Town Hall With Search for Common Ground and Congolese University Students

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
St. Joseph's School
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
August 10, 2009

MS. BAROANI: (Via interpreter) Mrs. Secretary, Mr. Dikembe Mutombo, dear friends from the international and local press and dear friends of the students of Kinshasa, good afternoon. (Inaudible) good afternoon.

AUDIENCE: (Inaudible.)

MS. BAROANI: (Via interpreter) It is an honor for Search for Common Ground to be able to welcome you. That Mrs. Clinton is here in this room today to exchange with you, university students of Kinshasa, is a recognition that you are the leaders of tomorrow, the dynamics of the change for a prosperous and democratic Congo. It is this recognition that’s at the basis of the collaboration between Search for Common Ground, of which I am the director in the DRC, and COJESKI, the Collective of Organizations of the Youth in the Congo. With the support of USAID, we organize town hall meetings between students, authorities, and elected representatives for the promotion of good governance. These exchanges, as today’s, focalize on dialogue, because without communication, we do not have real information. Without dialogue, we cannot have the understanding of the other people in order to find common points, despite differences.

It is with this approach of finding a common ground that we work in the DRC since 2001, through radio and television programs, through training, cultural activities, and sensitization activities with use of the civil society organizations, the Congolese Army, and the country’s authorities.

For Search for Common Ground, it is a real honor to welcome the Secretary of State of the United States as well as Mr. Mutombo. Mrs. Secretary, who is part of a government that shows its willingness to have a dialogue, a frank and sincere dialogue, on all present questions. It is President Barack Obama himself who said nobody is excluded from the search of common ground. We are, therefore, proud to be here before you, the 140 university students of Kinshasa who have come from different institutions. I myself, when I was a student at Stanford University, I was very active. I know that Mrs. Clinton was president of the students when she was at Wellesley College. These moments of activism are moments which mark somebody’s life. If you’re young and you can change something, you become loyal to these principles of activism throughout your life.

Mrs. Clinton, we know that you have studied law, and as we have just seen, the person who will give you the floor is Khande Yollande , who is a student of law. She is also the provincial coordinator of Kinshasa for COJESKI. It is a pleasure to give the floor to Mrs. Yollande, and once more, welcome.

MRS. KHONDE: Good afternoon. Thank you, (inaudible), to give me the floor. In the name of COJESKI DRC, it is an honor to welcome Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Mutombo Dikembe among us – not just an honor, but an opportunity, an opportunity first for us women to dialogue with a woman who has gone beyond her limits. After your track record as teacher, lawyer, First Lady, you were not satisfied yet. You became elected senator, and finally to become a presidential candidate of the United States. Now, as Secretary of State of the United States, Mrs. Clinton, you are among the most important politicians in the world. Your track record is fascinating. What can you tell us today, and dear comrades, what are the questions that you would like to ask Mrs. Clinton?

It is a privilege for me as well to say welcome, even if it is in his homeland, to Mr. Mutombo Dikembe, after having spent part of his youth in the country. You’ve gone to the United States, where you became one of the most reputed basketball players, but even more through your work like the Hospital Biamba Marie Mutombo in Masena, and working with youth, you are a model of patriotism.

I am particularly happy to welcome you today before my comrades, students of Kinshasa, because this kind of exchange is not – doesn’t happen often here. I am the coordinator, provincial coordinator, of COJESKI National Youth Network, which has existed for the last 14 years in Kinshasa, (inaudible) for human rights and the promotion of values – I’m sorry, the sound is gone.

In order to start a dialogue with our authorities, the doors are closed for us. Our universities and superior institutions are full of corruption, intimidation, and tribalism, violence and anti-values. For us, the students, there is a further challenge: the inequality. This is why our activities with Search for Common Ground encourage us. It is through the town hall meetings that we see the importance of dialogue and, particularly, of transparency. It is through these exchanges that we are planting the seeds of change which are taking root now.

Please be at ease, comrades. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Mutombo are with us for a frank and open dialogue. Listen – let’s listen to their advice. Let’s take advantage of their experience, because tomorrow it is going to be us to take the relay. Welcome to you all. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Yollande. And I loved hearing your words that showed such energy and commitment to the future of your country. Léon, thank you for what you’re doing with Search for Common Ground. The cooperation between Search for Common Ground and COJESKI is a very important partnership. I also want to thank Father Charles and Saint Joseph’s School for the use of this auditorium today.

