Ms. Rice’s enthusiasm for these leaders might have blinded her to some of their more questionable activities. Critics, including Howard W. French, a former correspondent for The New York Times, say that in the late 1990s, Ms. Rice tacitly approved of an invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo that was orchestrated by Mr. Kagame of Rwanda and supported by Mr. Museveni of Uganda. In The New York Review of Books in 2009, Mr. French reported that witnesses had heard Ms. Rice describe the two men as the best insurance against genocide in the region. “They know how to deal with that,” he reported her as having said. “The only thing we have to do is look the other way.” Ms. Rice has denied supporting the invasion.

More recently, according to Jason K. Stearns, a scholar of the region, Ms. Rice temporarily blocked a United Nations report documenting Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebel group now operating in eastern Congo, and later moved to delete language critical of Rwanda and Uganda from a Security Council resolution. “According to former colleagues, she feels that more can be achieved by constructive engagement, not public censure,” Mr. Stearns wrote recently on Foreign Policy’s Web site.

Ms. Rice’s relationship with Mr. Meles — which dates from 1998, when she was a mediator in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to prevent war between Eritrea and Ethiopia — also calls her judgment into question.

In fairness, in her eulogy, Ms. Rice said she differed with Mr. Meles on questions like democracy and human rights. But if so, the message did not get through; under Mr. Meles during the past 15 years, democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia steadily deteriorated.