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Africa’s Good Friend

Posted on Feb 27, 2009
Bush and Tantoh
AP photo / J. Scott Applewhite

After speaking on his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, President Bush hoists 4-year-old Baron Mosima Loyiso Tantoh, son of HIV-positive Manyongo Mosima “Kuene” Tantoh of South Africa, who met with Bush at the White House in 2007.

By Gbemisola Olujobi

(Page 3)

President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania signed a five-year, nearly $700 million Millennium Challenge Compact with President Bush in February 2008. The compact is designed to help build Tanzania’s infrastructure. During the signing ceremony in Dar-es-Salam, he told Bush that the compact is a “source of pride … making it possible for the people of Tanzania to chart a brighter future.”

Bush launched the Millennium Challenge Account in 2004 as a new model to support governments that commit to rule justly, invest in people and encourage economic freedom. The Millennium Challenge Corp. seeks to reduce poverty by increasing economic growth in recipient countries through a variety of targeted investments.

Of MCC’s original 16 grant agreements, nine are with African countries—Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Madagascar, Morocco and Tanzania—and total approximately $3.8 billion. This represents 70 percent of the agency’s total grants to date. Malawi and Mauritania were added in February 2008. Liberia, Namibia and Burkina Faso are on the threshold of MCC compacts.

MCC’s compacts are beginning to change and shape lives across Africa. In Madagascar’s agricultural cooperatives, farmers are learning new techniques to make transitions to higher-value crops like geraniums, which are sold to produce high-value oil for use in soaps and perfumes. Such products are allowing farmers to access new markets and take advantage of the tariff-free provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.


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Malians are using MCC funds to improve irrigation systems in the Niger River Delta and modernize the Bamako Airport. This will boost agricultural productivity and expand access to markets and trade. Cape Verde is using MCC funds to improve roads and bridges.

A Madagascan named Jaona lost his job in the aftermath of the 2002 political and economic crisis that resulted from a disputed presidential election in Madagascar. The impact of the crisis was such that 80,000 workers in the export processing zone alone were laid off. Jaona’s wife succinctly recounts the hardship brought about by the crisis: “We used to cook three meals a day, but now we can only afford one, and poor quality cassava is replacing rice.”

The new government of Madagascar began a series of actions to put the country back on track, one of which was to attract international investment to the island. USAID began working with a group of Malagasy entrepreneurs to promote the nation’s products and improve trade ties to the United States. They formed the Madagascar-U.S. Business Council, which in turn led to the formation of an American counterpart, the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council. The U.S. trade mission was a catalyst for the signing of 12 commitments with the government of Madagascar to explore investment opportunities.

Madagascar’s trade ties to the U.S. are part of the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a U.S. law designed to spur African trade development. Even though the act was approved in 2000, Bush worked with Congress to extend and reauthorize it in expanded form in 2004. It provides trade benefits with the United States for 40 African countries that have implemented reforms to encourage economic growth. Since 2001, U.S. exports to Africa have more than doubled to $14 billion a year, while African exports to the United States more than tripled to $67 billion.

The top five beneficiaries of the act are Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Chad and Gabon. Other leading beneficiaries are Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Kenya, Cameroon, Swaziland and Mauritius.

Critics of Bush’s African largesse argue that it is not totally altruistic. They argue that Washington’s real interest is Africa’s natural resources. Africa produces 90 percent of the world’s cobalt (used in aircraft jet engines), 80 percent of coltan (used in computers and cell phones) and 20 percent of petroleum. The United States imports 18 percent of its crude oil from West Africa, against 17 percent from the Persian Gulf, and expects to export 25 percent from West Africa by 2015.

Other critics point to China’s growing influence in Africa, which they say America is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with. Chinese-owned companies have built factories, roads and other infrastructure across the continent. Still, others point to AFRICOM, the U.S. military’s African regional command, with one critic describing it as “the militarization of U.S. aid to Africa.”

Critics of PEPFAR are also not happy with the requirement that one-third of the prevention funds be spent to teach sexual abstinence even though there is little if any scientific evidence that such programs reduce the spread of HIV. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group Global AIDS Alliance, says the Bush program has been inhibited by “ideologically driven policies.”

However, ordinary Africans whose lives have been touched by Bush’s programs respond to critics of his efforts in Africa with a simple proverb: Before a man refuses to eat at the table of his enemy, he has to be sure his friends have food to offer him; otherwise he will end up with nothing. 

