This afternoon, Secretary Clinton and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's minister for international relations and cooperation, signed a PEPFAR partnership framework agreement, a five-year plan of cooperation for fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa. PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is a U.S. government initiative, begun under George W. Bush's administration, to work with other countries to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.
At the signing ceremony, Clinton said, "We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/AIDS.… And what South Africa has done is to make a tremendous commitment by doubling its investment, now covering 60 percent of the total spending. There is so much that's being done at the grassroots level on prevention, efforts against discrimination, treating people with HIV, and doing so much more to put together a comprehensive strategy."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
•9:00 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Chief Israeli Negotiator Yitzhak Molho, at the Department of State.
•10:00 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the Assistant Secretaries
of the Regional Bureaus, at the Department of State.
•10:30 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Save the Children Board Chair Anne Mulcahy, at the Department of State.
•11:00 a.m. Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto, at the Department of State:
•1:00 p.m. Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia, at the Department of State:
•3:00 p.m. Secretary Clinton delivers remarks at the 2010 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Mid-Year Conference, at the Department of State.
•5:00 p.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the Department of State's Employee Affinity Groups, at the Department of State.
Top to bottom: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images, TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Today, Nov. 11, is the 35th anniversary of Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975. Secretary Clinton, who visited Angola last year, as seen in the photo above with Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos, issued the following statement congratulating the African country:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Angola on your 35th Independence Day this November 11.
I was honored to help launch a new phase in the bilateral relationship between Angola and the United States during my visit to your country last year. This summer, we took another step forward and signed a Memorandum of Understanding that formally recognizes Angola as a strategic partner for the United States in Africa. Through this dialogue, we will advance our cooperation on energy and security, strengthen institutional capacity, improve transportation systems, and build a brighter future for Angola. The United States is also committed to helping Angola continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and improve its health systems. I look forward to finding new ways to deepen our partnership as we continue our work together.
I wish all Angolans a wonderful holiday, with a peaceful and prosperous year to come.
(Random interesting factoid: When Clinton was in Angola in August 2009, dos Anjos described her visit as "the most sublime, most magnanimous moment" that "changes everything," according to the New York Times.)
LOUISE REDVERS/AFP/Getty Images
Today, Sept. 1, is Libya's Revolution Day, the day on which in 1969 Muammar al-Qaddafi launched a military coup and became leader of the North African country. Normally, that's not something the U.S. government would be "congratulating," but Secretary Clinton, America's top diplomat, is reaching out to the people of Libya, stating, "Our governments have not always agreed on every issue, but our people share the dream of a safer world, a better life, and a brighter future for our children."
Here is her complete statement:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Libya as you mark your National Day on September 1.
Our governments have not always agreed on every issue, but our people share the dream of a safer world, a better life, and a brighter future for our children. The United States is committed to working with Libya to achieve these common goals. Although we have only recently reestablished relations between our countries, I hope these new bonds will endure well into the future. We look forward to strengthening the partnership between our governments even as we work through difficult issues, and we seek always to strengthen the friendship between our peoples.
On this occasion, we honor your history and culture, and I offer the people of Libya our warmest wishes for a happy holiday and a peaceful and prosperous year to come.
(In the photo above, Clinton meets with Libyan National Security Advisor Mutassim Qaddafi, Muammar's fourth son, in Washington on April 21, 2009.)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Message to Secretary Clinton: Please fix the United States' "incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing" Sudan policy, as the New York Times Nicholas Kristof described it on Aug. 29.
In a column on the Obama administration's "failure in Sudan," Kristof has this frightening warning:
"[I]n a place like Sudan, American diplomatic malpractice could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths."
The country has a referendum coming up next year in which the oil-rich south will vote on whether to secede. The north doesn't want to lose all that oil, so if the south votes to secede (which it most likely will), that could spark a huge bloody war with mass killing. (The last north-south war killed 2 million people over 20 years.)
The United States needs an effective Sudan policy in place, one that will prevent mass death. Too bad, then, that there apparently isn't agreement at the State Department about what that policy should be. The U.S. envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (seen in the photo above), favors a policy of engagement that focuses more on carrots than sticks. As reported on FP's The Cable, his plan "deemphasizes the ongoing crisis in Darfur" and "is devoid of any additional pressures on the government in Khartoum." Clinton supports this plan.
