Unpopular at home, Bush basks in African praise

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By Barry Moody
Reuters
Sunday, February 17, 2008; 11:23 AM

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Unpopular at home and in much of the world during the last year of his presidency, George W. Bush is basking in rare adulation on his African tour.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete poured praise on Bush in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, the second day of his five-nation African tour, each compliment applauded warmly by members of the east African country's cabinet.

Although around 2,000 Muslim demonstrators protested against Bush on the eve of his visit, many thousands more cheering, waving people lined his road from the airport on Saturday.

Banners across the route, decorated with Bush's image against a backdrop of Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro, read: "We cherish democracy. Karibu (welcome) to President and Mrs Bush."

Others read: "Thank you for helping fight malaria and HIV." Dancers at the airport and at Kikwete's state house to greet Bush on Sunday, wore skirts and shirts decorated with his face.

Back home, Bush is suffering some of the lowest approval ratings in his seven-year tenure and has been buffeted by criticism of his handling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ailing economy.

Not surprisingly he is enjoying the different reception in Africa.

Beaming repeatedly during a press conference with Kikwete, he made a point of referring to his welcome on the streets, which he described as "very moving."

Bush opened his remarks by saying "Vipi Mambo!" before turning to U.S. journalists and adding: "For the uneducated, that's Swahili for 'Howdy Y'all"' --a typical Texas greeting.

Kikwete told Bush: "The outpouring of warmth and affection from the people of Tanzania that you have witnessed since your arrival is a genuine reflection of what we feel towards you and towards the American people."

A FRIEND OF AFRICA

In a reference to Bush's domestic problems, Kikwete added: "Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy.


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