HIV-positive Linda, the recipient of anti-retroviral drugs, is free in praising the former president and his country. “George Bush has helped us live,” she says. Kunene Tantoh, the South African mother, took her son Baron to the Rose Garden at the White House in 2007 to show President Bush and his wife, Laura, “an HIV-free baby.” Says Edward Phillips, a Catholic priest who oversees the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs in Nairobi, Kenya: “This is the best thing that ever happened to the poor people I work with. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen U.S. government money really reach down to the poorest of the poor. It’s kept a hell of a lot of people alive.”

Senegalese mother Rougiatou Diallo is grateful for the mosquito net that came from “the Americans.” It helps her to keep her children malaria-free. Rakiatou Touré of Mali could not afford the lifesaving $10 insecticide-treated mosquito nets until she got a new net through the President’s Malaria Initiative. She says that “without this program I would never have been able to afford a net. Now I sleep well, and my kids aren’t bothered by mosquito bites.”

Because of the books he got from the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program (a component of the Africa Education Initiative), Sadio Gueye, a primary school student in Senegal, is happy “to have my own books at home” because he believes having his own textbooks will help his studies. “What I don’t learn at school, I can learn at home,” he says.

Tanzanian President Kikwete told President Bush in February 2008 at the signing of Tanzania’s MCC Compact, “all that I can say, President, is words of appreciation and thanksgiving. You have done a tremendous job.”

The Millennium Challenge Corp.’s $698 million aid package will help Tanzania build better roads and increase access to safe drinking water.

Kikwete said recently: “Of course, people talk with excitement of Barack Obama. For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good a friend of Africa as President George Bush has been.”

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By Franc, March 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Unfortunately, PEPFAR’s flawed prevention policies including directives for abstinence and be-faithful programs, and fails to integrate HIV prevention services into family planning services. In their version of this legislation, H.R. 5501, the House of Representatives also includes ideological constraints on the provision of care. Specifically, the House requires family planning clinics to abide by the global gag rule and not provide or refer for abortions to be eligible for HIV funding.

Although initially PEPFAR may have helped thousands, I believe that giving vital aid should never be conditional on poor people accepting ideology.

It’s a form of bribery and blackmail!

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By Santayana, March 4, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We should also remember that Bono and Bobby Shriver created Project (RED) to provide anti-retroviral drugs for Africa, and did so with no silence clauses, gag orders, or strings attached. As for Bush doing something worthwhile, let’s credit the man. Now he spends one less day face down on Satan’s griddle. And Hitler loved puppies. What’s the point?

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By msgmi, March 3, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bono lobbied his heart out and for once Bush delivered.

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By mg, March 2, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to Mr. Wexler, and Louise, for the counterpunch. It seems nothing the man did was for good. Too much in the way. He was the best worst President we ever had!

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By Reubenesque, March 2, 2009 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

AMEN, W.W.W.!  This photo of ‘Wrongworst’ can’t be pushed down the ‘Reports’ stack soon enough!

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William W. Wexler's avatar

By William W. Wexler, March 2, 2009 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Sorry, but calling Bush Africa’s good friend over his role in AIDS prevention is naive and inaccurate.  Depending on the motivation, it could just be called an outright lie.

The truth about Bush and AIDS relief is that his interest is in Big Pharma, not ending the devastation of the disease.  Under the Bush AIDS relief plan, it was illegal to sell the cheaper generic drugs, so only the high profit drugs were available.  So although AIDS medications reached around 2 million people, the 25 million who got none could have if it wouldn’t have been for Bush’s restriction on generics.

Further, aid was contingent on “economic austerity” measures from these poor governments, which complied in part by cutting health services to the people who needed them most.

According to a joint report issued by 39 NGOs, Bush’s Africa AIDS relief plan allows 5 people to become infected for every 2 it helps, based on its ideological (religious) approach.  Among recommendations in a letter written to Senators Reid, Lugar, and Biden are:

1) Remove all requirements and language governing distribution of funds for prevention of sexual transmission. The original PEPFAR legislation contained an earmark requiring that 33 percent of all funding for prevention activities be allocated to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite any evidence supporting this practice.

2) Remove the refusal clause (the so-called “conscience clause.”) The Global AIDS Act of 2003 includes a refusal clause or so-called “conscience clause” allowing organizations to receive scarce public funding to carry out prevention programs that are based on their own philosophy, even if it is in conflict with evidence-based interventions.