And I’m delighted to have Dikembe with me in his country. I have known him in my country. In fact, I first met him in 1994 when he came to the White House when my husband was president. And I had, at that time, a chance to meet his mother as well. And now I’ve just visited the hospital that he built in memory of his mother. And I think it is fair to say that he is a true patriot of this country. He is an all-star on the court and an all-star as a human being, and I am very pleased he could be here.

I also want to bring greetings to you from President Obama. He has deep ties to Africa, and he is proud to be a son of Africa. He wants the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries to be partners and allies to face the challenges that confront us.

I think it’s important to note that the dialogue we are having today is supported by the United States Government because we believe in democracy, in good governance, in the rule of law, in human rights and women’s rights, in peace building, and we want to be a partner with you – not only with your government, but with the people of the DRC.

I think that student leaders like yourselves are the ones who have to speak out for the progress that you seek, speak out to end the corruption, the violence, and the conflict that have for too long eroded opportunity across this country. Together, you can write a new chapter of Congolese history.

President Obama said last month in his historic speech in Ghana that the future of Africa is up to Africans. It is up to Africans to address the challenges that are holding back millions of young people from fulfilling their God-given potential. I have always believed that talent is universally available across the world, but opportunity is not. There are millions of people who could be doctors and lawyers, basketball stars and presidents, leaders of all kinds, who will never get the chance. And in this country, with a life expectancy of 45, think of the potential that is lost.

I am here today because the United States is committed to the people of the DRC. We believe in your promise and your potential, and we want to be your partners in strengthening democratic institutions, building civil society, and creating an economy that spreads the wealth of its country to more people.

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at a town hall at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Wangari Maathai was there. She is the great Kenyan environmental activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize. She made a comment that stuck with me. Here is what she said: “Africa is rich. The gods must have been on our side when they created the planet, and yet we are poor.”

I thought about her comment again a few days later when I toured an AIDS clinic in a rural part of South Africa that has chronic poverty and one of the highest HIV rates in the world. It is also in the area where the largest diamond ever found was discovered. Yesterday, I was in Angola, one of the biggest oil producers in the world – now the seventh biggest oil producer in the world – yet the majority of people live in poverty. Tomorrow, I will go to Goma, an area wealthy in mineral resources, to visit with refugees and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. That is truly one of mankind’s greatest atrocities.

This continent and this country have seen humanity at its worst. But you have also seen it at its best. You see it in the many acts of kindness between people who help each other even though they themselves have so little. You see it in a man who did so well in America, but decided to build a hospital that treats 100 patients a day and has created hundreds of jobs in the country he calls home. You see it in the activists from Kenya to Ghana, from South Africa to Senegal, who are leading movements against poverty, hunger, violence, and environmental destruction. You see it in Mo Ibrahim, one of world’s most successful entrepreneurs who decided to bring cell phones to Congo when no one else thought it was worth the investment.

I saw it in women researchers in Kenya who are developing new techniques to improve agriculture for African farmers, particularly the 70 percent of whom are women. I saw it in a woman I first met in 1997 in Cape Town, a homeless woman who had been pushed from her village by apartheid and was squatting on the side of a road, who decided she wanted to build a home. And she didn’t wait for government. She didn’t wait for a university. She didn’t wait for anybody. She began to talking to her neighbors and then studying about what they could do, this woman with no education at all. And they decided to form a group, and they would save their money, the small amount of money they made from working in a home or sweeping a street or selling vegetables in the market. And when they had saved enough money, they began to build homes.

I visited in 1997 when they started. I brought my husband when he was President Bill Clinton back in 1998, and I went back a few days ago. These uneducated women and a few good men have built 50,000 homes in South Africa.

There are so many people who are battling against the odds. They need help. They need support. They need government leaders and business leaders who will understand the struggle and be part of the solution.

Now, you are students, and I remember I was once a student. And sometimes it is hard to know, what can I do to address the crisis in Goma and eastern Congo or take on corrupt officials or stand up for the fight for equality?

