In Kenya, Clinton Starts Africa Tour
Published: August 5, 2009
NAIROBI, Kenya - If Kenyans were hoping that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would blast their government for recent abuses, they have been disappointed, at least so far.
Times Topics: Hillary Rodham ClintonSpeaking at the opening of a United States-Africa trade conference Wednesday at the start an African tour, Mrs. Clinton shied away from the subject of Kenya’s volatile politics and spoke instead about tariffs, alternative energy, pineapples and even her hairdo.
“This morning I had the chance to meet two women in Nairobi, to get my hair done,” she said. “My hairdos are the subject of Ph.D. theses. I’ll let everyone know I got a good one in Nairobi.”
The audience — mostly diplomats, business leaders and African ministers — chuckled politely. Less jokingly, Mrs. Clinton went on to address a theme broached by President Obama when he visited Ghana last month, cautioning African leaders that “true economic progress in Africa will depend on responsible governments that reject corruption, enforce the rule of law, and deliver results for their people.”
“This is not just about good governance — it’s also about good business,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton is visiting Kenya as part of a seven-nation Africa tour to promote the broad themes of governance, trade, food security and women’s rights.
On Wednesday, her message was that the new American policy for Africa would be trade not aid.
“We want to be your partner, not your patron,” she said.
She laid out plans to channel development dollars to agriculture and infrastructure, to increase support for African entrepreneurs and, at the same time, to cut back on all the overhead that often goes to American contractors.
Kenya has one of the biggest economies in Africa, driven by its safari business and exports of tea and coffee. But the country has been ailing politically since a deeply flawed election in 2007 and faces problems on a number of fronts.
Some of the headlines that greeted Mrs. Clinton on her first morning in Kenya trumpeted: ”It’s official: Power blackouts are back,” “Clinton lands as U.S. breathes fire,” “500,000 face starvation in Rift Valley as rains fail again.”
One headline declared: “Quit lecturing Africa on politics, says Raila,” referring to Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister who narrowly lost the disputed election in 2007.
Mr. Odinga, who gave Mrs. Clinton a warm welcome at the conference, even made a crack at his misfortune. “In Africa, in many countries, elections are never won, they are rigged,” he said.
He then cracked a grin, paused for a moment or two and then introduced the man widely believed to have cheated him out of the election, President Mwai Kibaki.
Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, who was then the leading opposition figure, signed an agreement in February 2008 that created a powerful prime minister position for Mr. Odinga and split cabinet positions between the government and the opposition.
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