President Bush, who leaves today on a planned trip to Africa, thrust himself into the role of peacemaker on Thursday, as his plans to promote American efforts against poverty and disease gave way to a more pressing imperative: addressing the violence on the continent.
Bush injected his administration directly into the political crisis in Kenya, calling for a "full return to democracy" and announcing that he would send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice there to "deliver a message directly to Kenya's leaders." Rice will not have far to go; she and the president will be right next door, in Tanzania.
The six-day, five-country Africa tour would be one of a string of foreign trips, to Eastern Europe, Israel, Japan and China, that will keep Bush busy overseas in the twilight of his administration.
Bush is scheduled to leave for Africa this evening. The trip will take him to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia - all countries that have benefited from American foreign aid.
Bush's presence is intended to celebrate each country's political and economic progress, while sending a not-so-subtle reminder of the United States' role,
But with Kenya racked by violence over a disputed election, unrest in Chad and a worsening crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, it had become increasingly clear that Bush could not take what analysts have dubbed "a victory lap" in Africa while steering clear of troubles - especially in Kenya, where more than 1,000 have died in the recent violence.
"There must be an immediate halt to violence" Bush said, in a speech intended to preview his Africa trip.
Also Thursday, Bush suggested that he might postpone the trip if Congress failed to quickly revise and extend a law governing communications surveillance counterterrorism investigations, a top White House priority.