August 3rd, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Clinton’s Africa trip her biggest yet

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/18/clinton.arm/art.hillaryclinton.gi.jpg" caption="Sec. Clinton will begin a week-long visit to nations throughout Africa tomorrow."]

Jill Dougherty
CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is embarking on her biggest international trip yet: Africa. Seven countries in eleven days. Issues as diverse as economic entrepreneurship and gender-based violence.

The trip comes just three weeks after President Obama’s trip to Accra, Ghana and Secretary Clinton will highlight many of the themes he struck. The State Department notes it’s the earliest trip by a Secretary of State and a President to Africa of any previous administration. In an administration that prides itself on a plethora of “priorities,” officials say they are putting Africa toward the top of the list.

The Secretary begins her trip in Nairobi, Kenya at the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, delivering a speech at the forum’s ministerial opening ceremony.

In Kenya she plans to meet with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, encouraging them to proceed with their intention to rewrite the country’s constitution. The country was hit with a wave of violence two and a half years ago following flawed presidential elections.

Also in Kenya she will meet briefly with Somalia’s president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

His country is under intense pressure from an Islamist extremist movements affiliated with Al Qaeda of al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

On her next stop, South Africa, she will meet with the country’s new leader, President Jacob Zuma, and the Foreign Minister. Top of the agenda for the country, under severe economic pressure, are the crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe and HIV/AIDS.

The State Department describes her next destination, Angola, as a country with “enormous economic potential.” Angola is one of the largest energy producers in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a major supplier of both petroleum and LNG to the U.S. market.

There are some trouble spots on the Secretary’s trip and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of them. For more than 15 years, eastern Congo was torn by civil strife and massive use of rape. Secretary Clinton will meet with some of the victims of that violence to underscore the United States’ commitment ending gender-based violence.

In Nigeria Secretary Clinton will see what the State Department calls “probably the most important country in Sub-Saharan Africa.” With 140 million people, it is a major source of petroleum imports for the United States.

The Secretary will discuss with the Nigerian Government security in West Africa, democratic development, fighting corruption and promoting economic development.

In Liberia, founded by slaves from the United States, Secretary Clinton will reaffirm U.S. support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the only female African president. Besieged by violent conflict for 20 years, Liberia, still fragile, now is strengthening its democracy and Clinton will highlight development assistance.

Last stop:  Cape Verde, which the State department calls “an African success story,” Secretary Clinton will see a country democratically run and well managed.

In its briefings for reporters on Clinton’s African trip, the State Department has not specifically stressed human rights although, as with other parts of the world, it links development and human rights.

Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox, in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, is urging her to discuss human rights concerns with the African leaders she will meet this week.  "Failure to discuss human rights abuses in a meaningful way,” he says, “would send the wrong signal about the seriousness with which the United States views the human rights situation in those countries.”

China has launched a broad economic outreach to Africa,. Asked whether Clinton’s trip is a way of sending a message to Beijing, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says “Our presence there has nothing to do with anyone else’s operations on the continent.  The mention of our colleagues from Asia is a Cold War paradigm, not a reflection of where we are today.”

Evaluating the prospects for Secretary Clinton’s African trip, the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS)  J. Stephen Morrison says Clinton “may be signaling through the scope and timing of her trip that Africa has graduated into a mainstream U.S. foreign policy priority and that she intends to guide U.S. policy.  That would be a significant shift,” Morrison says, and a very welcome change – if sustained.”

Filed under: Africa • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. dottie

    to Secretary of state Clintons, kudos to you for a great jobs
    in the Obama adminstration..
    God bless you on your journey in Africa, which is a great cause..
    on foreign policy,we know, the Clinton's are genius.

    August 4, 2009 at 8:16 am |
  2. Miana

    Thank you Aaegie, very apt question. I actually really want to know the answer to why President Obama did not visit "... the most important Country in Sub-Saharan Africa..."

    August 4, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  3. Edward Fowler

    Shouldnt she be in North Korea , acting as Secretary of State , instead of being in Africa looking like shes running for President , like President Obarma did ....when he visited Germany during his run?
    Where are her priorities ....I see now where they are.

    August 4, 2009 at 3:10 am |
  4. Aaegie, Toronto, Canada

    If the State Department calls Nigeria“......probably the most important Country in Sub-Saharan Africa....” why did President Obama not visit there first before going to any other African Country.

    August 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Sounds like a very busy trip – all those countries in such a short while. I would have trouble remembering which country I was in for my speeches and such if it were me – Hillary, I'm sure, will do very well and hopefully the ties she helps build and cement today between the US and each African country will be sustained and will be of benefit to both countries.

    August 3, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  6. Jeff - Los Angeles

    I thought Clinton was touted as the "be all and end all" to foreign affairs?

    The World – 2
    Secretary of State – 0

    What's going on with the journalists in North Korea and now these Americans in Iran?

    Media – you want to give Obama the 100 and 200 day report card... where's Clinton's?


    Come on Anderson, we rely on you to "keep them honest."

    August 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  7. Jean F Colin

    Liberia, founded by slaves from the United States...Haiti, founded for the benefit of liberated Africans in the Americas...Kenya, president Obama's homeland... as the US makes this significant change in its foreign policy toward the African continent, I hope the Obama Administration will also include Haiti and the Caribbean in general is this new and historical relationship. We have waited 200 years for this miracle.

    August 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm |