First Lady Remarks at Makerere University

Office of the Press Secretary
(Kampala, Uganda)

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 25, 1998


Kampala, Uganda

4:51 p.m. (L)

MRS. CLINTON: Bana? Uganda. Muli mutyano. (Applause.) It is such agreat honor and pleasure for me to be here on this campus of this greatuniversity. (Applause). Before I begin, I want to thank President andMrs. Museveni for the warm hospitality that they have extended to us duringour visit. And I particularly want to thank Mrs. Museveni, not only forthat kind introduction, but I want to acknowledge her leadership on so manyfronts, especially her creation of the Uganda Women?s Effort to Save theOrphans. (Applause.) I also want to congratulate her on her recentgraduation from the university. (Applause.)

Thank you for your warm welcome, Mr. Vice Chancellor. And, no, I donot mind at all, for you?re asking that the needs of the students andfaculty here be met, and I will carry your message back to the UnitedStates. (Applause.)

It is a pleasure once again to be with your Vice President, whom Iadmire so much and who told me that she, too, was a student and a teacherhere at the University. (Applause.) I am also delighted to be joined bythe Speaker of the Parliament, and the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament,the Minster of Justice and Attorney General, the Chief Justice of theSupreme Court and Deputy Chief Justice, the Minister of Education, theMinister of Gender and Community Development, and so many of youdistinguished guests and faculty and students.

It is wonderful for me to have been able to return to Uganda. Lastyear when I visited with my daughter, I made the promise that I wouldreturn with my husband. And I?m very pleased I could keep that promise.(Applause.) I learned a lot about your country, your struggles andchallenges, last year. Since then I have followed your development withgreat interest and very great admiration, because I have some small sensefrom the conversations I have had with many men and women here in Ugandaand Ugandans in the United States about what you have had to overcome.

As the choir sang the Uganda National Anthem a few minutes ago, Ithought about how appropriate it is for these words to fill Freedom Squaretoday - - united, free for liberty. For 75 years,. Makerere University hasstood for these principles. And yet, I know that forces of evil stole thelife of Makerere?s first Ugandan Vice Chancellor. I know that the forcesof evil arrested, tortured and vilified students. They pushed faculty outof the country and tried to demean those who stayed. They wanted todestroy this world class university. (Applause.)

People like Idi Amin and his ilk are not comfortable in the light offreedom and education - - they prefer ignorance and backwardness. And youdid not let them succeed. (Applause.) Instead you healed the wounds ofthe past and you are now building this university for the future, just asUganda is doing, just as Africa is doing.

Out of the hard soil of the Cold War, democracies, free marketeconomies and civil societies are all taking root. Students who oncefought oppression underground re-emerged as liberators and now are leadersof a free Uganda. And voices for freedom and dignity and human rights oncesilenced are now again echoing through the halls of this university andacross this country.

Many such voices are here with us today. I could call the names ofmany faculty and students, government and academic leaders, members of theprofessions and businesses here in Uganda - - people who stood up forfreedom when it really counted. We can hear the voices of freedom fromSister Rachele Frassera, the Deputy Head Mistress of St. Mary?s College inAboke. When the Lord?s Resistance Army kidnaped 139 girls, 75 percent ofthe student body, she chased down the terrorists, convinced them to release109 girls and is working day and night to make sure all of them returnsafely. (Applause.)

We can hear the voice of freedom from Dr. Joy Kwesiga, the formerChair of Action and Development, and now Dean of Social Sciences here atMakerere. (Applause.) She has worked hard to ensure that the victims ofdomestic violence are heard, that their accusations are treated seriouslyand that the crimes are punished.

We can hear the voice of freedom from Sarah Bagalaliwo. As a founderand Chair of the NGO FIDA, Sarah instituted a legal aid clinic, which overthe last 10 years has helped thousands of vulnerable women understand andexercise their fundamental legal rights. (Applause.)

Just a few hours ago my husband and I were in Rwanda, where we spokewith survivors of the 1994 genocide. It is still hard to imagine that inthe space of three months, one million people were murdered. Nowhere hasthat number of people ever been murdered in such a short period of time inhistory. We listened to a delegation of six Rwandans who spoke of theirexperiences. One member was a woman whom I met exactly a year ago here inKampala. I could not myself go to Rwanda, but several women came to see meand we met here to talk about their experiences.

Last year and again today, I will forever see the faces of the peopleI spoke with as they described the human toll of Rwanda?s violence and whatthey were doing to rebuild their lives and communities. As my husband saidin his remarks today, genocide destroys not only individuals, but ourhumanity. We must continue to bring healing to the victims, and we mustbring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. (Applause.) We mustcontinue to be vigilant about the dangers that still exist and doeverything we can to make sure that nothing like what happened in Uganda inthe ?70s and what happened in Rwanda in 1994 happen again.