This is a big and diverse country, but it is one country and it deserves your best efforts to help make a difference. And you never know what might happen once you start working with people who need leadership, advice, and counsel, speaking out on behalf of those who are voiceless. You don’t have to be a 7-foot, 2-inch all-star basketball player or have an arm-span that reaches across two continents. You can use new technology. Use those cell phones to help organize, create political movements, expose crime and violence and corruption, empower the poor with information, access to credit, and social networks. Members of COJESKI are already demanding higher standards for yourselves, your government, and your country.

So think about what you will do both as students and when you finish school and become politicians or civil servants or teachers or journalists or military officers or entrepreneurs, lawyers or judges. And do not forget the commitment you feel today to making the change that your country deserves.

The United States stands ready to help you. We know that the promise of the DRC is limitless. We will help you build a strong, civilian-led government that is accountable and transparent, an independent judiciary, a professional military that respects human rights, a free press, and an active and engaged citizenry, a society whose institutions follow the rule of law.

I appreciate your being here this afternoon because I want to listen even more than talk. I want your ideas and suggestions about what we can do better. President Obama and I are committed to this effort. We see Africa as central to the future of the world, and we know that right here in the center of Africa there is so much we can do together for the betterment of the people of the DRC.

Thank you all very much.


MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) As we start on the questions, she said she was here to listen to us, so let us exchange.

We’ll start with whom? Okay, now, the rules. You get up, you say your name, the university or institute where you’re studying, and the question. Okay. We’ll get start – we’ll start a man and a woman. Okay.

Thank you very much for the floor.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Willie Kalahar, University of Kinshasa. I have one concern only. We want to know today that each year – almost each year our reports are published with regard to human rights violations in the DRC, and also with regard to the pillage of resources, mining resources of our country and forest resources as well. And with regard to all these reports, we have never heard a single declaration from the United States, be it to condemn the Congolese authorities involved in all this, or be it a word to say that we have listened to this. And now that you’re here, Mrs. Secretary of State, what are you today going to tell us or promise us for the future, because it is always the same authorities who continue to be with us. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me start by saying that I am not only listening, but I condemn the exploitation of the great natural resources in this country, and we want to work with civil society and others in the DRC against the corruption that undermines the development of this country and the creation of jobs and prosperity that would lift more people out of poverty. I am particularly concerned about the exploitation of natural resources, like the mining and the timber, where the revenues do nothing to help the people of this country.

We want very much to work with the DRC on the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative that would require more openness about who’s getting the contracts, what the revenues are, and where the money goes. We want also to work with all of you to create a fund for the people so that as your natural resources are used, some of those revenues will come back to build roads, to build hospitals, to build and train – to build schools and train teachers.

So I very much condemn the exploitation and the expropriation of the natural resources of this country. It is what Wangari Maathai was referring to. Africa is so rich and most of the people are so poor. We want to have the riches of Africa benefit the poor people of Africa.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.) They now – we can take a lady.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Frances Yehta. My question is short. As a woman, what is your opinion with regard to the phenomenon that is called sexual violence which is very important here and particularly in the east, and also the mechanisms against impunity and criminality?

SECRETARY CLINTON: One of the reasons that I’m going to Goma tomorrow is to speak out against the sexual and gender-based violence that has affected women and girls in eastern Congo. I think it’s right to say that 13,000 women a month are raped. It’s an astonishing and horrible figure, and many of them are children. The entire society needs to be speaking out against this. It should be a mark of shame that this happens anywhere, in any country.

We will be announcing some programs to help the victims of this terrible violence who are often physically hurt in very serious ways. But we have to do more to prevent it. And we have to speak out against the impunity of those in positions of authority who either commit these crimes or condone them. Any person who commits a crime, and that’s what this is, should be arrested and prosecuted. And the militias that are operating in the east are too often able to commit these crimes with no accountability at all.

And as you, I’m sure, have heard, there are even some cases of these terrible crimes committed by members of the Congolese military. And the United Nations has asked that five people who we have evidence that they committed these crimes in the military be prosecuted. And three of them are being and two more have been arrested. We have to keep the pressure on the government, and we have to keep the pressure on the governments of neighboring countries – Uganda, Rwanda – so that all together, we can end this scourge of violence. But let me also add, violence against women is not limited to one part of one country. Violence against women happens everywhere, to a greater or lesser degree.

