International Papers

The African Bush

George W. Bush’s trip to Africa—with stops in Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda—received a lukewarm welcome from the African press. South Africa’s Sunday Times said the whirlwind tour is “part of an elaborate plan to give [Bush’s] presidency a human face. Being seen to be helping ‘poor, starving Africans,’ and expressing support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development will work with African-American voters who are key to Bush’s re-election campaign.” On a less high-minded note, an op-ed in the Nation of Kenya looked forward to hearing Bush “pronounce African tongue-twister names like Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdoulaye Wade.”

South Africa’s Mail and Guardian likened Bush to a prostitute: “Like the world’s oldest profession, the Republican administration of United States President George W Bush has interests, rather than principles.” The editorial warned, “It would be a mistake to take Bush’s ‘compassionate agenda’ seriously. His whistle-stop tour of five African countries … must be seen for what it is—hard-eyed self-service posing as a mercy mission.” Bush’s main concerns, the paper said, are “domestic security, the advancement of corporate America and the securing of strategic assets, mainly oil.” The paper concluded, “Africa can exert some beneficial influence in bringing the world’s most destructive and irresponsible rogue state back into line.”

The Cape Argus said it was in the United States’ interest to help Africa: “The 11 conflicts currently tearing the continent apart must … make Bush realise that any one of those theatres of war has the potential to hide and nurture those who wish to harm the US. … It is important that when Bush leaves, he leaves behind hope and economic prospects that will lift Africans out of poverty.” The Cape Times, meanwhile, counseled Bush’s opponents to exercise “restraint and sobriety” in the interests of realpolitik. “It is foolish to castigate and vilify the US yet, in the same breath, demand that the US increase its aid to Africa.”

The Financial Times said Bush goofed by leaving Kenya off his itinerary. The East African nation has suffered significant losses as a result of two al-Qaida bombings—of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998 and an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa last November. “In both cases, the victims were mostly Kenyans. Subsequent warnings against travel to Kenya by the US, Britain and others … have caused disproportionate damage to its economy. If anyone wants to persuade Africans that the world does not treat them unfairly, this is not the way to do it.”

An op-ed in Kenya’s East African concluded that Bush is not serious about Africa because “he won’t eat matooke.” Rather than traveling with his own chefs, the president should sample local food, because for “most Africans nothing speaks more eloquently of your affection for them … than having a meal in their homes.”