Press Briefing by Andrew Young, Former Ambassador to the United Nations C. Payne Lucas, President of Africare Michael Clough, Council on Foreign Relations
The Briefing Room
4:40 P.M. EDT
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: Thank you very much. This has been a very significant day and a half. We had representatives from nongovernmental organizations, from government agencies, from the private sector and from the civil rights community generally, and persons who have been involved in Africa through the years.
What I think we discerned is that there is an emerging consensus that is moving Africa toward the forefront of our policy concerns. And in terms of concerns about debt, concerns about reconciliation in situations where democracy is now being challenged or threatened, and the whole challenge of sustainable development as it relates to trade with the United States occupied us and I think gave us an agenda that the President said would make the -- would be launching of a new Africa policy.
MR. LUCAS: Well, you know, the media and everybody else has asked why we've had a conference on Africa, and the fundamental truth is this is the best and the worst times for Africa. We're all excited about what's going on in South Africa, but we are concerned about what's going on in Nigeria and Rwanda, Sudan and other places.
In order for Africa to recognize and realize its full potential, we do need to develop a constituency for Africa. In order to get support for the kinds of programs that Africa needs, the American people have to endorse those things. And people are talking about Africa is marginalized, and one of the things that was recognized at this conference, that in Southern Africa alone, there's 165 million people. A free South Africa, a peaceful Angola and Mozambique offers enormous trade and investment opportunities for America and for Africa. In the past, we've given lip service to this trade. Now we really want to do something about it.
The other thing is that we think, as a result of what's going on in South Africa with Mr. Mandela, the capacity to bring all of these racial groups together, and with this enormous South Africa potential, that it has tremendous value in the region. And we think that South Africa needs more support, not less support. And the formula in South Africa, where Mandela has brought together the Xhosus, the Zulus, the Africaners and others, and the English into one group of people working for a common cause is something that has some transferability to the rest of Africa. Because we feel as a result of this conference -- and the President spoke of it today -- we need an early warning system to deal with the kinds of problems that we are experiencing in Angola, experiencing in Rwanda, and other places where you have all this ethnic tension.
So by bringing together this leadership, the best minds in the country, people who have been working on Africa all these years, this does represent a new beginning. The conference was a success before we started because we never had a White House conference on Africa. Who cares about Africa? We're busily involved in the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, the Soviet Union. But in Africa there are 600 million people. And it must be a place worthwhile because in the days when I was in the Peace Corps, which was 98 percent white and we had the highest reenlistment ratio in the world. So there's an historical connection between us and Africa. It's a continent with great potential. And I think this week, with White House leadership, we're off to a good beginning.
MR. CLOUGH: I think there are two other brief points that need to be made. One, I think it needs to be recognized how courageous it is to try to hold a conference like this. This is a time in which there are no easy, quick answers in Africa. There's not going to be anything that's going to happen in the next year that an administration is going to be able to proudly say this is the result. It's a long, tough journey, and to focus attention on an issue that doesn't offer quick political rewards I think takes a lot of courage.
Secondly, and I think more important in a sense in the long run than anything, is I think this conference was the beginning of what may become a real genuine public-private partnership. If you look at the people that were represented in this room, you'll find most of them have never before been included in these kinds of events. Not with -- at this level of attention. It's drawing in those elements and groups in society that have been working hard on these issues for a long time.
Once again, that's not an easy thing to do. A lot of these various groups, and myself included, have been very critical of this administration and other administrations on Africa. So I think those two things are the things that really need to -- the administration needs to be given some credit on.
Q: Can we ask questions?
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: Sure.
Q: My question is to you, Mr. Young. If the President of the United States asked you today, what can you do about the Republic of Zaire -- because Zaire -- what is going on in Rwanda will be very small -- it will be put in place, if you can say that, if Zaire is to go on the way Rwanda is going -- what advice can you give the President about Zaire today?
MR. YOUNG: Well, the advice I would give, and one of the points that was made in the conference, is that there needs to be high-level contact with these trouble points to prevent the kind of thing that we have in Rwanda. And a number of people called on the Vice President to take a more active role.
