- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush yesterday signed a $698 million aid package here — the latest and largest installment in a program aimed at holding recipient countries accountable for the money they receive — during another day of adulation for the president.

The agreement, signed by Mr. Bush and Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete in front of the massive State House here in Tanzania’s capital, will go toward building infrastructure, clean-water projects and hydropower development.

Mr. Bush received his second raucous welcome in two days, upon his arrival at the State House with Mr. Kikwete. He was greeted by dancers at the airport Saturday night, and yesterday morning he and Mr. Kikwete walked down a long red carpet lined with hundreds of young Tanzanians cheering and waving the flags of both countries.

An enormous brass band played, and two men pounded on enormous kettle drums, creating a cacophony of noise and excitement.

Mr. Kikwete thanked Mr. Bush for American help in fighting disease and poverty, and credited Mr. Bush with saving the lives of thousands of Africans.

“The outpouring of warmth and affection from the people of Tanzania that you have witnessed since your arrival is a genuine reflection of what we feel towards you and towards the American people,” Mr. Kikwete said.

“Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy,” Mr. Kikwete said. “But we in Tanzania, if we are to speak for ourselves and for Africa, we know for sure that you, Mr. President, and your administration, have been good friends of our country and have been good friends of Africa.”

Mr. Bush commented on his enthusiastic reception in Africa, but only after a reporter asked Mr. Kikwete about the excitement in Africa over the presidential candidacy of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, who is part Kenyan and has extended family, including a grandmother, still living there.

“It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me, wait a minute,” Mr. Bush said, sparking laughter. “Maybe you missed it.”

Later in the day, Mr. Bush did say that he and first lady Laura Bush had “been extremely touched … by the outpouring of support by the great people of Tanzania.”

The White House promoted the agreement with Tanzania as evidence of Mr. Bush’s commitment to helping Africa, contrasting the president’s record with aid to Africa under President Clinton. They said during the last few years of Mr. Clinton’s second term, U.S. aid to Africa was between $600 million and $800 million a year, but that by 2006, that number had reached $5.6 billion.

Much of that extra money has gone toward fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria, but today’s agreement was part of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which requires beneficiary countries to root out corruption and pursue economic freedom for their people.

“My country has awarded you the largest Millennium Challenge grant ever in the history of our nation, all because your government is committed to honest, decent government for the people,” Mr. Bush said in a toast to Mr. Kikwete during a state dinner at the State House.

More than half of the $5.5 billion under MCA is going to African countries.

Observers say that in addition to its accountability measures, MCA is different because it allows U.S. taxpayer dollars to go directly to businesses and contractors in recipient countries. The aim is to streamline the process and maximize the effect of the aid.

However, unlike AIDS and malaria funds, the MCA remains unproven, having been slow to get off the ground.

“The jury is still out [on MCA],” said one U.S. government official involved in economic development in Africa.

Mrs. Bush yesterday visited with orphans here and announced a program aimed at helping the roughly 2.5 million Tanzanian orphans, about half of whom lost parents to AIDS.

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