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U.S.: Blasts Focus Attention On Africa

  • Don Hill



Washington, 12 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Last week's bomb blasts in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi have refocused official U.S. attention on American relations with Africa.

That's partly because the attacks -- almost simultaneous in the neighboring nations of Tanzania and Kenya -- occurred at U.S. embassies and clearly were aimed at the United States. Also, at least 12 of the hundreds killed were Americans.

But it's also because, as TV and other news reports starkly demonstrated, it was a shared tragedy.

Most of those killed and injured were Kenyans and Tanzanians, and the first rescuers at the bloody scenes broadcast internationally were natives of those nations. The target may have been the United States but the brunt was borne by Africans.

Thirty ambassadors and top diplomats of the African diplomatic corps called at the U.S. State Department yesterday. Speaking for them all, Egyptian Ambassador Ahmed Maher El Sayed told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others, "We share this sad moment of grief."

He offered sympathy and condolences to the families of victims and the American people and expressed gratitude for U.S. President Bill Clinton's condolence calls to Kenya and Tanzania.

The ambassador said that terrorism is inconsistent with African history, tradition, culture and beliefs. The bombings constituted, as he put it, a "heinous and unacceptable act which has been perpetrated against the peoples of American and Africa."

Ambassador Maher also said: "Africans have died side by side with their American brothers and sisters in this tragedy."

Secretary Albright, too, emphasized the commonalty of the disaster. In her words: "We're mindful that a large majority of the victims of these crimes were Kenyan and Tanzanian."

She called the Tanzanian and Kenyan peoples great friends and great supporters and said they were innocent victims of the attacks. And she praised the courage of locally-hired embassy staffers and local rescue workers.

She noted that the United States has shipped equipment, blood, medical supplies and personnel and others to both countries.

The Defense Department said yesterday that U.S. armed forces had so far flown 17 separate flights to East Africa delivering more than 400 rescue workers and investigators and 140 tons of materiel.

Reports have flowed in of claims by a previously-unknown Islamic terrorist group's claim of responsibility for the bombing. The validity of the claim hasn't been determined. In her remarks to the African diplomatic corps, Albright said this: "Terror is not a form of political expression, it is certainly not a manifestation of religious faith. It is murder."

Albright is scheduled to fly today to Germany to visit victims evacuated to Ramstein U.S. Air Base and to accompany home the bodies of ten American dead.

She told the African ambassadors that she also plans to visit Kenya and Tanzania as soon as circumstances make that possible without unduly burdening the U.S. Embassy staffs there.

President Clinton made an unprecedented 10-day tour of six African countries in March and April this year. Secretary Albright promised the African diplomats that the embassy bombings won't deter the United States in its approaches to the continent. As she put it: "We will not be intimidated. We will maintain our presence in Africa and elsewhere where we are welcome or needed, and we will maintain our commitment to building a strong, new relationship with the new Africa."
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