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Liberians Say Bush Visit Was a Win for Their Country

President Bush has ended his five-nation tour of Africa where he pledged billions of dollars for health, education, and development projects around the continent. The president wrapped up his tour Thursday in Liberia where he participated in a series of public events with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the capital, Monrovia.

Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA President Bush promised to continue to help Liberia in its reconstruction effort following 14 years of civil war.

“President Bush announced, in addition to the already great help that the U.S. government is giving Liberia and considering Liberia as a true partner that this country stands to benefit from my education policy in a pragmatic way 1 million textbooks that will come to this country because of the education policy and health policy he initiated that goes to the heart and soul of eradicating malaria. I also want to share with you that the beef continues to be the U.S. government’s continual support for Liberia’s redevelopment through our infrastructure redevelopment,” he said.

While visiting Tanzania, President Bush promised President Jakaya Kikwete hundreds of millions of dollars to help combat disease and poverty. Bropleh brushed off criticism by some that 1 million textbooks and fund the purchase of 10,000 desks and chairs for students were not enough.

“What President Bush said is that this partnership and help that the U.S. government has always given Liberia will be intensified and there is more to come. What I would like the world to understand is that the package that the Liberian government received in terms quantifying what benefits we have arrived long before President Bush arrived on yesterday because the U.S. government’s redevelopment effort can be counted well in billions of dollars,” Bropleh said.

He said Presidents Bush and Sirleaf also discussed how to strengthen Liberia’s fragile security, including the army.

“What President Bush did say is he reaffirmed the United States government’s position on helping to improve our security and working with our military. As you know the United States government has contributed millions of dollars to the restructuring of a responsible army in Liberia. And I can tell you that we in Liberia are very proud of the young men and who now make the armed forces of Liberia. And we’re very proud that the U.S. government is supporting our security sector reform,” he said.

While President Bush did not announce that he was offering the headquarters of the U.S. Africa Military Command to Liberia, Bropleh said the U.S. president reiterated his earlier statement that Liberia would be seriously considered once the U.S. decides to put AFRICOM headquartes in Africa.

Bropleh said the two leaders also discussed trade and investment.

“What President Sirleaf said is that Liberia will opt for trade instead of aid. What she was saying is that we are removing ourselves from the years where there was this dependent syndrome on the United States or any of our bilateral or multilateral partners. The president talked about the fact that Liberia has qualified for AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act), and that Liberian entrepreneurs were now in the process of developing quality merchandize that they can enter the U.S. market,” Bropleh said.

President Bush showed his dancing skills when he and President Sirleaf danced during a performance in honor of Mr. Bush. Bropleh said the U.S. president felt at home in Liberia.

“The Liberian peopole felt that President Bush was at home in Liberia. And in fact President Bush said even though I’m 4,500 miles away from the United States, I feel I’m right at home in Liberia. This president of the United States is a pragmatist. He is a man who appreciates the Liberian people. He believes in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the Liberian people. It was a win-win situation for every Liberian yesterday when President Bush arrived here,” Bropleh said.