Terrorism Expected to Dominate Agenda for Bush's Africa Visit

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT


Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - When President George Bush arrives in Africa this week, many here will be looking for a message that his country cares about the future of Africa and is ready to help a continent grappling with a myriad of socio-economic challenges.

His policies also have many African critics, however.

Bush's stated agenda for his first presidential trip to Africa includes the battle against AIDS, encouraging democracy and improving trade, although analysts expect the fight against terrorism to dominate the visit.

The president said his five-nation visit will demonstrate that "America cares about the future of Africa," that it's in the U.S. national interest that Africa become prosperous, and that "it's in our interest that people will continue to fight terror together."

He will also explain to Africans ways in which his administration is working with regional governments to work towards political stability in such places as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Burundi, Somalia and Liberia.

His first stop will be in Senegal in West Africa, where he will meet with seven regional leaders.

Bush is expected to speak there on the situation in Liberia, a country with longstanding historical ties to the U.S.

Washington is reportedly considering requests by the U.N. that it head up a peacekeeping force in Liberia. Rebels there are fighting to oust President Charles Taylor, who is wanted by a U.N. war crimes court.

From West Africa, Bush flies to Pretoria, where he will visit a South African military base and discuss cooperation in the counter-terrorism war focusing on the southern Africa region.

Many black South Africans still regard the U.S. with suspicion, believing that it supported white minority rule during the apartheid era which ended in 1994.

South Africa, which considers itself an important player in Africa and the broader developing world, has expressed strong opposition to what it sees as America's role of "global policeman" and its undermining of the U.N. Security Council.

Pretoria has also embraced regimes like Iran and Libya, which are on the State Department's list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Bush's visit to South Africa may provide the opportunity to talk about the issue of the International Criminal Court, and Washington's attempts to get nations to sign agreements promising not to bring American citizens before the tribunal.

With effect from this month, the U.S. has frozen military aid to 35 countries -- South Africa is one of them -- which have not signed such agreements.

The administration has chosen not to ratify the ICC treaty because it worries that U.S. servicemen or politicians may face politically-motivated prosecutions, relating for instance to peacekeeping missions abroad.

While in the south, Bush is expected to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe is accused of running the economy into the ground while overseeing an increasingly repressive regime.

AIDS, terrorism


There will also be a visit to another, stable southern African nation, Botswana, before Bush heads to East Africa.

His stopover in Uganda aims to show the world that HIV/AIDS can be successfully contained.

"One reason why one would go to Uganda is to make sure that people around the world --and particularly on the continent of Africa -- understand that dealing with HIV/AIDS is possible," he told African reporters in Washington.

Uganda has managed to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate through a program emphasizing abstinence -- to the delight of pro-family groups in the U.S. -- as well as condom use.

The Ugandan visit will also serve as a morale-booster to counter-terror military operations being carried out by the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force for Horn of Africa.

It's been reported that the Djibouti-based task will launch a covert offensive in Sudan's western provinces, where remnants of al-Qaeda are suspected to be operating.

Military and press attach\'e9s at Sudan embassy in Nairobi have denied knowledge of such an operation, although intelligence reports cited by the Texas-based intelligence analysis group, Stratfor, said the plans had been approved by Khartoum.

Bush recently committed $100 million to fight anti-terrorism in the greater eastern Africa region.

Kenya is seen as a focal point for these efforts, and the U.S. Navy is currently holding joint exercises with its Kenyan counterpart in the Indian Ocean.

In his pre-trip briefing to African reporters, Bush singled out Kenya, which has suffered large-scale attacks, as having been "very responsive" in implementing counter-terrorism measures.

Against widely-held expectations here, however, he ruled out a visit to Kenya because of security reasons.

On his last stop, in Nigeria, the president will have a similar regional anti-terrorism intelligence briefing to the earlier one dealing with southern Africa.

The U.S. has been training Nigerian troops in the peacekeeping and anti-terrorism fields.

Economic aid


In addition to the anti-terrorism agenda, Bush said he would also be discussing initiatives his administration has taken to help African nations in the area if socio-economic development.

These include a $15 billion initiative to help specified African and Caribbean nations confront AIDS, and the Millennium Challenge Account, aimed at helping a handful of African countries that meet criteria of governing justly, investing in the well-being of their people, and encouraging economic freedom.

The MCA initiative is expected to increase U.S. development assistance to Third World countries by 50 percent.

Bush will also speak about a program that will spend at least $600 million in the next five years to train African teachers and offer scholarships to disadvantaged children.

He will expound on the need for African countries to increase participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) plan, which enables participating governments to increase their apparel exports to the U.S.

Tied to this is the overall issue of bilateral trade between U.S. and African countries, which fell by 15 percent in 2002, to just under $24 billion.

Recent roundtable discussions in Washington saw a number of activists criticize the U.S. government's Africa initiatives.

Njoki Njoroge Njehu of the advocacy group U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice said America had "a moral responsibility" to demand that Africa's creditors find a solution to the continent's "debt crisis"

"But the Bush administration is ignoring this urgent African priority," she said.

Africa interest groups say that only 1/100th of one percent of the U.S. budget is earmarked for aid to sub-Saharan Africa.

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