Clinton meets Mandela, snubs Mugabe

JOHANNESBURG - US secretary of State Hillary Clinton has snubbed President Robert Mugabe as Harare does not feature on her on-going visit to southern Africa.

Clinton dined with Nelson Mandela on Monday at his rural homestead in Qunu, Eastern Cape on Monday. She arrived in South Africa on Sunday from Malawi where she offered praise to President Joice Banda and pledged continued American support to the impoverished southern African nation.

Clinton flew to Malawi from Kenya, and had earlier visited Senegal, Uganda and South Sudan — all seen as East Africa’s model democracies.

Clinton’s visit provides a good glimpse into the future of US’s strategic relationship with Africa.

Her carefully crafted schedule ensured that no opening is left which will invite a partisan attack in Washington.

She has broadly called for more aid to countries she visited and applauded positive developments there.

Clinton’s snub of Mugabe during the 11-day tour of Africa has confirmed Washington’s consistent policy of alienating the 88-year-old strongman who has shown little commitment for partnership with the US and its interest in promoting human rights in Africa.

Diplomats believe the countries included in the official visit can be used as a bar for measuring the strategic weight of the country concerned to American interests.

While Clinton was meeting Mandela, a US business delegation was holding trade talks with SA executives in Johannesburg, with the delegation comprising senior executives from Black & Veatch, Boeing, Chevron, EMD/Caterpillar, FedEx Express, GE, Symbion, Trimble, Wal-Mart and Zanbato.

A possible trip to Zimbabwe would have garnered a fitting story to what Clinton wanted to highlight.

Zimbabwe presents a case for how a responsible government can best take advantage of Western commitment to a national effort of eradication of poverty and diseases.

Zimbabwe’s economy is recovering after a decade of economic meltdown blamed on strongman Mugabe.

But it remains the only country struggling to entrench democracy in southern Africa.

Clinton met Mugabe’s counterparts in the two Sadc countries she visited.

Critics say for whatever reason Clinton decided not to visit Zimbabwe, she indeed missed a good, positive and uplifting story from the southern African country; that of a people determined to draw a line in the sand and focus on reconstructing an economic giant devastated by a decade of economic mismanagement blamed on Mugabe’s rule.

Currently in South Africa, Clinton is expected to meet President Zuma after her highly publicised private lunch meeting with Mandela and his wife Graca.

After the South Africa visit, Clinton heads for Nigeria on Thursday, where she plans to hold meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and other officials.

She will proceed to Benin before wrapping up her itinerary with a stop in Ghana where she will attend the state funeral of late president John Atta Mills, before heading to Istanbul for talks on the festering crisis in Syria, where mediator Kofi Annan has just thrown in the towel amid mass murder by the “terrorist regime” of Bashar al-Assad regime.

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