That means every one of us must act. Not just our leaders - - we musthold our leaders accountable - - it is for all of us to stand up for therights of all people. We must work to end atrocities around the world, notjust the ones that grab headlines, but the indignities that people sufferquietly, when they are denied the chance to speak or learn, to work or eat;when they?re denied the chances to live free from fear or want. In otherwords, we should stand up for the rights of all persons to be fully human.

You have made many steps toward that goal here at this university. Icould not name them all, but I want particularly to commend the Universityfor creating the Department of Women?s Studies, and now for creating theHuman Rights and Peace Center. (Applause.) There is no better time forall of us now to reaffirm our commitment to human rights and peace, for itwas 50 years ago that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was bornand the world acknowledged a common standard for human dignity. Thedocument puts it very directly: All human beings are born free and equal indignity and rights. All human beings - - not just men, not just adults,not just people of particular cultures or nations, races or religions.This declaration means that we must expand the circle of human dignity toall human beings.

And just think how much wider that circle has grown in Africa in justa few short years. Only a decade ago who would have imagined that NelsonMandela would move triumphantly from prisoner to President of South Africa.(Applause.) Or that more than 30 years of turmoil would give way tohealing and unity in Mozambique. And who would have imagined that it wouldhave been your brave President, President Museveni, that would have takenon the scourge of AIDS with his public health campaign, and that he wouldand you would, working together, stem the rise of AIDS in Uganda. That isalso standing up for human rights.

And who would have imagined that Uganda would produce your VicePresident, the highest ranking woman in any African government.(Applause.) I could add, the highest ranking woman in many governmentsaround the world, not just in Africa. (Applause.)

And yet, despite the steady march of progress, the commitment here touniversal primary education, for example, there are still those who willclaim that human rights are a luxury of the West; that they have nothing todo with Africa, or Asia; that they are just a province of people likeAmericans. But the beliefs inscribed in the Universal Declaration were notinvented 50 years ago; they are not the work of any single culture orcountry. They are universal and timeless.

Sophocles wrote about universal human rights 2500 years ago, when hehad Antigone declare that there were ethical laws higher than those of evenkings. Confucius articulated them in ancient China. And we can lookthroughout this continent and find examples of ancient leaders of Africawho also said that all people walk the same way, all people must be treatedwith dignity. These are the core teachings of all major faiths in theworld. They are the foundation of what it means to be a respected humanbeing-- in Africa, in Asia, in America-- because they live in the humansoul.

Around the globe, I have seen many women and men pushed to the marginsof their societies. They may know nothing of the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights, but they are eloquent in their beliefs that they were bornwith God-given rights just as surely as they were born into the humanfamily.

It is absolutely untrue that individual human rights and communityrights cannot co-exist. The truth is, they are indispensable to eachother. Democratic progress is possible when all citizens can be heard.Economic progress is possible when all citizens have the tools ofopportunity, such as education and health care, that will enable them tosupport their families.

Yesterday, President and Mrs. Museveni went with my husband and me tovisit a village-- the Jinja Village. We saw women who are working togetherthrough a village bank to make their lives better, increasing their income,helping their husbands support their families better, taking care of thechildren that were orphaned that they have taken in from their brothers orsisters or other relatives. And they are doing it because they?ve beengiven access to credit; they?ve been given tools to enable them to makeeconomic progress.

Real security is only possible when we learn to live together and torespect each other?s fundamental differences. I found a quote Iparticularly like from a Dinak Chief, who put it like this: "If you see aman walking on his two legs, do not despise him; he is a human being.Bring him close to you and treat him like a human being. This is how youwill secure your own life."

But yet, it is not an easy task, in my own country, or any country, tomake human rights a reality. The work is not done when a law is passed ora constitution is drafted. Securing human rights for all people is anever-ending struggle. In my own country, it has taken most of our 222years-- some of them bloody and a few of them easy-- to extend the benefitsof citizenship to all Americans.

We went from a very small group of white, property-owning men havingcitizenship, and gradually expanded it to include black men, and then toinclude women. But then we had to work to make sure that the words in theconstitution meant what they said. One of my predecessors, EleanorRoosevelt, who helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,was 35 years old before she could vote. My own mother was born beforewomen were allowed to vote in the United States. And yet, if we do notsecure human for all, none of us is secure in our own rights.

Some of you may recall the words of the Protestant minister living inNazi Germany who said: "In Germany, first they came for the Communists, butI didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a Communist. Then they came for theJews and I didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a Jew. Then they came fortrade unionists and I didn?t speak out because I wasn?t a trade unionist.Then they came for Catholics and I didn?t speak out because I was aCatholic. Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left tospeak out."

