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George W. Bush: A True and Best Friend of Africa – By Emeka Chiawelu

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By Emeka Chiakwelu | NNP | June 9, 2013 –
It does not happen often, but five living American presidents recently
gathered in Dallas, Texas to dedicate George W. Bush presidential Library.
Political and ideological differences notwithstanding, there was a
resounding conclusion that George W. Bush policy on Africa was most
effective and generous especially his endeavor to combat HIV/AIDS crisis
and signing peace treaty in Sudan.

When most people do contemplate on which American president is the best
and true friend of Africa. I bet you, Obama and Clinton will probably come
to their mind; the last person they that might think of is George W.
Bush, the 43rd president of America. People may find it hard to accept
that a Republican Party president was the one that extended a helping
hand to Africa at the darkest and heighten period of AIDS/HIV crisis. The
recorded history was the testament to the uncommon generosity offered by
George Bush who persuaded the US Congress to fund AIDS relief to combat
African greatest health crisis.

At the apogee of AIDS epidemic in Sub-Sahara Africa, due to poverty and
inadequate medical and health facilities to manage the AIDS crisis,
millions of Africans were dying. Therefore it became imperative that the
rising AIDS threat to the continent must be combated before it assumed an
explosive dimension and reaches a point of no return. And that was when
Bush came to the rescue and joined the fight to daunt the rising tide of
AIDS crisis in the world.

In 2003, President George W. Bush lunched “President’s Emergency Plan For
AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).” A relief fund to fight HIV/AIDS around the world
including Africa where AIDS have devastating and debilitating effects on
the people. Bush urged United States Congress to committee $15 billion
over five years (2003–2008) to fight and combat the deadly disease.

Again in 2005, former President George W. Bush lunched another program
known as Malaria Initiative. A five year commitment of $1.2 billion was
set aside to combat malaria disease in 15 African countries where malaria
has done the greatest damage to lives and wellbeing.

According to UNICEF, “Malaria is the leading cause of mortality among
children under the age of five in this West African nation Malaria still
kills 660,000 people every year, most of them African children.
Insecticide-treated bed nets are critical to eliminating deaths from
malaria—one of the leading killers of children in the world says UNICEF on
World Malaria Day. The number of bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa has
increased to 145 million thanks to bulk buying, joint procurement,
financing and extending manufacturing capacity. Since 2000, 1.1 million
lives have been saved from malaria, and malaria mortality rates in Africa
have declined by one-third.”

Bush made one of the greatest attempts to hold back AIDS crisis. He was
pragmatic and generous, without giving a lip service to the emerging
calamity in the continent. Bush was thorough a compassionate person, he
did not intellectualize nor become philosophical, rather he quickly acted
to save a generation of people that AIDS would have wasted and
annihilated.

Former President Jimmy Carter acknowledged Bush favorable African policy.
When it comes to helping the poor and needy around the world including
Africa, Carter is not a stranger in that area. Carter is authentic and
has the credentials on building houses, providing health care and relief
assistances to the poor and needy. Carter’s words are trustworthy and
bankable; at the dedication of George W. Bush Library, former President
Carter paid a glowing tribute to George W. Bush for his effectiveness and
compassionate role in Africa:

“In 2000, there was a disputed election for several weeks and finally when
President Bush became president they had the inauguration in Washington on
schedule. I think my wife and I were the only volunteer Democrats on the
platform. ..

The worst problem now is the war going on between North and South Sudan,
and millions of people have been killed and I would like for you to help
us have a peace treaty there. In a weak moment, he said I’ll do it. He
said well, I haven’t even chosen them yet, but give us three weeks. Three
weeks later, I came up. President Bush kept his promise. He appointed John
Danforth and a great general from Kenya. In January of 2005, there was a
peace treaty between north and south Sudan that ended a war that had been
going on for 20 years. George W. Bush is responsible for that.

That was the first of his great contributions to the countries in Africa.
As has already been mentioned, he increased his assistance to Africa until
the time he went into office to more than $90 billion. That’s an increase
of 640 percent. That is development assistance. He established a program.
There was 6,000 people being treated for HIV. Two million when he left
office. At this new institute he has a program called pick ribbon and red
ribbon. That is something that is dear to my heart and I know means a lot
to millions of people in Africa. I am filled with admiration for you and
deep gratitude for you. Thank you very much. “

Former President Bill Clinton said “I want to thank President Bush for
passing PEPFAR. No president of my party could have passed that through
the Congress, I have personally seen the faces of some of the millions of
people who are alive today because of it.”

As of July 2012, former President George W. Bush visited Zambia and
Botswana with his wife, former first lady Laura Bush to promote health
initiative on treatment and prevention of cervical and breast cancer.

Bob Geldof, the musician turned social activist of Live 8 Concerts have
in the past lavish praises on George Bush for his decisiveness in Africa,
his words: “I read it has been incompetent – but not in Africa. It has
created bitterness – but not here in Africa. Here, his administration has
saved millions of lives.”

While Bono an activist, the front man of musical group U2, spoke about
Bush contribution in combating AIDS: “It’s incredible; it’s incredible
what George Bush’s— President Bush’s name is in the history books. His
name is in the front foreword of a book that’s written on the end of
AIDS.” In another occasion Bono said to a crowd, “I know that’s hard
for you to accept but George kind of knocked it out of the park. I can
tell you, and I’m actually here to tell you that America now has five
million people being kept alive by these drugs. That’s something that
everyone should know.”

Before George Bush intervention, many of his African counterparts were
struggling on how to cope with the health crisis. Some African leaders
were giving the best they can to combat the disease but lack of fund and
health facilities made it nearly impossible to hold back the surging
disease.

Poverty was and continues to be greatest barrier to fighting AIDS in
Africa. Poverty translates into lack of information and education which
are the cornerstones for winning the battle against the deadly disease and
saving lives. Indifference among some African leaders played a detrimental
role in the consequential explosion of AIDS. These leaders were busy
mismanaging resources and siphoning money abroad, as their people were
suffering and dying. And it took an outsider without a personal or
strategic interest to intervene and saved lives in Africa.

It is important to remember this great dispensation of helping hand that
he aided to turn the tide in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. No one is
saying that the battle against the crisis has been won, but the emergency
fund from Bush’s America was successful in laying the foundation for the
war against the disease.

Former President George W. Bush was not obligated to offer a helping hand
but he did it anyway. What we can acknowledge here was that he did
something extraordinary without expecting anything in return. For this act
of great compassion, Africa is grateful and without doubt George W. Bush
was and continues to be a true friend of Africa. Thank You! Mr. President.

Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political
& Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center
whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy
debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise,
democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict
resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org
info@afripol.org

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