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Bush Stopover In Rwanda Evokes Darfur

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By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

KIGALI, Rwanda, Feb. 19 -- He looked shaken, as anyone would visiting a genocide memorial with a picture of a 12-year-old girl and a plaque with her vital information.

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Favourite sport: Swimming.

Favourite food: Eggs and chips.

Cause of death: Hacked by machete.

For President Bush, a visit to the Kigali Memorial Center evokes not just stomach-churning visions of what happened here 14 years ago but haunting questions about what is happening even now on another part of the African continent. A president who once scribbled "not on my watch" in the margins of a report on Rwanda finds himself still unable to stop what he has termed genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

"This is a moving place that can't help but shake your emotions to your very foundation," Bush said after touring the museum to the 1994 genocide, built on grounds that include mass graves with more than 250,000 bodies. "It reminds me that we must not let these kind of actions take place."

But unlike Bill Clinton, who came here in 1998 to admit he should have done more to stop the Rwanda genocide, Bush said he feels no guilt and harbors no regret over Darfur -- except regret that others have not done what he has pressed them to do. He opted not to send U.S. troops unilaterally into Sudan and instead has tried to help assemble an international peacekeeping force that has yet to fully deploy.

"I still believe it was the right decision," he said, "but having done that, if you're a problem-solver, you put yourself at the mercy of decisions of others -- in this case, the United Nations. And I'm well known to have spoken out [about] the slowness of the United Nations. It seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering."

He came back to the question of personal regret. "I'm comfortable with the decision I made," he said. "I'm not comfortable with how quickly the response has been."

Darfur has always been a crucible of American power under Bush, testing the obligations and limitations of the world's last superpower striving to dictate events in faraway lands. For Bush, it has been a singular frustration, one he rails about in private with aides even as he has settled for a multilateral effort that sputters inconclusively.

Bush was quick to call the killing in Darfur genocide, a term others still resist, and he organized a massive humanitarian response, imposed sanctions against Sudanese officials and promoted a plan for a 26,000-strong U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force. He announced Tuesday that the United States would spend another $100 million to train African peacekeepers for Darfur, including $12 million for 2,400 more Rwandan troops.

"President Bush did more than any other world leader to try to stop the deaths in Darfur," said Andrew S. Natsios, who was the president's envoy to Sudan until December. "He called it what it was when it was happening and then with other countries organized the African Union force." The humanitarian aid effort, he added, "saved hundreds of thousands of lives."


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