US Secretary of State Clinton hails Senegal democracy

Hillary Clinton speaking at Cheikh Anta Diop University in the Senegalese capital Dakar on 1 August 2012
Image caption Mrs Clinton said the US was committed to "sustainable partnership" in Africa

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described Senegal as a beacon of African democracy after arriving there at the start of a regional tour.

In a speech in the capital Dakar, she said too much of the rest of Africa remained under autocratic rule, and urged its leaders to embrace democracy.

She also met President Macky Sall, who won power in recent elections.

Ms Clinton's visit comes months after Islamist militants seized parts of neighbouring Mali after an army coup.

Security concerns are expected to dominate Ms Clinton's 11-day African tour, which will also take her to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana.

It is a time of growing threats in the Sahel region, where the US military is playing an increasingly important role, says the BBC's Thomas Fessy in Dakar.

The US Africa Command, or Africom, has been pumping considerable resources into training forces throughout West Africa.

In her speech to students, lawmakers and diplomats in Dakar, Ms Clinton warned against the threat to democracy posed by violent extremism, cross-border crime and corruption.

She reiterated that the US would not resume aid supplies to Mali until it returned to civilian rule after its March coup, and voiced concern that Guinea-Bissau, to the south of Senegal, which experienced a coup in April, could become completely dependent on Latin American drug traffickers.

'Adding value'

Image caption The coup in Senegal's neighbour, Mali, has sparked fears for regional stability

Ms Clinton held up Senegal's democratic transition from long-serving President Abdoulaye Wade to his successor, Macky Sall, as an example to the region.

"If anyone doubts whether democracy can flourish in African soil, let them come to Senegal," she was quoted saying by the AFP news agency.

In contrast, she added, "too many Africans still live under autocratic rulers who care more about preserving their grip on power than promoting the welfare of their citizens".

In what analysts saw as a swipe against China, she said the United States was committed to "a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it".

Chinese investment in Africa has surged in recent years, but Beijing has also been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and dictatorial behaviour.

On Friday, Mrs Clinton will travel to South Sudan, becoming the most senior US official to visit the country since it became independent last year.

The tour also includes a private meeting with South Africa's anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, now 94, in his hometown of Qunu.

Her last stop will be Ghana, where she will attend the 10 August state funeral for the country's late president, John Atta Mills, who died last week.

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