Obama, Bush and wives will cross paths in Africa

  • Updated: June 22, 2013 - 6:25 PM

Two presidents will overlap briefly; wives will meet.

It’s not often that Africa sees a visiting American president, much less two. But as President Obama travels across the continent next week, so will his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush, who made fighting AIDS in Africa a top goal of his administration, will take a trip there — his third since leaving office — as part of a program to combat cervical cancer. He will leave late next week for Zambia, where he will help refurbish a clinic, and then head to Tanzania, where his wife, Laura Bush, is organizing a forum for African first ladies.

Bush will overlap briefly on July 2 with Obama in Tanzania. There are no plans for the two to see each other, but Michelle Obama has agreed to attend the first ladies’ forum with Laura Bush in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, to promote women’s education, health and economic empowerment.

“It’s coincidental that we have two American presidents on the continent at the same time — in the same country at the same time — but it’s indicative of a continued commitment, which is great news,” said Hannah Abney, communications director for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Last year, George and Laura Bush helped refurbish a clinic in Kabwe, Zambia, where nearly 30,000 women have been treated since. They will help renovate and reopen another clinic on July 1, this time in Livingstone, Zambia.

Casting a shadow over Obama’s trip will be the health of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has been hospitalized for two weeks. Family and government officials say the 94-year-old’s condition is improving, but the White House said it would defer to Mandela’s family for decisions on whether the anti-apartheid leader will be able to meet with Obama.

Obama’s two-day visit to South Africa will be bookended by stops in Senegal and Tanzania. The president, along with his family, is scheduled to depart Washington Wednesday morning.

New york times and AP

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