great value on its relationship with Botswana, and I want to thank President Mogae for not only having received me, but for having such a full and informative meeting. And I also was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health Phumaphi, and participate with her in a very important event this morning about HIV/AIDS.
Our two countries collaborate in a variety of areas and today we discussed how that partnership can be strengthened and grow. Botswana has been a force for peace and integration in southern Africa-a goal the United States wholeheartedly supports.
As a frequent participant in United Nations peacekeeping, Botswana has demonstrated a firm commitment to peace. And I want to thank former President Masire for his tireless efforts to bring an end to conflict in the Congo.
Botswana has also worked with its SADC partners to bring about organizational change and more rapid implementation of the SADC Free Trade Area. We applaud these developments and I am delighted that Botswana will soon be able to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
We discussed with the President Botswana's role in breaking the link between diamonds and conflict, while respecting the interests of legitimate producers. The United States supports the resolution, which South Africa introduced at the United Nations, and we talked about Botswana's important role in the Kimberley process.
Finally, we talked about the government's war on HIV/AIDS. The United States applauds President Mogae's courage and vision-as all of Botswana mobilizes to tackle this deadly pandemic.
In our meeting, I told President Mogae about my visit to a local clinic. This morning, I visited a center which prevents transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. There I met with young and pregnant mothers who are seeking information, advice, and care.
The people I met at the clinic are filled with determination and hope and experts offering counsel and compassion, caregivers providing treatment and comfort, and mothers and children receiving the support of their families.
It was positive proof that this disease can be treated and defeated, but only by tackling it head on; and the United States is the largest bilateral donor for HIV/AIDS globally. But clearly we all must do much more, and I will therefore recommend to the next administration a substantial increase in HIV/AIDS funding, especially for Africa. So I want to thank the President, the Foreign Minister, and my other hosts again. This was a very enjoyable trip and I look forward to returning. Botswana's dedication to strengthening democracy, and building prosperity, and fighting for the health of its people is indeed exemplary. And my visit to the university was essential in showing the cooperation that we also have on education and dialogue in democracy.
The United States is an admiring partner and so I thank you very much for everything.
MINISTER MERAFHE: I think we must get into the meat of the subject. But it will probably suffice to say, Madame Secretary, that you are heartily welcome to Botswana and to the studios of Radio Botswana. It is indeed our pleasure and delight to have you visiting us, as you say in your language. It is slightly different from English. And we welcome the fact that this is the fourth high-level visit by a very high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration. The President himself honored us with a visit not so long ago. Vice President Al Gore was here. The late Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, was here, and yours is the icing on the cake.
QUESTION:I have two questions. Foreign Minister, you're leaving this afternoon for London for the commonwealth business. I wonder as to whether you discussed this with the problem in Zimbabwe, especially the latest involvement where President Mugabe has decided to forbid the courts, to listen to the courts in cases which have been brought in the country complaining about past elections. I wonder what is the U.S. position on that and the position of Botswana? And secondly -- this is directed to Madame Secretary -- is on the DRC. I wonder why the U.S. is not taking such a proactive position in the DRC, quote, during the soft landing of Laurent Kabila. In this case, I'm thinking about the funding, financial assistance, security and peace in that country.
FOREIGN MINISTER MERAFHE: The Secretary of State and I discussed a myriad of issues particularly relating to the regional situation, that is, our region. And naturally Zimbabwe, as you are aware, is one of the topical issues and we shared ideas on that question. But we did not really address the recent decision which has been reported over the press, that President Mugabe has decreed that anybody who is not satisfied with the outcome of the results in any of the constituencies during the last, or the recent general election, should be barred from prosecuting that appeal. It is one of those issues that I think we just mentioned peripherally, but we are still getting more information about this issue which I think on the face of it appears to cause a bit of concern.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, obviously we did discuss Zimbabwe because part of the importance of my visit here was to have the ability to discuss with the Foreign Minister and the President some of the regional issues, and the important role Botswana is playing in terms of dealing with regional issues and the central role that it has played with SADC and helping to restructure SADC in a way that allows it to be even more effective than it is. That was kind of a major aspect of our discussions generally, were the regional questions. We obviously are concerned as everybody is about what is going on in Zimbabwe in terms of some of the government policies. We would very much like to see Zimbabwe follow the rule of law and carry out democratic elections peacefully and legally and to be able to have an ability to deal with what clearly are very serious issues that have arisen in Zimbabwe.
On the DRC, let me say again, this was one of the subjects we talked about of regional concern, and as I said we're very grateful for the role that President Masire has been playing as facilitator. I think that the United States has in fact been quite supportive of what is happening, of trying to solve the DRC issue, including supporting the United Nations activities there and generally being supportive of increased funding of United Nations activities. That is one of the major issues that we deal with is trying to figure out how we can be supportive of peacekeeping activities and trying to deal with what is clearly a very serious issue in the DRC and to try to have everybody live up to their part of the Lusaka accords.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you have a message or any advice to give to the next U.S. Administration regarding the policy towards Africa; and Mr. Minister, what are your expectations regarding the next U.S. Administration? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is what you call a great question. Let me say, I'm very proud of the record that the Clinton Administration has had vis-à-vis Africa.
As I said, I have visited it every year, every twelve months or so. The President has been here a number of times, the First Lady, various members of our Administration--whether it's Secretary Slater of Transportation, or as was mentioned, the late Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, our Secretary of Agriculture -- I think just practically every member of the cabinet has been here -- Secretary of Health Donna Shalala.
