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Michelle Obama departs; Talks with President Khama underscor...
28/06/11

(Gaborone) - U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, along with accompanying members of her family, departed from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport this morning ending a three day visit.

The proclaimed purpose of the visit was to  promote youth leadership, education, and health and wellness issues both here and in the region. The trip was further described by the White house as an opportunity to  highlight -
“Botswana’s enduring democracy, bolstered by its commitment to using its vast natural resources to invest in its people and grow its economy, models the potential for good governance, and strong institutions to advance prosperous and stable societies."

Mrs. Obama was seen off at the airport this morning by the Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, the Hon. Dr. Gloria Somolekae, and the US ambassador, H.E. Ms. Michelle Gavin.

Speaking to journalist present for the farewell, Dr. Somolekae described the visit as a great success, noting that: "It was an honour for Botswana to host the American First Lady and I am sure we will be reaping the rewards of this visit very soon."

Her sentiments  were echoed by Ambassador Gavin who further confirmed that: "The visit has further strengthened relations between the two countries."
Mrs. Obama, accompanied by her mother and two daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 10, and a nephew and a niece,  Leslie and Avery Robinson, age 15 and 19, arrived in Botswana early on Friday. At their arrival they were greeted by local children including traditional dancers in what was widely described by international media covering the event as “a colourful ceremony”.

Shortly thereafter they visited Botswana Baylor Children’s’ Clinic Centre of Excellence, where Mrs. Obama and her entourage took part in painting a wall mural with members of the Centre’s Teens Club. The wall forms part of an adolescent centre now under construction.

Baylor Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence, which is sponsored by Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, provides special care and treatment to HIV infected children and their families.

The US First Lady’s next stop on Friday was the Sanitas' Tea Garden, where she spoke at a “Women's Leadership Luncheon”, whose participants included a mix of prominent Batswana women already in leadership positions and a select group promising future leaders.

In her remarks Mrs. Obama paid tribute to her guests as role models observing of some of the seniors present that:
“It's important to remember that these women were not born attorney general, the Dean of a Medical School, the paramount chief of a tribe. It wasn't just luck that made them the first woman on this country's highest court or the first woman to serve as FIFA football referee. Each of these women earned these honors. They spent thousands of hours studying, and practicing, and working. And in the end, their stories were possible because along the way, each of them had someone in their lives who encouraged them and inspired them.” In additional remarks at the event, the US First Lady also paid special tribute to Botswana: "It is a pleasure to be here in this beautiful country that embodies what my husband has called 'vision of Africa on the move'–that is Botswana–thriving democracy, vital democracy, fast-growing economy and more importantly a kind and generous people who, in this short amount of time, have given me and my family such a warm welcome."

Following the luncheon, Mrs. Obama went to the Office of the President, where she met with H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, for about 45 minutes, before the two emerged for a joint photo op with reporters who had assembled in the Cabinet Room.

In a subsequent White House briefing described the talks as having underscored the "breadth and depth" of the Botswana-USA bilateral relationship, further reiterating Botswana status one of Africa's most stable democracies having held successive democratic elections since independence.
During the talks H.E. President Khama expressed his own appreciation for US assistance in such areas as trade and investment promotion and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The two also discussed their shared commitment to promoting youth leadership and empowerment and the President’s special interest and prominence in international efforts to conserves Africa’s natural heritage.
Through the First Lady, the President also conveyed his best wishes for the health and wellbeing of his American counterpart, President Obama, recalling their 2009 meeting at the White House.

In earlier remarks to the press, Mrs. Obama stated that her visits to both Botswana and South Africa was evidence of President Obama’s own commitment to African issues, describing herself as her husband's "direct representative" in the context of her meeting with President Khama.
The US First Lady is further reported as having stated:

"This trip is a reflection, a direct reflection, of his support and his interest and his view of the importance of Africa to the world and to the future of the world," she said. "That's why I'm here. He would love to be here but there's a lot of work to do on the domestic front, and as president it's hard to predict and plan internationally because you've got domestic stuff hitting you left and right [adding]"Africa's absolutely important to him, I understand why people feel like they want more. It's a big continent, a lot of challenges. But I think his record and the number of senior officials who've spent so much time in Africa ... that is a reflection of this administration's commitment to this continent."

After her call on the Office of the President, Mrs. Obama ended the day with a dinner at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve.On Saturday the Obama family visited Mochudi, where they stopped for lunch at the Borakanelo fast food restaurant in the village, where there fare included the spots locally renowned fat-cakes.

The party then went on a game drive at the nearby Madikwe Game Reserve, where they sent the evening.While the American First Lady’s visit was non-political in nature, her presence in our country was nonetheless a clear testimony to the longstanding friendship and shared values that exist between Botswana and the USA.


The three day visit also served to put our country in the global spotlight having as of this morning already generated several thousand positive stories in major international print and electronic media.

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