President Bush arrives in Senegal Tuesday where he will meet with West African leaders at the start of his five-nation tour of Africa. President Bush begins his trip in West Africa's oldest democracy where President Abdoulaye Wade came to office by defeating Senegal's ruling party and its 20-year incumbent president Abdou Diouf.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Wade have already met at the White House where National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says Mr. Bush was impressed by the Senegalese president as a solid and progressive leader who he admires as a regional statesman.
"Many of the African leaders that he's met have impressed him as people who, under very difficult circumstances, are trying, finally on this continent, to make steps toward making life better for their people," says Ms. Rice. "People like President Wade, for whom he has enormous respect, or President Mogae in Botswana, who's done a great deal to make this economy better."
While in Senegal, Mr. Bush will also meet with leaders from other West African democracies including Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is of particular interest for Mr. Bush as stability there depends in large part on ending civil war in neighboring Liberia, where President Charles Taylor is facing war crimes charges for his involvement in Sierra Leone.
West African leaders wanted a decision from President Bush about sending U.S. troops to Liberia before this trip began. Instead, Mr. Bush is sending a Pentagon assessment team to the region to see if U.S. troops would help sustain a Liberian cease-fire.
While addressing conflicts and humanitarian crises, Ms. Rice says the president's meeting with West African leaders is also meant to further encourage the spread of democracy and good governance.
"It's not that we don't recognize the tremendous humanitarian challenges in Africa, but it's also important to celebrate those countries in Africa that are trying to do the right thing. And Senegal is one of those places," she says. "The countries that will come together with President Wade and President Bush in Senegal are also countries that are trying to do the right thing."
Those countries doing the "right thing" in the opinion of the Bush administration will be eligible for increased donor assistance. The president's so-called Millennium Challenge will boost U.S. aid fifty percent over the next few years for countries that invest in health care and education, economic reforms and fighting corruption.