We are now in the 21st century. It is no longer acceptable for there to be violence against women in the home, in the community. And people need to stand together against it. And so I hope that here in the DRC there will be a concerted effort to demand justice for women who are violently attacked and to make sure that their attackers are punished. And I hope that students will take the lead in this to speak out, because these are fundamental human rights and we need to protect them. Just as much as we worry about exploitation of minerals, we need to worry about exploitation of women. Because both of them undermine democracy and the rule of law. So I hope that that will become a real cause here in Kinshasa that will sweep across the country.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I would like to know what is the policy – my name is Patrick (inaudible). I want to know what is the policy of the Obama Administration with regard to the Congolese resources, which are considered by most people as a global patrimony. When you know that the Kyoto Protocol in the United States was one of – is one of the largest polluters, we wonder – and now they are asking us to capture the carbon. What is the policy of your Administration with regard to the local population which is concerned? And through your presence here, does this start a new era? Can we now consider to have – with regard to the Congolese students to be able to speak a Congolese language and have local pressure for that? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope that you do feel as though the Obama Administration is creating a new era of partnership between the United States and the DRC. That is our intention. That is why President Obama went to Ghana. That is why I have been on a trip that’s taken me from Kenya to South Africa to Angola, here, and then I will go on to Nigeria and Liberia and Cape Verde. And in very place, we are saying the same thing: We want a new relationship, a relationship of mutual respect and mutual responsibility. We cannot solve the problems of this great country. Only the people, the Congolese people themselves, can solve it. But we can be your partners and your friends and your allies.

Let me say a word about climate change. There is no doubt that the United States is the historically biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. We did not take responsibility for that until President Obama became president. Our prior administration would not accept that responsibility; now we are. So we know we’ve got to do a lot to make up for the fact that we have developed in a way that created a lot of the global warming problems. And President Obama has begun to do that. We are spending nearly $90 billion on clean energy technology and research that we’ll be able to share with the world. We are working very hard with other countries that are developing countries like China and India to figure out what we can do together.

I think there’s a role for the DRC and for the countries of central Africa, which is to look for ways to develop that don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a great opportunity for renewable energy in this country, but we have to get organized in order to take advantage of it. When I just came from Angola, their government asked me to make sure my government helped them with hydropower, with wind power, with solar power, even though they have all this oil.

Well, I would be honored to be asked by your government to help with all of that. We’re creating a research center in Angola. We’d be more than happy to partner with scientists and researchers and experts here in the DRC. Protecting your natural resources, particularly your forests, is a contribution to ending global climate change. I would like to give you credit, and I hope we can get you credit at the Copenhagen agreement, for protecting your forests, protecting your water supply as you develop.

So I think this is an important dialogue to have. We accept responsibility for the past, but we both must accept responsibility for the future because Africa will be among the hardest hit of any place in the world if we don’t stop and reverse climate change. The beauty of this continent will dry up. The drought that we have seen in Kenya for four years, where 10 million people are facing acute hunger, is, in part, climate caused.

So I think there is a lot of opportunity here if we are honest with each other, we accept responsibility for what we have to do, and you accept for what you can do. But we will not do anything that interferes with your development because we want you to develop; we just want you to do it in a way that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

Dikembe, did you want to add anything to that?

MR. MUTOMBO: Yes. Thank you, Madame Secretary. One thing I wanted to add is I was a regular student like each one of you in this room and I received a scholarship because of my grade from the USAID here in Kinshasa, but I went to America. So there’s a great effort can be done on your part and are you doing your school to go to a college level, or even to go study your Ph.D. I don’t know how many of you right now are using your computer. If you get in a computer, you do some of the research right now. You go to different university websites. You can see there’s a way you can get a scholarship. You don’t have to just have to wait for the U.S. Government to give you a scholarship. But there’s a way you can look at the scholarship by yourself and search in the computer, look at a bunch of university websites. And again, you can get financial aid or you can get the full scholarship based how you’re doing your school. And there are people in the U.S. Embassy, I believe, who can help you with whatever the information you need to get a scholarship.

