Clinton in South Africa
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CHARLES KRAUSE: Once again, on the second day of the state visit Presidents Clinton and Mandela walked hand in hand to a joint news conference this morning. But it was the 51-year-old president who stumbled on the steps and was supported by the South African leader, 20 years his elder.
Continuing the friendly but frank spirit of their meetings, Mandela praised Mr. Clinton and his wife for what he called their correct instincts on major international issues. But Mandela then strongly defended his support and friendship for such leaders as Fidel Castro, and Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, who backed Mandela’s fight against apartheid beginning in the 1960′s.
PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA, South Africa: I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who help us in the darkest hour in the history of this continent. Not only–not only did they support us in rhetoric; they gave us the resources for us to conduct the struggle and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me for being loyal to our friends, literally, they can go and throw themselves into a pool.
CHARLES KRAUSE: President Clinton made no response to that comment. Instead, he praised Mandela for emerging from nearly 20 years in prison without bitterness for the white apartheid government who jailed them.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The partnership between our nations is only four years old, but already we are laying the foundation for a greater future. And I think everyone knows that the most important reasons for our success is President Mandela. (Applause) His emergence from his many years on Robben Island is one of the true heroic stories of the 20th century. And, more importantly, he emerged not in anger but in hope, passion, determination to put things right in a spirit of reconciliation and harmony.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The two leaders then took questions.
REPORTER: In Rwanda, you said that the United States should have acted sooner to stop the killing. Do you think that American racism, or what you described as American apathy toward Africa, played a role in its inaction? How have you grappled personally with that experience two days ago, and have you considered any specific policy changes, given that this century America’s been slow to act that would compel a faster American response in the future, besides early warning systems?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say, first of all, I do not believe that there was any–I don’t believe there was any racial element in our slow response. I think that–keep in mind, I don’t think anybody on the outside was prepared for somewhere between eight hundred thousand and a million people to die in 90 days. And look how long it took the United States and Europe through NATO and then through the U.N. to put together the machinery to go in and deal with the Bosnia problem.
So I would just say to you, I think the point I was trying to make is I do believe that generally America has been–and the whole American policy apparatus has been less responsive and less involved in Africa than was warranted. I think that’s a general problem. But I think in the case of Rwanda what I believe we have got to do is to establish a system, hopefully through the United Nations, which gives us an early warning system, that gives us the means to go in and try to stop these things from happening before they start, and then if it looks like a lot of people are going to die in a hurry, that kicks in motion some sort of preventive mechanism before hundreds of thousands of people die. I mean, if you look at the sheer–the military challenge presented by those who were engaging in the genocide, most of it was done with very elemental weapons.
If there has been some sort of multinational response available, some sort of multinational force available to go in pretty quickly, most of those lives probably could have been saved. And we just–we’re going to have to work this out through the U.N. and then figure out how to staff it and how to run it, whether it should be permanent or something you can call up in a hurry, how such people would be trained, what should be done. But my own view is that if we think that that sort of thing is going to happen, it would be better if the U.N. had the means to deal with it in a hurry, and I would be prepared to support the development of such a mechanism.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mandela ended the news conference by repeating his reservations about such a force.
PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: Our attitude towards this question is very clear. We supported the initiative very fully. All that South Africa is saying is that a force, which is intended to deal with problems in Africa, must not be commanded by somebody outside this continent. I certainly would never put my troops under somebody who does not belong to Africa. That is the only reservation I’ve had. Otherwise, I fully accept the idea. It’s a measure of the interest, which the United States takes in the problems of Africa. And the only difference is this one–but the command of that force. (Applause)
CHARLES KRAUSE: From there, the two leaders made a visit to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years on charges of sabotage and treason against South Africa’s white minority government. The two leaders again walked arm in arm as they toured the prison and made their way to the cell where Mandela was jailed. In February 1990, South Africa’s then President DeKlerk ordered Mandela’s release, paving the way for the end of apartheid and the transition to black majority government. In 1996, the Robben Island Prison was closed to be turned into a museum. But the grim reminders of the past did not dampen the celebratory spirit of today’s excursion. President Mandela even joined schoolchildren as they danced and sang in his honor. Tonight, the Clintons were guests at a state dinner. Tomorrow they visit the largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg. They will visit neighboring Botswana on Sunday.