Bush Signs Aid Deal for Tanzania Infrastructure
LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
President Bush is in Tanzania today, where he signed an aid deal to provide nearly $700 million to build roads and infrastructure there. Tanzania has already received millions from the U.S. to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and malaria.
At a joint press conference, President Jakaya Kikwete spoke about Mr. Bush's legacy.
President JAKAYA KIKWETE (Tanzania): I know you leave office in about 12 months time. Rest assured that you will be remembered for many generations to come for the good things you have done for Tanzania and the good things you have done for Africa.
HANSEN: Joining us to discuss the president's five nation trip to Africa is NPR's Gwen Thompkins. Hey, Gwen.
GWEN THOMPKINS: Hi, Liane, how are you?
HANSEN: I'm well, thank you. Let's talk about this trip, because it's been described as a legacy tour, you know, an opportunity for the president to highlight his administration's policy triumphs. How is he being received so far?
THOMPKINS: Well, Liane, the president has a much higher approval rating in Africa than he does in the U.S., in large part because of humanitarian aid programs that have materially improved so many lives here on the continent. Malaria and HIV/AIDS have not only killed and afflicted millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, but experts also say that malaria in particular contributes to a cycle of debilitating poverty here.
So some health advocates say that U.S. efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and malaria have saved millions of lives. This reflects the soft power approach to foreign policy that the Bush administration has touted over the years. And some in the U.S. say that Mr. Bush's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria could be his greatest achievement as president.
HANSEN: At press conferences in Tanzania and the West African nation of Benin, the president has been under some pressure to talk about the ongoing conflicts in Africa. Tell us how that's playing out.
THOMPKINS: Well, that's right. The story is, which side of the truth do you tell first? The president has said that he wants to focus on the good news in Africa, and he reminds the world that there really are good news stories here, particularly stories that relate to his efforts on the continent.
But reporters have been pretty dogged in asking the president about the trouble spots, which are real and compelling. Mr. Bush has been asked about Darfur, where the U.S. says a genocide is going on. He's been asked about Kenya, where post-election violence has killed 1,000 people. And today he was even asked about the prospect of an independent Kosovo, which is a matter way off the African continent.
Mr. Bush says he's been in discussions with Tanzanian President Kikwete about Darfur, in large part because Mr. Kikwete is the new chief of the African Union. And Mr. Bush is also encouraging a greater peacekeeping force in Darfur.
On Kenya, Mr. Bush is dispatching Condoleezza Rice to augment Kofi Annan's efforts to seal a deal between Kenya's president and political opposition there. She's supposed to go on Monday.
HANSEN: President Kikwete of Tanzania - this is interesting - he was also asked about the prospect of a Barack Obama presidency. Now, Senator Obama's father comes from neighboring Kenya. What was Kikwete's response?
THOMPKINS: Well, Liane, this is certainly a race that is being watched very closely in Africa, and particularly in east Africa. Tanzanians and Kenyans share a border and strong economic and diplomatic ties, but truthfully there's not a lot of warmth between the Tanzanian and Kenyan people.
But that being said, a U.S. president with an African heritage is widely perceived as beneficial to the continent. And today President Kikwete would only say that if Barack Obama wins, let him be as good a friend to Africa as George Bush has been.
HANSEN: Finally, where does the president head next?
THOMPKINS: Well, he is spending three nights in Tanzania. This is his longest leg on the six-day tour of Africa. After that he heads to Rwanda, then to Ghana and Liberia before returning to the White House.
HANSEN: NPR's Gwen Thompkins, who is traveling with the president. She spoke to us from Dar es Salam, Tanzania. Gwen, thank you very much.
THOMPKINS: Thank you, Liane.