On his stop over in Tanzania while on a tour of Africa in February this year, President George W. Bush signed a $698 million dollar aid package with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to help Tanzania build better roads and increase access to safe drinking water.
â€œOf course, people talk with excitement of Obama,â€ said Kikwete at the occasion, â€œThe US is going to get a new president, whoever that is. For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good a friend of Africa as President Bush has been.â€
Outgoing President Bush will be remembered for his generosity to Africa. The Presidentâ€™s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Account have made a difference in African countries.
But perhaps his biggest mark was his health initiative. In August he signed the PEPFAR into law. The new legislation dramatically increased the money to $48 billion for the financial year 2009 to 2013, up from $15 billion for the financial year 2004 to 2008.Â Bush called it the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history.
In June 2005, President Bush launched the Presidentâ€™s Malaria Initiative (PMI) with a pledge to fight malaria in the most affected areas. Uganda was the first beneficiary of this intervention which includes providing insecticide treated nets, indoor residue spraying with insecticides, preventive treatment for pregnant women and artemisinin-based combination therapy.Â The PMI ends in 2010.
President Jakaya Kikwete told reporters that he hoped Barack Obama would treat the continent as well as Bush had.Â So whatâ€™s Obamaâ€™s health plan Africa?
He has promised to make the Millennium Development Goals which aim to cut extreme poverty by half by 2015, Americaâ€™s goals. On health he has promised to invest $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
But already Obama has some cleaning up to do within his borders. Americans living with HIV/AIDS have strongly protested President Bushâ€™s policy saying they had been left out.Â According to POZ magazine, more than one million people in the US are HIV-positive, and 14,000 people died from AIDS-related causes in 2006. In addition, about 25% of people in the US who are living with HIV are unaware of their status. AIDS activists want Obama to â€œacknowledgeâ€ that there is an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US and put â€œforward a plan immediately to deal with it.â€ They say funding is not commensurate with the need in the United States.Â
Still, Obamaâ€™s Kenyan roots have given optimism for a great African-American relationship in the future and a lot is expected.Â
Nuwe Amanya Mushega, former Secretary General EAC
â€œIt is hard to say how he (Obama) will deal with the rest of the world, but if you do justice to your people at home, you will most likely do justice to people elsewhere. The African people must learn to shun the corrupt, killers of innocent people, incompetent ones and liars.â€
Prof. John Jean Barya, Makerere University don
â€œIssues of democracy and accountability are likely to be central to Obamaâ€™s dealing with Africa. The Museveni regime has been supporting the Bush administration blindly and the same of Bush to Museveni. Obama is not expected to support dictators in Africa. We expect a higher standard of politics on the continent.â€
Prof. Edward Kakonge, chairman Uganda Debt Network
â€œI think he is going to work with some African leaders who have a sense of intellect to change the leadership perceptions on the continent. Obamaâ€™s election has enhanced the human virtue that we can disagree and talk, exchange views to find a common ground, unlike Bush who imposes his views on others in the pretext of promoting democracy.â€
Aggrey Awori, former MP, Samia-Bugwe North
â€œThose of us who are in incumbent governments should learn that incumbency can be a liability, when an incumbent collapses you all sink with him. I think Obama is going to focus more on diplomacy than fire power military ventures. This means that even Ugandaâ€™s influence in the region may have to change. There is need to establish a diplomatic system of work in the region now and the human resource is there.â€
Ogenga Latigo, Leader of opposition in parliament
â€œThe most critical thing is that all leaders who are worshiped to have done great things have been very inspirational. It is not that there is anything special they do to get things done; they just inspire people and move the world with them. It will be hard for him to ignore the fact that he has his roots in Kenya, but how that translates to a matter of policy is another issue.â€
Major Rubaramira Ruranga, AIDS activist
â€œObama will make health funding more comprehensive and not a religious project. Much of the money under PEPFAR is to faith based organizations because it doesnâ€™t agree with aspects of abortion and condom use. It is helpful, not constructive because it has strings attached and doesnâ€™t recognize the rights of women on their choice to abort. Women will benefit from the Obama approach.â€