ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BOTSWANA, 27-28 AUGUST
The Secretary-General arrived in Gaborone, Botswana, in the morning of Tuesday, 27 August. He became the first Secretary-General to visit that country.
He and Nane Annan first went to the Princess Marina Hospital to visit the HIV/AIDS project there, in a country where nearly 40 per cent of adults are infected with HIV and one out of every eight children is born HIV-positive. Despite such problems, the Secretary-General said he was inspired by the work being done at the hospital, and said that he considered the fight against AIDS to be a personal priority.
He underscored that governments alone could not defeat AIDS, saying, “We need to work in partnership and we need to pool our efforts if we are going to stand a chance to defeat this disease.”
The Secretary-General then met with the United Nations country team and staff in Botswana, and, in talking to them, again focused on AIDS. He praised the women of Botswana for their courage in coming forward to seek treatment for AIDS and encouraged the nation’s men to do the same.
He later met briefly with Botswana’s President, Festus Mogae, to talk about the nation’s International Trade Fair, and then he attended the official opening of the Fair itself. He said at the opening that Botswana’s impressive economic achievements were an eloquent demonstration that “Africa can overcome the problems of hunger, disease and war.” But he warned that the country still faces great challenges in dealing with poverty, unemployment and the devastating consequences of AIDS (see press release SG/SM/8346 of 28 August). He then looked around the exhibition stalls at the Fair.
Later that day, the Secretary-General met with the facilitator of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire, before attending a dinner in his honour hosted by President Mogae. At that dinner, the Secretary-General praised the people of Botswana for their achievements as a stable, multi-party democracy with a consistent track record of high economic growth and improvements in health, water, sanitation and education. He added, “That only makes the tragedy of HIV/AIDS all the more poignant, since it is snatching away the precious development gains you had made.” (See press release SG/SM/8347 of 28 August.)
Secretary-General Kofi Annan left Botswana on Wednesday, following a meeting in the morning with President Mogae, in which the Secretary-General
raised his concerns about food shortages and AIDS in the country. He also appealed to Botswana to join the United Nations standby arrangements for peacekeeping and raised the issue of indigenous people in Botswana. The two exchanged views as well on the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development and on the newly created African Union.
He talked to the press after that meeting. In response to a question about the current United Nations position regarding Iraq, the Secretary-General responded that once the inspectors certify that Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction, sanctions would be lifted. “The United Nations has no policy or decision for a regime change or to remove Saddam Hussein”, he said, “That is a US national policy; it’s not a UN policy.”
He then travelled to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
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