Acting under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Clinton, in a memorandum directing the State Department to inform Congress of his action, said that because of the situation in southern Africa, particularly in Mozambique, it is in the "national interest" of the United States to increase humanitarian aid to the region.
Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon told reporters earlier in the day that the United States will "dramatically increase" its assistance to the region, which has been devastated by severe flooding and the onset of a second cyclone.
Bacon said the Department of Defense would send six search and rescue helicopters to the region, with three to arrive early the week of March 6. He said they would be supported by 400 to 600 troops from the European Command's 86th Contingency Response Group, based in Germany and England. Another 200 to 300 medical and command and control personnel will be diverted from a planned medical exercise in Cameroon for the U.S. humanitarian assistance effort, which Bacon said has been dubbed "Operation Silent Promise."
He said the medical people, supported by six C-130 transport plans, were expected to arrive first -- possibly by March 3. Bacon said the U.S. troops would operate primarily in Mozambique, the worst hit by the flooding. Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all declared states of emergency, Bacon said.
The extra aid, Bacon said, is coming as a second cyclone, "Gloria," is expected to strike the region, in which more than 100,000 persons are said to be stranded -- some clinging to tree limbs and others on rooftops. The waters have not yet crested in Mozambique, though the worst is probably over in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Following is the text of Clinton's statement:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
March 2, 2000
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
SUBJECT: Drawdown Under Section 506(a)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as Amended, to Provide Emergency Disaster Assistance in Southern Africa
Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 506(a)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, 22 U.S.C. 2318(a)(2) (the "Act"), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to draw down articles and services from the inventory and resources of the Department of Defense, for the purpose of providing international disaster assistance to Southern Africa, including Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
Therefore, I direct the drawdown of up to $37.6 million of articles and services from the inventory and resources of the Department of Defense for Southern Africa, including Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana for the purposes and under the authorities of chapter 9 of part I of the Act.
The Secretary of State is authorized and directed to report this determination to the Congress immediately and to arrange for its publication in the Federal Register.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)