- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Africans showered President Bush with praise yesterday for the billions of U.S. dollars spent to help fight disease and poverty, while administration officials threatened sanctions against Kenya if its president does not compromise in that nation’s political crisis.

Mr. Bush, who will send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to meet tomorrow with leaders in Kenya, said during his first stop, in the small West African nation of Benin, that the U.S. desires “that there be no violence, that there be a power-sharing agreement that will help [Kenya] resolve its difficulties.”

A Bush administration official said on the condition of anonymity yesterday that Miss Rice would tell Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki that continued U.S. support for his regime is contingent on whether he agrees to a power-sharing arrangement.

The official said that the message to Mr. Kibaki will be: “If you can’t make a deal, you’re not going to have good relations with and support of the United States.”

More than 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between forces loyal to Mr. Kibaki and those of Raila Odinga, the leader of an opposition that accuses Mr. Kibaki of stealing the Dec. 27 presidential vote.

Arriving yesterday for the second leg of his tour in Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbor, Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush were greeted at Julius Nyerere International Airport by dancers, drummers, singers and a cannon salute. Tens of thousands of Tanzanians lined the motorcade route from the airport into the city, and large billboards on the side of the road thanked Mr. Bush for economic assistance and democracy promotion.

Benin named a national holiday after Mr. Bush for his visit, and President Thomas Yayi Boni praised the U.S. leader for his efforts to require that African nations receiving assistance root out corruption.

“Virtue means a lot to [Mr. Bush],” Mr. Boni said. “He is here to support the countries which strive to be virtuous.”

Mr. Bush, in a press conference with Mr. Boni, heralded progress on the continent in fighting disease and poverty with aid from the U.S., and promised help would continue in the long term.

“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.

The U.S. is giving Benin $307 million over five years under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which requires 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 Adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Benin also has received $2.3 million to fight HIV/AIDS infections, under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

Tanzania has been one of PEPFAR’s biggest beneficiaries, receiving $515 million since fiscal 2004, with plans for $303 million more this year. In addition, Mr. Bush today will sign a $698 million agreement under the MCA, which will deliver infrastructure aid for roads and clean water projects.

Mr. Bush said 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 specialists and aid advocates say that the MCA program is indeed a strategic shift, but also say it’s too soon to tell if it will be implemented effectively. It was announced in 2002 but has been slow to get off the ground.

During their six-day African trip, Mr. and Mrs. Bush also will travel to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia.

Miss Rice will fly from Tanzania to Kenya to meet tomorrow with Kenyan officials and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is overseeing negotiations between the warring factions.

Mr. Hadley said 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.”

Mr. Annan said Friday that the Kenyan parties had agreed to an independent review of the election and said the agreement was a sign of “real momentum,” though the two sides remain deadlocked on power-sharing proposals and whether to hold a rerun election as the opposition wants.

In Kenya yesterday, slain opposition lawmaker Melitus Mugabe Were was buried in the western town of Port Victoria. According to the Associated Press, opposition leader Mr. Odinga promised mourners at the funeral, many wearing the opposition’s trademark orange, that “we will win through the talks.”

Mr. Were was fatally shot last month. Like many members of the Luhya tribe, Mr. Were backed Mr. Odinga, while many from the Kikuyu tribe support Mr. Kibaki.

“We want all tribes to work together to make Kenya strong for tomorrow. All those who have died since the vote was stolen — their blood is on Mr. Kibaki’s hands,” Mr. Odinga said.

The Bush administration also pushed back vigorously against the notion that he has not done enough to calm strife in troubled African nations, sending both Mr. Hadley and Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, to talk to reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One.

“We think that we have a very robust strategy of conflict resolution,” Ms. Frazer said about the strife in Kenya, adding that Washington is considering targeted sanctions against those blocking a peace deal.

“Individuals who are seen as obstructing the effort towards a peace process, a power-sharing agreement … will be subject to possible further sanction by the U.S.,” Ms. Frazer told reporters.

“We’ve talked about a visa ban, but there are other issues and ways in which we can try to encourage them to negotiate in good faith,” she said, although she did not elaborate.

Ms. Frazer said Mr. Bush has helped reduce the number of wars in the region from seven to two during his administration, and said the same approach taken in other conflicts would succeed in Kenya.

“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,” Ms. Frazer said.

“It’s worked in Congo; it’s worked in Liberia; and we believe that it’ll work today in Kenya,” she said.

Nevertheless, some critics have said the president is ignoring hot spots on the African continent, such as the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and is focusing only on feel-good stories. When asked about this at the press conference in Benin, Mr. Bush said he is engaged in the Darfur crisis but wanted to use 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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