Clinton focuses on security in East Africa

August 2, 2012 - 4:44 PM
Clinton US Senegal

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Preserving a fragile peace between Sudan and South Sudan, stepping up the hunt for Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and boosting African counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia will top U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's agenda in two days of talks.

After arriving in Uganda from Senegal on Thursday on the second stop of a seven-nation tour of Africa, Clinton will make a brief visit on Friday to Juba, capital of South Sudan, the world's newest country, to congratulate the nation on its first anniversary. She also will urge officials in South Sudan to resolve festering differences with Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Disputes over oil and territory threaten to crater a landmark 2005 peace deal that ended what was then Africa's longest-running civil war.

The two sides faced an Aug. 8 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council to reach agreement on issues left outstanding from the peace agreement or face possible sanctions, although council president Gerard Araud said the council had reached a consensus that "sanctions are not necessary, but are needed to keep up pressure" on both countries to make progress on their various issues.

The disputes, particularly over oil revenue, have led to severe economic problems in both Sudan and South Sudan, but the south, which had its first anniversary last month, is in a more precarious situation as it is more heavily dependent on outside assistance.

A senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly said she would express concern about a "lack of movement" in resolving the situation but also reaffirm America's strong support for South Sudan. The U.S. was instrumental in helping to negotiate the 2005 peace deal and the official said Washington is "heavily invested" in its success.

After several hours in Juba, Clinton will return to Kampala, where Ugandan and international health workers are dealing with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Uganda's remote west that has killed 16 people and infected 20 more.

In talks with Ugandan officials, Clinton will press a renewed effort to hunt down Kony's brutal Lord's Resistance Army in the jungles of central Africa. The LRA is notorious for forcibly recruiting children who then become soldiers or wives for commanders and Kony was the first suspect indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.

The U.S. has sent about 100 special forces advisers to help. But the head of a planned African Union force to hunt Kony has said he can't start his task because he doesn't have troops, equipment or the necessary funding.

In the meantime, the hunt is still in the hands of some 2,000 Ugandan soldiers and 500 South Sudanese troops. The AU force, however, was meant to start operating in March with up to 5,000 troops contributed by Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic — the countries affected by Kony's rebellion over the past years.

Clinton will visit a military base outside Kampala for a briefing about the hunt for Kony as well as the African Union mission against the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. The AU mission is commanded by Uganda, the largest troop contributor to the operation.

Growing concerns about persistent terrorist threats from splintered al-Qaida groups across Africa have triggered an increase in U.S. military funding across the continent. Already this year, the Pentagon has poured more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries, with more than half of that going to Uganda, a key ally in the fight against al-Shabab.

In Kampala, Clinton will also press Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to redouble his government's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Museveni was one of the first African leaders to take action against the disease, but there has been an alarming uptick in cases recently. The official with Clinton said she would urge Museveni to "resume" his leadership role in the matter.

She will also call for Museveni to ensure that political space is opened for the opposition and to protect the rights of all Ugandans, in particular the lesbian and gay community, which has come under fire from conservative religious figures and lawmakers who want to criminalize homosexuality.

Clinton leaves Uganda on Saturday for Kenya and will then travel on to Malawi, South Africa and Ghana, where she will attend the state funeral of the late Ghanian President John Atta Mills who died unexpectedly last week.

Associated Press Writer Peter Spielmann at the United Nations contributed to this report.