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Washington File

09 July 2003

Bush Talks Democracy, Terrorism with Leaders on First Visit to Africa

(Former Special Envoy Jesse Jackson comments on value of trip) (640)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Correspondent
Dakar, Senegal -- President Bush began his first official trip to
sub-Saharan Africa on July 8 telling West African leaders the best way
to fight terrorism is "to support the habits of freedom,"
During his first stop on a five-day, five-nation visit to Africa, Bush
met with Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade and seven other West
African heads of states who face the destabilizing violence that
Liberian President Charles Taylor has brought to his own country --
and to the region.
Before he returns to Washington on July 12, Bush will have visited
Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria. His priorities in
discussions with African leaders are HIV/AIDS, destabilizing conflict,
and trade-led economic growth, according to officials who are
accompanying Bush on the trip.
One of the administration officials who attended the meetings at the
Presidential Palace in Dakar, but who wished to remain unnamed, later
briefed journalists traveling with the President.
In Bush's conversation with Wade, the official said, Bush focused on
counterterrorism and the spillover effects that continued violence in
Liberia posed to the region. "The President restated the need for
Charles Taylor to leave Liberia in order to return the country to
stability. He also spoke about [how] the United States will
participate with the regional leaders in trying to bring about that
stability, but the nature of that participation will be based on an
assessment that our EUCOM [European Command, which is responsible for
related military affairs in most of Africa] teams are doing now in the
Wade and Bush also discussed trade between their two nations, the
official said, as well as the benefits of the African Growth and
Opportunity Act (AGOA). President Bush "expressed a real concern about
African countries reducing trade-distorting subsidies. ... and also
about the need for Africans to work with him in the forum of the World
Trade Organization (WTO) to reduce all agricultural subsidies, and the
requirement for Europe to join in that proposal to reduce agricultural
The two heads of state also discussed the scourge of HIV/AIDS and
President Bush's $10,000 million development initiative for Africa
called the Millennium Challenge Account, the official said.
In his later talk with the eight African heads of state, the official
said, President Bush reiterated many of the same points he made during
his talk with President Wade. In addition, "an underlying theme was
that all of the leaders emphasized the importance of their taking the
leadership, the self-responsibility for addressing these problems in
strong partnership with the United States."
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, President Bill Clinton's former Special
Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa, told a CNN interviewer
that the trip was a "plus" because of the attention it brings to the
political and economic challenges facing the continent, but he
questioned whether the United States would look at African policy more
seriously. According Jackson, a former civil rights activist turned
diplomat, Bush is perhaps taking an overly cautious approach to the
civil war in Liberia, especially in terms of a direct U.S. involvement
in the crisis.
"We're in Africa's debt," Jackson pointed out, citing the supply to
America of African raw materials and energy exports. "We've never been
a fair trading partner with Africa.
"In Liberia, all of our Firestone rubber came from there," and many
American companies were headquartered in Liberia. Yet, when its
government was overthrown by Charles Taylor "nothing was there to
protect that democracy," he said. "We left them there to go into a
shambles, so maybe some plan to stabilize Liberia and undertake their
restoration could be a first step in the direction of real, meaningful
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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