President Bush Welcomes President Kagame of Rwanda to the White HousePresident George W. Bush
May 31, 2006
11:43 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to welcome the President of Rwanda to the Oval Office again. He was here last year, and I'm honored to welcome you back.
The President is -- he's a man of action, he can get things done. I'm proud of your leadership. We have talked about a lot of issues. We talked about the Sudan, and I want to thank the President for committing troops in the AU mission to help deal with what I have called a genocide. We strategized about how we can go forward to resolve the situation. I thank you for your wisdom, I thank you for your concern.
One of the interesting things about President Kagame's government is there is more women in his government than anywhere else in Africa, which I think speaks to the man's character and understanding about how societies remain strong and whole. I appreciate his commitment to education. And I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your understanding that the best way for an economy to develop is to welcome private capital. He's been working hard with companies here in America. Many companies are taking a good look at Rwanda because they realize it's a country where they will be treated fairly and there is a transparent society and he's had some success, which will help people find work. And that's, to me, a sign of leadership. So welcome back.
I, finally, want to thank you for your commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. This government has done a really good job of using some of the monies that we provided to save lives. And I've always told people that it's one thing for the American government -- and the American people, more importantly -- to generously write checks to help, but it requires strong leadership at home. And you provided that leadership.
So I welcome you back to the Oval Office and thank you for your friendship.
PRESIDENT KAGAME: Thank you, President. It's a great honor for me to be here, President, and I appreciate the discussion we have had on a wide range of issues, starting with bilateral discussions we have had about United States government has been very helpful in its support of Rwanda in different areas -- dealing with HIV/AIDS, to supporting the private sector to invest in our country, to dealing with infrastructure programs. And also the support we have had during the period we were working under the African Union mission to send our troops to Darfur. The United States government, with your support, Mr. President, we have had our forces, our troops aided by the United States military to Darfur and continued support for the African Union mission.
We are very grateful for generally the support in the area will bring peace to the Great Lakes region and to supporting the efforts in Sudan and, ultimately, that process of supporting my country to be able to develop and continue building on the foundation we have made in the last 12 years. So we appreciate that, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Welcome. The President and I will take two questions a side, starting with the Americans. Nedra.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this: I've talked to General Pete Pace about the subject, who is a proud Marine, and nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is full of men and women who are honorable people who understand rules of war. And if, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture will be reinforced, and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.
Q I'll ask a question -- I'm a journalist from Rwanda.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Welcome.
Q Can I ask you a question on the genocide of Rwanda? It's been 13 years after the genocide of Rwanda, but many perpetrators of the genocide, many people who did it, who carried out the genocide are still at large. One estimate is about over 50 of them in Europe and the U.S., others in the Congo. What's the U.S. going to do to help run -- to get these people to --
PRESIDENT BUSH: The interesting thing about Rwanda today is that you have a President who understands that part of a successful society is for people to work hard on reconciliation. There's no question the genocide in Rwanda was a real tragedy. It's one of the most significant tragedies in modern history. And, yet, your President and his government has worked hard to reconcile, help people reconcile the tragedy at all levels of society.
To the extent that he wants our help in finding certain perpetuators of crimes we'll be glad to do so. But the way I look at the situation is that Rwanda can serve as an example for other societies that are troubled. As you know, we're working hard in Iraq to bring a democracy -- to help a democracy grow there. And, yet, there's still sectarian violence. People are still using violence to achieve either revenge or political means. And the Rwanda example shows what's possible when people work hard on reconciliation.
That's why I support Prime Minister Maliki's desire to have reconciliation moves. And the President actually offered to help, and it may be at some point in time it makes sense for the new government in Iraq to do that. But I'm very proud of the accomplishments that Rwanda has made over 13 years -- 13 years after the genocide.
Q Mr. President, Secretary Rice is outlining a change in U.S. position toward Iran today, after so many years of not engaging directly with them. Why now? And will you respond directly to the letter from the President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe it's very important that we solve this issue diplomatically, and my decision today says that the United States is going to take a leadership position in solving this issue. And our message to the Iranians is that, one, you won't have a weapon, and two, that you must verifiably suspend any programs, at which point we will come to the negotiating table to work on a way forward.
I thought it was important for the United States to take the lead, along with our partners, and that's what you're seeing. You're seeing robust diplomacy. I believe this problem can be solved diplomatically, and I'm going to give it every effort to do so.
I've talked on the telephone in the last couple of days with Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel, and I spoke to Tony Blair when he was here about this issue, I spoke to Prime Minister Koizumi. I'm on the phone a lot talking to -- and President Putin, by the way -- and I'm on the phone a lot talking to our folks that share the same concern I share, and say, look, let's get this solved diplomatically, but there must be a united international front that shares the same message, and that is, is that we will work collaboratively to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon.
I also want to make it very clear that we have -- we respect the Iranian people, and we respect their heritage and their history, and we hope their government listens to the international demands and doesn't isolate itself from the world, and doesn't foolishly spend money on a weapons program that takes away the capacity -- the ability for the Iranian economy to grow so people are able to put food on the table and find work.
Final -- anybody else from Rwanda?
Q Yes, Mr. President, I come from Rwanda. I heard the President of Rwanda thanking you for the assistance you are giving on Darfur, but in spite all that you've been doing, it has persisted. Are you planning to up your support in that regard, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: To support the Rwanda troops in Darfur? I will. As a matter of fact, we had a very good discussion about this subject. The President is concerned about whether or not the United States will honor its commitments. We will honor our commitments, but the United States Congress must pass the supplemental with the money in there for the Sudan. See, part of the money in a supplemental request that's working its way through a conference committee now is to help repay a country like Rwanda that's putting troops on the ground.
And so I told the President that sometimes the Congress doesn't move as quickly as I'd like on issues, but I'm confident they'll get the supplemental passed when they come back from their Memorial Day break. That supplemental must, one, meet the financial conditions that I talked about -- in other words, I'm going to veto the bill if they spend more money than I requested -- and it's got to set -- it's got to meet priorities, as well. And one of the priorities is our own troops who are in harm's way. And another priority is helping the Katrina victims. And a third priority in that bill that we've submitted, is to help in Sudan. I told the President I'm confident they'll pass that bill, and that his troops will get reimbursed.
Thank you all very much.
END 11:54 A.M. EDT
Released on May 31, 2006