This week former U.S. President George W. Bush travelled to Zambia on behalf of a women’s health charity, however as an ugly scene developed at State House as the new President of Zambia Michael Sata unexpectedly denounced the former American head of state as a “colonialist” who had stolen away Africa’s resources.
Earlier in the week, President Bush had attended the opening ceremony of a new health clinic on behalf of the Red Ribbon / Pink Ribbon charity, which would help screen Zambian women for cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS.
During a meeting which was open to the media, President Sata said Bush was in Zambia to pay back for what his ‘colonialist’ country had taken away from Africa.
“The most interesting thing, previously there used to be four great countries: United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia and France. And you have all drifted away; you have abandoned Africa after taking all our raw commodities, our raw materials and build your cities,” President Sata said during his public attack against Bush at State House. “I mean, as far as you are concerned Africa doesn’t exist. And when we have a former colonialist like you coming back to pay back what you took out of this country we are grateful.”
The impromptu attack did not sit well with President Bush, who quickly interjected and told Sata that he was wrong to brand America as such when it actually also fought colonialism itself exactly 236 years ago, and furthermore has never held any colonial territory in Africa. President Bush interrupted President Sata to say that America had never been a colonialist, but freed itself from colonialism just like Zambia.
“Mr. President, I don’t want to be argumentative, but America was never a colonial nation. We broke free like you broke free from those who wanted to colonise us,” he said. “France might have been a colonial nation, Britain might have been a colonial nation, but not the United States of America,” Bush said, prompting laughter from the audience.
President Sata however insisted that America was a colonialist state because it had financial influence.
“The United States has money,” Sata said. “When they had money, the big colonisers depended on American money. The Americans did not physically colonise us, but at the same time, the Americans still have scars of slavery. And if you have the scars of slavery whether you colonised or you didn’t colonise us you still have those scars.”
“No question about it,” Bush agreed.
By the end of the uncomfortable press conference, President Sata thanked Bush for his support in the fight against cancer, but not before again attacking the United States for not paying attention to the right diseases in Africa.
“These are some of the problems which many people don’t pay much attention to. They pay attention to diarrhoea, pneumonia, TB and even heart attack. But they don’t pay much attention to [cancer], but it’s our biggest killer in Africa. And what you do now, when you are raising the funds, you are dealing with the ladies. So, you have now to move to the gentlemen because side by side you have cervical cancer for women and you have prostate cancer for the men, so you can’t treat one side and leave the others,” said President Sata.
“So, we will leave it to Madam Laura Bush to deal with prostate cancer, you deal with cervical cancer,” Sata said.
President Sata also expressed anger at Bush for keeping him waiting at State House. President Sata walked to the State House main entrance and , holding his hands in the pocket, told United States Embassy public affairs officer Priscilla Hernandez that he did not like being kept waiting.
“I cannot be waiting here. He [Bush] is former president; he is not the current president [of the United States] so I cannot be waiting for him. I’m not an American for me to be waiting for him, and I don’t intend to be an American,” President Sata told Hernandez as Bush’s security kept communicating with their colleagues who were with Bush on their way to State House.
“The young man is lucky that he is the first American leader to have brought money to Africa through his Millennium Challenge [Account]; that’s why I’m standing here. Otherwise if it was somebody else I would have handed him over to one of my ministers to meet him.”
However, Bush arrived at State House before Sata finished his irritable remarks.