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U.S. Department of State
96/10/08 Remarks at Semaya Peace Corps Village, Mali
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release October 8, 1996
REMARKS BY U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AT THE SEMAYA PEACE CORPS VILLAGE
October 8, 1996
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon and thank you for such a warm
greeting. There have been a number of times when Peace Corps volunteers
would come wherever I was and I would have a chance to greet them, but
this is the first time I've gone out to a Peace Corps village; I must
say it's exciting, it's thrilling.
I want to thank the Chief of Semaya for hosting me; Foreign Minister
Traore, for his being here; and also Peace Corps Country Director Brad
Favor for being here. I'm very grateful to the people of Semaya for
hosting this Peace Corps group and making them all feel so welcome. I
must say, a lot of Americans would be very proud if they could see you -
- Peace Corps volunteers -- performing the things you do virtually at no
cost to the people of the area, yet providing some real value. Planting
trees, making trees better by various technology they bring, including
the quality of water, it really is terrific.
You know, for 25 years, the people of Mali and the Peace Corps have been
partners in helping to preserve this nation's natural resources and
making them more accessible. This is the largest Peace Corps contingent
in all of Africa and isn't it wonderful to see it in action.
This puts quite a premium on me to be brief, doesn't it? (Joking about
double translation into French and Bambara.)
I've said many times that all the nations of the world share a
responsibility to manage the environment wisely. I've tried to
emphasize the environment as a core part of American foreign policy.
You have a beautiful proverb in this country that captures this
sentiment. It goes like this: "Each tree has its purpose."
The people of Mali, the people of this village and the people of the
United States have a common purpose in fighting the encroachment of the
desert; in fighting the depletion of the forest and trying to prevent
the extinction of species. Problems that are all too well known in the
Sahel, and work to prevent those problems, to overcome them, begins in
villages like this.
As part of the water project that I've seen today, Malians and Americans
are working together to try to construct wells and keep drainage from
polluting them. The well that I just saw over there, I'm told, is 40
meters deep and the water that reaches is pure and clean. The main
thing, in the future, is to keep it from being polluted and to make it
available to the people of the area.
Everybody here knows how important it is to improve the quality of
drinking water. It helps farmers to produce more, cuts down on water-
borne diseases, and reduces the number of breeding places for
mosquitoes. It's just one of the most important things we can do.
The Peace Corps soil conservation project helps in the ever and never-
ending struggle against the expanding desert. That is a struggle that
is worth fighting and the Peace Corps is doing it by helping villagers
plant trees, building rock walls against soil diversion and improving
mud stoves so that less wood is burned and wasted.
Every one of these projects is a real hands-ontraining in democracy as
the Peace Corps volunteers and the residents of the village work
together to try to solve common problems.
Let me give you an example of the Peace Corps' contribution in the
person of Jamie Shambaugh, who's helping me here today in walking me
through this. Jamie discovered that Mali's Bafing Makana Park existed
only on paper. It was a paper park. He decided something had to be
done about that to protect the area's threatened species. He helped
raised the local awareness about the fact that is was a park only on
paper, and the community developed a plan of action.
Having been alerted by Jamie, the local government, the NGOs, and donors
are now cooperating to establish the boundaries of the park and to make
the people who live nearby aware of what they have here and aware of the
importance of biodiversity.
The young women I saw planting trees and grafting trees, the men I saw
working on the water project, all of them are doing a terrific job and I
ask you to join me in giving them a hand. (Applause)
The kinds of programs we witnessed today are illustrations of programs
that have made President Clinton and myself determined to preserve the
Peace Corps, which is one of John F. Kennedy's legacies. This kind of
program, and these kinds of programs, are possible because Mali is a
democracy that listens to its people. It also cares about its people's
needs and provides a wonderful host to our Peace Corps programs, so I
thank the people of Mali and their government for being so generous in
hosting the Peace Corps and giving us a chance to work in the area and
Let us all work together to make Mali become an even stronger and more
prosperous democracy. The kind of country that can avert the
humanitarian tragedies that have befallen so many of its neighbors.
I can't leave without thanking those who provided the music, the drums
and particularly all of you for turning out to greet me to give me a
real sense of how it is to live in a village and also showing me what we
can possibly do to be helpful.
I hope to come back someday when those mango trees are bearing fruit and
I can see the other results of your labors. (Applause)
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