Obama, Bush mark Tanzania U.S. Embassy bombing

2:49 PM, Jul 2, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Josephat Mwanzi
Special for USA TODAY

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Waitresses abandoned their customers and workers their offices as people lined the streets of Dar es Salaam in the thousands to see off President Obama on his departure home after a week-long visit to Africa. 

"Tanzania has received many guest and presidents from across the world, but I have never seen people moved to this extent," said Anna Limo, 26.

"I am just forced to see him -- what kind of a man is he that he makes the whole nation tremble?"

Obama ended his Africa tour on Tuesday with his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, who was in Tanzania for a women's conference on programs sponsored by his institute. The U.S. presidents observed a moment of silence together at a monument to victims of the 1998 embassy bombing here.
Simultaneous attacks at the U.S. embassies here and in Kenya, masterminded by Osama bin Laden, killed hundreds of people.

Obama and Bush bowed their heads as a Marine placed the wreath of red, white and blue flowers in front of the large stone memorial on the grounds of the new U.S. Embassy. They shook hands with survivors of the attack and relatives of those killed before returning to the embassy.

Obama and first lady Michelle departed Africa for home shortly after crossing paths with the George and Laura Bush, who were hosting the summit promoting the role of African first ladies in bringing change to their countries. Mrs. Obama had joined Mrs. Bush to talk about the importance of first ladies in Africa, and in a lighter moment the two chatted about how the news media preferred to focus on more trivial matters about them.

"People are sort of sorting through our shoes and our hair, whether we cut it or not ..." Mrs. Obama started.

"Whether we have bangs," Mrs. Bush interjected to laughter, alluding to coverage of Mrs. Obama's change in hair style.

"But," Mrs. Obama said, "we take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And eventually people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we're standing in front of."

"We hope," Mrs. Bush joked.

President Obama earlier praised George W. Bush for helping save millions of lives by funding AIDS treatment, an effort that Tanzania's leadership lauded. Obama promoted what he called a "new model" for Africa based not just on aid and assistance but trade and partnership.

"Ultimately, the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans," Obama said. "And our job is to be a partner in that process."
Obama has cut funding for the anti-AIDS program in Africa. He said the decrease had not affected the program because costs had been saved that made the program "more efficient."

Around Dar es Salaam, business, restaurants and pubs closed while people crammed high buildings to get a glimpse of the American president.

Obama met with businessmen and talked about the $7 billion initiative to power sub-Saharan Africa, a project he announced earlier in his trip in South Africa. Tanzania is one of the countries that would benefit from the initiative, along with Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia, which aims to bring electricity to a total of 20 million homes and businesses.

Meanwhile, some Tanzanians said seeing Obama had been an "inspiration".

"Whoa -- Obama is something else," said Omar Khamis, a 45-year-old social worker. "I was very eager to see him because he inspires me, the way he talks, it's like he means what he says … but I am disappointed that his car was so speedy, tinted and protected."

Obama's stop in Tanzania followed visits to Senegal and South Africa. After he landed in the East African country Monday, Obama was met by thousands of cheering locals at the airport and later greeted with troupes of traditional dancers. Young people dressed in T-shirts with images of Obama lined the streets.

The Tanzanian warm welcome was similar to his reception in Senegal where locals said they were happy he was visiting the francophone country.

However, Obama's three-day stint in South Africa was overshadowed by protests, which saw South African police shoot rubber bullets into a crowd of hundreds of students prior to his speech at the University of Johannesburg. The worsening health of the former president of the country, Nelson Mandela, also cast a shadow over his visit.

Although Obama was unable to meet with the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader, who remains in a hospital with a recurring lung condition he developed during his 27 years in prison, he did meet with several of the daughters and grandchildren of the man he called his "personal hero."

Obama has been criticized for not paying an extensive visit to Africa before his second term in office but analysts said the trip helped to strengthen ties between the U.S. and the continent.

"It's an opportunity to show at a very high level a re-commitment of U.S. energy and attention on Africa," said Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "The president is trying to demonstrate that he, and the U.S., is engaged in Africa in multiple ways."

Most Watched Videos