The African press on Bush's visit

From Kenya: "Bush's singular achievement has been to make America resented in Africa."

By Compiled by Laura McClure

Published July 8, 2003 9:20PM (EDT)

Nigeria, Garuba Ningi in the Daily Trust

I have been reading with surprise the planned visit to Nigeria this month by George W. Bush ... Especially now that Nigeria is passing through a phase of trials on how democracy -- or is it "democrazy" -- is being practised by its leaders, the visit by President Bush will give the impression of an endorsement of the last general elections in the country.

Let us take a look at the process that characterised the last elections. The manipulations and intimidation of INEC by the government ensured that no voter's list was ready before the election. Not even the final list of candidates standing in the election was available before the election. Months after the elections it had remained a work-in-progress.

Obasanjo's callous disregard for the wishes of Nigerians must be noted for his legacy...

Four years of non-performance and corruption (70 percent of which is said by international monitors to originate in his own presidency) has catapulted Nigeria to number two on the list of most corrupt countries in the world.

Only two weeks ago the European Parliament again "deplored" the elections and said the April elections were "marred by fraud." The U.S. government has congratulated Obasanjo on his victory...

In light of this, we can only wonder whether the U.S. government sees what the Europeans who were here during the elections saw and reaffirmed.

Very instructive though is the fact that the U.S. government has begun to cut down on its support for Nigeria's military and for democratic programmes. Is this not an indication that Washington is not comfortable with what is happening in the country?...

Unfortunately, the U.S. is known for its fickle foreign policy. While it has spared no effort to oust President Mugabe of Zimbabwe for electoral malpractices such as the ones perpetrated by Obasanjo, it appears that America, the "defender of democracy," is set to endorse the questioned legitimacy of Obasanjo with this planned visit.

While the U.S. has repeatedly preached that it is interested in the democratic process, President Bush's planned visit to the country would give the wrong impression of its endorsement of the new administration and electoral fraud.

Coming to the country at this time is a most inauspicious thing to do.

Kenya, Gitau Warigi in the Nation

Were he the type to notice things, Bush would sense a sea change in the continent's mood towards America since the last time Bill Clinton visited. President Clinton's behaviour with young White House interns may have caused him trouble in America, but the guy was genuinely liked in Africa, even when he came with nothing concrete to offer. It is true Bush is going to spend a sum of money ($15 billion, to combat HIV/AIDS) surpassing any his predecessors committed to Africa, and yet he will never be liked on this continent.

Bush's singular achievement has been to make America resented in Africa -- and elsewhere -- to an unprecedented degree. America's unilateralist behaviour under Bush has messed up much of the goodwill America used to enjoy here. Nelson Mandela's declaration that he does not expect to meet Bush during the tour should be taken as an important signal.

In Kenya especially, America has become a dirty word. It may be just as well that Bush will not be visiting our country, never mind that this view could be taken by Americans as a case of sour grapes. The term "American arrogance" has become a by-word everywhere you go in this country. I am inclined to believe Americans get rather flattered when they hear that ... They rationalise everything with the argument that being disliked by lesser mortals goes with the territory for a superpower. As usual the Americans, an otherwise straightforward people whose only weakness is their naivete and self-centredness, are missing the point. Nobody has any problem with power, as long as it is used responsibly. Power vested in a country that has no idea of the harm it does everybody when it behaves recklessly is not something to be admired.

Sure, we are poor. Yet all we demand is a little respect...

There is a misconception American leaders have that Africans are only after alms. That is not true. Africa needs a level playing field when it comes to international trade. It needs better prices for its primary products. It needs better access to global markets. It doesn't want to be looked at only through the prism of terrorism.

These are the issues Bush will be hearing when he stops in Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana and South Africa. He will be surprised to discover that the leaders of all these countries are a lot smarter that he can imagine. But from what we know of this man, it is too much to expect that anything lasting will register in his mind from this tour. It is the same story all the time with American Presidents when they visit.