I like to point out that Africa really needs vision and moral leadership. The United States doesn't have to have all of the answers. We don't have to have all of the money. But we do have to have a commitment to stick to a problem, whether it be Rwanda, Nigeria, Zaire, the way we did with South Africa, and patiently work with the leadership and see it through. And think we're beginning to get an understanding that, hopefully, there will be action on a number of these fronts.
I'd also like to say that the answers to Africa should not come from America, but in working with Africans. And I think that's equally true of Zaire.
Q: My question was -- excuse me -- my question is because -- you visited President Mobutu in December. Now, this man has been stalling democracy for the last four years, which is the term of a U.S. president. And up to now, he doesn't want to give up.
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: Well, I met with Foerster in 1974, and it took until 1994 to get something, you know. (Laughter.)
Q: I'm saying that --
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: No, I'm saying that that's part of the process. Part of the process is trying to -- I simply -- actually, I responded to an invitation. And Mobutu said he wanted to have elections right away. I reported that back to the State Department and to the White House. But I have no interest in taking on the task of trying to be the peacemaker in Zaire.
MR. LUCAS: I would like to comment on that question because I think, growing out of this conference, that there will be some new initiative on Zaire. I don't know what it is -- because we've been talking about for two days, how do we avoid the kind of thing that we have in Rwanda. We don't want to see Zaire explode. If it does explode and you get the mass migration from Zaire into Zambia, Angola and, ultimately, South Africa, which would stabilize South Africa, then all the gains that we've made in South Africa will be lost.
I believe with the kind of focus that we've gotten from the Vice President and kind of the best minds that we've assembled on Africa here this week, that Zaire will get some real scrutiny in the next two to three weeks. What that is I don't exactly know yet.
Q: The President made quite a statement about getting a constituency for Africa and calling on people at the conference to help out, which I -- is that to say that part of the reason do you people feel that there hasn't been enough focus on Africa because there's not any political capital in it? Is that what we're saying here?
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: No. I think there hasn't been enough focus on Africa because there is no Africa. You've got 52 different situations. And as soon as we get the public aware of one problem -- see, we had a constituency around and independent Zimbabwe. And we had a constituency around South Africa.
Nigeria is very complex, and it's hard to figure that out, and it's hard to build a constituency for one side or the other since all of us have friends on both sides. And there will never be, I think -- well, let's say, we will have what we call a constituency for Africa that will take these issues one at a time and deal with them appropriately; and help both the American public, the Congress, the business community to understand what we feel to be America's interests.
MR. CLOUGH: I think what the President was trying to get at is there is obviously a number of different constituencies for Africa in this country, and there are a number of groups that have been working hard on Africa. But it's now getting to the point of trying to figure out how to deal with an immense range of different problems, and an immense range of different challenges, and an immense range of opportunities. And it requires the kind of higherlevel, coordinated response that hasn't been there in the past, in the sense that in the past, there's been a response to a variety of different issues and it's usually been just to the trouble spots, not as much to the opportunities.
And here, I think, one of the things that shouldn't be neglected is the role of business in this conference. Ten years ago when I used to attend meetings like this on Africa, you couldn't get businessmen to come. Businessmen were running away from the continent. If you look at the number of businessmen who are now trying to get involved in Africa, you look at the number of emerging market funds not just in South Africa, but in other places in Africa, you're seeing the beginnings of a much broader base for American involvement than has existed in the past.
MR. LUCAS: I also would like to add that in the last six weeks we've created a Corporate Council for Africa, made up of Fortune 500 companies. And since this meeting started two days ago, we've now recruited 10 more corporate council members for Africa. So there is some excitement going on out there. And what the President was really trying to say, that Africa is not just Rwanda; it's not just Nigeria; it's many cultures, many opportunities. There are 25 million African Americans in this country. There's an historic connection with Africa . There are all kinds of business opportunities out there. We need to develop those relationships.
Q: What steps do you see flowing from this conference?