On the other hand, Susan Rice (seen in the photo above), the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and someone with more experience on Sudan, favors a stronger, tougher plan and was "furious" when Gration proposed his policy at a meeting earlier this month.
Kristof says that the United States needs to be more involved on the issue of Sudan and suggests supporting U.N. peacekeepers; coordinating with Britain, Egypt, and China to prevent war; and making Vice President Joe Biden the point person for Sudan for the following six months.
Whatever policy the United States decides to go with, let's hope Clinton will help steer it away from "diplomatic malpractice" and toward something that prevents another humanitarian tragedy.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton must have read the blog post I wrote Tuesday in which I encouraged her to at least make a statement about the more than 179 horrific gang-rapes that occurred in Congo recently. Wednesday she issued a statement in which she strongly condemns the atrocities and states that "my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
She also mentioned that only 11 months ago, she presided over a U.N. Security Council session in which members unanimously passed a resolution to end wartime sexual violence. It's an absolute shame then that the United Nations hasn't acted fast enough on this resolution, and it's outrageous that this despicable violence occurred only about 20 miles from a U.N. peacekeeping base, likely with peacekeepers' foreknowledge that rebels were in the area where the rape spree was perpetrated.
The United Nations spends $1 billion annually on this peacekeeping mission, which is tasked with protecting civilians. The international body claims the mission only found out about the rapes after they occurred. When Inner City Press asked why the mission was unaware of a four-day rape spree so nearby, a U.N. spokesman said the area is "densely wooded." You would think that by now the peacekeepers would have figured out how to operate in a thick jungle. Inner City Press offers a great suggestion: Use some of the $1 billion to give civilians flares and satellite phones so they can communicate about danger.
The Security Council will be holding emergency consultations on Thursday, the 26th, at 10 a.m., Inner City Press reports, so at least something appears to be happening. But really, so much more could have been done since the resolution's passage last September.
Clinton says the United States will do all it can to work with the United Nations to "create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians" in eastern Congo. Let's hope she and the State Department will continue to press the U.N. on this serious issue.
Clinton's complete statement:
The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the mass rape of
women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the
Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - an armed,
illegal rebel group that has terrorized eastern Congo for over a decade -
and elements of the Mai Mai, community-based militia groups in eastern
Congo. This horrific attack is yet another example of how sexual
violence undermines efforts to achieve and maintain stability in areas
torn by conflict but striving for peace.
The United States has
repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones
around the world, and we will continue to speak out on this issue for
those who cannot speak for themselves. Less than a year ago, I presided
over the UN Security Council session where Resolution 1888 (2009) was
unanimously adopted, underscoring the importance of preventing and
responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians. Now
the international community must build on this action with specific
steps to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based
violence and bring to justice those who commit such atrocities.
violence harms more than its immediate victims. It denies and destroys
our common dignity, it shreds the fabric that weaves us together as
humans, it endangers families and communities, it erodes social and
political stability, and it undermines economic progress. These
travesties, committed with impunity against innocent civilians who play
no role in armed conflict, hold us all back.
When I visited
the DRC last year, I learned an old proverb -- "No matter how long the
night, the day is sure to come." In the depths of this dark night of
suffering and pain, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and
their families. The United States will do everything we can to work with
the UN and the DRC government to hold the perpetrators of these acts
accountable, and to create a safe environment for women, girls, and all
civilians living in the eastern Congo.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
At least 179 women were gang-raped in a weekend orgy of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last month, the United Nations revealed yesterday. Most women were raped by two to six men at a time, while their children and families watched, an NGO source told the New York Times.
This horrific news comes just roughly a year after Secretary Clinton defied security advice and personally visited Goma, the epicenter of the Congolese region where rape has been used as a weapon of war. As her eyes brimmed with tears, Clinton listened to a woman explain how she was raped while pregnant and lost her baby. Clinton called the sexual violence "evil in its basest form" and announced $17 million in U.S. aid to respond to it.
