US President George W. Bush embarks Friday on a week-long trip
to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia in an apparent aim to
promote a kind and gentle US image as well as US strategic
interests in the African continent.
"The trip will be an opportunity to demonstrate America's
commitment to the people of these countries and to Africa as a
whole," White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said
"The trip will highlight how the United States has partnered
closely with the people of Africa to address the challenges of
disease, poverty and security. Together, we've really made
remarkable progress," Hadley said.
The US media has pointed out that fighting disease, poverty and
promoting growth, development and security will be Bush's main
themes as he embarks his second trip to Africa.
It will be Bush's second Africa trip since he took office in
2001. Bush last visited Africa in 2003 when he focused mainly on
showcasing democratic advances and US commitment to tackling
While meeting with visiting Malian President Amadou Toumani
Toure in the White House on Tuesday, Bush said his commitment to
helping Africa battle corruption, HIV/AIDS and malaria as well as
promoting literacy remained strong.
"I assured the president that our commitment remains strong,"
During his Africa trip, Bush is expected to highlight his call
for doubling aid to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria, and a
698-million-dollar grant to Tanzania as part of his Millennium
Challenge Corporation aid program, according to U.S. media.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US aid program to
countries that adhere to democratic principles and sound economic
principles, has approved 698 million dollars in aid for Tanzania
and Bush will sign the pact during his visit in the country.
According to a Pew Global Attitude Project report released in
July last year, "US image is much stronger in Africa than in other
regions of the world."
"Generally Bush is viewed positively in Africa, as is the US, "
according to Anthony Holmes, director of the Africa program at the
Council on Foreign Relations.
Another aim for Bush's Africa trip is to promote US strategic
interests in the continent.
"Africa is also increasingly vital to our strategic interests
... We know that if Africa were to continue on the old path of
decline, it would be mere likely to produce failed states, foster
ideologies of radicalism and spread violence across borders. We
also know that if Africa grows in freedom, and prosperity and
justice, its people will choose a better course," Bush said in a
speech at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on
"For all these reasons, America has dramatically increased our
commitment to development in Africa," Bush said.
During the speech, Bush also announced that he would dispatch
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya to support efforts to
end violence and help political reconciliation there.
"In Kenya, we are backing the efforts of former UN secretary
general Kofi Annan to end the crisis," Bush said.
"And when we are on the continent, I have asked Condi Rice to
travel to Kenya to support the work of the former secretary general
and to deliver a message directly to Kenya's leaders," Bush said,
adding that "there must be an immediate halt to violence, there
must be justice for the victims of abuse, and there must be a full
return to democracy."
Kenya is of particular concern to the United States as Kenya,
once viewed as one of Africa's most stable countries but now
possibly on the brink of disaster. Kenya's disputed elections in
December last year ignited fighting between supporters of the
government and main opposition party.
According to the Kenyan Red Cross, over 1,000 people have been
killed in rioting, tribal fighting and police raids since the
election and some 300,000 people have been displaced.
Violence and conflicts will surely run against US interests in
the continent as the United States has announced plans to establish
an Africa Command (AFRICOM) to oversee military operations on the
"Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and
security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of
development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in
Africa," Bush said in a statement in February last year announcing
the news to establish the AFRICOM.
In addition to Bush himself, Secretary of State Rice visited
Africa in December last year to show the United States attaches
importance to the continent.
However, some US analysts have voiced different views over US
ambitions in Africa. According to Nicole Lee, the executive
director of TransAfrica Forum, a US think tank focusing on US
policy toward Africa, a greater US military presence in Africa is
"neither wise nor productive." Instead, the United States should
focus on "development assistance and respect for sovereignty," she
(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)