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: Well, we have an organization that's made up of all of the existing African nongovernmental organizations called Constituency For Africa. And I think we will take the results of this conference and come together and begin to develop an agenda and priorities that we will work on.
MR. LUCAS: Let me say something about that question, too. There was a great deal of talk about the Congressional Black Caucus not being represented here, and everybody that I know are disappointed that they couldn't be here because of the process did not satisfy some, although we did have representation. But one of the things that we're going to do immediately following this conference is a process by working with the Caucus and others to keep this dialogue and examination of African policy going full blast.
I think the real bee in this bag is this man called Vice President Gore, who has developed some genuine intense interest in this continent. And I must say, of all the people that I've seen over the years talk about Africa, I've never seen anybody with this passion. So those of us who presently make up the constituency, we plan to explore this relationship, this interest, because when you get the Vice President's interest, and you give the kind of speech that Bill Clinton gave today, the African constituents have a real chance for success.
Q: Sir, if I could, you just mentioned the Black Caucus. I'd like to ask you if you thought and think that the way this got off to perhaps a poor start, we're disappointed by the attention that this flap caused? And also, ironically, to complete the circle, that on the very day this conference is ending up, the President announces a major staff change. Is that taking attention away from Africa, in fact, and the conference as well?
MR. LUCAS: Well, you know, being President of the United States is a pretty big responsibility. I would like to get all of his attention on Africa, but if he had postponed the announcements, the staff changes, until tomorrow, what difference would it have made.
In terms of the Black Caucus -- let me say something about the Black Caucus. Everybody's aware that Kweisi Mfume, Donald Payne and others have been committed and have fought long and hard for Africa. And the fact that we did -- that this process invited them at the end instead of the beginning, we now recognize that was not a good decision. But by the same token, we're going to start meeting with them next week and start planning the next step about what the Caucus and what their role is going to be. Because what we need -- and we were talking about increased levels of assistance for Africa and whatnot, we're going to need the Caucus support because they do make up an important part of the constituency for Africa. And I think if you went to Donald Payne and Kweisi Mfume, they would say that we've been heard.
MR. MITCHELL: Can we just take one more question. The gentlemen have to return to a working group meeting and -- so one more question.
Q: I wanted to know -- I spoke to with Ambassador Francise Cook earlier this afternoon. She used to be in Cameroon. For small African countries like Cameroon, there's a tendency for Cameroonians to think that because there's all of this attention focused on South Africa, countries like Cameroon will very easily be forgotten. And people quote the example of --
AMBASSADOR YOUNG: They should have played better soccer. (Laughter.)
Q: Something happened in Cameroon during the last presidential elections, and everyone is looking at what this conference -- if this conference is likely going to resolve such a problem. That is that the National Democratic Institute went to Cameroon and documented cases where the government had very much cheated the elections. Yet a government is still in place. We seem to observe the same tendency in Nigeria, and this is likely going to continue in other African countries. What do we come away from this conference -- what procedures will be put in place to help solve this problem?
MR. CLOUGH: If I could say two things -- one, we covered a tremendous range of issues in the different working groups, and the question of democracy and human rights was the subject of one particular working group. The general problem of democracy, of human rights, what can be done to bring that issue to the fore not just in South Africa and in the past, but increasingly in the present in all of Africa was very much on the agenda.
I think in this connection the thing that you've got to -- the underlying assumption of your question about South Africa and whether it's detracting attention, you've got to realize that the South Africa story is beginning to provide the kind of hope that is going to spill over to the rest of Africa. And I think it's -- if you ask, why is there so much attention on Africa right now -- and it wasn't just this conference, it was a speech by Lee Hamilton two days ago; it was a series of other meetings. I think it's been the combination of the shock of Rwanda and the hope represented by South Africa.
Now, that doesn't mean that every individual country is going to get its moment in the spotlight the same way. But I think across the board you're going to have this kind of sustained attention to Africa that will allow the problems of Cameroon to be addressed, allow the problems of the countries that tend to be forgotten.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:10 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Andrew Young, Former Ambassador to the United Nations C. Payne Lucas, President of Africare Michael Clough, Council on Foreign Relations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269641