DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – President Bush opened a six-day, five-nation tour of Africa on Saturday with a warning to Kenya’s government that it needs to agree to a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition to settle a post-election upheaval that has torn the country apart.
Arriving to trumpet-blaring, red-carpet welcomes, Bush hoped to use the trip to highlight success stories in Africa and the programs he has launched to fight disease, poverty and illiteracy here. But he was immediately confronted with the latest crisis to challenge stability on the continent and defended his record of conflict resolution in the region.
“We’ve been plenty active on these issues, and we’ll continue to be active on these issues because they’re important issues for the U.S. security and for our interests,” Bush said after landing in the tiny coastal country of Benin. He noted he will send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya on Monday. “The key is that the leaders hear from her firsthand the U.S. desires to see that there be no violence and that there be a power-sharing agreement that will help this nation resolve its difficulties.”
A senior administration official later told reporters that the administration wants to use the Rice visit to pressure Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to compromise with his opposition. The official expressed frustration that Kibaki seems to assume unqualified U.S. support and said that Rice will tell him, “If you can’t make a deal, you’re not going to have good relations with and support of the United States.” The official added, “We’re not going to support a Kenya government that’s going on as business as usual.”
Kenya’s is the most urgent of several crises flaring in Africa as Bush makes the second trip of his presidency here. Rebels invaded Chad to try to topple the government, new violence has erupted in the Darfur region of Sudan, warlords are fighting in Somalia and a border standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea threatens to reopen war. The U.N. Security Council devoted nine of its first 16 meetings this year to conflicts in Africa, even before its emergency meeting Friday on Eritrea.
But Bush has dedicated this trip to showcasing what works, rather than what does not, on a continent perennially plagued by crisis. After leaving Benin, he headed here to Tanzania, where he landed later in the day, and he also is scheduled to visit Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia – countries chosen as models of promoting reforms, moving toward democracy and fighting AIDS and malaria. He defended his attention on the positive. “When you herald success,” Bush said, “it helps others realize what is possible.”