- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

ARUSHA, Tanzania President Clinton joined Nelson Mandela yesterday in an impassioned effort to rescue a peace agreement designed to end seven years of a civil war in Burundi that has killed more than 200,000 people.
"You and only you must decide whether to give your children their own tomorrows," Mr. Clinton told African leaders participating in peace talks led for the past two years by Mr. Mandela.
Mr. Clinton, rounding out the second Africa tour of his presidency, flew to Tanzania after a two-day visit to Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, which is still shedding the vestiges of corruption under autocratic rule. After his stop in Arusha, Mr. Clinton continued on to Egypt for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the Middle East peace process.
Mr. Mandela had hoped Mr. Clinton could join 12 African leaders in witnessing a peace agreement between Burundi's Tutsi-controlled government and Hutu rebels. The same two groups were involved in the genocidal bloodletting that took up to 1 million lives in 1995 in neighboring Rwanda.
But Mr. Clinton arrived to find the talks in disarray after Burundi's president demanded last-minute changes to a power-sharing agreement that was supposed to be signed yesterday. Mr. Clinton met with Mr. Mandela in hopes that they could come up with a way to salvage the situation.
Mr. Mandela later told the assembled African leaders that leaders of some small groups representing Burundi's powerful Tutsi minority refused to sign the proposed accord. The Tutsi-dominated government and army did sign.
Angry, the former South African president accused the holdouts of going back on their word to sign and ignoring "the slaughter of innocent people inside Burundi."
They "are sabotaging this agreement," Mr. Mandela said.
Mr. Clinton, still hoping for a last-minute change of heart, pleaded with the holdouts to compromise. He offered U.S. aid to tackle a variety of pressing problems, including AIDS.
"If you decide, America and the world will be with you," he said.
As Mr. Mandela spoke, several seats on the stage remained empty. But, in a symbolic move, the Tutsi representatives filed back into the auditorium to take their seats as Mr. Clinton addressed the group.
In the end, five of the 10 holdout groups signed the accord after the speeches by Mr. Mandela and Mr. Clinton. Nine other groups signed as expected.
On the eve of the hoped-for agreement, rebels fired on Bujumbura, Burundi's capital. The U.S. administration declined to connect Mr. Clinton's visit to a signing ceremony and cast it instead as a show of support for Mr. Mandela.
"We see the Burundi peace process as … ongoing," said Susan Rice, assistant secretary of state for African affairs. "The best we can hope for is an outcome that takes the process a large step down the road. In any case, the United States will continue to support the efforts of President Mandela."
Tribal drummers in headdresses and flowing robes greeted Mr. Clinton and daughter Chelsea as Air Force One touched down at Kilimanjaro International Airport. Cheers erupted as Mr. Clinton, smiling and waving, emerged from the plane.
He was greeted by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, and they immediately went into private talks.
Afterward, Mr. Clinton recalled the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya two years ago that left more than 200 people dead, including 12 Americans. He said the terrorists "failed utterly" to deter the partnership between Tanzania and the United States.
"We still share your sorrow and your determination to see justice done," Mr. Clinton said. "I am glad to be here in a place of peace to visit a champion of peace," he said, noting that Tanzania is hosting both the Burundi talks and the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda.
For his part, Mr. Mkapa said: "We are deeply touched that President Clinton has reached out to Africa more than any other [U.S.] president." He commended Mr. Clinton for allowing Africans to try to resolve their own conflicts rather than dictating policy. "Only the owner can free his home from mice," Mr. Mkapa said, quoting an African proverb.
The two leaders signed an open-skies agreement giving both countries' airlines unrestricted access to each other's airports. Mr. Clinton signed a similar accord with Nigeria. Tanzania's $8 billion foreign debt and a devastating drought were also on the agenda.
Mr. Clinton then headed to the international conference center in Arusha, where the Burundi talks are being held. Crowds estimated at more than 10,000 lined the 30-mile motorcade route. Children wearing their school uniforms waved Tanzanian and U.S. flags. Others waved tree branches.

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