Bill Clinton's 'Lifetime Responsibility' to Rwanda
Former President Visits, Sets Up Hospitals on African Trip
By KATE SNOW
BUTARO, Rwanda, Aug. 2, 2008 —
The mist was just clearing over the mountains of Eastern Rwanda when Bill Clinton and Chelsea walked down an uneven, rutted red clay road early this morning.
They cut quite a picture -- the former president in hiking boots and a polo shirt, his daughter in a raspberry suit jacket, oversized white pearls and high-heeled designer wedge heels.
Watch "GMA" Monday to see more of Kate Snow's interview with Bill Clinton.
They were here to see the cassava fields. The Clinton Foundation helped introduce a hardy strain of the plant to farmers in a region where the dry season can be fierce. The starchy, tuberous root is dried and then ground into flour to make food.
"Almost all the cassava had been wiped out, so this is 100 percent add-on to farm income here," Clinton said.
He pointed out that the cassava flour has "enormous potential" as an export to Western nations since it is gluten-free.
Chelsea is clearly her father's daughter. She listened with great focus as the process of milling the cassava was explained by locals. She frequently pulls reporters aside to explain policy details -- off the record, of course.
At a later stop in Butaro, a local singing group chanted and drummed in their native language.
"They're saying, 'Thank you for building our hospital and bringing us doctors,'" she repeated with a grin after relaying the translation to the group.
The new hospital in Butaro will sit on a high plateau, with stunning views all the way to Uganda. The Clinton Foundation has worked with another nongovernmental organization called Partners in Health to build hospitals in Rwanda.
Another hospital in the Burera district is the latest to be built.
"It will be the best, the newest and the most beautiful," Clinton said.
On Saturday, the former president and his daughter took turns using a shovel to break the ground.
"That's why I got into politics, so I wouldn't have to work for a living," Clinton joked as he raised the spade.
Rwanda is a country that has seen enormous improvement since the 1990s when Clinton was in the White House. Both he and Chelsea have noted that repeatedly.
"I look at you today, and I think about how very far Burera has come," said the former president. "And I believe this hospital symbolizes hope and unity. ... It's about everything that's good about our future and overcoming the parts of our past that have to be dealt with."
The country's economy has grown remarkably well since reconciliation efforts following the genocide of 1994 and millions of refugees have returned to live in Rwanda.
Clinton says he doesn't feel any "guilt" that the genocide occurred while he was president of the United States.
"No, not guilt. I've atoned for that," Clinton said. "I've been here in 1998 and told them I was sorry.
"But I do feel a lifetime responsibility. I feel like a lot of people you know you had something to do with it."
Clinton continued, "When I left the White House, I told [Rwandan] President [Reuben] Kigame that I felt I should do whatever I could for the rest of my life to help them become whole and make a new beginning."
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