US politicians debate Obama in Africa

President-elect Barack Obama, soon to become the United States' first African-American leader, will focus greater attention on Africa, outgoing Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said Wednesday.
"He will see an increased emphasis on Africa, not just because Barack Obama is an African American but because he hired some people in key positions who know and have worked on African issues," Dean said of his fellow Democrat.
Obama, whose father was from Kenya, will be inaugurated as president next week.
Dean was speaking with other American political heavyweights during a panel discussion in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, about the implications for Africa of Obama's inauguration, and opinions varied.
The United States has had a long-standing interest in Africa.
Nigeria, the continent's biggest oil producer, is a top foreign supplier of crude to the United States. And the U.S. military has recently increased efforts in Africa to help weak nations patrol borders and coastal water in hopes of forestalling the spread of terrorism.
Karl Rove _ a former top adviser to outgoing President George W. Bush, a Republican _ took issue with Dean and said U.S. policy toward Africa would change little under Obama.
"Africa was not at the center of American political dialogue this year," Rove said.
"Sure, Barack Obama talked about the genocide in Darfur but gave no indication of what he will do differently than the current administration," Rove said, referring to the war-ravaged province of Sudan.
"He, like the current administration, decried (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe, but he did not talk specifically what he will do differently," Rove said. "He talked about Somalia and the desire to have civil government, but again did not talk specifically about what he will do differently than the current administration."
Although the topic of discussion was listed as Africa, one panelist _ former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush _ took time to discuss the merits of the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush.
"I think history will be very kind to my brother," Jeb Bush said to about 200 attendees at the discussion arranged by ThisDay newspaper, one of the mass dailies in Africa's most-populous nation. "So I am very proud of his service."
Bush cited administration policies that pumped money into fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa, the world's poorest continent.
Other panelists at the forum were Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and a former White House chief of staff, Andy Card.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was expected to make a presentation later at the newspaper's annual awards ceremony that honors prominent Nigerian businesses, people and government agencies.
The newspaper said on its Web site that it wasn't paying Clinton for his address, but that it was making a "significant" contribution to one of Clinton's charities.
Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan also was expected.

Updated : 2021-03-08 09:06 GMT+08:00