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General News of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Source: ARTHUR KOBINA KENNEDY

President Bush Deserves Better

US President George Walker Bush is coming to town and he is not very welcome. Reactions to his visit among the punditocracy have ranged from alarm to disdain. Some have questioned his motives while others have questioned the timing of the visit. Some have suggested the visit is a desperate attempt to shore up his standing in the polls! Others say it all about oil or military bases. Some opposition leaders have demanded a place at the table to prevent the President from giving away the farm! All of a sudden, after nearly eight years in power, we no longer trust our President to sit down one-on-one with a US President. The irony is that Americans facing a recession are worried about what Mr. Bush might give away. Unlike Mr. Bush’s visit, the 1998 visit by his predecessor President Clinton was hailed like the coming of a messiah. The sad truth is that Mr. Clinton did not do as much for Africa as Mr. Bush has. Perhaps, we have taken too much to heart the antipathy that the rest of the world has towards Mr Bush. Let us, like Europe and America, keep our own counsel and realize that Africa has permanent interests, not friends. Thus depending on the circumstances, our interest may best be advanced by Democrats or Republicans, not one of them perpetually to the exclusion of the other.

Let me begin by conceding that I too have some issues to pick with Mr. Bush. From whether the war in Iraq was justified to the price of oil to his imprudent rush to congratulate President Kibaki, there are enough reasons to fault President Bush. In spite of these shortcomings however, Mr. Bush has been a very good President for blacks and Africa. Indeed, he has been one of the friendliest Presidents to our continent and certainly done more for Africa than his venerated predecessor, President Clinton. It was under Mr. Clinton’s watch that the US beat an undignified retreat from Somalia and left it in a quagmire from which it is yet to recover. Also, it was under Mr. Clinton’s watch in 1994 that 800 thousand Rwandans perished while the world looked on mainly because the UN, led by the US refused to act.

During the Bush Presidency, more blacks have been put into responsible positions than occurred under perhaps any previous administration. Here in Africa, the Bush administration has led initiatives that should warm the heart of every black person or progressive.

First his initiatives in health have increased HIV patients on our continent taking anti-retroviral medicines from about 50 thousand to nearly one-and-a-half million! In addition to this, his administration has made significant inroads into the fight against malaria. Just yesterday, he pledged more resources to fight malaria in Tanzania and other places in Africa. In addition to the 15 billion dollars already committed, Mr. Bush is asking congress to commit even more resources.

Second, the Millennium Challenge Account, from which Ghana will derive 547 million dollars, will help lift thousands of Africans from poverty. Also on trade, the AGOA has boosted trade between the US and Africa. Third, on Darfur, the US is the only country that has called what is happening by its proper name, genocide! In addition, the US has called for sanctions against Sudan and urged concerted action on Darfur. Contrast this with the fact that African leaders spent three days here last year and did not even discuss Darfur!

They say that one cannot buy love with money and Mr. Bush proves the truth in that assertion. Africa may indeed have enemies but President Bush, based on the facts available, is not one of them. Indeed, he has been one of the most steadfast friends of the black man. The perception that Mr. Bush brings trouble in his wake to Africa may be popular but it is wrong! In the calm judgment of history, President Bush, despite all his faults will be recognized as a true friend of Africa. That is why this week, we should welcome President Bush.

His Presidency has made Africa a little better!

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