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Powell Wraps Up Africa Trip

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday praised Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for deciding to begin withdrawing troops from Congo and announced new food aid for drought victims in Sudan.

Powell cited grave humanitarian concerns in both war-torn nations, and the State Department said it was sending a ship with an initial shipment of 17,000 tons of wheat to Port Sudan.

It was an expansion of the U.S. aid effort in the north. The great bulk of the $1.2 billion in U.S. assistance since 1989 has been delivered to the rebel-dominated south. In all, 40,000 tons of food grain will be provided, said officials traveling with Powell.

Powell cited a "desperate situation" in Sudan, where war that has raged for 18 years is now complicated by drought. An estimated 2 million people have died as result of the conflict, mainly because of war-induced famine.

Little Hope In Kwazulu-Natal
The $200 million the United States has earmarked to aid Africa's fight against AIDS will do little in the battle being fought in the remote hills and valleys of the South African hinterland, a battle the U.N. says will take at least $7 billion a year to win, reports Mark Phillips.

There, Nana Mpofana is living out her last days in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, the epicenter of the epidemic where at least one third of the population has HIV/AIDS, the highest infection rate in the world.

So strong is the fear and the stigma of AIDS here that Nana would only admit to her disease, health worker Princess Cele says, because of local superstition.

"She discloses that she was told by someone else if you keep quiet you will die not in peace," Cele says.

Also suffering is Sipho Nqoko, who thought he only had TB until this visit. The news he has AIDS means he will likely be among the 6 million victims expected to die here before then end of this decade. Two million AIDS orphans are expected to be left behind.

One of those is 10-year-old Bongenkile Mthuli, whose parents died of AIDS and who is HIV positive herself. Her two younger brothers are infected as well, but do not know what killed their mother.

Powell was wrapping up a four-nation trip to Africa with a visit to Uganda, which he praised for bucking a trend on the continent and managing to lower its HIV-AIDS infection rate.

Powell discussed AIDS and regional conflicts during a meeting with the Museveni n the capital. Powell said that high on the agenda was compliance with a peacekeeping agreement and withdrawal of forces from Congo.

Uganda, which has about 8,000 troops in Congo, has said it soon would begin pulling many of them out.

"We will start withdrawing in the next three weeks from the whole of northwestern Congo," Museveni told reporters. U.S. officials said the withdrawal should leave Uganda with about 1,400 remaining troops in Congo.

Powell said he was looking toward the day when all troops can be withdrawn. "Hopefully, we can get this behind us," he said.

Before leaving Nairobi, Kenya, earlier Sunday, Powell met with members of private relief organizations that are distributing humanitarian aid in Sudan.

"I was deeply moved by the dedication that these organizations bring to their task," Powell said, "and I was also moved by the desperate situation that exists in Sudan, people who are on the verge of starvation."

Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said a U.S. cargo ship carrying 17,000 tons of wheat that had been headed toward Bangladesh was being diverted to Port Sudan and would be there in two weeks.

"We are in the second year of a drought superimposed over a civil war," Natsios said. "That drought is complicating the humanitarian situation to a remarkable degree. It is usually in the second year of a drought that we start seeing people's coping capacity collapse and people start dying."

Powell visited AIDS outreach centers in Nairobi and in Kampala, where he announced $50 million in U.S. aid over five years to help Uganda expand an education and prevention program.

Under the aggressive program, Uganda has reduced its adult HIV-AIDS rate from roughly 30 percent to 10 percent, Powell said. "No war in the world is more important" than the one against AIDS, Powell added.

In Nairobi, Powell attended an AIDS program that included dances, skits and emotional stories from HIV-AIDS victims.

Saying he was deeply moved, Powell promised to try to persuade President Bush and Congress to go along with even more U.S. aid than has been pledged so far.

"I want you to know that the U.S. is in this battle with you," Powell said in Nairobi. "We will do everything we can to help you win this battle. And hopefully it's a battle we can win."

Powell, who earlier visited Mali and South Africa, was heading Monday to Hungary for NATO meetings.

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