Clinton has a jumble of issues to address, from Middle East peace to wishing Ukraine a happy Independence Day, but it would be encouraging to see her at least make a statement on this sickening tradegy. Maybe Melanne Verveer, ambassador at large for global women's issues, could do something?
Over at Inner City Press, Matthew Russell Lee has taken the United Nations to task. It spends $1 billion annually on a peacekeeping mission in Congo that is tasked with protecting civilians. Nevertheless, these rapes occurred just 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) from a peacekeeping base. Then today, the day after the announcement about the rapes, the Security Council met, but no one called for the issue to be taken up!
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
At the President's Forum with Young African Leaders this afternoon, Secretary Clinton told a group of successful young African entrepreneurs and civil society leaders that, ultimately, progress in Africa is is "up to you."
After saying, "I see Africa as a continent brimming with potential, a place that has so much just waiting to be grasped," she went on to say:
Across Africa, more citizens believe they now have the power and the duty to shape their own lives, to help their communities, to hold their governments accountable.… I want to focus on these gains because it is through this positive progress that we can motivate and incentivize even more to take place. And ultimately, it is up to you. The president and I very much believe in Africa's promise, and we can do what's possible from afar to assist and to be front-row cheerleaders, if you will. But ultimately, it is up to you, and to citizens like you, to make sure that we sustain and deepen the progress.
Clinton noted President Obama's remark last year in Ghana: "Africa's future is up to Africans." And she added that the United States "stand[s] ready to be your partners," working "in a spirit of mutual respect and accountability."
The impression is that the United States doesn't want to be paternalistic. Even if it tried calling the shots in Africa, it wouldn't work. Rather, development must come from within, with every child growing up to be able to use his or her "God-given talents and potential" to make the continent thrive. At most, the United States can be a "cheerleader" or a partner, an actor with solely an auxiliary role.
Ultimately, only the citizens within a country can build it and make it successful. Now, if only only there were more of this going on in Afghanistan.…
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is back in business after Chelsea's amazing wedding this weekend. Today she finally has public events on her schedule, for the first time since Monday, July 26. Clinton's schedule today is very Africa-focused:
12:15 p.m.: Clinton delivers remarks to the President's Forum with Young African Leaders.
3 p.m.: Clinton meets with members of the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program participating in the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) Forum.
3:10 p.m.: Clinton delivers remarks at the AGOA Forum.
3:30 p.m.: Clinton attends a USAID senior staff retreat.5:15 p.m.: Clinton meets at the White House with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Jim Jones.
In the photo above, tourists donning Hillary and Bill Clinton masks drive through the site of Chelsea's wedding, Rhinebeck, N.Y., on the big day, July 31.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton condemns the bombings in Uganda that took place while people were watching the World Cup final yesterday:
I join President Obama in strongly condemning today's attacks in Kampala, Uganda targeting innocent spectators watching the World Cup final.
We understand that American citizens may have been injured or killed and our embassy is reaching out to assist. Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims, in the United States and Uganda.
At this tragic moment, the United States stands with Uganda. We have a long-standing, close friendship with the people and Government of Uganda and will work with them to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
In the photo above, taken just moments after the bombings yesterday, survivors look frightened and dazed at an Ethiopian restaurant, one of the sites of the bombings.
Photos, top to bottom: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, Phil Cole/Getty Images
Bill Clinton cheered so much at yesterday's World Cup game between the United States and Algeria that he lost his voice. He told the Associated Press today:
"I lost my voice yesterday. I had to come home and drink hot tea with honey for an hour.… I was very diplomatic until we scored, and then I was up there screaming and yelling with everybody."
After the game, Clinton -- who is honorary chairman of the USA Bid Committee that is trying to bring the World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022 -- spent about an hour in the locker room, celebrating with the U.S. soccer team, as seen in the photos at left. He even had enough of his voice remaining at that point to give a little speech, reports Yahoo! Sports. According to players and officials, he said:
"As someone who cares about our country, you made me proud to be an American."
Clinton, who was president when the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994 and women's World Cup in 1999, was in Africa primarily to lobby FIFA's executive committee on the U.S. bid for 2018 or 2022, though his trip includes visits to Malawi and Tanzania to check up on Clinton Foundation projects. Clinton is so enthused by yesterday's U.S. win he has changed his schedule so he can attend Saturday's U.S.-Ghana match.
