Mandela, Bush Discuss Education, AIDS in Africa

President Bush meets with former South African President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela Monday. The two men are to discuss a range of topics, including Mandela's efforts to promote universal education in Africa and how to stem the growing AIDS crisis, particularly in South Africa. The meeting also culminates a weeklong American visit that Mandela admits he may be too frail to make again. Allison Keyes reports.

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President Bush meets with former South African President and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela today. The two men are to discuss a range of topics, including Mandela's efforts to promote universal education in Africa and reduce the growing AIDS crisis, particularly in South Africa. The meeting comes at the end of a weeklong US trip which Mandela used to launch the Nelson Mandela Legacy Trust. NPR's Allison Keyes has more.

(Soundbite of applause)

ALLISON KEYES reporting:

At the Washington, DC-based Brookings Institute yesterday, Mandela received a strong ovation after a speech detailing exactly what kind of help African countries can use from what he calls the developed countries of the West.

Former President NELSON MANDELA (South Africa; Nobel Laureate): The US and other donor nations should provide substantially greater economic assistance on terms that are more flexible and responsive to the priorities set by Africans themselves. At the same time, African leaders need to agree to abide by internationally accepted standards of transparency, accountability and good governance.

KEYES: The 86-year-old Nobel laureate's voice is faded a bit by age. His hair is snow white now, and he needs assistance standing and walking, but his commitment to eliminating the ills that plague his continent is as strong as ever.

Mr. MANDELA: I know that my president, Thabo Mbeki, and other African leaders are looking forward to the G8 Summit in Scotland in July.

KEYES: At last year's gathering of the world's leading industrial powers, hosted by President Bush, a plan was announced to help Africa by developing an anti-AIDS vaccine and by training African troops for peacekeeping missions. Mandela makes it clear that assistance is needed, but without the strings that are often tied to foreign aid.

Mr. MANDELA: True democracy cannot be imposed nor transplanted. It must be homegrown and a product of consensus and inclusivity within any given country. That is why we disagree on the matter of Iraq. Such disagreements are not uncommon among friends. In fact, they are a mark of strong, candid and honest friendship.

KEYES: Mandela's visit here is part of an effort to launch a trust fund that will support his foundations in South Africa aimed at helping children, fostering democracy, fighting HIV-AIDS and improving education.

Unidentified Man: I confer upon you, Nelson Mandela, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.

(Soundbite of applause)

KEYES: Last week Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, both received honorary doctorates from Amherst College in Massachusetts. Mandela issued a challenge to America's colleges and universities to offer an education based on a student's merits, not their pedigree.

Mr. MANDELA: Challenges of ensuring full access according to ability rather than wealth or privilege. All institutions of higher education have the obligation to open the door more widely.

KEYES: Last week Mandela met with former President Bill Clinton. Over the weekend at Harlem's historic Riverside Church, Congressman Charlie Rangel compared Mandela's life with that of Christ. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and actor-civil rights activist Harry Belafonte also spoke. And after his speech at Brookings yesterday, Mandela met with the Congressional Black Caucus. Nelson Mandela warned the congregation this weekend that health concerns mean this is likely his final visit to the United States. Allison Keyes, NPR News, New York.

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