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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe
Joint Press Conference, State House
Harare, Zimbabwe, December 15, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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PRESIDENT MUGABE: [inaudible] various issues pertaining to our region, our bilateral relations with the United States. It was along those lines that we held talks this morning. We naturally would want to continue these discussions. There will [inaudible] but I want to take this opportunity once again to express my gratitude for visiting us. It's a visit she is paying to us in this region when we are going through tremendous economic difficulties.

As you are aware, these difficulties are compounded really by some events that do care internally in our situations -- the civil strife, the problems that we have had in various countries in our region. There is the situation in Angola that is yet to be resolved and resolved along the lines of the Lusaka Protocol where we are having trouble with Dr. Savimbi's UNITA. And recently after the ousting of Mobutu, we are faced with a new situation with the Democratic Republic of Congo where again a lot of assistance is required. If you go to the east of that country -- Rwanda, Burundi -- [there is] immense difficulties.

Further afield you have the question of Somalia, the question of Sudan and so really our environment still needs that peace and stability and I m sure with the assistance of big countries like the United States, some of our problems could be resolved. But when all is said and done, we of Africa must bear the greater burden of the problem of finding a solution. Our friends can only assist us in that effort of getting a solution but of course we must have correct perspectives. Do we share the same ideals in regards to political situation? Do we share the ideals of democracy with all that it entails with human rights, civil liberties, etc.? Only when there is common perception on these matters can we really get the cooperation of our friends.

These are some of the matters we have been discussing. I m sure Mrs. Albright will tell you what the United States' own view about cooperation with us is. But we are very happy that she has visited us but take into account that she has had a long, long, long march. You must spare her. I am pleading with you. So I'll let you...

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. President. It was indeed my first visit but it will not be my last. It has been just sensational. It's a great pleasure to have spent time in this beautiful country.

Over the past week, I have traveled through eastern, central and southern Africa. I have had the chance to speak with leaders and refugees, business people and civic activists. I have listened with care. And here in Zimbabwe as elsewhere, I have heard and seen that Africans are ready to write a new chapter in their own history and in their relations with the international community and the United States.

African citizens are finding new strength in unity, and new determination to work for the rights and opportunities they have long been denied. Africa's leaders are putting new emphasis on resolving conflicts, reforming economies, and revitalizing institutions of transparent, honest government; and Africa's regions are looking beyond old rivalries to political and economic integration. This morning, President Mugabe and I discussed ways we can work together to reinforce and build on these positive trends, in Zimbabwe and around the region.

Zimbabwe has long been a regional leader in southern Africa, and now holds the chairmanship of the OAU as well. I briefed President Mugabe on our expanded support for SADC and renewed our offer of support for efforts to develop the region's capacity to conduct peacekeeping operations.

We also talked about Zimbabwe's efforts to create jobs and grow by attracting more trade and investment -- and the economic reform and market opening are necessary for those efforts to succeed. With economic reform underway, and strong rates of growth, Zimbabwe is an economic engine for southern Africa. I can announce today that we will be giving $1 million to support international efforts here in Zimbabwe to develop drought-resistant crops and help maintain steady economic progress.

To maintain its leadership in the region, Zimbabwe must ensure the long-term political stability that only strong democratic institution and respect for the rule of law can provide. Representative institutions cannot be built overnight -- democracy is always and everywhere a work in progress. The United States is committed to working with the Zimbabwean people and their government as they work to create their own strongly rooted democracy.

To that end, the United States will be supporting the efforts of the Zimbabwean Parliament to make government more effective and accountable. We will provide a $200,000 grant for projects including travel by Zimbabwean legislators to talk to their American counterparts about our experiences with legislative reform.

We will also assist the Registrar of the Zimbabwean High Court to improve the administration and transparency of the 11,000 cases it hears annually. Earlier in my trip, I announced an initiative to help the states of the Great Lakes region build effective and credible justice systems; and I hope Zimbabwe's work can serve as an inspiration.

Finally, we are reviewing other possibilities for helping Zimbabweans expand their opportunities for participation in the democratic process. In the future, we expect that this will include the establishment of an independent Zimbabwe-American Foundation, which will be run by private citizens in both our countries in support of Zimbabweans democratic aspirations.

