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Remarks to the Pool by Mike McCurry on the Bilateral Meeting

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Trip to Africa

Office of the Press Secretary
(Gaborone , Botswana)

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 29, 1998


2:20 P.M. (L)

MIKE MCCURRY: I'm going to give you a readout on the meeting.Obviously, this is a very warm, cordial meeting that reflects the excellentbilateral relations that the United States enjoys with Botswana.

The president met privately with President Masire and then thetwo delegations joined together. President Masire introduced at some lengthVice President Mogae, who will take over the day after tomorrow aspresident. As you know, that -- President Masire is vacating office justshort of the end of his old term, which would expire next year, andobviously the vice president will succeed him and is expected to be aleading contender for the office of the presidency when they have electionsnext year.

President Masire said relations with the United States have beenexcellent since the country was founded, when it gained independence in1966. He said they have been very good, indeed, but never better than now,with your visit.

The Botswana government is making a real effort to increaseinternational tourism in the game preserve area especially. So they'reespecially delighted that he's going to Chobe (ph) and spending time overthe next day and a half for leisurely seeing the game preserve.

And then a lot of funny remarks, none of which I'll give you,about the president's upcoming visit to the game preserve, but they arevery proud that he's going there. They think it'll be a big boost totourism. And so they complimented the president on the fact he is spendingsome down time here. The president said he was honored to be here. He saidthat Botswana has perhaps been the first government serving its people inall of sub-Saharan Africa, the record of service to people and thecommitment to democracy is perhaps strongest here of all the countries thatwe have visited. The president said, you've had great success here and Ihope more African countries will follow your lead.

The president particularly noted the progress they're making onthe status of women. The government has been doing a lot to correct some ofthe historical inequitiesthat women faced in Botswana. Q: What are some of those? MCCURRY: They have -- they are focusing on violence againstwomen, which is a serious problem in this society. They've got a lot ofnongovernmental organizations that have been working on a long-term plan toimplement what the government of Botswana calls its ``national policy onwomen.'' That was adopted in 1996, and it -- they're focusing there on sixareas. First, women in poverty. Second, women in power-sharing anddecision-making roles, which they've historically been excluded from inBotswana. Three, education and vocational training for women. Four, women'shealth issues.

Five, female children, and the role that you know -- there'vehistorically been greater status attached to male offspring, and so they'retrying to equalize and raise thestatus of female children. Last, violence against women, and abuse ofwomen.

Q: Mike, is infanticide a problem (OFF-MIKE)?

MCCURRY: I don't know whether it is or not. There's nothing herethat indicates whether it is.

Q: Are they visiting here?

MCCURRY: No, they're -- they're down in the -- the two presidentswere just collecting their first ladies, and then they're coming over hereto the reception. They're trying to stay pretty much on schedule because wehave to land before nightfall in Kasane tonight, or else we think we can'tget in tonight. They met privately for about 20 minutes, and then met forroughly a half hour in the delegation format.

Q: Did they talk about the trade bill or the ACRI?

MCCURRY: They talked about -- let me just go over some of theother subjects they raised. President Masire was interested, as otherleaders have been, in the status of the Democratic Republic of (AUDIO GAP)Botswana defense force.

And that then naturally led into the discussion of the ACRI. Thepresident asked Assistant Secretary Susan Rice to give an update on theAfrica Crisis Response Initiative, and she ticked off some of the countriesthat have started participating in joint training exercises. We will seeone of those in Senegal later in the trip.

But it was sort of a subtle reminder to the government of Botswana thatit -- that we continue to hope that they will become productively involvedin the work of the ACRI. They have been...

Q: They're not participating in that?

MCCURRY: They are not currently participating, although therehave been discussions that have been under way about whether or not theymight consider it. We were not attempting to get their acceptance on thistrip, but we certainly hope that the further discussions that we have withthem will lead them to consider participating. The president talked at one point about -- no, Sandy Bergerraised the issue that they had to get -- that we all had to be issued newphones when we were here, and we learned that's because the emergingBotswana cellular phone system is digital-based so that it's more advancedtechnologically than what our normal White House equipment works on. So thepresident said that's not a comment on the United States of America, but itis a comment on the White House, that you have more sophisticatedtechnology here.

The president then talked about how much he was looking forwardto going to the game preserve; and told a story of a friend of his who hadstayed at the same lodge that he will stay at, who woke up one morning witha baboon sitting at the end of his bed; and said the baboon was kind of inand out of the apartment the whole time that he was here, and when he left,he felt like he was leaving a friend.

The president then also asked -- asked about Botswana's -- hesaid I've heard that there is one elephant for every 18 people in Botswana,and he asked if that were true and if anyone knew. And they -- one of theministers on the Botswana side said that they thought that it was probablyright. He said, well, that's both good and bad for me. He says: It'sinteresting. I've read a lot about the elephant population and some of thework that you're doing concerning the elephant population.

They've got a very large population, and it causes some damage toecosystems because of how much elephants eat and drink in the course of aday. But the president also said that the other problem I had is of coursethat it is the symbol of the other party back home.(LAUGHTER)

So he said that there would probably be lots of pictures with me andelephants in the next couple of days. (LAUGHTER)

That was pretty much it. I mean, it was a very -- they did not, unlessthey -- they did not talk specifically about the trade initiative.

Botswana, according to the ambassador -- we were talking on the way here-- they would be less likely affected by the president's Africa tradeinitiative than some other countries. Their principal export item isdiamonds, and they're not an economy that has been heavily based onassistance from outside. They, of course, graduated from formal U.S.assistance some time ago. So they're not an -- an aid recipient as havesome of the other countries that we've visited.

Q: Mike, there was an article in one of the papers about theindigenous residents of the Kalahari area who were hoping that --to -- theClintons' visit would help them avoid a forced or encouraged move out ofthat area to a settlement. Do you know -- has that issue come up? Or is it likely to?

MCCURRY: OK. I don't believe it came up in this meeting. I cancheck with the ambassador to see if we have worked on that, but that's notan issue that's come up. That's the first I have heard of that. Q: Mike, (OFF-MIKE)

MCCURRY: No, he's -- that was -- there was a lengthy response--is that the letter that the Jones side...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) years ago.

MCCURRY: This was in the new filing by -- by Jones? There was alengthy response given by Jim Kennedy from the White House legal counsel'soffice on that, and we have not seen those filings here and have only seenone article about it, which didn't even mention the name of the person youhave just mentioned. So I've -- we have nothing to add to the responsethat's already been given. OK.

Q: This is a stupid question. But does he have any comment on thefact that they played ``Beautiful Dreamer'' as he was reviewing the troops?(LAUGHTER)

MCCURRY: No, I didn't hear him say anything about that.

Q: Well, (OFF-MIKE) talk about this -- the (OFF-MIKE) once again,that it was a comment on the White House...

MCCURRY: It wasn't a -- it wasn't a comment on advancedtechnology in the United States, but it probably was a comment on the WhiteHouse technology that they have more sophisticated cellular technology herein Botswana.

Q: Thank you.

MCCURRY: Thanks.

2:30 P.M. (L)

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