Washington — Hillary Clinton, making her first journey to Africa as U.S. Secretary of State, begins a seven-nation visit Monday with a stop in Kenya to take part in a forum on trade and investment with senior officials from 41 African nations.
She will also visit South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde, returning to Washington on August 14. "All of these countries are of importance and significance to the United States," Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson said in an interview last week. Coming three weeks after President Obama's visit to Ghana, the trip underscores the administration's commitment to making Africa an American foreign policy priority, he said.
Clinton will deliver a policy address on Wednesday in Nairobi during the opening session of the African Growth and Opportunity Forum, the 8th annual meeting mandated by the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the U.S. law which promotes U.S-African trade. She will hold meetings with African ministers of commerce, trade and finance to talk about Africa's potential "to play a much larger role in global trade," Carson said.
She plans meetings with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to encourage both to move forward "as swiftly as possible on the Kofi Annan agreements that ended the post-election… violence of 2007." She will also be talking in Kenya and during several other stops about agriculture and food security, which the Obama administration has made one of its policy priorities.
In Nairobi, she is scheduled to meet Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, president of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG). With conflict and instability in Somalia causing increasing problems not only for countries in the region but internationally in the form of piracy, Carson said the United States continues to back the regional peace process known as the Djibouti process, which gave rise to the TFG.
Carson said that if needed, the Obama administration is prepared to boost economic and military assistance to the transitional government, which has come under increasing pressure from the Islamic opposition movement, Al-Shabaab. "Helping that government create a system of security and services for the public" offers the only effective way to bring stability to Somalia, end the outflow of refugees, and stop smuggling, piracy and the transit of small arms across borders, he added.
In South Africa, Clinton is to meet President Jacob Zuma and other officials to explore stronger relations with "one of our important trading partners and the engine of economic growth in Southern Africa," Carson said. Among issues on the agenda are the fight against HIV/Aids and the situation in Zimbabwe.
In Angola, Clinton's next stop, energy will be the principal topic.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Clinton will stop first in Kinshasa, the capital, for meetings with President Joseph Kabila and other officials. "The secretary will encourage the government of the Congo to continue to move forward in strengthening its democratic institutions, improving its record of fighting corruption and improving its economy," Carson said.
She will then travel to the east, where continuing conflict has claimed more than five million lives. A major focus of her discussions there will be ending gender-based violence and she is scheduled to meet with victims of the violence. "There is no question that the level of violence in the east is too high, and is unacceptable, especially the violence against women and young girls," Carson said.
He said the ongoing conflict is caused by "the continued presence of the genocidaires who were involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda." The United States backs the United Nations Peacekeeping operation, MONUC, he said, and supports efforts of the government of the DRC to end the violence. He welcomed the recent cooperation between President Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. "We continue to believe that the only way to end this violence is to allow the military to go after the ex-genocidaires, the FDLR, or encourage them to lay down their arms and return home."
In Nigeria, Clinton will discuss "a wide range of issues in the political, economic and political sphere," Carson said. With a population of 140 million – including 75 million Muslims – and its role as a leading petroleum producer supplying more than eight percent of American oil, Nigeria is "the most important country in sub Saharan Africa," Carson said.
In Liberia, Clinton will deliver an address to the National Legislature and meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Carson said the secretary of state "wants to support the enormous efforts that have been made by President Sirleaf to rebuild Liberia after some 20 years of civil war and destruction" and underline the administration's continuing commitment to U.S. assistance for poverty alleviation and security sector reform.
Clinton's final stop is Cape Verde, which Carson called "a democratic success story." The country has "good political and economic management" and remains "a friend and a partner of the United States."