U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to the epicenter of Africa’s longest war Tuesday to try to help victims, especially those of sexual violence, of a regional conflict that’s dragged on more than a decade.
Taking a smaller U.N. plane on the 1,000-mile trip from Kinshasa to Goma, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was necessary because the U.S. plane being used on her seven-nation Africa trip is too big for the local landing strip, Clinton told reporters Monday. In Goma, Clinton might meet with President Laurent Kabila before visiting U.N. peacekeepers. She also is expected to take part in a roundtable discussion with victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the country. The Congo conflict has involved several countries and resulted in an estimated 5 million deaths from fighting and collateral problems such as disease and starvation, according to an International Rescue Committee survey conducted more than a year ago. In addition, tens of thousands of women have been raped in the ongoing regional strife, stoked by competition for mineral riches.
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“I will be pressing very hard for not just assistance to help those who are being abused and mistreated, in particular the women who are turned into weapons of war through the rape they experience, but also looking for ways to try to end this conflict,” Clinton said. Clinton opened her Africa trip in Nairobi, Kenya, then went to South Africa and Angola. After Congo, she will travel to Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde. The Obama administration is using Clinton’s tour to promote development and good governance and underscore the president’s commitment to Africa.