Image: Hillary Clinton in Africa
Pewee Flomoku  /  AP
Liberian women wait to glimpse U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday. Clinton offered strong support for embattled Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is Africa's first democratically elected female leader. She ended her 11-day trip in Cape Verde.
updated 8/14/2009 12:41:41 PM ET 2009-08-14T16:41:41

Winding up an 11-day African tour, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she's optimistic about its future and voiced no regrets about "tough love" messages she gave to government leaders there.

"I love coming to Africa," Clinton said at a joint news conference in Cape Verde with Prime Minister Jose Maria Pereira Neves as she prepared to head back to Washington.

"I have been overwhelmed," the secretary said of her visits to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Liberia, as well as Cape Verde. "I have been filled with hope and I have seen despair. But I come away with an even greater level of commitment than I had before," Clinton said.

She used the tour to reinforce a message that President Barack Obama brought to Africa earlier this year, a call for leaders to fight corruption, promote democracy, and combat civil strife, disease, violence and squalor wherever it exists.

Responding to Clinton, Neves said that "we represent a new and emerging Africa" with progress in the areas of free press, free speech and the rule of law.

U.S. officials have said that Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the coast of West Africa, could serve as a model for other African nations as it has held numerous free and fair elections and has taken measures to ensure accountability and transparency in government.

Clinton, particularly, praised the government as "a model of democracy and economic progress in Africa." She noted that women account for more than half the members of Cape Verde's Cabinet. "I think the United States can learn a lot from your example," she told Neves.

Said Clinton: "I always feel a sense of awe that we are in the place where human beings began so many, many years ago."

"I leave Africa even more committed about what lies ahead," she told reporters. "The Obama administration has delivered ... a message of tough love. We are not sugarcoating the problems. We're not shying away from them."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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