South Africa, Article in News 24

Bush will go to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria after leaving Washington late on Monday.

But, unlike many world leaders and celebrities who visit South Africa, he will not pay a courtesy call on revered statesman Nelson Mandela, an outspoken critic of his war on Iraq...

Former South African president Mandela has apparently contrived to be out of the country while Bush is in Pretoria this week, observers say, because he wants to temper controversy over his desire to avoid Bush.

Mandela once called Bush, who prizes personal connections he has made with other world statesmen, a leader who "cannot think properly" and last month praised a Bush bête-noire, French President Jacques Chirac, for opposing the Iraq war...

Africa activists have pounced on the lack of a meeting with Mandela, accusing Bush of insincerity before he embarks on his Africa trip on Monday.

"It should have been an honour for George Bush to have an audience with Nelson Mandela," said Salih Booker of the Africa Action pressure group.

"He didn't even request an appointment and, after 28 years in prison, Nelson Mandela is a free man and he speaks his mind freely and that in fact is why the White House did not want to meet him."

White House officials deny that Bush decided not to meet Mandela because of his personal criticisms.

"There was no discussion about a meeting with President Mandela either from them or from us or from him," said a senior Bush aide on condition of anonymity.

Bush will similarly avoid the summit of the African Union, taking place this week in Mozambique.

"Isn't it ironic that of all the places on the Bush agenda, Bush is not going to the one meeting that is bringing together all of Africa's heads of state," said Emira Woods of the Foreign Policy in Focus think-tank.

Zimbabwe, Editorial in the Zimbabwe Standard

What must be appreciated is that when Zimbabweans say that Mugabe must go for the sake of the country, they are saying it from the heart and as products of the Zimbabwean culture and environment. Invariably, if the same calls are echoed by representatives of U.S., British or any other foreign governments, rightly or wrongly, African leaders become defensive and raise a hue and cry accusing the former colonial masters of hypocrisy and seeking to impose their will on the continent...

This paper emphatically agrees with Colin Powell when he says that with "the perseverence of brave Zimbabweans, strengthened commitment from their neighbours and the strong support of the international community", the people of Zimbabwe can be rescued. For we are indeed stuck with a totalitarian regime which has become selfish, insensitive and indifferent to the suffering of its own people.

However, by the same token, we share the view that the U.S. should not adopt the role of a world policeman advocating a regime change. Rather it should concentrate its energies on helping the people of Zimbabwe and African leaders resolve a specific political problem such as the one in this country.

Yes, the United States might be the leader of the free world, is a great democracy, a military super power and a nation unequalled in material wealth. But all that does not give it the right to act as a world policeman and calling for regime changes wherever there is a problem.

Our advice to the U.S. is that acting in this high-handed manner can only alienate people and needlessly lose the goodwill of its friends in Africa. Powell's dramatic language ran the risk of being interpreted as war-mongering and parallels being drawn with the Iraq war.

Africa has been a victim of historical circumstance for a long time and the key point that needs to be driven home is that persuasion and diplomacy resonates much more effectively with African leaders than the Super Power tactics that the U.S. is inclined to resort to.

South Africa, Editorial in Business Day

Liberia's history as the U.S.'s African stepchild accentuates the secretary's dual identity as the titular leader of U.S. foreign policy and as an African-American with a pronounced but constrained Africa interest.

Liberia is an example of 19th century "nation-building" by the racist American Colonisation Society, creating an African-American settler replica of antebellum southern slavocracy. The result was ambivalence and avoidance among black and white alike in the U.S., regarding Liberia. This extends more broadly to the official level of U.S.-Liberian relations.

The coming to a head of Liberia's crisis along with international demands for U.S. intervention could not have been more untimely as the U.S. faces quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, with his impending trip to Africa, refusal to deploy troops would expose the shallowness of Bush's African commitment. U.S. ambivalence on Liberia tends to undercut its pressure on Zimbabwe...

