Clinton's Visit to Africa: Hope for the Future

CNN Transcript
28 March, 1998

President Clinton's Africa trip is the first by a sitting US president, in which he has visited the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years and talked of the European slave trade on the African continent.

GUESTS: Chris Fomunyoh
BYLINE: Gene Randall

GENE RANDALL, CNN Anchor: He has visited the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years and talked of the European slave trade on the African continent. President Clinton's Africa trip is the first by a sitting US President.

Joining us to talk about what might be accomplished in the long run is Chris Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute. He is an Africa expert.

Mr. Fomunyoh, thank you for coming in.

CHRIS FOMUNYOH, West Africa Analyst, Natl. Democratic Institute: It's my pleasure.

RANDALL: First, talk to me about the symbolism of Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, walking arm in arm in South Africa.

FOMUNYOH: I think this is really significant, given where South Africa was just a few years back. I think nobody would have thought in Africa, as well as in the United States, that Nelson Mandela would come out of jail after having been in jail for over 28 years and be seen moving hand in hand with the President. of the free world, or the President. of the United States of America.

RANDALL: Now symbolism aside, do you suppose there was a learning curve for Mr. Clinton, given some of what he heard from Nelson Mandela?

FOMUNYOH: Well, you know, Nelson Mandela has got this moral authority that no one can really -- could ever take away from him. And he seems to have the liberty to be able to express himself very freely whether it's before Mr. Clinton, or before a South African audience. And I think it was nice to many people to have President. Clinton listen to Nelson Mandela and take his advice. Because Mr. Mandela, on the continent, carries a lot of weight. And his advise could always be very helpful.

RANDALL: Now, South Africa, of course, is a major stop in this trip. But it's only part of the trip. What do you see as the long range accomplishment that the President. would like to cite?

FOMUNYOH: I think it would be the main objective that the White House had expressed at the beginning of the trip, which is to establish new -- a new partnership with Africa, especially as the rest of the world steps into the 21st century. I think it's going to be very important for Africans to feel that they've been brought along in that process.

In the process, also, I think the administration is going to want to lay out very clearly the parameters for the new partnership which will be support for democracy and human rights, support for trade and investment, and also security issues.

RANDALL: Now when it comes to trade, and the President. talks about trade being, in the long run, better than aid, does this raise flags -- concern on the continent?

FOMUNYOH: It does raise some flags, obviously, because there are people -- as Vice President. Thabo Mbeki, especially, President. Nelson Mandela repeated that there are people who are cautious or who are wary of the fact that trade will be considered to replace aid, in which case African countries would be cut off from any kind of assistance.

But, at the same time, even on the African continent, you find leaders who say, you know, we don't want to live based on handouts. We want to be able to compete in the marketplace. Because we also have something to offer. And we have something to sell.

RANDALL: How do you think President. Clinton's words on genocide in Ruwanda will be taken in Africa?

FOMUNYOH: I think they will be taken very seriously with a lot of respect. Because we all know that three or four years back, this administration had very -- a lot of difficulties when Warren Christopher testified on the Hill. Many times he -- yet, he was at odds to be able to pronounce that word. And now we have Secretary Albright going to Ruwanda in November. And the President. of the United States himself adding Ruwanda to his trip so he could stop in Kigali and make that pronouncement.

I think that will permit a lot of Ruwandans and a lot of Africans to put that page behind them and to move forward to the future.

RANDALL: And what does it mean in Africa in 1998 when a US President. talks about the European slave trade?

FOMUNYOH: It's very important. Because everybody knows that the Europeans, obviously, were at the forefront of the slave trade. But, also...

RANDALL: Many of the slaves came to this country.

FOMUNYOH: ... exactly. But also people recognize that many of the slaves ended up in the United States. And I think that's the -- umblical cord which the rest of Africa has got to this country. And it's very important that the President. speak about it in a way that can allow everybody to go through the healing process and better prepare themselves for the future.

RANDALL: And let me ask you finally. What will it take to convince Africa -- Africans, rather -- that this trip by President. Clinton is not a one-time-only thing? That something will be produced because of it?

FOMUNYOH: Obviously, we're going to have to expect that other people would follow in his footsteps, other senior level officials within his administration would continue to travel to Africa. And that subsequent US Presidents will travel to Africa.

But, more importantly, I think everybody's going to be waiting for the end results when the President. returns to the United States to see how some of the promises that he's made are going to be accomplished.

RANDALL: Mr. Fomunyoh, thank you very much for coming in.

FOMUNYOH: It's my pleasure.