Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dakar, July 31-Aug 1

This is the view I woke up to this morning. Dakar is on a spindly peninsula that stretches out into the Atlantic, so you get sea views almost anywhere you go.

We're at the start of a 7-country, 11-day trip to Africa. Clinton is doing this scarcely two weeks after she wrapped up her last marathon trip -- that one to Asia and the Middle East. She's already broken all kinds of official travel records, so I guess this grueling pace must be sheer doggedness (plus it keeps her out of the country during the presidential campaign, which might be a good thing).

The flight over from Washington is not as long as you might think -- only about seven hours. West Africa stretches well into the Atlantic, so its actually closer than a lot of places in Europe. Tomorrow's flight, from Dakar to Uganda, is also seven hours, which tells you how broad Africa is.

She's starting off in Senegal because they had a successful election in March that saw one of the old guard of African rulers sent packing (pretty much against his wishes). The U.S. wants to spotlight Senegal as a model for the kind of institutional, regular democracy they hope to see in other African countries. Clinton paid a visit to a U.S.-funded health clinic, and then gave a speech at one of Dakar's big universities. It as a good speech, but pretty similar to the one she gave at the African Union last year -- time for the old guys to get out of the way, the U.S. is a better partner for Africa than China, etc.

Surprisingly, after the speech (and a HUGE rainstorm) we are back at the hotel and her schedule is done for the day. They never would have done this in the old days...there was always another group of people to see, another project to inspect, another hand to shake, campaign-style. But perhaps now that she is in her last six months, they feel they can ease up a little.

I'm not complaining: I went to the gym! And now I am watching the Olympics with chattery French commentary, featuring frequent use of words such as "Voila!", "Hoopla!" and "Ai-yai-yai!" ...