U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton completed a four-nation visit to Africa to promote democracy, good government and economic reforms, and to demonstrate a U.S. commitment to a post-conflict return to peace.
Clinton led a U.S. delegation to the January 16, 2012 inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the start of her two-day trip, which included visits to Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Cape Verde. U.S. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware and General Carter Ham, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, accompanied her.
Clinton was pleased to attend Sirleaf's second inauguration "because I've known Ellen for a long time," Clinton told U.S. Embassy staff in Monrovia January 16. "I have a great deal of admiration and appreciation for the work she is doing, along with her other colleagues in government."
In her inaugural address, Sirleaf invited opposition leaders to come forward and to participate in helping to govern Liberia. Sirleaf, who was first elected to office in 2005, shared in the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to stabilize the country and promote women's rights.
"There has to be a recognition that in elections sometimes you win and sometimes you lose," Clinton said. "I have done both of them, and I think it's important that the lessons that we have learned over more than 235 years of trying to perfect our union be understood by other democracies and countries that are really making such strides."
Clinton said that it doesn't matter if you always win in politics, but it does matter that you put the common good of the nation ahead of any personal and political interests. But she added that it is important for any healthy democracy to continue to allow opposing opinions.
"At the end of the day you have to agree upon certain values and then work together to fulfill them," she said.
The United States' relationship with the people of Liberia goes beyond elections, Clinton said. The work includes security issues, health care and education.
"It's a whole-of-government effort, because that's what it takes to support this extraordinary journey that Liberia is on, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure they get to the destination of democracy, prosperity, peace and security safely," Clinton said.
In Cote d'Ivoire, Clinton met with President Alassane Ouattara to showcase U.S. support for national reconciliation and strengthening democratic institutions after legislative elections in December 2011.
Clinton told Ouattara during a press conference after their January 17 meeting that she admired the progress that the country is making in a steady return to peace and reconciliation as well as continued economic and social development.
"This is an exciting time for Cote d'Ivoire, as it is for West Africa as a whole," Clinton told reporters. "We have seen successful elections in Nigeria, the restoration of a civilian government in Niger, the establishment of the first elected government in Guinea."
"And yesterday [January 16], I had the privilege of representing my country, as did President Ouattara, at the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her second term after another free and fair election," Clinton said. "Securing these gains for democracy, prosperity, peace and security for the people here as well as for your neighbors will take consistent hard work."
After consultations in Cote d'Ivoire, Clinton traveled to Togo for meetings with Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé at the presidential palace in Lome. It was her first visit as secretary of state. She said national elections to be held later in 2012 will be an important milestone.
"The United States will be a partner to the government of Togo as it builds on its recent democratic gains, brings dissenting voices to the table for an inclusive dialogue, increases political participation of women and carries out a successful constitutional reform process," Clinton said, according to news reports.
Clinton met with Prime Minister Jose Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde to discuss cooperation on issues including counternarcotics, good governance, economic reforms and Cape Verde's second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact.