Blinken Expresses US Commitment to Boosting Africa Partnerships
“The United States is determined to be and remain a strong security partner for Nigeria,” Blinken said in Abuja during a joint press conference with Nigerian Foreign Minister Yusuf Maitama Tuggar.
Before heading to Lagos late Tuesday, Blinken held talks with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and Tuggar in which they discussed regional security after several military coups in West Africa
“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,” Blinken said, referring to the Economic Community of West African States.
Nigeria is the largest country by population and economy in sub-Saharan Africa, and the dominant political, economic and military power in this regional bloc.
The United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria and maintains a significant security partnership with Nigeria in its counterterrorism operations against Islamist insurgents in West Africa.
Nigeria borders Niger, where the military ousted its elected leader, Mohamed Bazoum, in 2023, and subsequently scrapped defense agreements with France, its traditional security partner.
Last week, junta-appointed Niger Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine visited Moscow, and the two governments agreed to enhance their defense partnership.
“As some countries have looked to various ways of providing security, including going to partners like the [Russian paramilitary] Wagner Group, what we’ve seen is actually the problem getting manifestly worse and worse and worse,” Blinken said in Abuja.
Speaking to reporters alongside Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara after talks in Abidjan earlier on Tuesday, Blinken said the discussion included growing commercial ties to create jobs and growth in both the U.S. and Ivory Coast, as well as investing in public health initiatives and addressing regional security challenges.
Blinken said the United States and Ivory Coast “have a strong and growing bond.”
Blinken’s visit to Ivory Coast is seen as reflecting U.S. interests in the country’s stability and its preparations for the 2025 presidential election.
The U.S. and international community are concerned about stability in the Sahel sub-region of West Africa following coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger since 2020.
Ivory Coast borders three countries that have experienced coups in recent years: Guinea in September 2021; Mali in August 2020 and May 2021; and Burkina Faso in January and September 2022.
The United States announced $45 million in new funding to help Ivory Coast and its neighbors prevent conflict and promote stability amid regional threats. This contribution brings the total U.S. stability-focused assistance in Coastal West Africa to nearly $300 million since 2022.
Blinken’s fourth African trip began Monday in Cape Verde and is scheduled to close in Angola. State Department officials said key priorities included bolstering security partnerships and enhancing health and economic development in the region.
In Cape Verde’s capital, Praia, Blinken held talks Monday with Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva and visited the city’s Porto da Praia, which received funding for modernization efforts from the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.
“It is extraordinary that [Cape] Verde is the first country to complete two Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts, and now you’re starting to build a third one,” said Blinken.
He also congratulated Cape Verde’s malaria-free certification by the World Health Organization.
Millennium Challenge Compacts are grant agreements designed to fund specific programs that support economic growth.
Silva said Cape Verde shares values of democracy and good governance with the U.S. in its foreign policy.
“We strongly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We condemned the terrorist act of Hamas in Israel. And we defend solutions that make the two states of Israel and Palestine viable,” he said. “We condemn coup d’etat and changes to constitutional term limits for presidents of the republic that have occurred in Africa.”
Cape Verde is a small island nation that has a large diaspora in the United States.
The U.S. and Cape Verde signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in December 2022, focusing on maritime security.
Angola and Luanda Process
In a Monday call, Blinken spoke to recently re-elected Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Tshisekedi and discussed the concerns of election observers, as well as the need to enhance democratic confidence moving forward.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement they also discussed the crisis in eastern DRC and potential diplomatic solutions.
Following a contentious December election, Tshisekedi — sworn in Saturday for a second term — pledged to unify the country and address conflicts in the east.
The worsening conflicts in eastern Congo have prompted countries in the region to broker two peace initiatives: the so-called Luanda Process and the Nairobi Process, according to Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
Increasing tensions between Rwanda and the DRC have led to several alleged attacks by Congolese and Rwandan forces on each other’s territory.
Blinken plans to hold talks on the Luanda Process, led by Angola, with that country’s President João Lourenço and Foreign Minister Téte António.
Last week, Blinken met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he reiterated the need for all actors to take concrete steps to ease tensions.
Avril Haines, director of U.S. national intelligence, traveled to Kinshasa and Kigali in November, meeting with leaders from the two countries to secure a commitment to de-escalate tensions in eastern DRC.
“We were able to institute a process of weekly check-ins that we undertook through the end of calendar year 2023,” Phee told reporters during a Thursday briefing.