Blinken Wraps Up Four-Nation Africa Tour, Commits to Ongoing Security, Economic Partnership


State Department — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday the United States will continue intensive engagement with African partners in hopes of resolving the ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blinken held talks Thursday with Angolan President Joao Lourenco in which they discussed “concrete ways” to achieve “a durable peace” in the DRC’s conflict-ridden eastern region.

These discussions come against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Rwanda and the DRC, marked by several alleged cross-border attacks by Congolese and Rwandan forces.

“The United States very much appreciates President Lourenco’s continued efforts to de-escalate tensions between Rwanda and the DRC. We believe that the Luanda process, in tandem with the Nairobi process, is the best hope for enduring peace. Angola is trusted by all sides. President Lourenco’s leadership is vital for breakthrough,” said Blinken during a press conference before wrapping up the visit, which was part of a four-nation tour of Africa.

The chronic and escalating conflicts in eastern Congo have led regional countries to initiate two peace processes. The Nairobi Process is aimed at the disarmament of rebel groups within the DRC, while the Luanda Process focuses on resolving tensions between the DRC and its neighbor, Rwanda, which the DRC accuses of supporting the M23 rebel group. Rwanda denies the accusation.

In his meeting with Angolan Foreign Minister Tete Antonio, Blinken discussed the U.S.-Angola bilateral relationship, emphasizing the growing cooperation with Luanda in major railway infrastructure projects and outer space exploration.

“The United States has committed funding to refurbish the existing 1,300-kilometer Lobito Atlantic Railway. And we’ve taken the first steps to build out 800 kilometers a new rail reaching Zambia, including through a consortium with Angola and other partners,” said Blinken during a joint press conference.

Blinken said these projects are the biggest investment the United States has made in railways on the African continent in over a generation and are central to the partnership for global infrastructure investment work in Angola.

In November 2023, the U.S. and Angola signed the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations.

Over the past four years, the U.S. has significantly increased its military assistance to Angola, providing more than $18 million from 2020 to 2023. In the coming year, the U.S. will explore new opportunities to expand capacity-building efforts in cybersecurity and for Angola’s Navy, according to the State Department.

Blinken began his four-nation tour of Africa on Monday. Besides Angola, the trip included stops in Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.

In Cape Verde’s capital Praia, Blinken met with Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva and toured Porto da Praia, modernized with U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation funding. Blinken praised Cape Verde for being the first country to complete two Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts and starting a third. He also acknowledged Cape Verde’s WHO certification as malaria-free.

In Ivory Coast, Blinken met with President Alassane Ouattara and announced $45 million in new funding to help the West African country 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.

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.

In Nigeria, Blinken held talks focused on regional security with President Bola Tinubu and Foreign Minister Yusuf Maitama Tuggar.

Nigeria shares a border with Niger, where the military ousted its elected leader, Mohamed Bazoum, in July 2023.

Highlighting Nigeria’s role in the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, Blinken commended its efforts toward restoring constitutional order and democracy in Niger.

During a press conference in Abuja, Blinken said the United States is determined to remain a strong security partner for Nigeria, a key partner in the U.S. fight against Islamist insurgents in West Africa.

The chief U.S. diplomat’s trip to three countries in West Africa, and one in southern Africa, Angola, comes as Washington seeks to deepen its economic and security partnerships in regions where China and Russia have made significant inroads.

Read the original article on VOA.