WASHINGTON (AP) — Growing security threats from Islamist militants and China's increasing influence throughout Africa are topping the agenda as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton begins an 11-day swing around the continent.
Clinton departed Tuesday for her latest marathon overseas journey, which will take her to at least six African nations, including the world's newest country, South Sudan, as well as Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.
She will start the tour in Senegal, where U.S. officials say she will give a speech warning African states about the potential perils of Chinese investment, which many development experts claim enriches China at Africa's expense. She will say that proper development will blunt the appeal of extremist groups that are gaining power in Nigeria and Mali and still threaten Somalia.
Without mentioning China by name, Clinton will urge African leaders to carefully consider projects proposed by foreign countries that do not demand complete accountability and may encourage corruption to the detriment of the people of some of the world's most impoverished nations, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to preview the speech.
The United States is increasingly concerned about China's growing interest in Africa, the result of its massive demand for energy and natural resources to fuel its exploding economy. U.S. officials, including Clinton, have in the past expressed deep reservations about China's practice of setting up huge infrastructure or other building projects, employing only Chinese workers and ignoring human rights and democratic principles.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that Clinton will use the speech in Dakar to laud Senegal's democracy and "highlight America's approach to partnership" across Africa.
Other officials said she would call on Africa's elites and people to recognize that their best chances for achieving good governance and better living standards lie with cooperation with responsible partners, like the U.S.
From Senegal, Clinton will traverse the continent to visit South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.
In South Sudan, she will congratulate leaders on the anniversary of the creation of their country after it split with Sudan. But she also will stress the need for the nascent state to make "progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship."
Worsening relations between Juba and Khartoum have threatened to re-ignite what had been Africa's longest-running civil war when it ended with a historic peace treaty in 2005. Clinton will be visiting as the United Nations debates possible new measures to ease unresolved tensions that have risen steadily since South Sudan became independent.
In Uganda, where the U.S. recently has deployed a small number of special forces troops to help African militaries combat the brutal Lord's Resistance Army of Joseph Kony, Clinton will return to the security theme.
She will highlight the fact that Uganda is a "key U.S. partner" in regional security efforts and note that American troops are also training Ugandan soldiers, who make up the biggest contingent of an African Union force operating in Somalia to help defend the largely powerless government there from Islamic militants.
Clinton is also expected to raise human rights issues, particularly those related to the gay and lesbian communities in Uganda, which have come under increasing attack from conservative religious figures and lawmakers.
From Uganda, Clinton will travel to Kenya, where in addition to urging Kenyan leaders to hold peaceful, free and fair national elections in 2013, she will also meet Somali officials and underscore U.S. support for completing a planned political transition later in August.
After a brief stop in Malawi, Clinton then heads to South Africa, where she will continue a strategic dialogue with South African officials, promote U.S. business in the country and pay her respects to former President Nelson Mandela, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday.