U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her Africa trip in Cape Verde with talks that included how best to respond to this month's constitutional referendum in Niger. She met Friday with Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves.
Gerald LeMelle is the executive director of the Washington-based human rights group Africa Action. He said the Obama administration has called the country a success story, for two reasons: “One is the discovery of oil deposits in and around the island” and (the other is) the country’s geographical location. For U.S. security reasons related not only to pirating and drug trading in the Gulf of Guinea but also the war on terror, Cape Verde has become a very significant player.”
Secretary of State Clinton was trying to accomplish three things on her trip, he said: “One is to pave the way for U.S. companies to continue [their] favorable terms with regard to trade with Africa. She is (also) trying to protect and build strong relationships with those countries that provide the United States with oil. And she is trying to push U.S. security interests, energy security interests, and the [United States Africa Command, AFRICOM], which has not been very popular in Africa.”
[Clinton] is spending 11 days in Africa, said LeMelle, “which is a pretty significant time for a high-level U.S. official…. She is going to certain countries like Angola, like Nigeria and…Kenya, where US policies are somewhat controversial, so she’s not backing away or pretending we aren’t interested in oil and AFRICOM ….”
LeMelle said the United States should reassess policies that he said have subsumed “their economic interests not only to our energy interests but also to our military interests…. If we’re simply continuing that,” he said, “I don’t know how we’re going to begin to address the issue of poverty, which is the number one issue on the continent."
Observers say one of the reasons for poverty and underdevelopment is corruption and mismanagement. Secretary of State Clinton urged the leaders of nations she visited, including the oil-producing states of Nigeria and Angola, to work to end corruption. She also urged greater democratization and transparency.
“What Africa needs right now,” said LeMelle, is “an investment in infrastructure that will allow them to handle their own health care needs, their own education needs, their own food security needs, their own military security needs, their own democratic needs, their own people participation needs. That’s what they need right now.”