A Rwandan Democrat in the Republican's Court

10/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Josh Ruxin Development expert and author of A Thousand Hills to Heaven

Today, I'm asking for your help. I'm traveling from Rwanda tomorrow and headed to the Republican National Convention. To those who know me as a lifelong Democrat, this may seem doubly odd.

But when you consider that I have been invited to participate in a panel discussion on American Leadership in Global Health, my visit couldn't be more appropriate. The panel, hosted by former Senator Bill Frist, will examine President Bush's accomplishments in global health and focus on how Administration programs such as PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) can be augmented with new funds for neglected tropical disease, management, infrastructure, IT, communications, insurance and a host of needed investments.

Here's how you can help me. I will be reporting from Minneapolis on the panel and my conversations with convention delegates, policy experts, elected officials and others on building on the Bush Administration's success in international health and development programs. Please contact me here and let me know what you want to ask of the panelists and Republicans representing their party in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It seems to me and many in Rwanda that the Bush legacy is brightest in Africa. I want to take the temperature of those in attendance to ensure that party commitment to continuing these highly successful programs - and expanding upon them - is fully evident.

Expanding our country's commitment to Africa may seem like a no-brainer to some of you. Influential members of both parties support the current commitment and believe it should be expanded. ONE Vote '08, the bi-partisan organization that sent a delegation here last month, sees the value to Africans' health and global health and security. As you saw in my last post, ONE Vote's representatives including Senators Frist and Tom Daschle and Cindy McCain, saw the benefits of US programs when they were here. They learned that Bush policies had made Republicans of many Rwandans, but an even bigger surprise was their realization that the Rwandan people are clamoring for business opportunities. What started as aid is quickly transitioning to trade, and that's good for Rwandans and Americans

President Bush will be remembered for PEPFAR and other aid and development initiatives that have had far-ranging impact and improved the lives of millions of Africans. These are investments that pay dividends. Still, there is a small and vocal faction attending the Convention that would like to see African aid programs discontinued. They see this effort as a drain on national resources. I of course disagree.

So, I hope that you'll supply me with some provocative questions that can help advance discussion at the convention. I will report back here on what those conversations yield.

I also hope that my own party decides to publicly commit to programs that build upon the accomplishments of the President in Africa in ways that foster needed economic prosperity. No matter what his party affiliation, the next president must not fail Africa.