Bush discusses Kenya, terrorism and aid on Africa tour

DAR ES SALAAM Sat Feb 16, 2008 6:06pm EST

1 of 8. US President George W. Bush (L) holds a joint press availability with Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi in Cotonou February 16, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush discusses Africa's crises and a mounting terrorist threat on Sunday but he will try to keep his tour of the continent focused on the good news of projects to fight AIDS and malaria.

Bush, on a five-nation trip in the final months of his presidency, arrived in Tanzania on Saturday after a brief visit to Benin.

The east African country, considered a model for progressive development, is the centerpiece of a tour intended to highlight Bush's successful and compassionate policies on the continent in contrast to his controversial handling of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

But Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, said Bush would discuss the bloody post-election crisis in neighboring Kenya, Chad -- which repelled a rebel assault two weeks ago -- and Zimbabwe in discussions on Sunday with President Jakaya Kikwete, the new chairman of the African Union.

On his first stop in Benin, Bush threw his weight behind a power-sharing deal in Kenya to end violence since the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in December that has killed 1,000 people.

He will send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya on Monday to add momentum to mediation by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.

Although Bush will not visit Kenya himself, he tried on Saturday to ratchet up the pressure on government and opposition to reach a deal to end the worst crisis since independence.

POWER SHARING

Rice's mission was "aimed at having a clear message that there be no violence and that there ought to be a power-sharing agreement," Bush told reporters in Benin.

U.S. officials said Washington, which earlier this month threatened to withdraw visas from eight business and political figures suspected of fomenting the violence, was ready to step up sanctions.

Kenyans and Western powers are growing increasingly impatient at the lack of an agreement to end the bloodshed but analysts say Kibaki's government believes it has all the cards to sit tight and consolidate its hold on power, with limited leverage available from outside the country.

On Sunday Bush will also focus attention on what is seen as a growing radical Islamist threat in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region by meeting families of the victims of an al Qaeda attack on the U.S. embassy here in 1998.

That bombing coincided with a more devastating assault which destroyed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Some 240 people died in the two attacks.

Bush is avoiding Africa's conflict zones on his tour and instead visiting five states chosen to show a different face from cliched images of a desperately poor, war-stricken region.

Washington sees the presidents of Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia as a new generation of democratic African leaders and is backing them with health and education support and also some military cooperation.

As part of his effort to showcase his own praised projects to combat the scourges of AIDS and malaria, Bush will visit a Dar es Salaam hospital on Sunday.

He will also sign with Kikwete the biggest ever deal, worth $698 million, under his Millennium Challenge Corp. which funds countries that pursue democracy and sound economic policies.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles and Toby Zakaria; editing by Richard Williams)

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