Address at Burundi Peace Talks in Arusha

Clinton, Bill

2000 Aug 28

Book ID 471

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Clinton, Bill Address at Burundi Peace Talks in Arusha, 2000 Aug 28
Extract Author: Bill Clinton
Extract Date: 2000 Aug 28

Pleads with participants to drop enmities

Address at Burundi Peace Talks in Arusha:

Arusha, Tanzania -- President Clinton on August 28 urged the parties to the Burundi Peace Talks in Arusha, Tanzania, to drop their enmities and give peace a chance.

In a speech at Simba Hall Arusha International Conference Center, the last stop on his visit to sub-Saharan Africa, Clinton told peace conference participants and African heads of state that there will be no peace agreement for Burundi 'unless there is a compromise.'

Clinton said after viewing peace negotiations worldwide for the past eight years, 'I know that honorable compromise is important, and requires people only to acknowledge that no one has the whole truth, that they have made a decision to live together, and that the basic aspirations of all sides can be fulfilled by simply saying no one will be asked to accept complete defeat.

'So I plead with you,' Clinton said. 'I've seen this in a lot of places, and it's always the same. You have to help your children remember their history, but you must not force them to relive their history. They deserve to live in their tomorrows, not in your yesterdays.

'Let me just make one other point,' he said. 'When all is said and done, only you can bring an end to the bloodshed and sorrow your country has suffered. Nelson Mandela will be a force for peace. The United States will try to be a force for peace. But no one can force peace; you must choose it.'

Following is the text of Clinton's remarks as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

Thank you very much, President Museveni, President Mkapa, distinguished leaders of the OAU and various African nations and other nations supporting this peace process. It is a great honor for me to be here today with a large delegation from the United States, including a significant number of members of our Congress, and my Special Envoy to Africa, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Howard Wolpe and others who have worked on this for a long time.

This is a special day in America and for Reverend Jackson. I think I should just mention it in passing. This is the 37th anniversary of the most important civil rights meeting we ever had: The great March on Washington, where Jesse Jackson was present and Martin Luther King gave his 'I Have A Dream' speech. I say that not because I think the situations are analogous, but because everybody needs a dream. And I think whether you all decide to sign this or not depends in part on what your dream is.

I thank my friend, President Mandela, for coming in to replace the marvelous late President Nyerere to involve himself in this process. After 27 years in prison and four years as president of his country, which some people think is another form of prison -- he could be forgiven if he had pursued other things. But he came here because he believes in peace and reconciliation. He knows there is no guarantee of success; but if you don't try, there is a guarantee of failure. And failure is not an acceptable option.

So I thank him, I thank the OAU and, Mr. President, you are here today. I thank the regional leaders; in addition to Presidents Museveni and Mkapa, President Moi, President Kagame, Prime Minister Meles for their work. I thank the Nyerere Foundation, Judge Bomani, Judge Warioba and I thank the people of Tanzania for hosting us here in a city that has become the Geneva of Africa, thanks to many of you.

I say again, I am honored to be in a place that is a tribute to the memory of President Nyerere, and I'm glad that Madame Nyerere is here today; I met her a few moments ago, and I thank her for her presence. I thank President Buyoya and all the Burundians from all the parties who have come to Arusha and for the efforts you have made. Peacemaking requires courage and vision -- courage because there are risks involved, and vision because you have to see beyond the risks to understand that however large they are, they are smaller than the price of unending violence. That you have come so far suggests you have the courage and vision to finish the job, and we pray that you will.

I confess that I come here with some humility. I have spent a great deal of time in the last eight years trying to talk people into laying down their arms and opening their hands to one another -- from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to the Balkans. I have had some measure of success and known some enormously painful failures. But I have not been here with you all this long time and maybe I have nothing to add to your deliberations. But I would like to share some things that I have learned in eight years of seeing people die, seeing people fight with one another because they're of different ethnic or racial or tribal or religious groups, and of seeing the miracles that come from normal peace.

First, to state the obvious, there will be no agreement unless there is a compromise. People hate compromise because it requires all those who participate in it to be less than satisfied. So it is by definition not completely satisfying. And those who don't go along can always point their finger at you and claim that you sold out: Oh, it goes too fast in establishing democracy. Oh, it goes too slow in establishing democracy. It has absolutely too many protections for minority rights. No, it doesn't have enough protections for minority rights.

And there's always a crowd that never wants a compromise. A small group that actually would, by their own definition, at least, benefit from continued turmoil and fighting. So if you put the compromise on the table, they will use it like salt being rubbed into old wounds. And they're always very good. They know just where the break points are to strike fear into the hearts of people who have to make the hard decisions. I have seen this all over the world.

But I know that honorable compromise is important, and requires people only to acknowledge that no one has the whole truth, that they have made a decision to live together, and that the basic aspirations of all sides can be fulfilled by simply saying no one will be asked to accept complete defeat.

Now, no one ever compromises until they decide it's better than the alternative. So I ask you to think about the alternative. You're not being asked today to sign a comprehensive agreement, you're being asked to sign onto a process which permits you to specify the areas in which you still have disagreements, but which will be a process that we all hope is completely irreversible.

