March 30, 1998 in Nation/World

Clinton Praises Botswana’s Role It Has Been A Model For Rest Of Continent

Elizabeth Shogren Los Angeles Times
 

President Clinton traveled Sunday from Africa’s youngest democracy to its oldest, where he praised the government and people of Botswana for being a model for the rest of the continent for 30 years.

“We have seen the promise of a new Africa whose roots are deep here in your soil, for you have been an inspiration to all who cherish freedom,” Clinton told a prosperouslooking crowd after arriving here from South Africa, just to the south. The spectators greeted his comments with applause and ululations.

Botswana, the fifth African country the president has visited, epitomizes the African Renaissance that Clinton has been plugging throughout his trip. It is Clinton’s hope that Botswana’s success will encourage other African nations, such as South Africa, that face greater obstacles in their paths to stability.

Clinton started his day in South Africa going to services at the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic church, which served as a refuge for members of the popular movement that replaced the country’s apartheid system with democracy four years ago.

“I am profoundly honored to be in this great house of God, which is also a great shrine of freedom, for it was here that you and the people before you gathered to stand for the freedom of the people of South Africa when it was denied you,” Clinton said at the church in Soweto, the sprawling slum outside Johannesburg.

The congregation of about 1,000 gathered in the church enthusiastically welcomed the president, giving him a standing ovation when he walked up to the altar to speak.

During Clinton’s three days in South Africa, he repeatedly urged the leaders and the people not to be discouraged about the long path to right the wrongs of apartheid and build their new society.

At the church, he reminded the crowd that the first black South African to win a medal at the Olympics was Josiah Tungwane, a marathoner, and told them he thought that was “fitting” given their long struggle for freedom.

“The fight to make the most of your freedom, to do the right things with your freedom, to give your children the right future with your freedom - that too will be a marathon,” Clinton said. “But we want to run the race with you.”

Throughout Clinton’s unprecedented 12-day tour of Africa, he has tried to focus on the positive changes taking place on the continent and to dispel many Americans’ stereotypical view of Africa.

Half of the 48 nations in sub-Saharan Africa have elected their governments, and many have growing economies. Clinton hopes that by drawing attention to the progress under way on the continent, he will encourage more African nations to embrace democracy and will spark support in America for assisting them in reforms.

Botswana is the prime example on the continent that democracy can improve lives for Africans and that U.S. investment in Africa is worthwhile.


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