Clinton Tries To Strengthen Ties With Angola

August 10, 2009|By The Washington Post

LUANDA, Angola - -Hillary Clinton made the first visit to Angola by a U.S. secretary of state in seven years, trying Sunday to strengthen relations with a growing oil producer that is being aggressively courted by China.

Clinton sought to emphasize the positive in her two-day visit, praising Angola's efforts to rebuild after a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. But during a meeting in Parliament, opposition politicians urged her to press for more democratic behavior from President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for three decades.

"Africa and Angola need, not strong men, but strong institutions," Alda Sachiambo, leader of the UNITA caucus, said at the televised meeting, throwing back at Clinton a line from a speech President Barack Obama gave last month in Ghana.

Clinton did not respond directly, but told the lawmakers: "In a democracy such as yours, the Parliament must demand accountability and transparency, and stand against financial corruption and abuse of power."

Angola was the third stop on Clinton's seven-nation tour of Africa, which has emphasized good governance and economic growth. Clinton was notably less critical of Angola's democratic failings - corruption and a lack of press freedom - than she was of Kenya's performance during her stop there last week.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said Clinton believes the Angolans are "moving in the right direction, so it's better to encourage them along."

Angola's oil production has surged in recent years; it rivals Nigeria as the biggest petroleum exporter in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the No. 7 supplier of oil to the United States.

While the oil-fueled economy grew a sizzling 27 percent last year, many Angolans haven't seen improvement in their lives. About two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day, according to United Nations figures.

Oil diplomacy was the top item on Clinton's agenda, and she emphasized in her meetings with Angolan officials the need for transparency in awarding contracts and spending oil proceeds, according to her aides.

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