Such an intervention, coupled with a nonaggression pact between Liberia and its neighbours, would consolidate stability. But, beyond any troop deployments, will Washington commit resources for West Africa's stabilisation centred on Liberian recovery just as Powell has promised for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe?

Uganda, Austin Ejiet in the Monitor

It's official: the most powerful man on earth will grace our banana republic with a 4-hour state visit as part of his African itinerary on a date yet to be announced. This will be President George W. Bush's first visit to Africa as the leader of the free world. And out of 53 odd countries that make up the African Union, he has chosen only five, Uganda being one of them.

Countrymen, we deserve it. We've been in America's corner when it mattered. We stuck our necks out and supported the U.S. during the recent Iraqi war, when the rest of Africa was wetting its pants out of fear of possible after-war reprisals from Iraq's sympathizers...

Some fools have been asking whether a 4-hour stopover is really enough, for a country that has virtually mortgaged its sovereignty to imperialism. They argue that the least the U.S. President should have done would have been to pay a quick visit to AGOA's flag-bearer in Uganda, the Tristar factory in Bugolobi, a sweatshop where sweated labour is reportedly used.

The girls, for example may not visit the toilets except during the times designated by management; they may not receive visitors or go shopping and are allegedly allowed to attend only one funeral a month. The said conditions (again allegedly) do not apply to the droves of Sri Lankan girls who've been imported with the apparent aim of eventually phasing out the Ugandan wenches.

Of course the argument as to whether a glass of wine (or waragi) is half-empty or half-full is fated to go on forever.

Balderdash. I say the glass is half-full. Four hours breaks down to 240 minutes, which in turn translates into 14,400 seconds. Now what is so damn mean about that? With some brainless athletes getting paid millions of dollars for a few seconds work, say in a boxing ring or a sprint race track, 14,400 seconds is nothing to scoff at...

And perhaps, as a result, we are going to receive a hefty share of the President's 15 billion dollars set aside to fight AIDS in the developing world, even if some of our allotment could end up purchasing Shs 430 million cars.

What wonders, then, would a presidential visit to Pabbo or Katakwi internally displaced camps accomplish? Welcome to Uganda (or Entebbe), Sir!

Ghana, Kofi Ellison in the Accra Mail

Dear President: It was with shock and dismay that I read the news regarding the list of countries you've chosen to visit during your Africa trip, beginning on July 7, 2003...

One country that deserves to be on the list but which was excluded is Ghana...

Ghana continues to make important strides on her own; and while it ought not take a U.S. presidential visit to Ghana in order for us to receive at least a fraction of the American largesse that countries like Israel and Egypt have been accustomed to receiving, your visit and assistance will provide affirmation that we are indeed two countries with 'shared democratic values'!

Not only would your visit have served to underscore your policy of recognizing countries like Ghana that promote good governance and peace; a visit to Ghana would also have brought into focus the stated U.S. goal of promoting peace and stability in the West Africa sub-region in particular, and Africa as whole. Other countries in the sub-region which look up to Ghana for leadership and governing inspiration would have been strengthened by a U.S. presidential visit to Ghana.

Mr. President, when you visit a country like Ghana that has no oil resources; nor qualifies as a haven for potential terrorists (two issues that engage your administration's attention), the benefits of good governance will be underscored. There is therefore, a strong moral persuasion and policy significance by including Ghana on the list of countries to be visited by you.

Ghana has had a long and fruitful diplomatic relations with the United States. Indeed, Ghana was the first country to host the U.S. Peace Corps. Ghana has supported and continues to support sound U.S. policies in the international arena.

Thus, for symbolic reasons as well, a visit by you to Ghana will strengthen the good relations that have existed between the first sub-Saharan African country to be independent from colonial rule, and the U.S. -- a country that led the way in ridding herself of the colonial yoke.

Compiled by Laura McClure

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