Bush Set To Begin Five-Nation Trip in Africa; HIV/AIDS, Development Aid, Peacekeeping on Agenda
President Bush is scheduled to leave tonight for a five-day, five-nation tour of Africa that will focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS and development aid; however, the trip has "taken on a new cast in recent weeks" because of the escalating conflict in the west African nation of Liberia, the New York Times reports (Stevenson, New York Times, 7/7). Bush on Friday added a "sense of urgency" to his trip by ordering military advisers to go to Liberia to determine if U.S. troops are necessary to enforce a cease-fire, a situation that could "shadow and possibly dominate" his planned focus on economic development and HIV/AIDS in the region, the Chicago Tribune reports (Kemper, Chicago Tribune, 7/6). However, administration officials said that the president is "determined" to demonstrate that the United States has "another face [to its] foreign policy" besides "exercising its military power," the Times reports (New York Times, 7/7).
AIDS Fight, Development Not Possible With War
Bush is scheduled to visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria through July 12. During the trip, the president is expected to promote several initiatives that focus on Africa, including his five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative (HR 1298), which he signed into law in May. The global AIDS initiative seeks to prevent seven million new HIV infections, provide care for 10 million people living with the disease and provide treatment to two million HIV-positive people. Bush is also expected to discuss the Millennium Challenge Account, which calls for increasing aid to developing countries in exchange for a range of political and economic reforms (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27). Bush said, "We not only care deeply about the pandemic of AIDS, we hear the cries of those who are sick and tired of corruption on the continent of Africa. And therefore we've got a new approach" (Sammon, Washington Times, 7/7). Walter Kansteiner, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said, "You can't build an HIV/AIDS clinic, you can't protect the landscape, you can't encourage African entrepreneurs if there's a shooting war going on" (Hillman, Dallas Morning News, 7/7).
AIDS Funding Questioned
Some advocates have expressed concern that Bush's trip to Africa, including his focus on HIV/AIDS, is "little more" than an opportunity to spotlight the president's "compassionate conservative" reelection platform, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/7). Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, said, "The U.S. gives almost no help to Africa. ... Our aid [to the continent] amounts to $4 per American per year," adding, "It's all talk." Some advocates said that most of Bush's initiative to combat AIDS in Africa "exist[s] only on paper," as Congress has yet to appropriate funding for the program, the Washington Post reports (Dobbs, Washington Post, 7/7). A House Appropriations subcommittee could "trim ... back" appropriations for the initiative because of a tight budget and the failure of the administration to fully implement the program, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/7). Bush on Wednesday made a step toward implementing the program, naming Randall Tobias, former chair and CEO of drug maker Eli Lilly, as head of a new State Department office assigned to oversee the global AIDS initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/3). However, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chair of the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, said, "We're not really prepared in the first year to spend that vast amount [authorized in the global AIDS bill] on bilateral programs" (New York Times, 7/7). Some advocates said that the initiative will "come at a cost" to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria because the administration has "failed to fund [the project] at levels that match the United States' economic power," the Baltimore Sun reports (Murphy, Baltimore Sun, 7/7). Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said that Bush "stood before the world, and promised $3 billion [to fight HIV/AIDS]. Anything less than that would demonstrate that America does not keep her promises."
Have 'Patience,' Others Say
Other advocates urged "patience," saying that Bush is the first world leader since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic to "bring the policy discussion into the multibillion dollar range" necessary to fight the disease, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Dr. Eric Goosby, president of the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, said that Bush is "rapidly moving his agenda out of Washington, D.C., to where the problem is. The Africa trip is a very visible gesture to show the importance the administration is placing on this problem." He added, "This is an emergency, and I think the White House understands it" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7). Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, which advocates for debt relief, trade reform and AIDS funding for Africa, said, "This trip needn't be just about tourism because there are the beginnings of an historic change in policy toward Africa, permitted by a Republican Congress, we hope, and led by ... a Republican president. That's put us in a fascinating situation" (New York Times, 7/7). Bush said that the trip will create "political momentum" for the HIV/AIDS initiative, according to the Chronicle. "I want to use this trip to say here's an example of what is possible, and let's make sure we follow our hearts as a society," he added (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7). Bush is scheduled to arrive in Senegal tomorrow and continue to South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria. In Uganda, Bush will honor President Yoweri Museveni for his efforts to reduce the HIV prevalence in that country (Ba, Reuters, 7/6). Africa advocates said they do not expect any new policies or programs to be announced during the trip (Superville, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/6).
The following broadcast programs reported on Bush's trip to Africa:
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment examines the trip to Africa as a public relations mission and includes comments by Bush and Bill Fletcher, president of the TransAfrica Forum (Knoller, "Evening News," CBS, 7/6/03). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment examines the effect of Bush's trip on the funding of the global AIDS initiative and includes comments from Drummond and Chester Crocker, former assistant secretary of state for Africa (O'Hara, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/7/03). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday": In this segment, NPR's Jason Beaubien discusses Bush's five-day agenda (Simon, "Weekend Edition Saturday," NPR, 7/5/03). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday": The segment includes an interview with Center for Global Development Senior Fellow Steve Radelet discussing the trip (Schorr, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 7/6/03). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.