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Hillary shifts focus to human rights in Africa

Last Updated: Monday, August 10, 2009 - 15:04

Luanda: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turns her African tour to human rights on Monday as she heads to one of its most tragic nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo, to press for an end to mass rapes.
Halfway through an 11-day journey through Africa highlighting both success stories and hotspots, Hillary scheduled another packed day of meetings with top leaders and ordinary people in two nations recovering from decades of war.

She starts the day at an AIDS clinic in Luanda, the capital of Angola, before talks with veteran President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos a day after she publicly urged him to hold long-awaited elections.

The top US diplomat then heads to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former Zaire, where she will lobby for action on one of the issues dearest to her heart -- ending violence against women.

The United Nations says that nearly 3,500 women have been raped since the beginning of the year in the east of the country as troops mount an offensive against Hutu militants, some of them implicated in Rwanda`s 1994 genocide.

Hillary will head on Tuesday to Goma, the eastern city teeming with refugees in the 15 years since the genocide across the border, to offer personal comfort to survivors of sexual violence and urge action to end the abuse.

Meeting students last week in Kenya, the first stop of her seven-nation tour, Clinton spoke out passionately against the sexual violence in the DR Congo, calling it "unspeakable”.

"It is the worst example of man`s inhumanity to women," Hillary said.

She regretted that the vast natural resources in the DR Congo and other African nations had not brought more prosperity.

"What are the conflicts about? Well, yes, there are tribal and other reasons why the conflicts are going on, but get below the surface," she said.

"It`s because there are mines in eastern Congo that produce the minerals that go into our cell phones and our other electronics. There is a lot of money being made by a lot of people, but it sure isn`t helping the people of the DRC," she said.

Clinton will hold another open forum with students on Monday in Kinshasa, the DR Congo`s capital, and meet senior officials. She will hold talks Tuesday in Goma with President Laurent Kabila, aides said.

Authorities say that both sides are to blame for the soaring sexual abuse in the DR Congo.

Congolese and Rwandan forces have been fighting to flush out the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who include Hutu extremists and have operated out of the DR Congo since the aftermath of Rwanda`s 1994 genocide.

The fighting is the latest bloody chapter in the history of the former Zaire, where some 2.5 million people died between 1998 and 2001 in a conflict sometimes dubbed Africa`s first world war.

Clinton, however, has tried also to highlight positive developments in Africa throughout her tour, her first of the continent as secretary of state.

In Angola, she pressed Dos Santos -- who has ruled virtually since independence in 1975 -- to hold presidential elections but also said she believed the country was gradually moving in the right direction.

Earlier, she criss-crossed South Africa where she sought a broader relationship with the continent`s largest economy on a range of regional and international issues.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, August 10, 2009 - 15:04

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