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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Congo

February 12, 1990

President Bush. Well, Mr. President, it is a great pleasure to welcome you and Mrs. Sassou-Nguesso to the United States and to the White House. The last time you visited, 3 years ago, you and I met at the United States Capitol Building, and today we meet at the White House.

In the 3 years since your last visit, southern Africa has seen significant progress towards peace and stability. Namibia is on the verge of independence. And in Angola, Cuban troops have begun the process of leaving. And while our support for the UNITA [National Union For the Total Independence of Angola] freedom fighters continues undiminished, we continue to hope for a negotiated settlement to that tragic war. Nelson Mandela's release from prison yesterday, which we've waited for and worked toward for so long, is another important sign that South Africa may soon begin negotiating a democratic, nonracial society and at last be on the way to ending apartheid once and for all.

Mr. President, to a considerable degree, many of these happy developments resulted from your involvement. As Chairman of the OAU [Organization of African Unity] in 1986, you used your prestige and diplomatic skill to convince those involved to come to Brazzaville to resolve their differences through the Angola-Namibia accords. And just as our diplomats worked ceaselessly to assure the accords were signed, you worked ceaselessly to assure the accords would succeed. Africa, America, and the rest of the world congratulated you for your role in this extraordinary achievement, a major diplomatic milestone in southern Africa. And today it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to thank you again for your efforts and ongoing commitment to regional stability.

We also appreciate your support for the continuing African effort, under the mediation of Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko, to achieve peace and stability in Angola. Those negotiations have not always gone smoothly, and some continue to believe that war is preferable to peace. Nevertheless, we remain confident that African statesmen, such as yourself, Mr. President, will be able to bring about national reconciliation in Angola and greater peace and stability in your entire region.

Mr. President, as we talk about the world's problems and their peaceful resolution, I would like to use this occasion to send two messages to the people of Africa. Some have suggested that events in the rest of the world, including Central Europe, mean that the United States will no longer pay attention to Africa. I can assure you and everyone in Africa that this is not the case. I had the pleasure of visiting Africa three times while I was Vice President and hope to be able to do so again. And Africa is the ancestral home of many Americans. And Africa is a major contributor to the world's supply of raw materials and minerals and a repository of many of the world's environmental riches, such as the lush, natural beauty of the Congo's tropical forests. Africa's our friend, and friends don't forget one another. Rather, they provide help and work closely in common endeavors. And I hereby renew the commitment of the American people and Government to continue to do so in partnership with Africa.

Today America celebrates the birthday of one of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Shortly before he took office, Lincoln stopped in Philadelphia to speak at Independence Hall, and he spoke of war and revolution and of America's birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, signed in that hall less than 100 years earlier. "The Declaration," he said, "gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world for all future time." And today another century has passed, and today liberty and hope are alive in the world as never before.

We welcome the steps Africa has taken to recognize and nurture this trend in recent years. And we encourage more rapid movement in this direction, for as recent events have proven from Central Europe to Central America, free people and free markets are the way of the future and essential ingredients of a successful, thriving, and truly developed nation. These are among the ideas I plan to share in our dialog over at the White House today.

And I believe that the leaders of Africa are reaching out to the United States, reaching out for a new partnership based on mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And so, the message of freedom and cooperation in my meetings with you, Mr. President, is also a message to the leaders of Africa.

Thank you, sir, for coming to the White House. We look forward to our visit and to mutually beneficial talks. Thank you very much.

President Sassou-Nguesso. Mr. President, as I step on American soil for my first state visit, I wish first of all to salute a great nation which has inspired so many ideals and dreams for mankind now for over 200 years. I wish to pay a well-earned tribute to your great people, who achieved its own freedom in order to spread values which continue to remain today the ideological foundation of contemporary societies. You, Mr. President, are one of the great figures who have inherited this rich legacy which has enabled your country to build a civilization which looks towards progress, which means it looks to the future, and does so in liberty and democracy.

The many highly positive initiatives which your ongoing consultation with your Soviet counterpart, President Mikhail Gorbachev, continue to result in, fall within the very happy prospect of a future that is less uncertain and more serene. We the people of Africa are convinced that such a fruitful dialog can only benefit all of mankind for peace and security as well as for economic development.

Because my visit coincides with the celebration of African-American Month, it gives me, a son of Africa, a chance to extend a respectful and grateful salute to the memory of President Abraham Lincoln and of Dr. Martin Luther King. Their lives, their struggle, represent for us Africans a never-ending source of admiration, pride, and hope. And I should like to include a great symbol of dignity for African men, Nelson Mandela, whose very recent release ushers in great prospects for the negotiations on the future of South African society. From this day on, the Congo can look forward with optimism to the future of its own relations with South Africa.

May this happy coincidence usher in a period of ever more encouraging prospects for the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between our two worlds, between America and the Congo. And as I thank you, Mr. President, for the very wonderful welcome you have extended to me and the message of friendship you have just addressed to me, may I tell you how very happy I am to be today in this great, beautiful capital, where there is so much history and where there is so much hope.

Long live the United States. Long live the Congo. I thank you.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10:12 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Sassou-Nguesso was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Sassou-Nguesso spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Congo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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