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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 July 2003

Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi

President Bush's Visit to Africa

Next week President Bush, the President of the most powerful country in this century will be visiting sub Saharan Africa. He will be visiting Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. The same itinerary followed by his predecessor, President Clinton, when the latter visited the Continent in 1998.

The President’s schedule is very tight; he will be on the Continent from 7-12 July, just five days for such a huge territory. So it is understandable that he will not be able to cover many countries. There are also security issues to consider considering recent terrorist infiltration of some African countries. However one wonders why some countries have been by passed. There are two countries in particular the President ought to have visited, namely Ghana and Kenya.

Accra currently holds the chair of the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS). And President Kufour has been working tirelessly to help resolve the conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia, using the meager resources of his country. President Bush should have visited Accra if only for a few hours to get a briefing on the political and economic situation in the sub region in order to learn at first hand, efforts being made to bring peace to an otherwise turbulent sub-region. Also, he should have spent a few hours in Accra to give encouragement to a Government that is committed to the rule of law, respect for human rights and development of a free market economy. It is even curious that Washington recently voted against Ghana’s bid to secure US$125 million concessionary loan from the World Bank for budgetary support and for other development activities. It is understood that Washington is the only G7 government that abstained from endorsing Ghana’s request for the loan. What is going on?

By passing Nairobi does not make any sense to some of us. After two decades of misrule, Kenya is now led by a progressive Government, which is determined to improve the social and economic conditions of the people. Kibaki’s Government, like that of Kufour is committed to the rule of law, respect for human rights and the development of a market economy. Kenya despite her current difficulties is still the most powerful country in East Africa. The current Government is determined to overcome decades of corruption in order to improve the lives of the people. In the same vein President Bush should have spent a few hours in Nairobi to demonstrate Washington’s support for Kibaki’s regime.

By not visiting these two important countries, one is only left to speculate on the criteria used to select those countries that the President will be visiting.


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