The US President George W. Bush has urged nations to become as keen as Rwanda while handling the Darfur crisis, which his country calls genocide.
He was delivering remarks on US’ Africa Policy at Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C ahead of his scheduled second trip to Africa, which he and his wife Laura, were due to commence yesterday.
"On this trip, I’m going to visit the brave peacekeepers from Rwanda, a nation that knows the pain of genocide and was the first country to send troops into Darfur. Other nations need to follow Rwanda’s example. Other nations need to take this issue seriously, just like the United States does, and provide more manpower for this urgent mission," he said.
He continued: "And when they do, I pledge America will provide the training and equipment necessary to deploy the peacekeepers to Darfur."
An earlier communiqué showed that Bush will meet with President Paul Kagame and see U.S.-trained Rwandan troops.
In his 42-minute address, which he delivered shortly after his wife’s introductory statement, Bush said America will continue to term the Darfur violence as "genocide".
Rwanda has more than 3,500 peacekeepers in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where only 10,000 hybrid AU-UN peacekeepers out of the required 26,000 are trying to stop the violence which has so far killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.
Rwanda suffered a genocide in 1994 in which up to one million of its citizens died besides the countless political and socio-economic challenges left behind by the 100-day killing spree.
Expected to kick-off his five-nation African tour starting in Benin, Bush and his wife will arrive in Rwanda en route from Tanzania on Tuesday, before proceeding to Ghana and lastly, Liberia.
Bush, the 43rd American President who leaves office when his second four-year term expires later this year, also talked about Rwanda’s success in promoting gender equality, noting that the country is the world’s number one with the highest number of women legislators.
"In many nations, women have exercised the right to vote and run for office. Rwanda now has the highest percentage of female legislators in the world," he said amidst applause.
Forty-eight percent of Rwanda’s parliamentarians are women.
A statement on Bush’s remarks indicates that the US President spoke widely on his country’s engagements with Africa ranging from the fight against HIV/Aids to building democratic societies and the importance of such US initiatives as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
He further said that during his visit, he will sign a bilateral investment treaty with Rwanda, which he described as "America’s first such treaty in sub-Saharan Africa in nearly a decade."
"It reflects our shared commitment to systems of fair and open investment. It will bring more capital to Rwanda’s dynamic and growing economy. Look, the idea of somehow being able to help people through just giving them money isn’t working," he said of the planned treaty.
President Paul Kagame, who this week has been visiting various US academies and previously traversed several US states and other Western countries, calling for result-oriented investments to Africa and Rwanda in particular, while at the same time challenging Rwandans and Africans in general to create conducive investment environment and to add value to their products.
And in his statement, Bush re-echoed Kagame’s stand that Africa needs not to be seen as an object of charity but rather a strategic development partner.
"Africa must increasingly be seen on its own terms, as a continent of opportunity, and not as an object of pity and charity. With its 750-million people, half of whom are under the age of 15, Africa offers a fast-growing and dynamic market," Kagame said in one of his speeches during a visit to the UK last October.
And on Thursday, Bush sent across a similar message. He said: "Too many nations continue to follow either the paternalistic notion that treats African countries as charity cases, or a model of exploitation that seeks only to buy up their resources. America rejects both approaches.
"Instead, we are treating African leaders as equal partners, asking them to set clear goals, and expecting them to produce measurable results. For their part, more African leaders are willing to be held to high standards. And together, we’re pioneering a new era in development."
Bush, who repeatedly saluted the American people for their "compassion" towards Africa as well as the determination of many African people and leaders during his statement, added: "The new era is rooted in a powerful truth: Africa’s most valuable resource is not its oil, it’s not its diamonds, it is the talent and creativity of its people. So we are partnering with African leaders to empower their people to lift up their nations and write a new chapter in their history……Paternalism has got to be a thing of the past. Joint venturing with good, capable people is what the future is all about."
Noting that the best way to lift lives in Africa was to "tear down barriers to investment and trade around the world", Bush said that the US stood ready to "cut farm subsidies, and agricultural tariffs, and other trade barriers that disadvantage developing countries."
He appealed to other developed countries: "We expect the rest of the world – especially the most advanced developing countries – to do the same", before adding with optimism: "And if we both make good-faith efforts, we can reach a successful Doha agreement this year."
Talks between African nations and other developing countries on one hand, and the developed nations on the other, seem to be in stalemate as some developed countries are reluctant to cut subsidies to their farmers, a practice leaders of the developing countries say put their own farmers at enormous competitive disadvantage.
Bush, who comes to Africa with among others, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, said his government supports former UN secretary general Kofi Annan-brokered talks aimed at ending six-weeks of post-election violence in Kenya.
He said while he will be traveling from Africa’s western coast to the east, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will be in Kenya to back Annan’s efforts, and "deliver a message directly to Kenya’s leaders and people."
The trip will be Bush’s second and Laura’s fifth to Africa since the couple went to the White House in 2001.