Human Rights Watch is urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to
promote human rights, accountability and the rule of law during her
seven-nation trip to Africa beginning next week. Allegations of
war crimes and human rights abuses are widespread in the three East
African nations Ms. Clinton is scheduled to visit.
Clinton's first stop will be in Kenya, where she is expected to address
the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in
The State Department says the forum will highlight
the various issues on the secretary's agenda for the trip, including
discussing ways to encourage investment and sustainable economic growth
on the continent. In talks with government leaders, the top U.S.
diplomat is expected to emphasize, among other things, America's
commitment to promoting good regional governance and partnering with
regional leaders to prevent conflicts and violence.
Africa researcher for the New York-based Human Right Watch, Tiseke
Kasambala, says her group believes Secretary Clinton should also use
the opportunity to urge African governments to show a greater
commitment to human rights.
"Respect for human rights, the rule
of law should be on the table, as well as promoting economic
opportunities and growth, during her trip, because we think these are
quite important aspects in providing the kind of conditions that are
favorable to economic progress," she said.
In Kenya, Human
Rights Watch says, people are losing faith that the power-sharing
government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga
will act against powerful politicians and business leaders accused of
supporting and inciting ethnic violence in the aftermath of the
disputed presidential elections in 2007.
More than 1,300
people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced from
their homes during several months of unrest. The rights group says the
government's foot-dragging on calls for justice for the victims of
post-election violence threatens to undermine Kenya's stability and
impede future economic development.
Secretary Clinton is also
scheduled to hold talks with Somali President Sharif Sheik Ahmed in
Nairobi. The focus of those talks is expected to be on U.S.-Somali
cooperation against Islamist extremists and insurgents, who are
threatening to topple the government in Mogadishu.
States has provided about $10 million of military equipment and
supplies to the Somali government, and the State Department's top envoy
to Somalia says more assistance will be on the way.
Watch says the international community, including the United States,
has yet to address allegations that troops serving under the previous
U.N.-backed government of President Abdullahi Yusuf killed, robbed and
raped civilians in 2007 and 2008. Ethiopian forces that intervened to
prop up the Somali government were also accused of committing war
Kasambala says such allegations eroded popular support
for the Somali government, while boosting the ranks of insurgents. She
says the United States must ensure the same mistakes are not made
"And this is why we are asking the United States to
ensure that material assistance and training that is given to security
forces in Somalia are accompanied by vetting of personnel and the
creation of specific mechanisms to respond to serious abuses when they
occur," said Kasambala.
Secretary Clinton is also scheduled to
make a brief visit to Goma in eastern Congo, where government soldiers
in North and South Kivu provinces have been accused of mass looting and
raping countless civilians. Human Rights Watch says the secretary
should urge the government in Kinshasa to prosecute all military
personnel, regardless of rank, who have committed serious human rights