Now, if you don't do it, what is the price? If you don't do it, what is the chance that the progress you have made will unravel? If you come back in five or 10 years, will the issues have changed? I think not. The gulf between you won't narrow, but the gulf between Burundi and the rest of the world, I assure you, will grow wider if you let this moment slip away. More lives will be lost. And I have a few basic questions. I admit, I am an outsider. I admit I have not been here with you. But I have studied this situation fairly closely. I don't understand how continued violence will build schools for your children, bring water to your villages, make your crops grow, or bring you into the new economy. I think it is impossible that that will happen.

Now, I do think it is absolutely certain that if you let this moment slip away, it will dig the well of bitterness deeper and pile the mountain of grievances higher, so that someday, when somebody else has to come here and sit at a table like this, they will have an even harder job than you do. So I urge you to work with President Mandela, I urge you to work with each other to seize the opportunity that exists right now.

And I urge those groups, including the rebels who are not now part of this process to join it and begin taking your own risks for peace. No one can have a free ride here. Now that there is a process for resolving differences peacefully, they should lay down their arms.

Now, if you take this step today, it is a first step. It can't restore the bonds of trust by itself, it can't restore the sense of understanding that is necessary for people to live together. So I will also acknowledge that success depends not only on what you say or sign in Arusha, also what you do in the weeks and months and years ahead in Burundi. The agreements you reach have to be respected and implemented both in letter and spirit. Again, I say, if you decide to do this, everyone must acknowledge there must be no victors and no vanquished. If one side feels defeated, it will be likely to fight again and no Burundian will be secure. And, after all, security for all is one of the main arguments for doing this.

Now, let me say something else. Of course, you must confront the past with honesty. There is hardly a Burundian family that has not felt the sorrow of losing a loved one to violence. The history must be told, the causes must be understood. Those responsible for violence against innocent people must be held accountable. But what is the goal here? The goal must be to end the cycle of violence, not perpetuate it.

So I plead with you. I've seen this a lot of places, and it's always the same. You have to help your children remember their history, but you must not force them to relive their history. They deserve to live in their tomorrows, not in your yesterdays. Let me just make one other point. When all is said and done, only you can bring an end to the bloodshed and sorrow your country has suffered. Nelson Mandela will be a force for peace. The United States will try to be a force for peace. But no one can force peace.; you must choose it.

Now, again, I say, I watched the parties in Ireland fight for 30 years. I've watched the parties in the Middle East fight for 50 years. I've watched the parties in the Balkans now go at it and then quit and then go at it again, and then I've watched -- saw a million people driven out of Kosovo. And when we began to talk about peace in Bosnia, the three different ethnic and religious groups didn't even want to sit down together in the same room.

But when it's all said and done, it always comes down to the same thing. You have to find a way to support democracy and respect for the majority, and their desires. You have to have minority rights, including security. You have to have shared decision-making, and there must be shared benefits from your living together.

Now, you can walk away from all this and fight some more and worry about it and let somebody come back here 10 years from now. No matter how long you take, when it comes down to it, they'll still be dealing with the same issues. And I say, if you let anybody else die because you can't bring this together now, all you will do is make it harder for people to make the same decision you're going to have to make here anyway.

So I will say again: If you decide, if you choose, not because anybody is forcing you but because you know it is right to give your children their tomorrows, if you choose peace, the United States and the world community will be there to help you make it pay off. We will strongly support an appropriate role for the U.N. in helping to implement it. We will support your efforts to demobilize combatants and to integrate them into a national army. We will help you bring refugees home and to meet the needs of displaced children and orphans.

We will help you to create the economic and social conditions essential to a sustainable peace -- from agricultural development to child immunization, to the prevention of AIDS. I know this is hard, but I believe you can do it. Consider the case of Mozambique. A civil war there took a million lives, most of them innocent civilians. Of every five infants born in Mozambique during the civil war, three -- three -- died before their fifth birthday, either murdered or stricken by disease.

Those who survived grew up knowing nothing but war. Yet today, Mozambique is at peace, it has found a way to include everyone in its political life, and out of the devastation, last year it had one of the five fastest-growing economies in the entire world. Now, you can do that. But you have to choose. And you have to decide if you're going to embrace that, you have to create a lot of room in your mind and heart and spirit for that kind of future. So you have to let some things go.

Now, Mr. Mandela -- he's the world's greatest example of letting things go. But when we got to be friends, I said to him one day, in a friendly way, I said, you know, Mandela, you're a great friend, but you're also a great politician. It was quite smart to invite your jailers to your inauguration. Good politics. But tell me the truth now. When they let you out of jail the last time and you were walking to freedom, didn't you have a moment when you were really, really angry at them again? You know what he said, he said, yes, I did -- a moment. Then, I realized I had been in prison for 27 years, and if I hated them after I got out, I would still be their prisoner, and I wanted to be free.

Sooner or later, hatred, vengeance, the illusion that power over another group of people will bring security in life, these feelings can be just as iron, just as confining as the doors of a prison cell. I don't ask you to forget what you went through in the bitter years. But I hope you will go home to Burundi not as prisoners of the past, but builders of the future. I will say again: If you decide, America and the world will be with you. But you, and only you, must decide whether to give your children their own tomorrows. Thank you very much.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Extract ID: 1521
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