Don’t think that the Embassy is going to come to you and the university will say, okay, we are looking for a student to go to America. Sometime you have to go both, where you have to make an effort. I don’t how many of you are going even to the Embassy even to get the information, what it’s like getting a scholarship, what it’s like going to America. And I think that’s the best way I can respond to this question.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Grace. I’m student at Kinshasa University. I’d like to know what will be the place of the DRC in the relationship between the United States and other countries. I would just like to point out there’s one of our compatriots here who has succeeded and who is now helping the youth. Since we are young, we can also ask questions to Mr. Mutombo, and it is the moment to do that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We hope that we have a strong partnership with the DRC. There are many countries in Africa. I am going to seven of them, and one of them is the DRC because we want to send a strong message of the importance we see on our relationship. We can be helpful and supportive, but ultimately the future of this country, like any country, is up to the people in it.

And we want to encourage as many Congolese as possible to be active and participate and look for ways to make a contribution and to also demonstrate the kind of initiative that you just heard described. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Look for ways that you can go out and find opportunities that will help you, and then return here and work hard for the changes that you are all talking about.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. My name is Oteko, a law faculty of Kinshasa University. Mrs. Clinton, I would like to say here that the United States say that the Congo can only develop through the efforts of the Congolese. It becomes a little bit of a paradox why. The Congolese do want to work for the interests of the Congo, but there is the implication – your (inaudible) implication of the United States which does not allow the Congolese to work for the interests of the Congo.

For example, none of the Congolese students can deny that when Laurent-Désiré Kabila came into this country, we lived – we all had at least some hope of a better future, but later it was a hope which has been stopped. And we know – I have just read a book published in 2009 by (inaudible) and prefaced by an American lady, which shows the implication of the United States in the conflict of the east and in the process which we have known in this country.

And I am a little bit concerned at the disappearance of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, which I can attribute there are some origins in the United States. So what – can you reassure us today – us, Congolese students – that is it true that if I become president tomorrow of this country, will I be autonomous and independent and work for the interest of my compatriots, or will I be – will I be killed if I refuse to follow what I am being told? (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot excuse the past and I would not try. Many countries, including many in Europe and many in Africa, have interfered with the development and the potential of the Congolese people; that is a fact. Now, we may argue about the specific issues that are raised, but there has been a history of colonialism and a history of interference. I’m only here to make a very simple point: We can either think about the past and be prisoned by it, or we can decide we’re going to have a better future and work to make it. That is the choice. Every human being who gets up every morning has that choice. Will I be dragged down by the past, or will I decide to do something that will give me the chance to have a better future?

President Obama and I want to do whatever we can to give you the chance to have a better future. There are many people and countries with interests in your country. A lot of the mining that is going on that is helping to fund the violence in the east has nothing to do with the United States. Many of the problems that exist in your political system and your government have nothing to do with the United States. So we take responsibility for the role that we have played in the past, but others must as well.

And now we have a choice: Do we try to figure out how to work together and build that better future, or not? Now, there are many countries in Africa that want to work with the United States, so we have choices, too. We can go work with people who are willing to forget the past and focus on the future. We’re not going to work with people who are looking backwards, because that’s not going to get us where we want to go.

So that is really the offer that President Obama and I are making. We expect more from your government, whoever is in your government. We expect more transparency and accountability. We expect more from your neighbors and from other countries and corporations that do business in your country.

It’s not going to change overnight. There are problems that go back hundreds of years. But that’s our choice, and we stand ready to work with you in civil society, and particularly the academic community, both faculty – I was once a law professor, so both faculty and students, with the private sector, with civil society, with all of the constituent parts of this country. But everybody has to decide they want to go forward. That’s the choice. And we will talk with your government. I came here before I spoke with anybody in your government to hear what was on your mind. And we will do what we can to help you, but it is an accurate saying that President Obama said in Ghana: The future of Africa is up to Africans.

I’ll give you an example. Why does this country allow its natural resources to be exploited and expropriated through corruption? Bad leadership, no pressure against the forces that want to do that. Compare this country with Botswana. When Botswana discovered diamonds, their leaders said let’s put the revenues from the diamonds into a fund for the future of Botswana.

