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June 18, 2013

Govt: Obama African Tour Is On As Scheduled



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Bernard Membe, Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation minister
US President Barack Obama’s visit to Tanzania is on as scheduled - early next month - despite media reports that it has been cancelled owing to budgetary constraints.

Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation minister Bernard Membe told The Guardian yesterday in an sms interview that there was no truth in the reports spread by a section of the media.

He said it is because of the fact that nothing has happened to the contrary that is why the Tanzanian government has not issued a statement on anything relating to cancellation of the vital visit.

“We have not received any report to the contrary from the US government … if the reports were true, we and other institutions, including the media, would not have kept quiet on the claimed cancellation,” he said.

Over the past week there have been reports spread in the mainstream and social media claiming that the US government has cancelled Obama’s trip to Tanzania due to budgetary constraints.

An impeccable source within the US embassy in Dar es Salaam said Obama’s visit is on as scheduled and has not been cancelled as claimed by the media.

It added that preparations are going on and Tanzanians are looking forward to see him landing on the African soil for the second time after he became President of the US. “People at the US embassy in Dar es Salam are continuing with preparations to receive President Obama who will stay in Tanzania for two days,” the source said.

Besides Tanzania which comes third, President Obama’s visit to Africa slated for the end of this month and in early July, will also take him to Senegal and South Africa.
While in Tanzania, the US President is expected to launch a power programme for the continent.

This will be Obama’s second tour of sub Saharan Africa after he came to power in 2007. He made his first stop over in Ghana in 2009.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that plans for Obama to take a safari with his family in Tanzania had been canceled due to budgetary concerns.

The newspaper, citing a Secret Service planning document, said the excursion would have required Obama's counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals.

The paper said Obama's Africa tour, could cost the US government between USD60m and USD100m, based on cost of similar trips in recent years.

The report comes as many government agencies struggle with mandatory budget cuts that took effect in March because US lawmakers failed to strike a wider budget deal.

Hundreds of Secret Service agents are dispatched for the president's overseas visits along with dozens of vehicles, planes and other military and security assets.

The White House said that it was up to the Secret Service to determine costs and security needs for the US leader abroad -- as was the case under former presidents George W. Bush and Clinton for instance.

Both Bush and Clinton undertook significant tours of Africa as president, requiring the vast security and logistical infrastructure that follows the US leader wherever he goes. 
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN

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