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Bush’s Visit Renews Focus on State of U.S.-Africa Relations

President Bush concluded a five day visit to Africa Thursday, making a final stop in Liberia where he pledged that the United States would help the country rebuild after a decade of civil war. Experts evaluate the state of U.S.-Africa relations.

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    On this, the last day of his African tour, President Bush reveled in music and a warm welcome in Liberia.

    It's been the same everywhere as he's traversed the African continent, where his popularity ratings are high. His stops included Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia.

    President Bush has been promoting his multibillion-dollar anti-AIDS/HIV programs and handing out assistance packages, part of his Millennium Challenge Account program, which provides U.S. aid to African nations.

    Mr. Bush's tour started Saturday in Benin, one of Africa's most stable democracies, yet also one of its most severely underdeveloped. Mr. Bush praised the Benin president for efforts to stamp out corruption, a condition of Millennium Challenge aid.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Leaders around the world have got to understand that the United States wants to partner with leaders and their people, but we're not going to do so with people that steal money.


    Tens of thousands turned out to see President Bush in Tanzania, a poor East African nation, but one free of internal strife. At a hospital in the northern highlands, the president handed out mosquito nets, part of a U.S. program to reduce malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Each year, over one million people die from malaria, most of them young children in the region.

    Next, to Rwanda. President Bush paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands killed in that country's 1994 genocide, and he drew parallels to the current killings in Darfur.


    One of the lessons of the genocide in Rwanda was to take some of the early warning signs seriously.


    In Ghana yesterday, President Bush tried to dispel concerns the U.S. intends to establish bases in Africa under its recently created military command in Africa known as AFRICOM.


    The purpose of this is not to add military bases. 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.

    Mr. President made it clear to me. He said, "Look, you're not going to build any bases in Ghana." I said, "I understand. Nor do we want to."

    Now, that doesn't mean we won't develop some kind of office somewhere in Africa. We haven't made our minds up.


    An American base in Africa didn't come up publicly in Liberia, but the country's president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has offered in the past to host U.S. military bases in her West African nation.

    Today, President Bush promised continued aid to help Liberia, founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves, rebuild from a 14-year civil war that ended just five years ago.


    You know, one of the things I've learned — and I suspect the people of Liberia have learned — it's easier to tear a country down than it is to rebuild a country. And the people of this good country must understand the United States will stand with you as you rebuild your country.


    But President Bush's African tour avoided the continent's current war zones: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a long civil war has claimed 4.5 million lives; the Sudan, where the Darfur crisis continues unabated for a sixth year; and Kenya, where political and tribal violence have enveloped the country since a disputed election this past December.

    Mr. Bush sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice there as his proxy Monday to apply pressure on rival parties to break their stalemate.

    This is President Bush's second trip to Africa, the same as President Clinton, but one more than his father and President Carter.