At the dawn of the millennium, those of us who have the power tospeak, and all of you here affiliated with this great university, by virtueof you being here and attaining this education, not only have the power tospeak, but the obligation. We must speak up wherever we see injustice andinequality.

And particularly today, I want to speak up for women in African andall over the globe. Too many of them everyday do the work that needs to bedone-- managing the home, feeding, schooling, and caring for the children;providing water and fuel. But every day, too many women are also being fedless and last; too many are trafficked like drugs and sold intoprostitution; too many are left out when important decisions are made abouttheir lives and their families and in their communities.

I want to commend Uganda for your new Local Government Act, which willhelp more women be a part of the decisions that will affect their lives.(Applause.) I am pleased to announce today that the United Statesgovernment will provide $2 million to help train these elected officialwomen as they assume their new roles and responsibilities. (Applause.)

Because, yes, women?s rights are human rights. And everywhere Itravel, I meet women who are struggling to make sure that occurs. We haveto speak out when either laws or customs treat women like children orsecond class citizens, when women are blocked from owning land, receivinginheritances, securing credit, or participating in the political process.We also have to speak out for more countries like Uganda to make sure thatgirls are educated.

Two-thirds of the 130 million children out of school worldwide aregirls. I wish that some of those people in those countries that stillprevent girls from being educated would come and visit the classrooms Ihave seen here in Uganda-- the bright faces of the young boys and girlsready to learn so they can become better citizens. I am so pleased thatuniversal primary education is a critical part of Uganda?s future.

There is much else we must speak against: violence against women; thepractice of genital mutilation; women and children who are brutalized byconflict whenever it occurs.

In Uganda, a pilot program here has reduced the number of women whoendure genital mutilation by more than one-third. And when I go to Senegalin a few days, I will meet with a group of women who over the past yearhave voted in their villages to end this practice and they are helpingothers to do the same.

We must also speak up for women and children caught up in war in andconflict around the world. It used to be that women, children, andcivilians were to be protected during a war. Today, they are increasinglythe targets of war. Since the turn of this century, civilian fatalitiesduring war have increased from 5 percent to 90 percent, and 80 percent ofwar?s refugees are women and children.

You have seen this here in your country, because nothing so offendsany definition of human rights than the use of children as pawns of war andthe mistreatment and abuse of women as a tactic of war. The war in Rwandawas waged against the lives and dignity of women. Rape and sexual assaultwere committed on a mass scale. Here, according to a U.N. report, thechildren of northern Uganda, like children throughout the world, are alsoat risk.

Last year when I spoke with President Museveni, he talked to me aboutthe more than 10,000 Ugandan children who have been abducted by the LordsResistance Army. One of those children is Charlotte, and she is one of thegirl?s that Sister Rachele tried to save. I met with her mother, Angelina,at the White House a few weeks ago before we came on this trip. She toldme what had happened the night that the LRA kidnaped Charlotte and theother girls from St. Mary?s school; how they broke the windows, tied up thegirls, beat them if they cried; took them away into a life of unspeakablehorrors. Thankfully, many have been rescued or escaped, or their freedomhas been purchased. But many others, like Angelina?s daughter, have notreturned.

Like terrorists and dictators throughout history, the LRA claims to bedoing the Lord?s work. But there is no greater sin than forcing childrento murder each other, family members, and even the parents who brought theminto existence. There is no greater sin than raping young girls andsending them into slave labor. And there is no greater sin than usingchildren as human shields in battle.

The LRA call themselves soldiers, but they are cowards, for onlycowards would hide behind children in battle. (Applause.) Through a groupcalled Concerned Parents Association, Sister Rachelle, Angelina and otherparents are working to save their children and all children.

One of Charlotte?s classmates who escaped talked about what happenedwhen another girl tried to escape. Listen to her words: "The girl who isbrought in front of us and the rebels told us to stomp her to death. Wekilled the poor innocent girl. If we did not kill t he girl, we were goingto be shot by guns. We prayed for that girl in our hearts, silently, andasked God to pardon us and forgive us because it was not our will to killher."

Another girl who was rescued wrote: "I?m pleading with you to find away of stopping this rebel activity, so that we children of northern Ugandacould also share in the peace that other children around the world aresharing in. We need peace."

I?m hoping that every government around the world and every citizenjoins your government and people in Uganda in your fight for peace and inyour efforts to save these children. Already Human Rights Watch andAmnesty International are shining a spotlight on this tragedy. UNICEF ishelping to get assistance to groups working at the local level. Andnon-governmental organizations like World Vision and Gulu Save the ChildrenOrganization are caring for children who escape.

