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Hillary Clinton… ‘Africa has enormous potential for progress’

US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton who began her 11-day seven-nation tour of Africa in Kenya on August 5, said improving democracy is the key to boosting trade and development, and there’s no doubting the fact that Africa has enormous potential for progress. She told a summit in Kenya investors would not be attracted to states with failed leadership and civil unrest.

Later she met Kenyan leaders, amid growing concerns over Nairobi’s reluctance to seek justice following last year’s postelection violence.

Analysts say the tour, her longest overseas journey in her post to date, is part of an attempt by the US to show that Africa remains a key foreign policy priority. Her trip came less than a month after US President Barack Obama travelled to Ghana. Mr Obama said in a video broadcast to delegates at the Nairobi summit that he would like to see closer trade ties with Africa.

US officials were keen to emphasise that Mrs Clinton’s trip is the earliest trip by a secretary of state to Africa of any administration. One of Mrs Clinton’s first engagements in Nairobi was to address a forum of some 40 African states which enjoy trade preferences with the US, through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), on the condition they uphold free elections and markets. She said Africa had all the ingredients for growth, prosperity and progress and should reject corruption.

“The solution starts with transparency. A famous judge in my country once said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And there’s a lot of sunlight in Africa,” she said. “We can’t seem to get past the idea that the continent has enormous potential for progress. Too often the media’s portrayal is so much less than that. But such notions are not only stale and outdated, they are wrong.”

The greatest opportunity for Africa lay in boosting trade within the continent, she said. Mrs Clinton ended by shining the spotlight on Africa’s women saying they had often been marginalised but were key to transforming economies.

Mrs Clinton also visited South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cape Verde. In South Africa Mrs Clinton met Nelson Mandela. She said she felt inspired by her meeting with the former South African President. The meeting was at Mandela’s home in Johannesburg. Mrs Clinton hailed Mr Mandela for the personal discipline he showed when he fought South Africa’s apartheid system. She was shown handwritten copies of Mr Mandela’s letters from his time as a political prisoner. Mrs Clinton was also shown his membership card of the Methodist Church, a denomination to which she also belongs.

Referring to these documents, she said: “It of course inspires in me an even greater admiration for his public work but an even greater affection for the man. “The discipline that he brought to a life filled with so many great achievements, not only for him personally but for South Africa and the world.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Angola on Monday August 10. She said Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos had promised her he would hold presidential elections “in a timely manner”.

The main opposition group UNITA had urged Clinton to press the government not to delay the first post-war presidential election. It accuses dos Santos of delaying the election, initially scheduled for 2009, to extend his threedecade rule. “He committed that the constitution would be completed and elections would be held under it in a timely manner, as soon as it could be done,” Clinton told reporters.

Clinton met dos Santos for nearly an hour in Luanda and urged the government to implement promised reforms and do more to tackle corruption and hold promised elections. “We underscored the importance of moving expeditiously to get the constitution done and then holding elections as soon as possible under the constitution. He was very positive in his reactions to the points we were making,” she said.

Angola’s foreign minister said after meeting Clinton that polls could be delayed for another year. Mrs Clinton said dos Santos had explained that the country was trying to decide which sort of political system to adopt and was “consulting broadly” over how to move from a more French model to a U.S.-style election.

She said the two talked at length about a new “bilateral partnership” with the United States, including help with agriculture, energy security, health and military cooperation.

U.S.-Angolan ties have improved since the end of Angola’s 27-year civil war in 2002. During the conflict Washington helped bankroll the losing side, UNITA, now the main opposition party. But under the Bush administration ties were strained and Clinton’s twoday trip was aimed at elevating relations with the oil-rich nation, which rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer and is a major supplier to the United States. “The United States really believes in the potential of Angola,” she told staff at the U.S. embassy in Luanda.

The fourth country was the Democratic Republic of Congo. The US Secretary of State demanded an end to widespread sexual abuse in war-ravaged eastern DR Congo. Mrs Clinton spoke out during a tour of a crowded refugee camp in the eastern city of Goma. Earlier, following talks with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, she said there should be no impunity for the perpetrators of sexual violence.

The UN estimates 3,500 women have been raped in DR Congo so far this year. And in a report released to coincide with Mrs Clinton’s visit, the aid agency Oxfam said it had monitored 20 communities and found that children, some as young as four, had been raped in half of them.

On the fifth leg of her tour Mrs Clinton travelled to Nigeria where she stressed for good governance and electoral reform for Africa’s most populated nation. Mrs Clinton expressed concerns about Nigeria’s anti-graft war, saying the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) fell off in the last two years. The US Secretary of State, who spoke at a Town Hall Meeting at the Shehu Yar’ Adua Center in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, called for the reinstatement of an anti-graft initiative. “The EFCC has fallen off in the last two years, we want to see them start work again as before,” she said. Clinton expressed U.S.

support for Nigeria’s antigraft war, saying all those found to have been involved in corrupt practices would be brought to book. She said two U.S. citizens implicated in the Halliburton bribe scandal had been convicted. The former first lady said the perception of Nigeria as a corrupt country continues to be a problem and the concentration of wealth at the top to the detriment of the vast majority may prevent Nigeria from attaining its full potentials. She described as unacceptable a situation where Nigeria can not translate her huge revenue from crude oil into development of infrastructure.

Hilary Clinton decried the failure of government due to corruption and bad governance in African countries. “Africa does not need more strong men, but good governance,” she said, adding that with good governance, nothing can stop Nigeria. “Oil cannot stop bad governance, but can provide basic infrastructure,” she said.

The secretary of state earlier expressed strong supports for Nigeria’s electoral reforms ahead of the 2011 elections and efforts taken so far by the Nigerian federal government, including the granting of amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta. She flayed the win-atall cost syndrome in electoral battles and called on politicians to put the interest of the nation above themselves. “Part of creating a strong democracy is that the losers accept defeat and know that it is for the benefit of the country,” she said. Clinton expressed supports for the Nigerian government’s amnesty initiative for militants in the Niger Delta. According to her, the political parties need to imbibe internal democracy within their parties and the National Assembly need to be convinced to pass a strong electoral bill that will ensure the independence of the body charged with conduct of elections.

In Liberia for the sixth leg of her tour, Hillary Clinton said Liberian President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf’s government is making significant progress in the fight against corruption. Secretary Clinton addressed Liberia’s national assembly in Monrovia. Secretary Clinton said President Sirleaf’s administration is taking action to increase transparency with a strong A n t i - C o r r u p t i o n Commission at the center of efforts to rebuild from years of civil war. “Today, Liberia is a model of successful transition from conflict to post-conflict, from lawlessness to democracy, from despair to hope,” said Hillary Clinton. “In the last three years, the people of this country have been working to promote reform, reconstruction, and reconciliation. Liberia has adopted sound fiscal policies and seen strong economic growth.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrapped up her seven-nation tour of Africa on August 14 with a stop in the palm-dotted island nation, Cape Verde, which the U.S. government has hailed as an African success story.

Clinton met with Cape Verde’s Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves before returning to Washington same day. “I leave Africa even more energized about what lies ahead,” Clinton told a news conference before her departure. “We’re not sugar-coating the problems. We’re not shying away from them. We are investing time and effort in the people of Africa.”


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