By NEDRA PICKLER
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) _ Teeming crowds and blaring horns are welcoming President Barack Obama to Tanzania‘s largest city, where the U.S. president’s likeness is everywhere as he arrives on the last leg of his three-country tour of the African continent.
Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters touched down Monday afternoon in Dar es Salaam, where a marching band awaiting them on the tarmac danced and played as dozens waved U.S. and Tanzanian flags.
Hundreds of young people lined the streets wearing t-shirts and sarongs bearing images of Obama, forcing Obama’s motorcade to slow at times as it sped along a main thoroughfare that’s been permanently renamed “Barack Obama Drive” _ a sign that the visit from America’s first president of African descent has resonated deeply with Tanzania‘s people.
A world away from U.S. political battles, Obama was preparing to join together Tuesday with former President George W. Bush at a ceremony honoring Americans killed nearly 15 years ago. Bush will be in Tanzania for a conference on African women organized by the George W. Bush Institute.
Although no meeting between the two men had initially been planned, the White House announced as Obama flew to Tanzania that Obama and Bush would come together Tuesday for a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the 1998 bombings at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam. Eleven Americans were killed in that Osama bin Laden-masterminded attack, which mirrored a near-simultaneous bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father.
First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush also planned to team up at the conference Tuesday for a joint discussion on promoting women’s education, health and economic empowerment. President Bush plans to be in attendance, before delivering his own speech there the following day, after the Obamas will have left.
Having both presidents in town “sends a very positive message that both political parties in the United States share a commitment to this continent,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
During his African visit, Obama has credited Bush with helping save millions of lives by creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
“The United States has really done wonderful work through the PEPFAR program, started under my predecessor, President Bush, and continued through our administration,” Obama said Sunday during a visit to the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Center in Cape Town.
Bush’s accomplishment in fighting AIDS was one of his signature foreign policy successes, while Obama has not been so focused on Africa despite his roots there and only now is making a major presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Obama’s only previous visit as president was a brief visit to Ghana his first summer in office, although he traveled to Africa several times previously and has vowed to come back.
While in Tanzania, Obama planned to launch a trade partnership with Africa, initially focused on the eastern African countries of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda _ a region of more than 130 million people. The program is designed to assist those countries’ trade with each other and with the United States. Among the impediments to trade that the U.S. intends to alleviate are physical roadblocks that delay the transport of goods and products. As an example, Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative who is traveling with Obama, told reporters it takes 42 days to export coffee out of Rwanda, compared to 14 days out of Colombia.
Obama also signed an executive order aimed at combating wildlife trafficking in Africa, particularly the sale of rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks. The State Department will provide $10 million to train and assist African authorities fighting the illegal poaching and selling of animals and animal parts. Grant Harris, the senior director for Africa for the National Security Council, said rhinoceros horns sell for $30,000 a pound on the black market.
After arriving in Tanzania on Monday afternoon, Obama was preparing to meet with President Jakaya Kikwete. He’ll visit later with business leaders from the U.S. and Africa to talk about increasing trade in east Africa, before ending the evening with a dinner hosted by Kikwete.
On Tuesday, Obama plans a private greeting at the U.S. embassy, which has been relocated since the 1998 attack. The president then delivers a final speech focused on bringing more electric power to Africa and heads back toward Washington by noon.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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