So how many of you have ever been to Botswana? Anybody been to Botswana? If you go to Botswana, there are roads everywhere in Botswana. There are not roads everywhere in the DRC. There is clean water everywhere in Botswana. There is not clean water everywhere in the DRC. Why? Because the leaders and the people of Botswana, without any other country interfering, said we’re going to have a law, and we’re not going to let you come in an exploit our natural resources unless we can get money to go for the betterment of our country. Contrast that to what is going on now in this country.

So there are choices. And we will help you, if that is your desire, to make choices that will give you a better future.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. My name is Esther Nyagi. I’m a student at the University of Kinshasa in law. Earlier, you just mentioned a choice, or an offer. This choice is motivated by what? We are – are we – do we – are we inspiring your pity so much that you say I have to go here and help these people, or what is your motivation?

Secondly, you are here – you finance COJESKI through the Search for Common Ground. What we – the youth, can we expect from your visit here and, in particular, through COJESKI? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ve always wanted to come here, and this seemed like a good reason to come, because I have known some very brave Congolese in my country and have read about others who have stood up for human rights and for changes in government, or who have, like Dikembe, given their resources to help their people. And I guess I would describe it as a motivation of hope. You know President Obama ran on the idea of hope. And hope is an important ideal, but if it’s not brought down to earth and translated into action, it stays up in the clouds.

So President Obama and I look at the opportunities for this country, and we see great hope and we see great potential. And we think that there is a lot that we could do together. I will be very honest with you. We don’t need to do any of this. Let me be honest. You have a lot of other people who are in your country, who are involved in your country, who are doing things for good and for not so good. And especially with President Obama, all of Africa wants to be a partner with the United States. So there are many places that are saying come up help us with renewable energy, come help us with women’s rights, come help us with health and education, come help us with security, come help us with governance and to fight against corruption. So we have a lot to do.

But this particular place at this particular moment in time holds out such promise. I think it is what would be described as at a tipping point. There is the opportunity to pull everyone together and make progress, and there is the opportunity to stay down and stuck in the past where individuals, like many of you, will do fine. You will get your education. You will do well if you stay in this country. You will do well if you leave this country. But the vast majority of Congolese will not.

So it is our hope that we would have the chance to work together in a positive way to respond to the needs of the Congolese people, and to be part of helping to build that better future that will give the vast majority of Congolese a chance at a better life.

What motivates me ever since I was a law student is the opportunity to help children. Today at the hospital, I saw a picture of a child who was born prematurely and was about to die. And his parents carried that baby to three hospitals, and every one said, I’m sorry, that baby will die. And then the parents decided to go to the hospital that Dikembe built. And there they found not just hope; they found well trained doctors and nurses, they found modern equipment, and they saved that baby’s life.

So there was a picture of what the baby looked like when he came into the hospital, and then there was a picture of this very healthy, fat baby with a big smile as a result of the work of one person and the team that he put together. That can be multiplied across this country. We are ready to help if you want our help.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I’m (inaudible). Mrs. Clinton, we’ve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country, the interferences from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, and what does Mr. Mutombo think on this situation? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the Secretary of State. I am. So you ask my opinion? I will tell you my opinion. I’m not going to be channeling my husband.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My question is addressed to Mrs. Hillary. Today, it is not only because the United States has had many important politicians that we talk about the U.S., but we have already known – we have also know a number of important men in culture. And I would like to know what is the opinion of the Obama Administration in terms of cultural relationships between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) My name is Ann. I’m at the University of Kinshasa. My question is to Mrs. Clinton first. You mentioned in your speech about mechanisms of transparency. You insisted on that. Do you think that our leaders, the Congolese leaders, are really – really want to put these mechanisms into place? Because it’s known by everybody that most of our leaders like more to enrich themselves, to the detriment of the population.

And the second question is addressed to Mr. Mutombo. Apart – the patriotism that has guided you in returning to your country, which is also our country, I would like to know why did you not want to invest in another area than the one of health, especially since, in my opinion, it is perhaps not very profitable with – in comparison to other areas. Thank you.

MR. MUTOMBO: First of all, when I left this country, I had a scholarship to go to study medicine in the United States of America, and which was – the goal was after studying medicine to return back to Congo and practice my medicine. But I didn’t get a chance to go all the way to becoming a doctor, because all the things happened in my life, which is the game of basketball. That came when I was a sophomore at the Georgetown University. And I took that very serious, but I didn’t forget where I came from.