(In the top photo, Clinton shakes hands with Steve Cherundolo. In the bottom photo, he poses with the team.)
Photos: Jeff Mitchell - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
American lawyer Peter Erlinder thanked Secretary Clinton yesterday for getting him out of a Rwandan prison by saying that Rwanda shouldn't arrest lawyers.
Erlinder, seen above at a June 20 news conference after his release, was detained in Rwanda on allegations that he was minimizing the country's 1994 genocide, which is prohibited under Rwandan law. Erlinder was in Rwanda to defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabir, who was arrested in April and charged with challenging aspects of the genocide. Controversially, Erlinder said yesterday that there might be enough evidence to show that more ethnic Hutus died than Tutsis. The accepted view is that of the 800,000 people killed over 100 days, most were Tutsis who perished at the hands of Hutus.
For more background on this case, check out FP's interview with Erlinder's daughter, Sarah Erlinder. Also, read about how as Rwanda becomes more authoritarian, neighbor Burundi experiments with its own unqiue brand of African democracy.
Sounds like Clinton is defending people's right to free expression, even if they say highly controversial things.
I know Secretary Clinton is busy today with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but I hope she continues to shine a spotlight on the rape capital of the world -- the Kivu provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Last summer, Clinton boldly defied security advice and flew to Goma, the epicenter of the region where rape has been used as a weapon of war, as I wrote last August. Tears welled up in her eyes as women told her their horrific stories, like that of the woman who was raped while pregnant and lost her baby. Many of these women, like those in the photo above, have been raped so viciously that they must undergo surgery to repair the damage.
So, I was disturbed to receive this message from a representative of the UNHCR (U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees):
In the first three months of 2010 more than 1,200 women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were sexually assaulted - an average of 14 assaults a day. The majority of the violence is taking place in North and South Kivu provinces in eastern DRC. The region hosts some 1.4 million people displaced by on-going violence in the country. Some 100,000 are living in camps run by the UN refugee agency. UNHCR is alarmed at the scale of the sexual violence and the lack of justice for the victims and is working to protect vulnerable women.
I know Clinton cares, so I hope she'll use her position to help bring an end to this barbaric violence.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Clinton is meeting with some big names today (above, she greets Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai before their 11 a.m. bilateral) and will conclude her Monday by hosting a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Her public schedule:9:15 a.m.: Meeting with assistant secretaries.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Three other bits of Clinton-related news:
•China's Xinhua news agency reports that Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had a phone conversation today (perhaps Chinese time today?) in which they agreed to "spare no efforts in building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive Sino-U.S. relationship."
•After the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, yesterday, Clinton said in her remarks, "The Pakistani people have suffered grievous losses, but they are standing firm in the face of this intimidation -- and the United States stands with them."
•After the noon news briefing on the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, Clinton will have Nigeria on her mind, launching the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission at 3 p.m. today, after a bilateral with the Nigerian secretary to the federal government.
A quick roundup of Secretary Clinton news before I log off to edit an article:
•"Karzai clarifies remarks that sparked White House 'concern' in call to Clinton" (Washington Post)
•Clinton congratulated Senegal yesterday on the 50th anniversary of its independence. (Meanwhile, Senegal unveiled a controversial giant statue -- taller than the Statue of Liberty -- that was made with help from North Korea.)
•Clinton will be speaking at the University of Louisville (in my home state!) on April 9!
ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/Getty Images
Addressing the recent slaughter of an estimated 500 Christians by Muslim gangs in renewed violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, Secetary Clinton said on Monday, after her meeting with Gabonese President Ali Bongo:
We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and seek constructive means for addressing the cycle of violence in Plateau state. The Nigerian government should ensure that the perpetrators of acts of violence are brought to justice under the rule of law and that human rights are respected as order is restored."
Remember how there might have been a plot to assassinate Secretary Clinton when she was in Kenya last August? Well, the Somali man allegedly involved in that supposed plot is possibly the same one who on Friday attacked the Danish cartoonist who drew the controversial 2005 illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad. I'm qualifying everthing with "allegedly," "supposed," and "possibly" because so much seems unconfirmed at this point and it's difficult to determine how much of this is true.
