Clinton in Africa: Safari or Media Circus?

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KAMPALA, Uganda: President Clinton promised aid for education and health-care projects before his meeting with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni today, but the traveling U.S. media was not impressed: Most of the questions directed at Clinton during a photo op concerned Washington sex scandals. The President said that was not what he wanted to talk about in Africa.

What Mr. Clinton does want to talk about is multi-party democracy, and he’ll use tomorrow’s scheduled mini-summit with Museveni, Congo’s Laurent Kabila and other African leaders to press the issue. Museveni may be considered one of the brightest new political stars in Africa, but he doesn’t allow political parties to operate in Uganda. He has scheduled a referendum on the issue for 2000. But, says TIME correspondent Marguerite Michaels, the issue won’t be a sticking point in Washington’s relations with a new generation of economically savvy African leaders who have rooted out corruption and brought about regional stability: “Clinton will talk about multi-party democracy and his hosts will ignore him, and there won’t be any consequences,” says Michaels. When it comes to dealing with his own press corps, Clinton may well envy his hosts’ insouciance.