BUSH, IN AFRICA, EMPAHSIZES SUCCESSES
Turmoil in Africa Alters Focus of Bush’s 5-Nation Tour (February 15, 2008)
“This is a large place with a lot of nations, and no question, everything is not perfect,” Mr. Bush said during a brief visit to Benin before arriving Saturday evening here in the capital of Tanzania. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of great success stories, and the United States is pleased to be involved with those success stories.”
Mr. Bush’s short stay in Benin — just three hours, enough time for an airport news conference with President Thomas Yayi Boni and for Air Force One to refuel — made him the first American president to visit that tiny West African nation. It was on Mr. Bush’s itinerary because it represents the kind of success he wants to highlight — how American aid has helped fight poverty and disease in some of the world’s poorest nations.
But with Kenya ravaged by post-election violence, and a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, Mr. Bush could not escape Africa’s crises, and the White House spent much of Saturday fending off suggestions that the president should be more engaged as a peacekeeper.
Instead, Mr. Bush is leaving that to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is with him but will break off on Monday to go to Kenya, where Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, is trying to broker a power-sharing deal.
“President Bush does not need to go to Kenya at this point,” Jendayi E. Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters on Air Force One. “At the right moment in time, the president will engage, but right now it’s occurring in a very systematic way to back Annan’s mediation.”
A senior administration official said on Saturday that the main purpose of Ms. Rice’s trip would be to step up pressure on Kenya’s president, warning him that he risked losing American support if he did not compromise. The message, the official said, was, “If you can’t make a deal, you’re not going to have good relations.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush assured reporters that he was not ignoring the bloodshed in Kenya or in Darfur, where 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been chased from their homes in an ethnic conflict that he has called genocide.
“As you know, I had a tough decision to make early on, and that is whether to send troops into Darfur,” he said; he decided against it in favor of African Union peacekeeping troops. But he said he would bring up Darfur while visiting Rwanda, a country that has sent American-trained peacekeepers to the region.
The White House had hoped to use the Africa trip to burnish Mr. Bush’s legacy as a “compassionate conservative,” reminding not only Africans, but also Americans, that his administration had done more than wage a controversial war in Iraq. Despite small protests here on Friday before his arrival, the welcome for Mr. Bush has been warm.
When Air Force One landed here at dusk on Saturday, Mr. Bush was feted with an elaborate ceremony of drummers, dancers and a marching band. Women, including the wife of President Jakaya Kikwete, dressed in traditional African garb with an American twist — the likenesses of Mr. Bush and Mr. Kikwete woven into the fabric.
Tens of thousands of people lined the president’s motorcade route from the airport into the city. Outside his hotel, a billboard said, “Feel at Home.”
Perhaps it is no wonder people are happy to see him. Mr. Bush comes to Tanzania bearing a big gift — a promise of $700 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, created by Mr. Bush to help nations that embrace democracy and fight corruption. In Benin, which signed a five-year, $307 million compact with the corporation in 2006, the president had high praise for Mr. Bush.
“Virtue,” Mr. Boni said of Mr. Bush, “means a lot to him.”
(Article courtesy of The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com )
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