KIGALI - After seeing graphic reminders of the Rwanda Genocide, US President George W. Bush called on Tuesday for increased international efforts to help Darfur.
Bush visited a memorial to the 1994 Genocide where more than a million Rwandans were murdered.
At a museum where the remains of some 250,000 victims are buried, he viewed pictures of children who were killed and laid a wreath at a memorial.
“One of the lessons of the genocide in Rwanda was to take some of the early warning signs seriously,” Bush said at a news conference with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on the third stop of his five-nation African tour.
Bush called attention to the conflict in Darfur, which he has labeled genocide, and criticised the United Nations for moving too slowly to send more peacekeepers. He said it “seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering”.
The United States has been pressing for the deployment of a 26,000-strong UN-African Union peacekeeping force to Darfur, where experts estimate at least 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes. Sudan says 9,000 people have died. Bush also announced the United States was making available $100 million to help train and equip peacekeepers for Darfur.
Rwanda was the first to deploy peacekeepers to the violent Darfur region in a joint African Union-U.N. mission. The United States has trained nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops and spent more than $17 million to equip and airlift them into the region.
The U.S. has committed $100 million to train and provide equipment for peacekeepers from several African nations deploying to Darfur.
Bush also said he still believed he made the right decision not to unilaterally deploy U.S. forces to Darfur but that meant having to deal with a slow U.N. response.
Bush said the Genocide museum exhibits “remind people that there is evil in the world, and evil must be confronted”.
Bush began his second trip to the continent with a brief stop in Benin and will next go to Ghana and Liberia before returning home on Thursday.
In the past, Genocide survivors criticised the United States for not intervening to stop the slaughter in Rwanda.
“There’s nothing we can tell him – we do not even plan on meeting him because I am sure he knows about the plight of Rwanda Genocide survivors,” Theodore Simburudali, president of the Ibuka, a Genocide survivor group, told Reuters.
In 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was in power at the time of the genocide, visited Rwanda and apologised for not making more of an effort to stop the killings.
Kagame, like the other presidents on Bush’s tour, is regarded by Washington as one of a new generation of progressive African leaders.
Kagame thanked Bush for the attention he has paid to Africa. “You have raised the bar of American-African relations to a level which the next president of the United States should not lower,” he said.
Unpopular elsewhere in the world for his handling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush is respected in many parts of Africa where he has spent more money on aid than Clinton. He has pledged to increase total assistance to $8.7 billion by 2010, double 2004 levels.
The focus for Bush on this trip has been to highlight US-funded efforts to fight AIDS and malaria, and provide economic development assistance. “People say why would you want to come to Africa at this point in your presidency? Because I’m on a mission of mercy is why,” Bush said.
Bush is not visiting Kenya despite stopping in neighbouring Tanzania and Rwanda. He sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi on Monday to help former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to end a post-election crisis that has killed 1,000 people. Bush travels to his fourth stop, Ghana, on Tuesday evening.