3) Remove the “prostitution pledge.” Though to date both the House and Senate have been disinclined to address it, imperatives of both public health and human rights compel us to remind you of the enormous negative impact of the anti-prostitution pledge. Current law requires groups fighting HIV/AIDS overseas to pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking before receiving U.S. money.

4) Include explicit language strengthening the linkages between reproductive health services and HIV prevention.

These are highlights from the letter, which was signed by 39 NGOs.  You can get the list here:

I am not sure what the motivation was for writing this article.  If it was legacy-building for Bush, forget it.  Bush was the worst president in America’s history and his approach to every single problem was to evaluate it for its political ideology first and business impact second.  His disregard for US and international law is famous, and he should and probably will be prosecuted for war crimes including an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign state, torture, and a raft of other charges including illegal wiretapping, disregard of Article VI paragraph 2 (Supremacy Clause),  and outing a CIA operative for political purposes.

No, it’s not “cool” to bash Bush.  But it’s ignorant and dishonest to apologize for him.  After the outright atrocious, dangerous, and lawless government we’ve suffered for the last 8 years, I’m not going to stand by and let his legacy be whitewashed by half-truths about a feel-good AIDS relief package, either.  This approach was ineffective, dishonest, and ideological and it ended up costing people’s lives… just like everything else Bush did.


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By SteveL, March 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment

Guess we needed to see Bush’s smiling face once again.

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By Gambetti, March 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow all I can read from these comments are words of pure IGNORANCE. So none of you were there when he rescued us from Silicon Valley crash? or maybe you were not there when he gave us tax cuts so we could use that money on the economy? Or what about the relief he gave in tax cuts on investing in stocks that helped us keep afloat for as long as we did. He had this planned for awhile. He also previously gave aid for the fight again Malaria in Africa and cut the spread by 65%. I see hating Bush is cool but if you are American he was still your president. He also had the highest approval rating of any president in history. So instead of making him the scapegoat for owning up to what he did and remaining steadfast instead of wavering to your flimsy do’s and don’ts, you should maybe look at yourself in shame. Know your facts, not what other people state as facts…. nubs

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By Ibett, March 1, 2009 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Most of the monies do not get to the needed source, there are strings attached to receive aid:  NO CONDOMS, ABSTENENCE ONLY, LISTEN TO CHRISTIAN RHETORIC, this is a farce just like georgey dumbo stupid.  The only prize george bush deserves is life in prison for war crimes and demolishing our country and constitution, it is shameful.


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By Louise, March 1, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

This comes on the heels of a week-long bash Bush conference. Or at the very least, a “we don’t know that man” celebration. How sad when the very people who so hysterically supported Bush are now hysterically trying to distance themselves from Bush. He must be feeling a twinge of abandonment. And seeing the hopelessness of looking to his base to help him, he turns instead to the rest of us. Could the reality that those loyal supporters are all completely nuts be lost on him? Could it be that Bush is not near so stupid as we all thought he was? That in fact he simply worked hard to portray himself as, dumb enough to deserve the position of leading the even dumber?

Look who his former base elevates to a mock position of authority. Newt Gingrich! Sarah Palin! Joe the plumber! Rush Limbaugh! They are so fractured and befuddled, they even celebrate Ron Paul as one of their own! And the fact that Ron Paul accepted that elevation, showed up and spoke to CPAC’s collection of burned out light bulbs is telling. Can we suppose Bush was expecting an invitation to speak? Or should we suppose one was extended and he refused.

Recognition comes late to Bush. Maybe that should be the title of his memoir.

Gbemisola Olujobi, is a recipient of the first IWMF fellowship for international women journalists. This article reports a reality in Africa we hear about, but pay little attention to. Reporting a portion of that reality is responsible journalism. That the man featured in the positive happens to be Bush is simply just what it is. PEPFAR has had positive effect on the lives of many in Africa, suffering from AIDS. So maybe this story isn’t about Bush, so much as it’s about a journalist who reminds us not everything Bush did was followed by disaster.

Or, maybe Bush really is as dumb as a board and like so many morons, accidentally does something good once in a while. I doubt Bush focused on PEPFAR any more than he focused on anything else. But it might help his staff find something to focus on.

But even PEPFAR has it’s critics. As Joshua Kurlantzick points out in the September/October 2008 Issue of Mother Jones,

“Foreign assistance to African nations hard-hit by AIDS could have been the administration’s greatest success. Then ideology interfered.”

