Blinken tours Africa in attempt to sway countries away from Russia’s influence

Blinken tours Africa in attempt to sway countries away from Russia’s influence
/ US State Department photo by Chuck Kennedy
By bne IntelliNews January 24, 2024

The United States is committed to becoming a reliable security partner for African nations, particularly those in the Sahel region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Blinken, currently on a tour in West Africa, told journalists in Abuja that Washington is a more reliable security partner than Russia, and encouraged US allies in the region to turn away from Moscow.

In particular, he focused on the destabilising impact of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which he accused of exploiting nations hit by coups and conflicts in the Sahel region.

Blinken said the US will continue to support Nigeria and other regional partners in their efforts to stabilise the region, which Islamist groups have turned into a global terror hot spot.

“We hope it can make a difference in restoring the constitutional order and restoring a critical partner in trying to find security in the region,” he told reporters in Abuja, as quoted by The Associated Press, speaking in particular about Niger, where a coup has threatened years of support by Western and European nations.

Niger, which saw the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum, in recent years, has been a base of operations for US counterterrorism efforts in the region. However, following the installation of a new military junta, Washington has imposed sanctions and severed ties. This has led Niger to turn to Moscow for help.

Speaking to journalists, Blinken expressed concern over the Wagner group's involvement, and claimed that countries receiving security support from the private military company have actually seen the problem of insecurity “getting manifestly worse and worse”.

In contrast, Blinken outlined the US approach to supporting local security forces in African nations. This approach includes providing equipment, technology, intelligence sharing, and technical assistance to address the root causes of insecurity, he said.

Blinken also also underscored the pivotal role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its efforts to restore constitutional order in Niger. 

“We very much appreciate Nigeria's leadership in ECOWAS to try to move to a return to the constitutional order and democracy in Niger after it's been disrupted,” he said.

As well as Nigeria, Blinken’s tour also includes trips to the Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, and Angola. Outside of discussions about security, discussions are also focused on enhancing commercial ties and economic development.