- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush received a warm welcome upon his arrival in Africa today, as he heralded progress on the continent in fighting disease and poverty with aid from the U.S., while also defending his administrations approach to the conflict in Kenya.

The president was greeted as a champion of virtue in African governance, in recognition of his determined effort to give financial aid only to African leaders who root out corruption.

Mr. Bush landed, after an overnight flight, in the small west African country of Benin, where he spent three hours before heading on to this east African nation, where he will spend three nights.

I’m here to really confirm to the people of Benin and the people on the continent of Africa that the United States is committed to helping improve people’s lives, Mr. Bush said at a press conference with Beninese President Thomas Yayi Boni.

Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will also travel to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia on this six-day trip. When the Bushs arrived here at Julius Nyerere Interional Airport and motorcaded to their hotel, they were welcomed by several large billboards on the side of the road that featured Mr. Bushs face. One billboard said, We cherish democracy. Others thanked Mr. Bush for U.S. aid to Tanzania that has helped them fight HIV/AIDS and will strengthen infrastructure. Tanzania has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The U.S. has given Tanzania $515 million since Fiscal 2004 under PEPFAR, and plans to give them $303 million more this year. And Mr. Bush will tomorrow sign a $698 million agreement under the Millennium Challenge Account, which will deliver infrastructure aid for roads and fresh water projects. All $5.5 billion under the MCA is predicated on the requirement that recipient governments rule democratically, fight corruption, invest in their people, and open themselves to the power of free markets and free trade, said National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Mr. Bush said that leaders around the world have got to understand that the United States wants to partner with leaders and the people, but we’re not going to do so with people that steal money, pure and simple. African experts and advocates say that the Bush administrations MCA program is indeed a strategic shift, but also say that it is too soon to tell if it will implemented effectively. It was announced in 2002 but has been slow to get off the ground. Mr. Boni, whose country is receiving $307 million over five years under MCA, praised the program and Mr. Bush for requiring results from countries receiving assistance. Virtue means a lot to [Mr. Bush], Mr. Boni said. He is here to support the countries which strive to be virtuous. Mr. Boni said that everything that would stain democracy will be suppressed — I should say eliminated. And we identified these ailments that harm democracy: first and foremost, corruption, Mr. Boni said. Mr. Bush, and his top officials, also defended the presidents decision not to travel to Kenya on this trip. Mr. Bush is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday to meet with Kenyan officials and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Mr. Annan is mediating negotiations between the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says Mr. Kibaki and his supporters stole a late December election. Over 1,000 Kenyans have died in fighting between tribes since the election. Mr. Hadley spoke to reporters on Air Force One during the flight to Benin, saying the negotiations overseen by Mr. Annan had produced some incremental progress. Condi is just going to want to go and reinforce that and try to accelerate it a bit, Mr. Hadley said. it’s basically to go in, give some impetus, but then step out and let Kofi Annan continue his diplomacy. Then, on the leg from Benin to Tanzania, Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, was brought back to the press cabin aboard the presidential aircraft. We think that we have a very robust strategy of conflict resolution, Ms. Frazer said. It’s the principle that the President stated, of providing the capacity, the leadership to the Africans, themselves, and then us getting them behind them and backing their effort. It’s worked in Congo, it’s worked in Liberia, and we believe that it’ll work today in Kenya, she said. Ms. Frazer also said that the portrayal of Africa as a continent in chaos is inaccurate, and that Mr. Bush has helped reduce the number of wars in Africa from seven to two during his time in office. I do think that there is a misperception about the, you know, Africa in flames, Ms. Frazer said, adding her contention that the situation in Kenya is not a war. Kenya has had a severe political crisis that led to a lot of bloodshed and displacement of people, Ms. Frazer said. Nevertheless, some critics have said that the president is ignoring hot spots on the African continent, such as the genocide in Darfur, and is focusing only on feel good stories. When asked about this at the press conference in Benin, Mr. Bush said that he is engaged in the Darfur crisis but that he chose to aim on this trip to inspire Africans for the future. When you herald success it helps others realize what is possible, Mr. Bush said.

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