Hillary Clinton is in the middle of what is being billed as her last trip to Africa as secretary of state. Stops include Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa.
With the exception of South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan just over a year ago, her itinerary will not include African trouble spots, nor one of its most powerful but troubled nations, Nigeria.
It is understandable that neither Secretary Clinton nor President Obama want her to bite off more than she can chew in Africa in the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign. But that makes it unlikely that she will have resolved any of the continent's major problems during her four years in charge of American diplomacy.
South Sudan, largely Christian and animist, and poor, is nearly as troubled as a nation can be. Warfare simmers on its borders with Sudan, the country from which it separated in July, 2011, and among dissident ethnic elements within the new nation.
It is unlikely that Secretary Clinton can do anything about South Sudan's problems without taking the bold step of direct dialogue with the leaders of Muslim Sudan to the north.
Mrs. Clinton visited Senegal to meet its newly elected president, Macky Sall. Malawi also has a new president, Joyce Banda. Kenya will have elections next year which, given its tribal divisions, will risk renewed violence. In South Africa, Mrs. Clinton wants to see again former president Nelson Mandela, now 94.
The largest problem Mrs. Clinton will avoid on the trip is the collapse of Mali, which faces secession, ethnic strife, and Islamist extremism in the north after a coup d'etat. The Obama Administration is being pressed by France to participate in an international military intervention there, with a U.S. military program already in place serving as a basis for the French request.
It will be interesting to see what Mrs. Clinton can achieve during her 10-day, six-nation trip, but it is hard to expect much.