Here, as elsewhere in Africa, the energy and initiative of the people is key to building a more prosperous and secure future. Difficult reforms in governments and economies are needed to make this happen, but the United States is committed to standing with countries whose leaders and people are willing to take that path. And we are committed to building new relationships with countries such as Zimbabwe, as you work to define a new place in the international community, and a new source of hope for Africa as a new century dawns.

Thank you very much Mr. President for a great discussion and for your hospitality.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary if I could just [inaudible]. The Israeli cabinet [inaudible] a decision on a troop withdraw on the West Bank and I wonder what that tells us about the prospect for serious progress at your meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well first of all, it is very hard for me to comment on a meeting that I have not had yet. I will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and again restating what I feel, and what the President feels, which is a sense of urgency about dealing with the peace process. I am looking forward to a good and useful meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu as we have had in the past.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Zimbabwe in the last week has fairly tumultuous time with suppression of dissidents, of free association, the [inaudible] of a trade union leader [inaudible], massive corruption here. These are themes you have been trying to cope with in every stop. What have you told President Mugabe about your concerns about this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well first of all, we had a very broad-based discussion about what Zimbabwe means to the region and the great leadership role that President Mugabe has been fulfilling. We also have talked about some of the issues here that have to do with land reform and taxes and various domestic issues and the sensitivity of the time and some of the difficulties that have been encountered. I made clear to President Mugabe what I have said to others: the importance of human rights is basic to the development of democracy, the rule of law is important, transparency is important. I think that also we have to recognize, and this is a point that I would like to make just generally in terms of what we have learned on this trip, what I have heard on this trip, and what I see as a new chapter in our relationships here -- we need to make sure that human rights continue to be the bedrock of our whole relationship. But we have recognized that the countries are not identical to each other and that there is a local context and that we have to do everything to make democracy sustainable.

Those are the kinds of issues I have discussed with President Mugabe, as I had with other leaders.

PRESIDENT MUGABE: Yes, of course. I don t know what he is referring to as suppressive measures. Any government anywhere must ensure that whatever expression there is of the people's feelings has to be done in the context of law and order. Where you have people who, from the very onset of the demonstration, would want to commit acts of violence, would want to rob others of their property. It happened to [inaudible] shops were broken in that had nothing to do with the so-called suppression of government. It is just an instinct of [inaudible] and government has the right to prevent all those things from happening.

Those who would want their human rights respected must first learn to respect the human rights of others.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, now that you have had your last meeting in Africa can you give us sort of a general summary of what came off as you had hoped? What fell short of your expectations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think it has been a very important trip. I had specifically, as I have said to many of you, wanted to make sure that I came to Africa during my first year as Secretary of State in order to make very clear that Africa is high on our priorities, and that the U.S. - Africa relationship is one that commands a great deal of our attention. Rightfully so.

I had focused primarily on the Great Lakes region because of the centrality of that region to stability and the democratic evolution of Africa. And, because of the drastic change that came about in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As I stated in my opening speech at the OAU, I came to listen and I have listened. As a result of that I feel very strongly, first of all, to repeat what I said to Roy's question, that clearly human rights and the rule of law have to continue to be central in the bedrock of our relationships but we have to understand the local context. We make a mistake if we think every African country is the same and that we can just organize the way we think everything ought to be done. There is a local context. Rule of law is essential. Reform of the judicial system is essential.

The development of democratic institutions is essential in order to make democracy sustainable. But I do think we have to recognize the difference in these countries and the various evolutions they are going through and it is only appropriate that the United States, while pressing our agenda, respect the agendas in these countries as they are moving forward into the 21st century.

QUESTION: When do we expect President Clinton to visit in Africa?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not the scheduler at the White House but I know that President Clinton is very eager to come and that he has been looking forward to a trip to Africa. I will be going back with glowing reports about the beauty of Africa and the great relationship that we can have, and the fact that we are starting on a new chapter in our relations with Africa. That is my hope. And I know that President Clinton is looking forward to coming.

[End of Document]

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