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Africa Action: Widespread Praise of Bush’s Africa Visit Ignores President’s Flawed Legacy

February 21, 2008
10:02 AM

CONTACT: Africa Action
Michael Swigert (202) 546-79615

Widespread Praise of Bush’s Africa Visit Ignores President’s Flawed Legacy
Militarism and Ideological Inflexibility Undermine US Development Efforts in Africa

WASHINGTON, DC - February 21 - As President Bush returns to the United States from his whirlwind tour of Africa, Africa Action notes with concern that coverage of Bush’s trip has concentrated on particular successes in individual countries while ignoring the systemic, continent-wide development challenges that unjust U.S. economic policies continue to promote.

Most of the attention around the Bush visit has focused on U.S. public health programs in Africa, particularly the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Although Bush claims to have asked for a doubling of the U.S. commitment on AIDS to $30 billion over the next five years, the President’s actual budget proposal for the next fiscal year would provide no increase in annual HIV/AIDS funding over current levels, and includes a 40 % decrease in U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“In order for the success stories he saw last week to be replicated across Africa, President Bush should do his best to ensure that future U.S policies support widespread systemic changes in U.S.-Africa relations,” said Michael Swigert, Africa Action’s Program Associate for Policy Analysis and Communications. “This means fully funding the fight against HIV/AIDS and removing the ideological limitations in PEPFAR that undermine the program’s effectiveness. The U.S. should cancel the foreign debt of African countries so that aid money is no longer trapped in a useless cycle of debt payments rather than funding the social and economic programs it was intended for. President Bush witnessed firsthand the positive impacts of debt cancellation in Tanzania. As long as other African countries remain bound by the chains of debt, similar gains across the continent will be difficult.”

In an effort to promote the concept of his legacy as a “compassionate conservative,” Bush’s visit highlighted successful U.S. aid programs while failing to give adequate attention to the serious conflicts in Africa where further U.S. diplomatic pressure is needed. President Bush can claim a real diplomatic success in the U.S-brokered 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan’s decades-long North-South civil war, but despite his strident rhetoric condemning the genocide in Darfur, the reality for civilians on the ground there remains as perilous as ever, and international neglect has allowed the North-South peace to come under threat of collapse.

“Beyond giving aid, the U.S. needs to be a global good neighbor, using the full force of its international leverage to finally end the genocide in Darfur, support peace negotiations in the Great Lakes region and negotiate a just resolution to Kenya’s political crisis through multilateral engagement,” said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action.

One Bush program that threatens such an approach is the new unified command for U.S. military operations in Africa known as AFRICOM.

“Even though the Bush administration recently announced that AFRICOM will continue to base its operations in Germany rather than in Africa, by its very nature, this aggressive initiative threatens successful U.S.-African partnerships for development and democracy.” said Mr. LeMelle. “Contrary to the altruistic rhetoric Bush used to describe the program during his visit, AFRICOM is driven by U.S. interests in preserving access to African resources and operating freely in the global “war on terror” at the expense of Africa’s people. This is evidenced by the fact that neither African governments nor the United Nations were consulted on the announcement of AFRICOM. Widespread cheerleading for U.S. development initiatives should not dupe the public into ignoring the militarization of U.S. foreign policy toward Africa.”

For further analysis on U.S. and international policies toward Africa, please see Africa Action’s Africa Policy Outlook 2008, available at


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