“The purpose of this is not to add military bases,” Bush said without being asked at the opening of a session with reporters here. “I know there’s rumors in Ghana — ‘All Bush is coming to do is try to convince you to put a big military base here.’ That’s baloney. Or as we say in Texas, that’s bull.”
His blunt words were an indication of how volatile the issue of the Africa Command, or AFRICOM, has become here. The Bush administration has had trouble convincing Africans that it wants to use the new command to coordinate humanitarian and security aid to Africa more effectively, not to station large forces on the continent.
The tension evidently came to a head during talks with Ghanaian President John Kufuor in Osu Castle, a 17th-century oceanfront estate once used as a slave-trading post and now the seat of government. By Bush’s own account, Kufuor brought it up pointedly during their private meeting.
Kufuor expressed relief. “I am happy . . . for the president dispelling any notion that the United States of America is intending to build military bases on the continent of Africa,” he said.
We all know why Bush is trying to mend fences in AfricOil. Funny, he finds Africans are suspicious of US Military presence. OK, so military bases aren’t happening, it was a bullshit idea, anyway. Thats what we say in Texas. Bush did not mention the military presence already in Africa. While he is on the Continent he had to address the ongoing genocides. Because the parts of Africa that really need his attention are so dangerous, he sent Condi instead …
During his brief stop in Benin, Bush stepped up the pressure on Kenyan government and opposition leaders to end a post-election crisis that has killed around 1,000 people and left 300,000 homeless. Rice’s mission was “all aimed at having a clear message that there be no violence and that there ought to be a power-sharing agreement,” Bush told reporters after holding talks with Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi. U.S. officials said the United States was ready to sanction any individuals who sought to obstruct Kenyan peace moves. “Kenya’s an issue … that’s why I’m sending Secretary Rice there to help with the Kofi Annan initiative,” Bush said. By Tabassum Zakaria and Wangui Kanina.
The visit to Tanzania is the longest of Bush’s six-day African trip and longer than usual for the president anywhere. The stay and the celebration of a new five-year $698 million U.S. aid pact were intended as goodwill messages to Tanzania’s large Muslim population.
In contrast to the protests that often greet him at home and abroad, Bush repeatedly received enthusiastic receptions in Tanzania.
“Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy,” said a grateful Kikwete after he and Bush signed the aid deal. “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.”
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is black and whose father was Kenyan, is a sensation in Africa. Africans say they avidly follow Obama’s campaign to succeed Bush.
But Bush seemed surprised that Obama’s name would come up during this victory-lap journey that is celebrating some of his only foreign policies that make him popular.
“It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me, wait a minute. Maybe you missed it,” he joked during a news conference, speculating that a question about Obama was put to Kikwete instead of him because it was well known that “I wouldn’t answer.” Kikwete appeared to get the hint, declining at Bush’s side even to discuss the prospect of a man with African roots becoming president of the United States.
“I don’t think I can venture into that territory, either,” Kikwete said. “The U.S. is going to get a new president, whoever that one is. For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good friend of Africa as President Bush has been.” Bush’s term ends next January.
Always the jester, Bush declines to address Obama’s popularity. Africa is willing to let Bush repair his legacy with a dash of humanitarian gesture before he leaves office. Meanwhile, back in Sudan and Kenya, the body count rises and displaced people are running out of safe places to go.
“Kenya’s refugee camps are located in some of the most inhospitable desert areas of the country. The camps are notorious for their extreme heat, lack of vegetation, scorpion infestation, and proximity to Kenya’s borders with Somalia and Sudan.”
Sudan’s refugee camps have been overflowing long before Kenya’s.