Dar es Salaam, Tanzania -- President Bush defended his decision to avoid Africa's
most-troubled quarters on his trip across the continent's
midsection Saturday, saying the United States is ready to help
countries that make the "right choices."
For Bush, the trip underscores an effort over seven years to
shift the way the United States does business with the developing
world, tying government aid to anti-corruption campaigns and
commercial ventures to free-trade commitments.
He said he wants to remind future U.S. presidents and Congresses
that it is in America's national interest to provide foreign aid,
but that rather than "making ourselves feel better ... our money
ought to make the people of a particular country feel better
about their government."
The president stopped in Benin, in western Africa, on his way
across the continent to Tanzania, on the Indian Ocean, at the
start of a six-day trip.
Each stop on the president's trip, his second to sub-Saharan
Africa, is intended to demonstrate the success of Bush
administration programs in fighting HIV and malaria and
encouraging clean government.
But critics have said the president is sidestepping such trouble
spots as Chad, Darfur and Tanzania's neighbor Kenya, where more
than 1,000 people have died in post-election political violence
in the past six weeks.
The assistant secretary of state for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said
the administration had "a very robust strategy of conflict
resolution" that had succeeded in Congo and Liberia, saying,
"There is a misperception about Africa in flames."
She said that Bush's agenda for discussion in Dar es Salaam today
with Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete probably will
include the turmoil in Kenya, as well as the crisis in Chad, the
site of a recent coup attempt, and a discussion of economically
ravaged Zimbabwe and other crisis points in Africa.
Bush said just before he left Washington, D.C., that Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice will fly to Kenya to encourage
negotiations intended to end the political crisis there.
When he arrived in Benin on Saturday, he said that Rice will
deliver "a clear message that there be no violence" to the two
sides in conflict over the election results, adding that he
favors a power-sharing agreement.
A senior administration official said Rice, who will visit Kenya
on Monday, will seek to drive home to President Mwai Kibaki that
he does not have unqualified support from the United States
unless he steps back from his refusal to make a deal with the
Benin, where the president spent three hours, provides the
examples of success that Bush is seeking to highlight: Under the
Millennium Challenge Compact, the centerpiece of his efforts to
reward anti-corruption efforts and provide development assistance
linked to democracy, it is receiving $307 million over five
years. That's the equivalent of roughly $40 per person, and a
sizable sum in a nation where the per capita income is barely $2
Bush noted that under his emergency program for AIDS relief, 1.3
million people in Africa are receiving antiretroviral drugs to
counter HIV and AIDS, and that one of the reasons for the trip
was "to say, 'Look at the successes we've had,' " as well as to
draw attention to continuing needs.
Critics have said that the AIDS program, which began five years
ago with $15 billion, needs a $50 billion, five-year commitment.
Bush is seeking to renew it at $30 billion.
The president said he is seeking "to send a clear signal to
others that we want to help you, but you've got to have good
leadership, you've got to make right choices, and you've got to
set a strategy in place, in order to benefit your people."
Bush and Kikwete are expected to sign an agreement under which
the Millennium Challenge program will provide almost $700 million
to Tanzania, its single largest grant.