Visiting jovial former US President George W. Bush, accompanied by his wife, Laura, took time from their one-day sojourn to Gaborone and drove to the dusty village of Gabane where they were treated to traditional music by the Nare troupe.
The Bushes got carried away by the Setswana musical rhythm upon their arrival with Mr. Bush shaking his body, while his wife looked on elated. Probably thinking he had gotten the hang of it, Mr. Bush began tapping one foot after the other then proceeded to embrace and chat with the young male and female singers between songs.
During the couple’s Gabane Home Based Care visit, located 15 km West of Gaborone, they met with American volunteers (Peace Corps) serving in Botswana. Husband and wife jointly read a book to pre-school children at the centre.
The Bush family, who first visited Botswana in 2003, joined invited guests, who included former President Sir Ketumile Masire and former Botswana Ambassador to the United States Archibald Mogwe, for America’s Independence Day celebration held at the official residence of the U.S Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle Gavin.
Notable about Bush was that he somehow seemed to have ditched what he has always been known for while in office ÔÇô his gaffes.
While here, he chose to speak as briefly and as humorously as he possibly could.
The Press Pool, which was selected from various local media houses to exclusively cover his stay, was under strict instructions from media handlers not to ask questions.
When he realized that he seemed to be the only one not reading from lengthy prepared remarks at the official launch at Princess Marina Hospital, Bush quipped: “I keep my remarks short so that you can go back to work” to the amusement of his audience.
“We are here to help Botswana to deal with cervical cancer. I’m looking forward for the celebration then I’m heading back home. God Bless,” he briefly told invited guests at the celebrations.
The former president said he was convinced Botswana can succeed in the fight against cervical cancer seeing how the country made remarkable strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS at the peak of the pandemic.
Funded by the American people through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and supported by the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, which includes many public and private sector organizations, is a new effort expected to expand and maximize the impact of the “See and Treat” program for cervical cancer, which has already served hundreds of women in Botswana.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Botswana and it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women in the country. This is a grave threat to women’s health, and therefore to the health of the country. Cervical cancer is more common and more aggressive in women who are HIV positive. The World Health Organization projects a greater than 20 percent increase in cervical cancer incidence and related deaths by 2025 if current trends continue.
The scale up of the “See and Treat” program will include the establishment of five new sites where women will have access to same day examinations, diagnosis, and treatment. In serious cases, the patients may be referred for additional diagnostics and treatment at other facilities.
“My Ministry, with support from implementing partners such as the University of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Botswana, will coordinate the implementation of this expanded “See and Treat” program,” Minister Dr. John Seakgosing assured Bush.
“I would like to note that even with the unprecedented three million dollars in support from the United States Government and the clear commitment of partners with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, the prospects for real progress are possible only because of the steadfast dedication, commitment and expertise that the Government of Botswana has brought to bear,” said Gavin in her remarks.
Photographers who were part of the Press Pool covering the Bush visit were not all the more happy at being restricted to take photos under the watchful eye of the Secret Service. They complained bitterly that they were denied photo opportunities to the detriment of their media houses immediately after Bush left Princess Marina Hospital for Gabane as they had to immediately board the Press Pool bus.
At the State House, where the Bush family had lunch with President Ian Khama, the Press Pool was again denied a photo opportunity and blamed the US security agents.
“They [Botswana security agents] would not allow us in either,” a US Secret Service agent protested before a small group of journalists who travelled with the former US President’s envoy.