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Clinton honours Uganda rights group, calls for Sudan deal

KAMPALA, Aug 4 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday paid tribute to a Ugandan human rights coalition working for gay rights, hours after a brief stop in Juba where she called for a compromise deal between the rival two Sudans.

Visiting the Ugandan capital Kampala, she awarded a prize to the “brave men and women” in a Ugandan rights coalition working to block a controversial bill that would set draconian punishments for homosexual acts.

“It is critical for all Ugandans — the government and citizens alike — to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone,” Clinton said. “That’s true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love.”

The top US diplomat, after a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, gave the group “who are standing up for universal human rights in Uganda” the State Department’s Human Rights Defenders Award.

Clinton said Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law was “heroically standing up for human rights and setting an example for how civil society can work together in common cause.”

On a seven-nation Africa tour, Clinton also Friday visited South Sudan’s ramshackle capital Juba, where she warned the newly separated Sudan and the South to put aside bitter differences and strike a deal to restart the oil production that is key to their economies.

Sudan and South Sudan “will need to compromise to close the remaining gaps between them,” Clinton said, after meeting South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.

“It is urgent that both sides, north and south, follow through and reach timely agreements on all outstanding issues, including oil revenue sharing, security, citizenship and border demarcation,” she added.

South Sudan’s government has yet to agree on a raft of issues with Sudan that were left unresolved after they split in July 2011, including border demarcation and contested areas in oil-rich regions.

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Long running African Union-led talks in the Ethiopian capital have so far failed to produce a deal, with Khartoum rejecting Juba’s offers and demanding that border security be ensured before any economic accord.

The UN Security Council had given the two countries, which earlier this year came close to a return to all-out war, until Thursday to reach a deal or face sanctions.

At independence, landlocked South Sudan took with it two-thirds of the region’s oil, but the pipelines and processing facilities remained in Sudan.

In January, Juba cut off all oil production, even though oil provides some 98% of its revenue, crippling the economies of both countries, after accusing Khartoum of stealing its crude.

“You have made your point, you have brought Sudan to the negotiating table,” Clinton said, standing alongside Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial, stressing the importance of getting the oil to start “pumping again.”

“An interim agreement with Sudan over oil production and transit can help address the short-term needs of the people of South Sudan, while giving you the resources and the time to explore longer-term options.”

“There must always come a point where we look forward and recognise the need to stop fighting over past wrongs so we can build toward a new future,” she said.

Clinton spent around three hours in the steamy heat of Juba — a rapidly growing city largely made up of simple tin-roof huts — before flying to Kampala.

There she also met with Uganda’s military intelligence officials, who are working alongside 100 US Special Forces troops in the hunt for Joseph Kony, the leader of the fearsome Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

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Clinton is due to travel to Kenya on Saturday, where she is slated to meet with both Kenyan leaders and officials from Somalia’s government, which is preparing to end its mandate later this month.

One person was killed in a grenade attack in a Nairobi suburb late Friday, police said, the latest in a string of blasts in Kenya since its troops invaded southern Somalia to crush Al-Qaeda linked insurgent bases there last year.


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