There are three of those children here with us that I just had achance to meet before I came out to see you. Their names are Isaac andJanet and Betty. They were kidnaped by the LRA in the north. They managedto escape, eventually finding refuge. As I looked into their faces andtheir eyes, I saw the faces and eyes of children the world over. And Ithought to myself as I looked at these young men and women of Uganda thatwe owe them and the thousands more like them everything we can do to makesure that they, too, have a chance, like the children I saw yesterday, togrow up in peace, to be educated, and to look forward to their own familiesand futures.

There are no easy answers, but I want Janet and Betty and Isaac toknow, and I hope that someday Angelina will be able to tell her daughter,Charlotte, as well, that America cares about your children, and we want towork with you to try to stop this tragedy and to care for the children whoare its victims. (Applause.)

That?s why I am very pleased to announce new steps our government istaking through the United States Agency for International Development.First, we will provide $500,000 directly to local groups like the ConcernedParents Association and GUSCO, to help them find abducted children and givethem the medical care they need to heal. (Applause.)

Second, we will provide $2 million over the next three years for a newNorthern Uganda Initiative that will help the people living there plaguedby rebel activity get jobs rebuilding roads, dams, schools, health clinicsand their own communities. (Applause.) I am very pleased that otherdonors, including the World Bank, have agreed to support these efforts.

Third, we will provide $10 million to local African NGOs who areworking to improve food security and to prevent, ease and respond toconflict in the region. (Applause.)

And, finally, my husband and our government will increase theirefforts to pressure Sudan to end its support for the LRA and their cowardlyabductions of children. (Applause.) We will work with you to end thisterror, and we will work with you to continue your rebuilding of yourcountry.

But I want to add just one more thought, because when we talk aboutdemocracy and human rights we know how important laws and institutions are.We know that strong and free markets are also important because theyunleash so much creative entrepreneurial energy from people like the womenI saw in Jinja yesterday. But, ultimately, the struggle to protect humanrights depends upon the millions of decisions and actions that are takenevery day by ordinary people like us.

It is what Alexis de Tocqueville called, the habits of the heart. Itis what we tell our children. Do we continue to tell them to hate thosewho our grandparents hated, or do we try to help them give up that hatred?It is what we tell each other in our neighborhoods, our villages, ourworkplaces when we hear someone making disparaging comments about someoneof another ethnicity or tribal or racial or religious background. Do wesay: Why do you say that about a person?s group? Do you know the person?Can you make a judgment about that person as an individual? If you cannot,don?t engage in stereotypes. There have been too many stereotypes betweenus. (Applause.)

In so many ways every day each of us can stand up for human rights.We don?t have to be as brave a Sister Rachele rescuing girls. We don?thave to be as brave as these three young children who have endured so much,but have come back to build their own lives. We can in so many ways standup for human rights every day.

That is why I?m pleased that the Human Rights and Peace Center isdeveloping a curriculum to be used throughout the campus, so that thelessons taught and learned here will stay with everyone forever. Because,ultimately, all the work that the President or Mrs. Museveni, or the VicePresident or the Vice Chancellor, any of those who are currently leaders inUganda can do will not be successful unless the students at this Universityand the children in the schools today understand how important it is tostand up for democracy and freedom and human rights.

No one understand better the importance of human rights than Ugandans.You understand the nightmares that come when they are abused. No one is ina better position to honor the past generations by passing these lessons onto the next generations. I hope that you will accept this challenge, notonly now as you are doing, but for many years in the future. Many of uswill look to Uganda as an example; as a country that is putting the pastbehind it in ways that the rest of us not only can admire, but follow. Youhave a historic opportunity to build a future that is not only one that youare proud to pass on to your children, but one that stands as a beacon notonly for Africa, but for the world.

Many of us know what you suffered. Today we stand in admiration ofwhat your are doing now to build a better future. And we will look to youas we move toward this new century and new millennium to show us how peopledevelop new habits of the heart, to make it clear that every person isworthy of dignity and respect, and that peace and freedom, democracy andhuman rights will always bee part of Uganda?s life.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Africa Trip Speeches

First Lady Remarks at December 31st Women's Movement Daycare Center

First Lady Remarks at Makerere University

Remarks to the People of Rwanda

FINCA Women's Project

Remarks to the People of Ghana

Opening of the Ron Brown Center

Remarks at TechnoServe Peace Corps Project Site

Interview by the Discovery Channel

Remarks to the Community of Kisowera

Remarks at Reception

Photo Opportunity with the Presidents

Remarks in Photo Opportunity

Remarks with Village Business Owner

African Environmentalists and Officials

Remarks at Regina Mundi Church

Photo Opportunity with President Abdou Diouf

President Clinton and President Mandela

Remarks Upon Departure

Remarks at the Entebbe Summit

Remarks during visit to Victoria

Remarks in Robben Island

Interview of the President by BET

Africa Trade Bill

President to the Parliament of South Africa

Videotaped Remarks to the People of Africa

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