” - while PEPFAR has done wonders for aids treatment, it has missed the boat on prevention by insisting on moralistic rather than epidemiological strategies - until recently, one-third of its prevention funding, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, was squandered on premarital abstinence programs that research shows don’t work. - PEPFAR has revolutionized aids treatment in Africa. When it comes to prevention, however, the White House has ensured that the aids program is governed by a counterproductive moral standard.

To run his aids initiative, Bush chose former Eli Lilly CEO Randall Tobias, who was indifferent to his own staff’s on-the-ground experience. Tobias’ reign ended with his resignation in April 2007. Turned out the man who’d been promoting abstinence around the globe was a client of the infamous DC Madam.”

In general, at least two-thirds of all foreign aid funds never leaves the United States, according to a Congressional Research Service report in 2006, The money buys U.S. products, pays U.S salaries, overhead, benefits packages, travel, American-made vehicles, office expenses, computers and other equipment. USAID awards 87 percent of its consultant dollars to U.S. based firms. In addition 30% of PEPFAR funds have been given to ideologically driven groups who inhibit prevention and treatment with an abstinence only and NO sex education policy.

During the campaign, Obama released a plan to combat global HIV and AIDS pledging that “best practice, not ideology” would drive US funding for HIV/AIDS programs. Perhaps that plan will include reducing waste in money’s held here and actually deliver more money there.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 1, 2009 at 5:53 am Link to this comment

I guess the only thing I can say is that this is the broken clock syndrome: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Amidst all of the havoc and despair that George W. Bush wrought during his catastrophic 8 years there are few items and actions for which he cannot be condemned (amidst the cornucopia of ones for which he MUST be condemned).  This is one of them. Could it have been done better? Of course.  But at least he did it.

He also set aside the Mariana Trench as a protected area so it isn’t contaminated. That’s good—small, but good.

He also did his best to evade and avoid the Hard Right’s push for draconian immigration laws and enforcement against Mexico and illegal immigrants (primarily Mexicans and Latin Americans).  As an offshoot of that in a rare moment of political insight, he warned that the GOP was seriously alienating a critical support base: The largest minority in America, Hispanics.

Of course, even birdbrains like James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and Warren G. Harding had minor things they did well, amidst the disasters they otherwise foisted upon the US.

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By Chris, February 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If somebody does something good, I will focus on that. There are many people who would owe their lives to his program.

Might your own take on it be different if you were one of those people?

And this is coming from someone who regretted the day Bush was selected (obviously not elected) to be President. I don’t think any of us had a clue as to how horrible his Presidency would really be…

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s dead…perhaps a million or more. Countless injured for life. Somewhere near 4500 dead American soldiers. Many thousands “wounded”...meaning paralyzed, blinded for life, brain damaged, psychologically damaged…

It’s horrible. The man who was really elected the first time out, Al Gore, would never have done any of that. And, I don’t see why he wouldn’t have given Africa the same assistance with AIDS that George W. Bush gave them.

But still, help arrived to a hurting Africa. Many people are alive today that may not have been. If George W. Bush is responsible for it, he should be credited with it.

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By Less Laugh, February 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I say, we give Bush the “Ignoble Peace Prize.”

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By Ching-Ching, February 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment

At last, somethong good that Bush did.

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

Strange! Very strange indeed that Bush is viewed by some Africans as a friend of Africa when he could not be a friend of at least half of the his own American people and most of the world at large!

I would suggest that the writer of this piece lead a campaign among his African brothers and sisters to appoint Bush as a king-for-life over all the continent so per chance they would really experience Bush’s benevolence at a larger scale!

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By lOst_sOuls_rembrd, February 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Is this the beginning of Bush trying to change how history will judge him?  He is a shameful human being and I will NEVER forget his part in the destruction of this country, our freedom and the many lost lives of our fellow citizens as well as human beings all over the world.

I promise to never forget and I will never stop doing my part to help others to remember.

God have mercy on us all…all over the world.

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By GB, February 28, 2009 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

At first this looks good for bush but we know with everything he did in his disasterous 8 years was to line the pockets of his business friends in oil and pharmaceuticals. He stripped the family planning parts out leaving millions more in Africa vulnerable to STDs including HIV. Where was he during Katrina? We know that answer. I would love to be able to hail his acheivements but it seems his best photo ops were anywhere but where they should have been.

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