Bush in Africa

2008-02-19 00:00

With the nomination process for presidential candidates in full swing in the United States, President George W. Bush has embarked on his final official visit to the continent of Africa.

At the same time his Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, has flown to Kenya to encourage acceptance of Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts between the two rival parties with a view to creating a power-sharing government and the restoration of peace in that country.

Intriguingly, the nature of Bush’s presidency has been such — especially with the continuing military occupation of Iraq — that it could be responsible for ushering in either the first African-American or the first woman president of the United States at the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, Bush is keen to leave a legacy other than the searing memory of the Iraq war.

His current visit to five countries in Africa, beginning with Tanzania, must have this in mind and he is bringing with him grants of many millions of U.S. dollars to assist with development projects and with the fight against HIV/Aids. These grants are conditional upon good democratic governance and guarantees against corrupt practices.

This may seem patronising but, given the problems with many grants in the past, it is realistic and necessary. Indeed, the African Union itself, together with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), has been pressing for exactly the same standards.

Bush would probably have had a relatively easy ride as United States president if it had not been for September 11, 2001. Those events precipitated policies, particularly on the international front, which have led to sustained controversy.

Bush has not had the stature required for an unusually fraught set of circumstances. Instead, he has come across as a somewhat inarticulate right-wing leader, leaning too heavily on neo-conservative advisers. Nonetheless, he has ruled from the centre of one of the world’s finest democratic cultures and has been a good friend to the African continent in a variety of ways.

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