The president of the United States visits the old slave house on Goree Island here in Dakar and outlines a happy future for Africa. He goes on safari in Botswana and celebrates that country's relative successes. And he pays a visit to the presidents of Uganda and South Africa, praising the triumph of black South Africans over apartheid.
Sounds like the African trip President Bush begins today? Perhaps _ but it actually describes former President Clinton's 1998 trip to Africa. Bush's five-day, five-country tour will take him to four of the countries Clinton visited _ of the nearly 50 in sub-Saharan Africa. He's scheduled to make remarks in the same parking lot at the same Botswana reserve that Clinton used for that purpose, he'll ride down the Bill Clinton Highway in Nigeria, visit the hotel in Entebbe, Uganda, that has a Clinton Pavilion and Clinton Imperial Suite from his predecessor's trip. Like Clinton, Bush will discuss foreign aid, food shortages, regional security and democracy.
Yet a comparison of the two presidential trips to Africa, similar as they are in itinerary, also shows the vastly different styles of the two men _ and the radical changes that have occurred in world affairs, and in Africa, over the past five years. Clinton's visit, against the backdrop of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was meant to celebrate Africa's emergence from oppression. Bush's visit comes as the United States ponders sending U.S. troops to Liberia, AIDS in Africa has mushroomed into a catastrophe, and the overriding mission of the White House is fighting terrorism.
The two trips also highlight the difference in world views of the two U.S. leaders. Clinton regularly expressed contrition for America's past, saying it was "wrong" to receive slaves and regretting the "sin of neglect" of Africa.
Bush, as is his custom, will have some tough talk for Africa. He will be furthering his spat with the European Union over genetically altered crops; Bush says Europe's ban of such foods is worsening starvation in Africa.
AIDS will dominate Bush's trip in a way it did not consume Clinton's _ reflecting the plunging life expectancy as the disease spreads; South Africa's average lifespan of 53 years is expected to drop to 41 years by 2010.
Finally, the specter of terrorism will color Bush's trip far more than it did Clinton's pre-9/11 journey. Bush will talk about the subject often. When Clinton visited Ghana, he faced a crowd of hundreds of thousands and was at one point rushed by the crowd. Bush will have no such exposure crowds and plans to visit Kenya, plagued by terror threats, were dropped.
Bush's trip to Africa
President and Mrs. Bush are traveling to Africa for a fivecountry tour. High on his priority list are the fight against AIDS, emerging democracies, military dictatorships and international pressure to commit U. S. troops to Liberia. In each country, Bush will:
1. Today Dakar, Senegal
Meet with President Abdoulaye Wade and later tour Goree Island, the infamous former slave port.
2. JULY 8-9 Pretoria, South Africa
Lunch with President Thabo Mbeki and later dines with South African and U. S. business executives.
3. JULY 10 Gaborone, Botswana
Lunch with President Festus Mogae; later tour the newly dedicated Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Hub, a U. S.backed trading center for African exports; and the Mokolodi Nature Reserve.
4. JULY 11 Entebbe, Uganda
Meet with President Yoweri Museveni; later tours the Taso AIDS clinic and patient support center.
5. JULY 12 Abuja, Nigeria
Meets with President Olusegun Obasanjo and delivers remarks to the African American biannual summit.
Sources: White House; Associated Press