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Lagos, Nigeria Remarks on Signing the Joint Communiqué.

April 02, 1978

GENERAL OBASANJO. I once again would like to take this opportunity to express our honor for this historic visit and the opportunity which we have had during the visit to examine issues of mutual interest to our two countries and issues which have been reflected in the communiqué. Of course, we did have two sessions of discussion, one yesterday and one immediately after the church service today. And we used the opportunity to examine during the first session political issues affecting Africa in particular, and we were able to examine the areas of particular interest—the Horn of Africa, southern Africa, and the aspirations of Africa in general.

Now, in the Horn of Africa, we, as the Chairman of OAU's Good Offices Commission, have been charged with special responsibility of bringing about the conciliation between the two parties, between the two countries, and we have accepted that challenge.

We have taken steps to bring about understanding and reconciliation between Ethiopia and Somalia, and we hope that in a matter of weeks we will be able to achieve some measure of reconciliation, which will at least make peace endure in that part of our continent and which will also make the need for further acquisition of armaments by either side unnecessary, and which will make these two countries, who need economic and crucial improvement of their people, concentrate on these needs. And anybody who wants to help, be that in Africa or from within Africa or from outside Africa, who will channel such help or such assistance through economic and social areas which the people of Somalia and the people of Ethiopia need most.

We, of course, looked at southern Africa, and as the President has rightly said and as I did mention in my short toast- [laughter] —in honor of the President, we have been able to agree on—and in fact all along—agreement on what is bad has not been our problem. We know what is bad, and that we have agreed upon.

We also know what is required. That we agree upon. In terms of how to achieve what is required expeditiously, particularly for us to get going, that I believe that during this visit we have been able to agree on how to get going and thereby bring about what is desirable in Zimbabwe and Namibia.

And also I believe we agreed that the evils of apartheid will not be encouraged. We agreed that apartheid is a policy that must be eradicated. We also agree that it will be not so easy. Therefore, the two of us, working together in areas we can work together and working separately in areas where we have to work separately, we must work to bring about the change of policy in South Africa.

We then moved on from Africa to, politically, to other parts of the world. We considered the Middle East, and we appreciated the efforts which the United States has made and which the United States is making. We support all the efforts that have been made to bring about just and honorable peace in the Middle East. And we will continue to support such effort.

We discussed the East-West, because, as I did say, it is in the interest of the world and definitely in the interest of the developing half of the world that there must be peace in the world. And we believe that there may be no enduring and lasting peace in the world unless there is accommodation between the two great powers of the world.

And we were very delighted to note that substantive effort has gone into the SALT talks, and the progress that has been made is very encouraging.

Then we discussed on the economic side what is called the bilateral relations in this respect between Nigeria and the U.S., between the U.S. and Africa. And we noted with satisfaction the new effort the U.S. Government is making in the direction of providing more money for the African Development Fund. We also note the concern, which is also our concern, of the United States for getting satisfactory new world economic order. And the lack of political will, which seems to have been what has bedeviled the efforts in this direction in the past, seems to have been realized. And there is a definite commitment on the part of our two countries to bring about this, the needed political will, which will have to be brought about not only on our own part but on the part of countries in a different situation, the industrialized and the developed countries, which have the responsibility of President Carter and the United States country and the developing countries, which we will bring as much of our efforts to bear on, countries in the type of position to see the need for us to work together and bring about the political support for working out something at least that will be better than what is now in existence.

These are the areas we have covered, and it is the coverage of these areas that has led to what I believe we have signed. Mr. President, am I right?

THE PRESIDENT. General Obasanjo, that was an excellent summary of the points that have been made and described in the joint communiqué. This is not a typical communiqué signed at the end of a visit which has no substance and no meaning. It's been very carefully drafted as a result of what, unfortunately, is the first official visit of any American President to this region of the world.

Nigeria is recognized in this continent and throughout the world as one of the major nations of the modern day. And what they say through their leaders will have a profound impact not only on us, during these discussions, but on governments everywhere, who will study this communiqué to determine how is it that Nigeria and the United States can agree on a common statement, what are these principles that they espouse, what is the action that they envision for the future.

The first few sentences that General Obasanjo said when I began my discussions with him were, "We are very glad that finally the United States has turned its eyes and its interest and its influence toward Africa, because the principles that are the basis for the American Constitution and Government and people are exactly the principles that Africa needs to study and to adopt whenever possible in our own country and in our own continent."

We have seen common themes go throughout every stop we've made. The overwhelming single two words that describe this theme is "human rights" in all its aspects. And the hunger for freedom, the hunger for liberty, the hunger for individuality, the hunger for a right to be free of oppression, to participate in one's own government, to shape one's own destiny, to have something to eat, a place to live, food to drink, and education for one's children, are deprivations that are deeply felt. And the more that leaders of strong nations can speak out openly and aggressively on these subjects for the poor and deprived and the illiterate and the inarticulate people who can't speak out and have their voices heard, the better off will be the whole world.

I think in every respect that we've discussed—that General Obasanjo has outlined and I won't repeat—to solve the Middle East, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, there is an abhorrence on our part against the gross abuses of human rights and the threat to world peace.

The last point I would like to make is one that he has referred to several times, including his toast a few minutes ago, and that is our belief that Africans are completely able to resolve their own differences in Africa as it relates to political and military encounters. And the intrusion of outside forces into African disputes can only aggravate them and exaggerate the death and suffering of people in this continent.

Nigeria plays a major role in the Organization of African Unity. That's a proper forum to go to get a resolution of differences that still exist in the Horn of Africa. And the OAU, and the United Nations is a proper forum through which we and the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and other great countries can act from outside Africa to help give aid and support in the resolution of differences. And, of course, on a bilateral basis we eau help economically and with trade and a common understanding.

I'm very grateful to have an opportunity to come and meet with these leaders of a great country and to learn from them and to help shape the policies of my own Government and to educate my own people and myself so that we can, with greater dispatch, more enthusiasm, and sounder judgment, remain involved deeply in the growth and prosperity to peace and a better life that is inevitable in the future for the people of Africa.

Thank you very much.

Note: The exchange began at 9:58 p.m. in the Independence Hall at the Federal Palace Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Lagos, Nigeria Remarks on Signing the Joint Communiqué. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244856

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