(File image) American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Washington - American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday began a trip to Africa, where she is to visit South Sudan as it nears the end of crucial negotiations with Sudan.

Clinton will also meet with leaders of Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Somalia and South Africa, according to the US State Department.

In South Sudan, her second stop, Clinton is to meet with President Salva Kiir to “encourage progress” in talks with Sudan on security, oil and citizenship. The two countries are currently in peace talks in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, under the supervision of African Union mediators, where they are expected to negotiate until Thursday.

Clinton's July 31-August 10 trip will emphasise strengthening of democratic institutions, economic growth, security and human rights, the State Department said.

Clinton's first stop will be Senegal, where she will meet with President Macky Sall and deliver a speech applauding the resilience of Senegal's democratic institutions.

In Uganda, Clinton's meeting with President Yoweri Museveni will focus on human rights and US co-operation in regional security, specifically efforts to shut down the Lord's Resistance Army.

With Kenya's national elections looming next year, Clinton will meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who are governing in an uneasy alliance after the bloody tribal violence that claimed 1 300 lives in the 2007 elections.

Clinton will express her support “for transparent, credible nonviolent national elections” next year, the State Department said.

In South Africa, Clinton will meet with former president Nelson Mandela and participate in a US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue.

In Kenya, Clinton will also meet with Somali President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the Road Map to End the Transition.

In Malawi, she is to meet with President Joyce Banda to discuss economic and political governance and reform. - Sapa-dpa