Bush Pledges New Partnership With Africa
Bush Pledges New Partnership With Africa at Start of Trip
(Meets leaders of West African democracies, visits former slave house on Goree Island)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson Washington File Staff Correspondent
Dakar, Senegal -- In the shadow of Goree Island's "Door of No Return" that saw so many Africans shipped to the Americas as slaves, President Bush marked the beginning of his five-nation tour in Africa with the pledge, "We will ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and prosperity of the world," stand side by side with them for peace and justice, confront "desperate hunger with food and compassion" and join together "in turning the tide against AIDS in Africa."
His message of hope and cooperation set the tone for the trip as the Republic of Senegal and President Abdoulaye Wade rolled out the red carpet for President Bush, his wife Laura and daughter Barbara on landing in Dakar July 8 on the first day of their five-day swing through sub-Saharan Africa that will include stops in South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria from July 8-12.
The whirlwind tour fulfills a pledge the president made after he was forced to cancel a planned trip in January because of the war in Iraq. Accompanying him are Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner.
Administration officials explained that the president's comments on Goree Island served to highlight the agenda of his discussions with African leaders: HIV/AIDS; conflict resolution, especially in Liberia; democracy; and harnessing the energy of business as the engine for change on the continent.
The stop in Dakar is partly in recognition of Senegal's stability and President Abdoulaye Wade's progressive leadership that the White House has held up as a model for the rest of Africa. After brief remarks at Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport, the two leaders departed for the Presidential Palace for bilateral talks.
[President Wade has also been in the forefront of open-market reforms that the Bush administration has been pushing for Africa. He was one of the leaders behind the development of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), whose peer review process offers benefits for nations adhering to market liberalization and greater transparency in government operations.]
Bush and Wade then proceeded to the Salon de Musique in the palace that was built in 1907 and served as the residence of the governors of French West Africa until just after Senegal's independence in 1960, to meet with a number of leaders of West African democracies. Presidents Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, John Kufuor of Ghana, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Mamadou Tandja of Niger and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone attended the discussions on West African issues, including the present course for Liberia.
[In June 2001, less than three months before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Bush had a similar meeting with several African leaders, including President Wade, to discuss democracy.]
Following the meeting with the West African leaders, Bush was quizzed on Liberia by reporters at the Presidential Palace. The president repeated his now common response: "Charles Taylor must leave." Turning to the African leaders, Bush added, "We had a good discussion about Liberia. The president of Ghana is the leader of ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) and I told him we'd participate with ECOWAS" in a U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission.
Asked if that meant sending U.S. troops, Bush said, "We're in the process of determining what is necessary to maintain the cease-fire and to allow for a peaceful transfer of power."
Bush and his delegation then traveled to the port of Dakar where they boarded Senegal's presidential yacht for the half hour trip to Goree Island. The island is the westernmost point of the African continent as well as the symbolic "point of no return" for the millions of Africans who were sent as slaves to the Western Hemisphere from the 16th through the 18th century.
There, Bush and his wife were shown the Slave House, which was built by the Dutch in 1776, ironically, the year of American independence, where they viewed the "Door of No Return" through which African slaves had their last sight of their homeland before being rowed out to waiting slave ships for the fateful voyage to the Americas.
At the Place du Gouvernement, Bush, accompanied by President Wade, spoke of the complex ties that bind America and Africa, declaring, "At this place human life and liberty were stolen and sold" in what was one of "history's greatest crimes." People "were loaded as cargo on a one-way voyage of no return."
In America, "a republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions," he said. But, "the spirit of Africans in America did not break. They helped awaken the conscience of America." And now, "however long the journey, our destination is set -- liberty and justice for all."
Now, said Bush, Africans, in their turn, are working to overcome past political injustice and economic stagnation by making clear "dictatorship is not the future of any nation on this continent. And many visionary African leaders, such as my friend [nodding to President Wade], have grasped the power of economic and political freedom" to lift whole nations out of poverty through bold plans of reform.
"In a time of growing commerce across the world," Bush pledged, "we will ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and prosperity of the world. Against the waves of violence and civil war, we will stand together for peace. Against the merciless terrorists who threaten every nation, we will wage an unrelenting campaign of justice. Confronted with desperate hunger, we will answer with the food and compassion and the tool of human technology. In the face of spreading disease, we will join with you in turning the tide against AIDS in Africa."
Returning to the mainland, Bush and his delegation traveled to Senghor airport where they boarded the jumbo jet designated Air Force One for the next stop, Pretoria.