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 Home > News & Policies > February 2008

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 18, 2008

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Bobby Pittman, Special Assistant to the President for African Affairs
Aboard Air Force One
En route Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

5:17 P.M. (L)

MS. PERINO: Hi. I'll try to make this quick, since I know everyone wants to eat and we have a short flight. I brought Bobby Pittman back with me, he's a Special Assistant to the President for African Affairs, so he can answer some questions for you if you have questions about the day and anything that you saw.

One scheduling update is that I expect that the President will make a statement about Kosovo tomorrow morning before leaving the hotel. The scheduled departure is 7:35 a.m.; we might move that up to -- we might make the statement at 7:30 a.m., so you can plan on that. Today I do expect that you might hear something from the State Department; that's your usual course of action when a state declares their independence.

Q Can I just ask you a question?


Q Apparently the President did make some comments on this with NBC, The Today Show. So is his view that the United States is going to recognize their independence?

MS. PERINO: He didn't announce that, and as I said yesterday, that I'm not going to get in front of the process. I expect you'll hear from the State Department today. But he did say that the United States has long supported the Ahtisaari plan which, as I told you yesterday, called for a period of time of supervised independence for Kosovo and that the United States had been supportive of that. And so I expect that you'll hear something from the State Department and, as I said, you'll hear from the President tomorrow morning before he leaves.

Q He actually said that -- didn't he actually say that Kosovo is now independent?

MS. PERINO: What he meant by that is that the Kosovars have declared their independence.

Q He just stated the facts, not a policy or a position.

MS. PERINO: Correct. Correct.

Q Dana, when will we hear from the State Department?

MS. PERINO: At some point today, I mean, it's only in the morning there, so --

Q Four hours, three hours? Any idea?

MS. PERINO: I wish I could tell you, Roger; I don't know.

Q Why is he not making a statement today?

MS. PERINO: As I said, there's a process that's in place, underway. We're going to get home at about 6:30 p.m., I don't think it's going to be yet time for him to be able to do that. So just for everyone's sake we're going to make it tomorrow morning.

Q (Inaudible) to go first?


Just a quick thing about tomorrow, just a reminder. We leave early, we go to Kigali, Rwanda. He will go to the Memorial Center, which I think some of you have seen before. This is the center that has three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which is the one that documents the 1994 genocide. There's also a children's memorial and an exposition on genocidal violence throughout the world, such as in Bosnia and Cambodia. The grounds include a permanent museum, gardens, mass graves of victims, a wall of names and a documentation center where classes are conducted and films are shown.

The President and Mrs. Bush will lay a wreath. Then he will move on to meet with the President of Rwanda, and then have an expanded meeting with him and more of his staff, and our staff. We will all meet together.

Then there will be a joint press availability; expect two questions apiece. They will also sign a bilateral investment treaty between our country and Rwanda. We'll have a social lunch with the President of Rwanda and Mrs. Kagame, a dedication of the United States Embassy in Kigali, which is exciting for everybody that's working there, before we move on to Ghana, where we'll stay the night and then have a full day in Ghana.

Q What do you have on his downtime today?

MS. PERINO: Yes. I wanted to let you know that the President and Mrs. Bush had the opportunity to visit with Ellie Leblond -- that is their niece -- Doro Koch's niece(*).

Q How old is she?

MS. PERINO: She's 19, and she's here in the country for a few months working with a group called the Tanzanian Children's Fund. And a woman named India Howell, who is the founder and director, joined them for the visit, as did Nano Chatfield -- she's the president of the board of directors of the Tanzanian Children's Fund. India Howell is the founder and director. I would encourage you, if you have a chance, to look up the Tanzanian Children's Fund website, because they do some really great work with orphans.

And India Howell has been in Africa since -- well, she first climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 1998, and she says in her bio that it changed her life and that she wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of doing something to help orphans. And so she started an orphanage first in her own home, and then expanded it, and now she serves over 40 -- 41 children are living here with her right now at what they call a children's village. That was as of March 2007, there were 41 children living with her in the children's village. And so Ellie is there volunteering for a few months.

Q I just have one question about today. The Maasai school, what's the connection to U.S. programs or U.S. funding?

MR. PITTMAN: The main connection with the Maasai Girls School is the Africa Education Initiative that the President launched in 2002. But in this case, which is common, we're actually sponsoring the girls through the local organization of Maasai women's development organization, which supports the girls through scholarships for secondary school. And typically a lot of the times our scholarships are focused on basic ed, but because of the particular issue with the Maasai, which is that most of the girls are forced into marriage, and they have to stop education before secondary school. And so this allows them to go to secondary school, and that's the main purpose of that school today.

Q Is it best to describe the school as U.S.-funded, or the girls' educations?

MR. PITTMAN: The scholarships. So we fund scholarships. And then the other thing you saw is that we're starting to also do adult reading for adult women. And the reason that's so helpful is you have a lot of the Maasai women create crafts and things that you saw. But they have trouble sometimes planning ahead, in terms of market conditions and other things. And so a couple of years ago, we started trying to help them plan ahead, providing technical assistance. But a lot of them couldn't read or write, and so it's kind of like a step back -- you know, read and write -- and then try to help them plan ahead to better market their goods.

Q Is that part of that same school, or is it --

MR. PITTMAN: It's part of the same NGO. And, of course, the NGO is run by the woman who greeted the President who, you know, herself, went to Dar at a young age, kind of fled home, and then came back to create this NGO.

MS. PERINO: And they sought help -- some of the girls that were being pressed into marriage ran away, and sought out the help of the Sister that runs the school. And then it's blossomed and really done well since then.

Q They ran away to the school?

MS. PERINO: Yes. Well, to her because -- for safety, and then eventually to the school. I mean, the school has been going on -- she's been there for a long time, right? She's been there a lot of her life.

MR. PITTMAN: Yes, the school is run by that Sister, and it's the Emusoi -- is that right? Okay, that's right.

Q Do you know this -- the warrior-clad guys who were dancing? I mean, do you have any way -- like, how to describe them, or what's the best way to --

MR. PITTMAN: I mean, Maasai. I mean, that's --

Q Maasai, right.

MR. PITTMAN: They're Maasai, and, you know, they're --

Q Do you have any other information or anything?

MR. PITTMAN: No, no. And, you know, they're -- I mean, it's a very fascinating culture. I don't know a tremendous amount about it, but they're pastoralists. And they, especially in Tanzania, they've kind of chosen not to really integrate with society. And that's what makes it so hard for a lot of these girls, because in their villages, in some ways they're -- they've shunned kind of the rest of the society that's evolving. And the Maasai, they have very deep roots, deep traditions. And so that's why a lot of these girls actually live at the school and not with their tribe.

Q I have one more. I realize that you don't want to get ahead of the President, but exactly what is the purpose of his statement tomorrow morning on Kosovo?

MS. PERINO: It will be about Kosovo, and it will regard their declaration of independence. That's all I'm able to say at the moment. Okay.

Q Thank you.

END 5:25 P.M. (L)

(*) Ellie Leblond is Doro Koch's daughter