Bush in Africa: ‘Much given, much required’

Mark Silva – The Baltimore Sun

Copyright The Baltimore Sun
Feb. 16, 2008
At his arrival in Benin today – the first American president to set foot there – President Bush opened his six-day trip to Africa with a brief press conference at Cadjehoun International Airport in Cotonou and a reporter’s question: “Is this a stunt?’’
“Mr. President, during this first visit to Benin, this is a first for you, but cooperation between our two countries has been going on for 47 years, but yet it’s the first time that we host a president of your great country in our country,’’ the questioner noted. “So in history, this has been written, but given what has just occurred, is this a diplomatic coup or is it truly a change in the relationships between Benin and the United States? Is this a stunt?”
“I’m here to really confirm to the people of Benin and the people on the continent of Africa that the United States is committed to helping improve people’s lives,’’ Bush replied. “And I also have come to a country like Benin to remind our fellow citizens that it’s in our national interest to support the people of nations….
“Even though we may not have had relations with them in the past — particularly those nations in which the leadership and the government makes a firm commitment to the investment in its people, as well as fighting corruption, marketplace economies, and — I’m — my trip here is a way to remind future presidents and future Congresses that it is in the national interest and in the moral interests of the United States of America to help people,’’ Bush said with this, his second trip to Africa.
Bush will tour five nations to tout U.S. aid in, but leave the hottest spot at this juncture, Kenya, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who plans to travel there on Monday.
The U.S. is spending big money in Africa, with a campaign against AIDS and malaria, but, Bush said: “I reject some of the old-style type of grants, which basically said, let’s feel better; we’ll just give some money out. We believe that rather than making ourselves feel better, that our money ought to make the people of a particular country feel better about their government.
“I would say that it’s been a change of relationship. But it’s been a change of relationship because the leader have changed attitude toward how government ought to relate to its people. And so, Mr. President,’’ he said to his counterpart, President Yayi, who had visited the White House in 2006, “I’m proud to be the first president to be in Benin, and I want to thank you for extending me that invitation.’’
Next question: “It’s obvious that Benin is a hopeful example of progress on the African continent. There are a number of other examples, unfortunately, of violence and strife in other places — most notably Kenya — and I’m wondering, Mr. President, how you go about deciding how best to spend your time here on the continent? It seems a bit of a contrast when there are some hopeful signs, but there obviously are a number of other examples where things are, frankly, in a very tough position right now.’’
Bush: “When you herald success… it helps others realize what is possible. And you’re right, there’s no question — Sudan is a very difficult situation, which we have labeled a genocide, and which we’re sanctioning some, rallying others to provide aid in the hopes that there will be a robust U.N. force in Darfur that will help relive the suffering. As I said in my speech the other day, that the United States will help facilitate the movement of the force. As I told (the United Nations’) Ban Ki-moon yesterday in the White House, we want to help you, but you must make sure we have a robust force ready to go.
“Secondly, Kenya is an issue, and — we’re going to be in the neighborhood in Kenya — in Kenya’s neighborhood. And that’s why I’m sending Secretary Rice there to help the Kofi Annan initiative — all aimed at having a clear message that there be no violence and that there ought to be a power-sharing agreement. You know, this is — but this is a large place with a lot of nations, and no question not everything is perfect.
“On the other hand, there’s a lot of great success stories, and the United States is pleased to be involved with those success stories. I want to remind you… that when I first became President, there was about 50,000 people receiving antiretroviral drugs to deal with HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa. Today, there’s about 1,300,000 just from the PEPFAR initiative. In other words, there’s great progress being made. And there’s a lot more work to be done. One of the reasons I’ve come on this trip is to say, look at the successes we’ve had. “We”, by the way, is not American successes; these are joint successes. And look at the work that needs to be done.’’
“You know, the Malaria Initiative is an initiative that is very dear to my heart and Laura’s heart because we weep when we think about little babies needlessly dying — and now we’ve got a President who is committed to distributing a net to every child under five years old,’’ he said. “But there are still a lot of places that need work on malaria. And so the reason I go to countries in which we’ve got good relations, where the leaders are making good choices, is to send a clear signal to others that we want to help you, but you’ve got to have good leadership, you’ve got to make right choices, and you’ve got to set a strategy in place, in order to benefit your people.
“I’m excited to be here, I really am. You know, it’s my second trip as President, Laura’s fifth trip as First Lady. I hope that sends a clear commitment that the United States — a clear signal that the United States is committed. We’re committed for national security reasons, and that being that these ideologues that murder the innocent people can only attract people when there’s hopelessness; they have no clear vision that’s positive. But we’re also committed for moral reasons.
“As I told you,’’ Bush said, “and told people all the time, to whom much is given, much is required. Well, we’ve been given a lot in the United States, and I believe we’re required to help brothers and sisters in need.’’
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