If all this is true, though, it appears that better information-sharing is needed, both within and between countries.If some man planned to kill Clinton, then why wasn't he taken into custody, and why was he allowed into Denmark? Was there inadequate sharing of information between Kenya, Denmark, and the United States?
I assume Clinton is taking all this very seriously during her meeting with Obama in the Situation Room, which should be happening as I write this post. It's her very life that was at stake in Kenya. Regarding the Christmas Day "underwear bomber" who own father reported him to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, Clinton said Monday, "Based on what we know now, the State Department fully complied with the requirements set forth in the interagency process as to what should be done when information about a potential threat is known."
Maybe the State Department did indeed fully comply with the requirements, but that clearly wasn't good enough. Clinton's clearly going have to get requirements both toughened and enforced.
SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
A roundup of Clinton-related news:
•Former first lady Laura Bush expressed admiration for Secretary Clinton during a talk in Dallas on Monday:
Our [political] campaigns are so long and so brutal that the people who finally win are almost self-selected because they have emotional and physical stamina to run for office. As I watched Hillary Clinton during her run, I had and have a lot of admiration for her. It's tough every day. It's not just physical or emotional, but just the chance of saying one thing that gets blown up by the media."
•Clinton spoke with CBS' Katie Couric yesterday.
•"Criminality of the greatest degree" is how Clinton has described the rapes and killings by government forces in Guinea.
•Clinton met yesterday in Washington with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Medmood Qureshi, above, to discuss U.S. aid to the Pakistani government and the Afghanistan situation. Clinton stressed that the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar bill, which provides nonmilitary aid to Pakistan for five years and was approved by U.S. Congress last week, will not infringe on Pakistan's sovereignty.
Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Hope my fellow Americans had a great Labor Day weekend. Here's today's Hillary Clinton news brief:
•A plot by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants to bomb the hotel where Secretary Clinton was staying during her visit to Nairobi, Kenya, last month (shown above) was foiled at the last minute, The Australian reports. Very scary.
[Update (Sept. 10): This story might not be true -- see stacyx's comment below. FP regrets any error; at the time of posting, the story seemed credible.]
•This morning Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor by welcoming Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange and Princess Máxima of the Netherlands.
•This afternoon, Clinton will be back in Washington to bilateral with Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates.
•Clinton's husband Bill gave an interview with Esquire magazine. The print version will be available in the October issue, which'll hit newsstands Sept. 14.
•Do any of you live in the Orlando, Fla., area? An exhibit at the Presidents Hall of Fame features the roughly 35 women -- most from lesser-known parties -- who have made a bid for the U.S. presidential nomination. Included is a replica of a navy-blue suit worn by Clinton.
Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
Above: Secretary Clinton poses with a Liberian newspaper as she meets with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Aug. 13 in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.
For a photo summary of Secretary Clinton's 11-day, seven-country visit to Africa, please check out FP's latest photo essay: "Hillary in Africa"
And check out the photo essay "The Obamans Abroad" for a summary of Clinton's July trip to Asia and Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Eastern Europe.
Below: Clinton shakes hands with the prime minister of Cape Verde, José Maria Neves, on Aug. 14.
Photos, top to bottom: GLENNA GORDON/AFP/Getty Images, STR/AFP/Getty Images
The only thing many Americans might remember about Secretary Clinton's Africa trip was her outburst at a Congolese student who asked her a sexist question, but women's rights activists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remember something far more important: Clinton's sincere concern for women.
The secretary of state boldly defied security advice and flew to Goma, the epicenter of the region where rape has been used as a weapon of war. As the first high-level U.S. official there, she wasn't lecturing; she was listening. Tears welled up in her eyes as women told her their horrific stories, like that of the woman who was raped while pregnant and lost her baby. "Clinton was so warm and compassionate, activists said, they felt they could almost call her Hillary," the Los Angeles Times reported.
For the first time in a decade, I have hope again," [a prominent Congolese women's rights activist told the L.A. Times]. "The message I gave her first of all, as a woman, not as secretary of state, is that a woman can feel the pain all these women feel.
