Clinton starts Africa swing in Senegal
8/1/2012 1:40:01 AM -
DAKAR (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Senegal's capital Dakar late Tuesday at the start of a six-nation, 11-day trip to Africa due to focus on regional peace and security.
The US top diplomat, whose tour will take in the world's newest nation South Sudan and Ebola-hit Uganda, departed Tuesday from Andrews Air Force base heading first to Senegal where she will meet President Macky Sall.
Sall's coalition won a landslide majority in legislative polls earlier this month, scooping up 119 of 150 seats in the national assembly.
The US foreign affairs chief was to meet Sall on Wednesday before making a speech at Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University.
An American official said: "Our desire is to applaud the election of President Sall. Senegal has been our strongest and most reliable partner in francophone Africa".
Clinton will "deliver a speech applauding the resilience of Senegal's democratic institutions and highlighting America's approach to partnership," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
Clinton was to head on for the new nation of South Sudan, then Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.
A likely highlight of the trip will be a meeting with 94-year-old former South African president and democracy icon, Nelson Mandela.
Earlier this month, Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, visited Mandela at his remote childhood village, Qunu, on the eve of celebrations for his 94th birthday.
Mandela's wife Graca Machel had thanked "the family of Clinton for being with the family of Mandela because each and every birthday president Clinton has always availed himself."
"As the Mandela family we really appreciate the bond between these two families," said Machel.
Hillary Clinton headed off again only two weeks after returning from a trip to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, during which she visited Laos and Mongolia, bringing her tally for nations visited as secretary of state to a record-breaking 102.
Her trip to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, will add yet another notch on her belt.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan on July 9, 2011, but no deal has ever been made to set their frontier, share the revenues from oil reserves that straddle the border, or resolve citizenship disputes.
The United States is leading international warnings to Sudan and South Sudan to step up efforts to reach a peace deal this week or face possible UN sanctions.
The UN Security Council has given the rival neighbors, who this year came close to all-out war, until Thursday to make their peace.
While in South Sudan, Clinton will meet President Salva Kiir "to reaffirm US support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship," Nuland said.
Before returning to the United States on August 10, Clinton will also stop in Uganda, undeterred by reports that the deadly Ebola virus has reached the capital Kampala.
Fourteen people have so far died since Ebola broke out in western Uganda three weeks ago.
President Yoweri Museveni, who will hold talks with Clinton, confirmed on Monday that Ebola, one of the world's most virulent diseases, had reached Kampala for the first time.
He urged Ugandans to avoid contact to halt the spread of the virus, which can cause both internal and external bleeding, and which is passed on by direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of infected persons.
In Kenya, she will hold talks with top officials, and, "to underscore US support for completing the political transition in Somalia by August 20," she will also meet Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Nuland said.
After visiting Malawi, Clinton will then travel to South Africa accompanied by an American business delegation "to participate in the US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue focusing on the partnership between our two countries."