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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
President Laurent Kabila
Joint Press Conference, Palais de la Nation
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, December 12, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am pleased to be here in Kinshasa and I thank President Kabila his hospitality, and for changing his schedule so that we could meet despite my late arrival yesterday.

I have come to the Democratic Republic of the Congo because there can be no doubt that what happens in this vast country will do much to shape the future of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, and because we have an unprecedented opportunity to build a new relationship between our two nations.

Decades of misrule have left the Congo with grave economic and political problems. But today, the Congolese people are clearly ready and eager to end their countryís long isolation and stagnation. We want to do all we can to help.

The new government, under President Kabila, has expressed a commitment to constitutional reform, democratic elections and economic recovery. There is a long way to go to reach these goals, but I am encouraged by a number of positive steps.

Today I congratulated President Kabila on the establishment of a Constitution Drafting Commission and a National Reconstruction Conference. If the work of these bodies is open and inclusive, they can be important tools in constructing government institutions that are representative, effective, and respected by the Congolese people.

Throughout the Great Lakes region, inter-ethnic violence has resulted both in great human tragedy and in new obstacles to political and social progress. As I discussed with President Kabila, it is vital that the regionís leaders work together to end this violence, ensure respect for human rights, and build security and tolerance.

The United States supports the mission of the UN team here in the Congo and welcomes their deployment into the field with the support of the Congolese Government.

What has happened in the Congo was part of a lengthier tragedy, one for which the United States, the nations of the region, and the international community must share responsibility.

We believe it is also critical, however, that steps be taken to lay the foundation for long-term stability and progress.

Accordingly, I have encouraged President Kabila to move ahead with planned political reforms designed to permit broad-based and open dialogue among both official and nongovernmental representatives. And I expressed the hope that this would include an early end to restrictions on political party activities.

We also discussed the urgency of economic development and regional integration, to take advantage of Congoís tremendous natural and human resources, and make the country a regional force for growth. That requires a commitment to open markets, honest government and the rule of law. President Kabila has made a strong start toward these goals with his governmentís stabilization plan.

The United States is committed to supporting the people of the Congo as they seek to build the peace, freedom and growth they have been so long denied.

My government intends to expand our assistance to the Congo significantly. In the weeks ahead, we will be working with our Congress to prepare a package of $35-40 million dollars to assist the Congolese people and their government in building democratic institutions and governing capacity. That package will cover infrastructure programs in areas such as health, sanitation and finance.

To take just one concrete example where work will begin even sooner, we will fund the rebuilding of the Black River Bridge, a vital link between Kinshasa and eastern Congo that was destroyed by Mobutuís government last May.

Peace Corps volunteers will return to the Congo. Resource centers for civic education will be funded. And we will support Congolese projects to protect unique wildlife and rain forest.

The United States is also consulting with our Congress in order to contribute $10 million to the World Bank trust fund that the Friends of the Congo have pledged to establish. Through it, the international community will support projects that reflect Congolese priorities.

We also look forward to supporting debt relief for the Congo, once the government, working with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has put an economic reform program in place.

Our meeting today was an important step toward building a strong relationship based on shared interests, mutual respect and a joint willingness to work together to resolve differences and solve problems. The relationship between the United States and the Congo is important for both countries. I look forward to building on it in my meetings with Congolese citizens, and in productive work with the people and government of this country in the weeks and months ahead.

Once again, I thank President Kabila for his hospitality.

QUESTION: (translated from French) For the Secretary of State, you announced that you are working with Congress in order to prepare a package of $35 to $40 million. Could you tell us when this money will be available and what criteria do you use to establish the amount because the country needs billions of dollars, not millions?

Question for the President: Could you give us some details about the attack against the city of Bakavu and the murder of 200 Congolese in Rwanda?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. Let me just say that I believe that the package that we have proposed is actually quite a generous package that has a number of aspects to it. But in terms of timing, let me say that our Congress is out of session at the moment. They will be back in January. We will be working with them as rapidly as possible to get the money. I canít give you an exact time but it is high on our priorities because clearly it is needed here.

And let me say that first of all there are a number of pieces, as I mentioned, in the amount itself; there is also the possibility of debt relief; there is the Peace Corps coming in here, the building of the bridge, the $10 million that was pledged at Brussels. And then the fact that we, through our membership in international financial institutions, also have a great deal of leverage in terms of how other countries distribute their funds and the assistance that they might give.

We have a catalytic or magnetic effect and we plan to use that. But let me also make an additional point, which is that I think that not just in the Congo but generally throughout the world, we are operating differently in terms of our bilateral assistance. We believe that rather than dispensing large sums of money for that kind of assistance, we should supplement our assistance with trade and investment and that in the long run is the kind of partnership/relationship we should be having with other countries and with Congo. And therefore, among the things that I was interested in talking about with the President was the kind of environment that should be here in order to have that kind of investment possibility.

PRESIDENT KABILA: (translated from French) I am going to respond to the two questions. What happened in Bakavu first of all was actions taken by the rear guard of those who still have hopes against the republic. Youíve heard the details on the radio -- I donít need to go into details here. What happened is they came; they tried; they failed. We pursued them. They are members of the ex-FAR , the former Rwandan Armed Forces, the Interhamwe and another group now called the Mi-Mis. The country is ready to defend itself however. Such events will happen but weíll be ready to oppose any incursions that may happen.