"I had another image of Mrs. Clinton" before meeting her, [the activist] said, "and I have really discovered a woman with a big heart. I saw in her eyes many times tears. I know she was deeply moved."
That personal concern is a good thing for Congolese women. John Prendergast, a founder of the anti-genocide group the Enough Project and an Africa analyst during the Bill Clinton administration, told the L.A. Times:
When an issue becomes specific and personal to a Cabinet member, it has a better chance of getting the kind of personal attention needed to push through the initiatives that can make a difference. … I think she's now personally invested in having some kind of solution in Congo.
"She's stated her desire is to have an end to the conflict. … She separated herself from the usual high-level visitors [to Congo] by saying we are [going] to deal with it."
This is definitely one area where having a woman as secretary of state can truly make a difference.
Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton took on corruption in Nigeria yesterday, saying that Nigeria had the potential to become a G-20 country, "but -- a big but -- the corruption reputation … it is a problem."
Clinton also took on Nigeria's "flawed electoral system." (Foreign Policy named the "comically flawed" 2007 election of President Umaru Yar'Adua -- with hands raised in the photo above -- as one of the world's ugliest elections.) In an invitation-only town-hall meeting that included democracy activists, business leaders, and state governors, she drew a big laugh when she said, "I know a little bit about running in elections, and I have won some elections and I have lost some elections. And in a democracy there have to be winners and losers."
Referring to her home country, Clinton went on to say: "Our democracy is still evolving. You know we've had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too."
U.S. conservatives pounced on those words. A spokesman for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, referred to them as "ill-advised comments," in an ABC News report. Meanwhile, The Guardian called it a "gaffe."
As usual, the State Department's P.J. Crowley clarified in order to calm the right-wing hysteria: "The point she is making is that it's about a disputed result and then the willingness of the candidates to accept a flawed result rather than, say, resort to violence."
Photo: EMMANUEL WOLE/AFP/Getty Images
Today Clinton met with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and the first democratically elected female president in Africa. (In the file photo above, the two meet in Washington on April 21.)
Clinton and the U.S. government are fully backing Sirleaf in her run for re-election in 2011. "We have looked at the entire record that President Sirleaf brings to office. … We are supportive, and will continue to be so, because we think that Liberia is on the right track as difficult as the path might be," Clinton said after her meeting with Sirleaf.
Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission doesn't want Sirleaf to run because she used to back former warlord and ex-President Charles Taylor, who's on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.
Sirleaf apologized last month for supporting Taylor, saying she did so to remove former dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe. "Like thousands of other Liberians at home and abroad who did [support Taylor], I have always admitted my early support for Charles Taylor to challenge the brutality of a dictatorship," Sirleaf said in July 28 radio address.
Given the U.S. practice of backing dictators in order to challenge the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it seems like Clinton would understand Sirleaf's logic in once supporting a warlord.
Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday I highlighted a phrase used by Secretary Clinton on Monday: "mark of shame." She used that phrase when discussing the use of rape as a weapon of war in eastern Congo, saying of sexual violence:
It should be a mark of shame anywhere, in any country. I hope that that will become a real cause here in Kinshasa that will sweep across the country."
The phrase caught my attention because shame is often the emotion that rape victims feel, even though it's the perpetrators who ought to be ashamed. John Boonstra over at U.N. Dispatch noticed the reversal of meaning, too. He did write, however, that it would be difficult to use shame as an emotion to "galvanize" a movement to reform the country's policies and change cultural attitudes that stigmatize rape victims.
To feel shame, you have to feel like you've lost the respect of someone who's opinion you value. In the case of sexual violence in Congo, Congolese would have to feel ashamed in front of the international community or their own local communities. International condemnation doesn't seen to have shamed the Congolese government into eradicating the problem. And how do you change local communities so it's the perpetrators who are stigmatized, not the victims and their families?
My hunch is that -- just as in Western countries -- it's going to take the collective action of women speaking out, a free press that names (and thereby shames) rapists, and other grass-roots efforts to shift shame from victims to perpetrators. And to get all this, you need, among other things, women's education, women's rights, and women who reach high-profile positions in politics, business, academia, religion, and other spheres of society.
Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton met face to face with rape victims yesterday in Goma, an area of Congo that's the epicenter of rape perpetrated by government troops and rebel groups. After conversing with two women who had been gang-raped, Clinton's voice broke with emotion as she said:
The atrocities that these women have suffered, and that stand for the atrocities that so many have suffered, distill evil into its basest form. … In the face of such evil, people of goodwill everywhere must respond. … We say to the world that those who attack civilian populations with systematic rape are guilty of crimes against humanity."
Clinton announced $17 million in U.S. aid to respond to the sexual violence. The money will go toward training doctors to treat victims, training police officers (especially female ones) to investigate rape, and providing victims with video cameras to document crimes.
In the photo above:
Father Samuel holds the hand and face of a rape victim as they pray on Aug. 11, moments after the young Congolese woman underwent surgery to repair physical damage suffered while being raped. Doctors at the Heal Africa Clinic in Goma treat women who have been sexually abused and who, in the majority of cases, develop serious physical problems due to the vicious nature of the attacks.
Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
If you had been Secretary Clinton, how would you have responded Monday when a Congolese university student at a town-hall meeting asked what husband Bill thought about an issue?
Yesterday, I suggested speaking diplomatically and possibly using grace and humor. (This is not to be confused with acting demure, passive, and ladylike.) If I had been her, I would have calmly but assertively asked, "I'm curious to know: Why are you so interested in my husband's opinion when I'm the one who's secretary of state and my husband is no longer in government?"
Such a question would have: 1) clarified any mistranslation and 2) revealed the sexism in the student's question. It could have led to a larger, more constructive discussion about the need to listen to women's voices in a country where females are being raped with impunity.
Generally speaking, when someone asks an offensive question, one tactic that often works well is to simply ask the person why he/she asked the question. It puts the questioner in the position of having to explain the motive behind asking such an offensive question in the first place.
I give Clinton full credit for boldly laying the smack down when needed. As feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." But snapping at a college student seldom helps you as the United States' top diplomat.
Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
Referring to the use of rape as a weapon of war in eastern Congo, Secretary Clinton told the students at yesterday's town hall in Kinshasa:
The entire society needs to be speaking out against this. … It should be a mark of shame anywhere, in any country. I hope that that will become a real cause here in Kinshasa that will sweep across the country."
Today Clinton is visiting the eastern Congolese city of Goma, which has been the epicenter of sexual violence as the Army and rebel groups have duked it out over the years. At a news conference she reiterated a point she made in a meeting with President Joseph Kabila earlier in the day:
We believe there should be no impunity for the sexual and gender-based violence committed by so many ... that there must be arrests and prosecutions and punishment."
In the photo above:
Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
A young Congolese woman waits on an operating table on Aug. 11, moments before undergoing surgery to repair serious physical damage suffered after being raped. Doctors at the Heal Africa Clinic in Goma treat women who have been sexually abused and who in the majority of cases develop serious physical problems due to the vicious nature of the attacks. The United Nations says nearly 3,500 women have been raped in Goma since the beginning of the year.
By now, I'm sure you've all heard about the touchy question (which appears to have been mistranslated) that Secretary Clinton was asked by a student yesterday: What did her husband, Bill Clinton, think about Chinese financial contracts with the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Clinton's blunt, sharp response revealed she was obviously irked:
You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state, I am. You ask my opinion. I will tell you my opinion; I'm not going to channel my husband."
Given this summer's talk about how she has been in "the shadows," it's understandable that the question (which appears to have asking about President Obama's opinion, not Bill's) would touch a raw nerve for the women's-rights-supporting secretary of state. And context is important, too. Clinton is in a country were women often have second-class status and where rape has been used as a weapon of war.
As the State Department's P.J. Crowley put it:
If Africa, if Congo is going to advance, women have to play a more significant role. She was in the setting of a town hall, and the questioner was interested in what two men thought, not the secretary."
Nevertheless, Clinton is a diplomat. She didn't need to snap at the student; she could have used grace and humor to get through a question that angered her. At least she patched things up with the student afterward.
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.