And when I got a chance to be blessed and to be in the shoes that I am on, I decided that I want to go home and do something. And I studied a different way, which way I was going to start. But I remember myself, saying to myself, that you always want to becoming a doctor. Why don’t you do something in medicine? Then I went to talk to the people at USAID, CDC, the World Health Organization. I did a lot of research on myself. I talked to a lot of institution in America.

Then I realized that the Congo was in a deep need on healthcare. As Madame Secretary mentioned at the beginning here, that Congo, as we all know, people are dying and they are dying rapidly. The population right now – the mortality rate on men is 45, on women is 46. And the women are dying every day for child deliveries, and childrens are dying.

The African continent itself lost more than 1.5 million children under age of 5 because of malaria. So the continent’s been losing people for so long. The HIV/AIDS, the pandemic that has destroyed the fabric of our society, as we all know here in the city of Kinshasa, where more than 15 percent of population are living with HIV virus. In the continent itself, we have lost more than 25 million. And right now as we are talking, we have more than maybe 30 million people living with the virus in the continent of Africa. More than 50-some plus million children are walking on the street of Africa, have been left orphans with no parents. Our villages have been destroyed. There is no more history. Our civilization is gone.

I don’t know how many of you live in Kinshasa to go even outside the outskirts of Kinshasa, to see even if some of the village are existing. Most of them are gone because all men and all people who live in the village are all are dying from HIV virus. There’s things that need to be done, not just in a political sector, because everybody want to do politics. But who’s going to do business? Who’s going to take care of the healthcare? Who’s going to be working in the social system? Right now in the Congo, 73 percent of population in the Congo are under age of 24 years old, including all of you guys in this room.

Remember what the future of Congo belong to, as Madame Secretary was saying. President Obama said that in Ghana. When they talking about the future of Africa belong to you, don’t say just it doesn’t belong to me because people are closing the gate on me. They’re asking you to continue to study and to learn as much you can learn, because the leader of tomorrow are not there, and the leader of tomorrow is you in this room. And so if we don’t provide a good healthcare for you, how you going to work, how you going to practice politic, whatever you want to do?

So that’s the reason why I went and built a hospital. But the most reason, it was because of my mom, who died here in Kinshasa because they couldn’t reach the hospital. My parents don’t live far away from here. And they live only eight minutes away from Hospital Galema. But because of the curfew that was in Kinshasa in 1998, my mom didn’t make it to the hospital. So that kind of pushed me a little bit to realize that the hospital would be a wise choice, that people can do this, there’s a chance for me to save thousands and thousands of lives and to give Congolese people – which is my people, where I came from – a hope.

And Madame Secretary say hope is something is in the sky. We all are hoping to be rich. We all are hoping to get married. We all are hoping that we have childrens. Nobody in this room sitting here, you don’t hope for nothing. Don’t you hope that you can live much longer than people are living in Congo? Don’t you hope that maybe one day you will have a better house and you’ll have a better job, maybe you can go and find the way to help your mother and your father?

So we got to have a hope. Do not lose your hope. And that’s what is happening in the Congo, especially in young people. You are losing hope and you are thinking that there’s nobody who’s thinking about you. If there was nobody who was thinking about you, what have I been doing coming every year in this country and putting an institution that costs more than $30 million, and trying to continue to put money in to save more lives? You think nobody is thinking about you? If there was no hope, why do you think Madame Secretary Clinton was able to arrange this meeting to be held here at the school St. Joseph here in Kinshasa?

There is hope. There is hope because you are here. Somebody thought about you. Somebody said that I need to talk to you. Somebody said I need to talk to the child, give him a hope. There is hope there. So keep hoping that the sky is the limit for all of us, that the future of the African continent – not just Congo, but the future of our African continent – will be brighter than it is today. We don’t know when. It can be in 10 years, 15 years, or maybe our grandchildrens will have a better future than us.

My parents grew up very poor. My mom grew up – my dad worked as a teacher making only $37. But he didn’t think that maybe one of his kids will have hope to becoming somebody? All he did is stress the education. In the family, that’s all he did. And what we did, we used the education as a vehicle to move us forward, and that’s why I’m here today sitting here.

So you better have hope. And thank you for your question. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: (In French.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2009/T11-34