Second question of what happened in Rwanda. Killings of refugees were not 200 -- it was over 800 who were killed. One more time the international community and the United Nations should perhaps send an investigation team to examine the facts. What happens in Rwanda is very destabilizing; these are Interhamwe killers, theyíve killed 800 people. The international community is silent. However, if you had killed one of these assassins, the international community would of course name an investigative team.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Could I just add to that answer? I was in Rwanda yesterday, as many of you know, and we discussed the problems in the North. I have asked Ambassador David Scheffer, who was with me in Rwanda and is my Ambassador to deal with crimes against humanity, to return to Rwanda to try to assist in the investigation of this problem, because it seems that some of the same people who perpetrated genocide are continuing with this activity perhaps with the same intent. And therefore I would like to let you know, Mr. President, that I am asking David Scheffer to return there to see what we can find out.

PRESIDENT KABILA: (translated from French) We of course are indebted and must thank the Secretary of State for this decision because this is really the first time that the international community reacts so quickly. Thank you, Madame Secretary.

QUESTION: Laura Myers with the Associated Press: My question is for President Kabila. This morning thereís a report that the United Nations team investigating the alleged massacres of Rwandan refugees was blocked this morning from working in Winjeck - Iím wondering what this does to your credibility as far as your pledge to allow free access to this team, and Iím wondering if youíll allow access in the future?

PRESIDENT KABILA: (translated from French) Iíll have to inform myself before I can answer your question. Iím not aware of what happened; I was not on the ground. I will ask my minister for rehabilitation to present a report to me about that and I need to be informed before I can voice any opinion.

All I know is that the commission is free to investigate anywhere it wants, but we must know what the exact facts are as it happened on the ground -- and see whether what you are saying is really true.

QUESTION: (translated from French) I have two questions for the Secretary and I work for a daily called the (inaudible). Madame Secretary, I heard your assistant, Susan Rice, say that the U.S. Government regrets having created and supported Mobutu. However, while in Uganda you have made several compliments to President Museveni, almost indicating that he was the strong man of the region. Since Uganda is not a model of respect for human rights, donít you think you could be creating another Mobutu and you would regret that afterwards?

Second question is I would like for you to describe the feelings that you have as you travel throughout Africa -- you are the U.S. foreign minister, like Mr. Visa Makata is our foreign minister. I would like for you to describe a little bit the way you feel.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, thank you. First of all let me say that there are many who are responsible for the existence and the development of Mr. Mobutu and we take our share of the responsibility. I donít exactly know on what you are basing your comments about what I said about President Museveni. I made quite clear as I also did in Ethiopia with President Meles that Africa at this stage is fortunate to have a group of strong leaders who are interested in regional cooperation. And I also spoke to the same subject in Rwanda and I just finished with President Kabila making it clear that he is among those leaders for whom there -- all of whom have a responsibility now to act together in support of economic development, democracy in this region of Africa.

I gave a speech at the OAU in Addis in which I outlined how I felt representing the United States at this stage in Africa. And I spoke about the importance of beginning a new chapter of our relations in which we worked as partners and in which I talked less and listened more. And I had a very good meeting with the foreign minister here today despite the fact that he is a man a little bit younger than I am. Just a little bit younger.

QUESTION: This morning you paid tribute to the democratic opposition who had opposed Mobutu and supported democratic development and just now you said that you favor a freedom of association of the political opposition. Some of the political leaders you might have wanted to meet here are in jail or have been jailed in the past couple of weeks. Did you ask President Kabila to release anybody in jail now for political association? Has he given you any assurances that there will be genuine freedom of political association and is there any link between this U.S. aid to Congo and the freedom of political association?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. President Kabila and I had a lengthy discussion about the importance of inclusiveness and about the importance of elections and the importance of dealing with numerous different political views. And in fact, I think that I can say that the bulk of our discussion was about the importance of building civil society, freedom of association, and generally the importance of building democratic institutions in a country that had been run in a dictatorial way with corruption for so many years.

And as you know, Congress is very interested in how Congo and President Kabila do in fact carry out obligations on issues of human rights and democracy. As of course do President Clinton and I.

And let me say that as part of this discussion with President Kabila, we established what I believe to be an excellent relationship and he and I decided that we would give each other our telephone numbers so that we could discuss problems when they come up. And I plan to use the phone fairly often and I hope he does also.

PRESIDENT KABILA: (translated from French) With the lead from the Secretary of State, I would like to ask the journalist who asked the last question, if he could site the names of these political personalities because of their gains.

QUESTION: The name Iíve heard is Zade Ingoma, in one of the leading publications. Is he now free or where is he?

PRESIDENT KABILA: (translated from French) This gentleman is not a politician. Or do you call a politician those who have come off the street to incite people to kill each other, to divide people who will manufacture political pamphlets in foreign embassies with intent of dividing people. Do you call that a political leader? Do you let people like that free on the street?

I hope that you saw the pamphlet that was drafted by this gentleman. They will go to jail if they incite people to violence. Long live democracies.

[End of Document]

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