WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama didn't get his anticipated meeting with Nelson Mandela, the man who inspired his political career. Instead, as he ended his Africa trip, he joined with a political foe he followed into the White House.
One of the most unlikely images of Obama's weeklong trip came Tuesday morning in Tanzania when he stood next to former President George W. Bush at a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam in memory of victims of the 1998 terrorist bombing there.
The U.S. presidents, who made no statements, emerged from the embassy compound side by side, walked to the memorial stone under the shade of a tree and bowed their heads in a moment of silence. Obama and Bush then shook hands with six survivors of the attack and their family members, Obama in front and Bush following.
Bush is in Tanzania for a forum his wife, Laura, hosted for African first ladies that also included Michelle Obama. While their husbands stood together in solemn silence, the current and former first ladies were all smiles at a separate event, regaling their audience -- and one another -- with stories about their families.
While Obama campaigned against Bush's legacy, on Africa policy he's following in his predecessor's footsteps. On Monday, Obama credited Bush with saving millions of African lives through his creation of the Pepfar program, a $15 billion commitment to prevent and treat HIV infections.
"I'm looking forward to being able, on African soil, to once again thank him on behalf of the American people for showing how American generosity and foresight could end up making a real difference in people's lives," Obama told reporters in Dar es Salaam.
Obama sought to build on Bush's work with a program to expand electric power in Africa, along with trade and agricultural initiatives. He also got the chance, which he didn't avail himself of during his first term, to celebrate his personal ties to Africa.
From "welcome home" signs in Senegal to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's challenge to him in South Africa to be a peacemaker, to the Tanzanians' renaming a road in their capital as Barack Obama Drive, each stop on Obama's three-country trip highlighted Africa's expression of ownership and expectations for the son of a Kenyan who became the first black U.S. president.
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