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Bush trip evokes mixed response

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Protester holds anti-Bush poster in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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The situation in Liberia has dominated the headlines, but as President Bush heads to Africa that crisis is not necessarily the primary focus of his five nation visit. CNN's John King explains.
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's forthcoming trip to Africa has evoked mixed reactions across the world's poorest continent.

The president's first official trip to Africa is intended to highlight his anti-AIDS and economic agenda, but many in the developing country say Bush and his administration are not welcome, according to opinion polls.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela -- who has repeatedly attacked the leader of the world's strongest nation over the war in Iraq -- will be unavailable throughout Bush's five-day tour of five African countries.

"The perception of Bush is of a cowboy ... That he's a unilateralist, that he's a militant, that he doesn't listen to what other people say when he talks to the American people about wanting Bin Laden dead or alive," John Stremlau, an American professor at South Africa's Witwatersrand University, told CNN.

Many believe anti-American public opinion has it wrong, and highlight the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which opened U.S. markets to selected countries.

Supporters of Bush point to the $15 billion that he will bring with him to fight HIV and AIDS, which have infected more than 30 million people in Africa.

Bush announced recently $100 million plans to strengthen anti-terror defenses in vulnerable African states but critics argue that the money pledged is not enough.

"It's a great honor for us," security guard Abdoulaye Saido in Dakar told Reuters. "He is a man who believes in the same principles I believe in. He believes in the dignity of each life, he believes in democracy, he believes in open markets, he understands trade," he said.

Bush's predecessor in the White House, Bill Clinton, visited Africa in 1998 and 2000 and received a warm welcome from heads of state and the public.

But the Bush tour of Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria is unlikely to evoke the same support for the U.S. government after the Iraq war.

His trip coincides with the annual summit of the 52-nation African Union. He has chosen not to address the gathering reminding many of the 2002 Earth Summit in South Africa which the president declined to go to and the World Racism Conference in South Africa two years ago where the U.S. sent no official representative.

Bush will arrive in Senegal -- a stable democracy headed by his ally, President Abdoulaye Wade -- on Tuesday where he will hold talks with Wade and other West African leaders to highlight Africa's strategic importance in the fight against terror and the U.S. reliance on its oil.

-- CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault contributed to this report.


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