We have seen Africa as vitally important to the United States. I think that it would be a tragedy if Africa did not have that same role for whoever is the next president of the United States because policy towards Africa is not optional. The issues that happen here concern all of us whether they are health issues, and we have now made very clear that HIV/AIDS is a security issue. It's a security issue because as countries suffer from HIV/AIDS and major portions of their population are either debilitated or dead, they can't have a viable economy. They can't function properly, democratically, and they then become unstable and sources of conflict arise so there is a direct line between the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and security. And that is why, in fact, we raised the issue in the Security Council of the United Nations. Some questioned whether that was appropriate. We saw it as appropriate.
I also think that the various conflicts that take place here, while there are those who might feel that they are not of direct interest to the United States, I believe that the United States is not true to its principles if we do not consider humanitarian disasters as something that needs to be dealt with, and humanitarian intervention is very much within the interest of the United States. I also will make very clear, to whoever succeeds me, the importance of funding not only for HIV/AIDS, but to increase the funding for Africa. We ourselves have quadrupled the funding for Nigeria, for instance, so I believe that the most important message is - Africa counts.
QUESTION:The Mugabe regime has over the past few months strongly criticized Washington for its proposed legislation -- I'm talking about the 2000 Democracy Bill. Given the unfortunate incidents and political developments in Zimbabwe, are we going to see Washington maybe maintain its position with regard to the bill itself and do you think that the SADC position against the bill is justified according to America? And the last question is that you'll be going to Algeria for the signing of the peace treaty. What is the American interest in this treaty and are you satisfied that everything is well in terms of insuring that there is peace in the troubled Horn of Africa region?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, that was something that originated within Congress. We do not agree with aspects of it, but I think that it's important for Zimbabwe to get the message that we are concerned about the developments there as I mentioned in response to a previous question. I think that everyone had looked to Zimbabwe as a great example of democracy and economic development, and I think that there is a general sense of depression and sadness over what has happened and over the policies that President Mugabe has been talking about. So we would hope very much the issues of land reform could be dealt with in a way that followed the rule of law. Funds are available for dealing with it in that particular way. The United States supports that and that elections there be carried on peacefully and legally. So that's where we are on that.
On the issue of my going to Algeria, we have been very concerned about what has been a tragic and needless war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The United States has worked very hard to try to, with the United Nations, to try to get a resolution of that border issue. I am looking forward to being present with my good friend Joe Legwaila in Algiers in order to witness the signing and hope that the various elements of that agreement are carried out because a lot of people died for what many of us felt was a needless war.
QUESTION:I have two questions for you Madame. The first one concerns the DRC.
DIRECTOR SESINYI: I thought I said one question each.
QUESTION: Just smallish ones. Your government is among the governments that promised to help fund the office of the DRC facilitator, but it does seem that up to now you haven't honored the pledge to help with the funds. May we know why?
The second one is -- there is a movement within your Senate to the effect that America, which is one of the buyers of diamonds, should stop buying diamonds from Africa because they are blood diamonds. And in Botswana, diamonds are not only the lifeline of the country, but they have helped sustain our economy, and so forth. What assurance can we get from your government that Botswana diamonds would not be affected by the ban?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the first question, we did promise to pledge a million dollars to President Masire's office, and as I understand it, while slow, the pledge is being paid out and we will honor it. We'll get you the exact amount of what has already been paid out. But it will come. We honor our pledges, but it's slow - bureaucratic -- whatever, problems.
On the diamond issue, I did spend time talking with the President about it. We understand the seriousness of it and also the importance of clean diamonds to the economy of Botswana. That is very evident and there are other countries - South Africa - where diamonds are very important and they are not the conflict diamonds. So we supported South Africa's resolution. We support the Kimberley process of certification to make clear which diamonds are the ones that are legitimate sources of income for economies and which are the ones that help fuel conflict.
I think the tragedy has been as far as the conflict diamonds are concerned is that they really have in fact provided funds for the killing of men, women, and children, primarily in West Africa. But I think that what is important is to distinguish. The international system has the capability of doing that, and we support the process for making that happen, being fully cognizant of the importance of the diamonds here.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you mentioned the importance of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and how Botswana has recently become eligible for it. Can you talk about what sorts of challenges this country has overcome, and what other nations can learn on this continent from Botswana's process for becoming eligible for that bill?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that basically that piece of legislation is something that was very important to President Clinton and to the whole Administration because it in a way pointed up the possibilities of African countries being partners in trade with the United States and not merely aid recipients. It provides the possibility for changing the entire relationship. The way that eligibility for it comes about is that basically there is a climate that allows for investment, rule of law, commercial codes, tax codes that work. Also where as a result of the way the legislation was written was that there be good human rights practices, that labor and environmental concerns are also taken into consideration. So it looks at the whole picture, and Botswana has worked very hard to have a functioning rule of law and provide a good climate and a desire to be part of the world economy.
QUESTION: Mine is only one and it's on AIDS. Madame Secretary, what is your government doing to ensure that American pharmaceutical companies make AIDS drugs cheaper for the African continent?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I know this has been a question and some of the issues revolved around intellectual property rights. President Clinton has made it quite clear that that should not stand in the way of being able to provide drugs that are available at a lower price. I think one of the biggest problems has been the pricing of the drugs.
We have been talking to a variety of drug companies and what I have found interesting, not only in my meetings here, but also in South Africa, is that governments themselves have been in contact with the major pharmaceutical companies to make arrangements to try to get lower cost drugs. I think we are also going to do everything we can, as I said, to try to get greater funding so that we can assist. I know that the intellectual property rights issue was a big question. President Clinton was concerned about that and so we have taken some actions in that regard.
MINISTER MERAFHE: Madame Secretary General, thank you very much for this appearance. We feel very much enriched by the comments that you have made in your introductory remarks and in your very constructive response to the questions that were put to you. I hope these ladies and gentlemen of the press will disseminate this information to the wider audience of Botswana. We thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Minister.
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