U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a seven-nation, 11-day diplomatic tour of Africa, is preaching both love and war. At each stop, she’s going to deliver the same message: The United States will have an open-arms policy toward Africa, but only if African leaders can do well by their own people. Those who work hard, are not corrupt and respect the rule of law will be friends with Washington, but those who try to mess up their countries won’t get a thing.
It’s the same message President Obama gave when he addressed Ghana’s parliament a month ago, only this time it’s being delivered in detail to each country. The trip, which started in Kenya on Wednesday, will take Clinton through South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cape Verde and Nigeria.
In Kenya on Thursday, Clinton addressed African delegates to a conference on free trade, organized under the auspices of the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which seeks to open up the U.S. market to Africa’s agricultural goods. AGOA, which has been in place since 2000, is due to expire in 2015 and some African countries would like the deadline extended to dispel feelings of uncertainty among potential investors. There is also concern that AGOA will disappear altogether if lawmakers in Washington consolidate all U.S. trade-preference regimes into a single, one-size-fits-all rule, as some reportedly are seeking to do.
Clinton is accompanied on her trip by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, an African-American, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Washington is looking at ways to boost trade with the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which currently accounts for little more than 1 percent of U.S. exports and only 3 percent of imports.
Clinton said Africa has an opportunity to create its own “Green Revolution,” thanks to new technology and innovation that would let countries bypass the “dirty” stages of development. She said Africa right now suffers from a severe shortage of electric power and too many countries rely on oil as virtually their only source of revenue. But the capacity for producing renewable and clean energy is far and wide.
Clinton stressed that empowering women in Africa would be a valuable step to boosting development, and respecting their rights was a moral and economic imperative. Despite the growing presence of women in decision-making positions in government, too many African women remain marginalized socially, economically and politically, undermining progress and prosperity. Most of the continent’s male leaders have been pursuing policies that encourage war and conflict instead of investing in the people, the continent’s greatest resource.
In Kenya, which witnessed post-election civil strife last year, Clinton pushed for a stop to corruption and the prosecution of those who caused the violence that killed more than 1,000 people. The United States plans to impose sanctions on individual Kenyans who have been implicated in corruption to help end the vice and fight impunity, she said. However, she was careful to say that Washington would not want to interfere with the running of Kenya’s coalition government.
She also pledged to expand American support for Somalia’s weak interim government and threatened sanctions against neighboring Eritrea for aiding an extremist group she says is trying to launch worldwide terrorist attacks from Somalia. Clinton did not discuss the specifics of the plan for new assistance, but other U.S. officials have said the administration plans to double an initial provision of 40 tons of arms sent to Somalia through other African nations. The U.S. has begun a low-profile mission to help train Somali security forces in nearby Djibouti.
In South Africa late Thursday, Clinton said she would press President Jacob Zuma to use more of his country’s influence to get the region in order, adding the United States was troubled by what it sees as an absence of reform in Zimbabwe. She has no plans to offer major aid or to lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and some of his supporters. Before any of that can happen, Washington wants more evidence of political, social and economic reforms.