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Clinton appeal on Congo conflict

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Clinton: "My husband is not secretary of state, I am."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged students in the Democratic Republic of Congo to speak out against the country's deadly civil conflict.

On the latest leg of her seven-nation African tour, she said students could write a new chapter in history.

Violence flared in the country's mineral-rich east last year, raising fears of a return to civil war.

She said people must condemn the mass rapes reportedly carried out by rebels and government troops there.

Congo has been wracked by violence since a 1998 insurrection led by rebels linked to Rwanda and Uganda that has left more than four million people dead.

The attacks have increased since January when an offensive was launched by Congolese troops with support from the United Nations peacekeeping force.

This year alone, an estimated 600 civilians have been killed, 800,000 forced from their homes and thousands of women and girls raped by rebels and government forces.

Speaking in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, Mrs Clinton urged students to put pressure on the authorities to take action.

"You are the ones who have to speak out. Speak out to end the corruption, the violence, the conflict that for too long have eroded the opportunities across this country," she said.

On Tuesday Mrs Clinton will meet President Joseph Kabila in the eastern town of Goma, where she will push the issue of ending human rights atrocities including mass rapes.

Basketball philanthropy

She faced a variety of questions.

Dikembe Mutombo
Basketball star Dikembe Mutombo runs a charitable foundation

At one point a student inquired about the views of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, about a Chinese loan to DR Congo.

She replied: "My husband is not the secretary of state, I am."

On her arrival in Kinshasa, Mrs Clinton visited a hospital, founded by an American basketball star, Dikembe Mutumbo, who is Congolese by origin.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the modern facility is in stark contrast to the rest of the country's dilapidated health system.

CLINTON'S AFRICAN TOUR
Kenya
South Africa
Nigeria
Angola
Liberia
Democratic Republic of Congo
Cape Verde

Our correspondent says the US and the rest of the international community realise that if stability can be brought to DR Congo it could have a positive impact on a vast swathe of Africa.

The country borders eight other nations, and its conflicts have frequently spilled over its borders.

The US is a major aid donor and has helped the country in some of its recent successes like the elections of 2006 and the thawing of relations with Rwanda.

Mrs Clinton arrived in Congo from Angola, where she met President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

She said Mr dos Santos had pledged to hold long-delayed presidential elections as soon as this could be done.

Mrs Clinton has already visited South Africa and Kenya as part of the trip - her longest foreign tour since taking office.

She is also due to visit Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.



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