Unsolvable African crises erupt as Biden's top diplomat visits Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya – Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa was a great gesture of American support to the...


NAIROBI, Kenya – Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa was a great gesture of American support to the continent. But his first day also illustrated the frustrating limits of American influence. in a region in the throes of profound upheaval.

As Blinken met with officials in Nairobi, Kenya, security forces in the capital of neighboring Sudan shot dead at least 15 pro-democracy protesters and injured many more in the deadliest violence since the coup. ‘Military status of October 25. the country.

At the same time, a civil war continued to rage in Ethiopia, where besieged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, once darling of the West, lashed out at international critics, even as Mr. Blinken renewed his call for the end of the fighting – another discordant juxtaposition that raised new doubts about the powers of persuasion in a turbulent region.

It is an unfortunate context for Mr Blinken’s visit to Africa, where he plans to deliver a speech in Nigeria on Friday outlining the Biden administration’s vision for a continent that President Donald J. Trump has often treated with a mixed bag. indifference. and contempt.

Mr Blinken’s team has put a lot of diplomatic energy into East Africa over the past year, hoping to stop the atrocity-laden war in Ethiopia and protect the fragile transition of the country. Sudan towards democracy. But as he landed in Nairobi, those efforts seemed to have little effect.

Speaking to reporters alongside his Kenyan counterpart, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo, Blinken said the war in Ethiopia “must end”, calling on the two sides to start talks without preconditions. For more than a year, Mr. Abiy fought rebels in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia in a growing war that many say could tear Africa’s second most populous country apart.

Events in Ethiopia and Sudan on Wednesday appeared to defy Mr. Blinken’s remonstrance. The Ethiopian Prime Minister launched a finely veiled border against Western efforts to resolve the war with a Twitter post that blamed the woes on a “sophisticated narrative war” waged by anonymous enemies, a reference to more than its Tigrayan antagonists. These forces, he said, “were using disinformation as a channel for their sinister movement.”

On Sudan, Blinken reiterated his call for the reinstatement of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was deposed in last month’s coup and under house arrest, and highlighted his diplomatic efforts to put pressure on the chiefs. Sudanese soldiers who overthrew Mr. Hamdok.

“I worked on phones,” Mr. Blinken said.

But in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and other areas, security forces opened fire on the last day of mass protest against the coup, killing at least 15 people and injuring many more, doctors said. This is the highest daily toll since the start of the protests.

Many had received bullets “to the head, neck or torso,” the main medical association said in a statement. This brought the death toll reported in recent protests to at least 39.

There was even unrest in neighboring Uganda, where residents of the capital, Kampala, were still reeling from suicide bombings by militants from a group claiming to be affiliated with Islamic State. Four people were killed in the attacks on Tuesday.

Mr Blinken mentioned this attack, but his main focus was the crises in Sudan and Ethiopia. While some are calling for a more aggressive American approach, Blinken did not detail what additional steps the United States could take to influence events in either country. But he warned that there would be consequences for what he called “atrocities” in Ethiopia.

“There has to be accountability, and we are determined that there will be,” he said.

Mr Blinken’s visit to East Africa comes after months of intensive engagement from his regional envoy, Jeffrey D. Feltman, who has been shuttling between capitals in recent weeks in a frantic race for diplomatic solutions.

In Sudan, US officials are pushing for the immediate reestablishment of a transitional government that took power in 2019, following a wave of popular protest that toppled the country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al -Bashir. If the Sudanese generals called off their coup, the country would be rewarded with renewed financial assistance from the United States and other nations, Blinken said.

For now, however, his offers seem to fall on deaf ears.

In Ethiopia, the Biden administration has turned to increasingly coercive means to pressure both sides to end the fighting, including visa restrictions for Ethiopian officials linked to alleged atrocities and threats of sanctions against the leaders of on both sides.

At the United Nations, American officials have made passionate appeals for international unity. “Doesn’t the life of Africans matter? ” a visibly exasperated Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said in July.

These efforts have failed to stop Ethiopia’s fall. Two million people have been driven from their homes; seven million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance; and human rights violations continue unabated, according to humanitarian organizations and international observers.

Mr. Abiy, who is confronting ethnic Tigray rebels rushing to the capital, has rejected repeated US calls to negotiate.

Some critics blame the Biden administration for reacting too slowly to the various crises in East Africa, and in particular for failing to take firm action earlier against Mr. Abiy.

The United States is also grappling with a growing number of foreign countries with competing interests in the Horn of Africa – including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar and Russia – which have at times frustrated US diplomacy. .

China’s influence in Africa is also a growing concern among U.S. officials who view competition with Beijing as their top priority. On Wednesday, the hotel where Mr. Blinken was staying was also hosting a meeting of a Sino-Kenyan business group.

The defense of democracy has become a defining feature of President Biden’s foreign policy, especially as the United States competes for influence with authoritarian China in Africa and around the world.

Mr Blinken also cautioned against Kenya’s political system, which human rights groups say has shown authoritarian tendencies in recent years. He started his day by meeting with Kenyan civil society leaders, who warned of threats to the country’s democratic progress as Kenya heads to national elections in August.

“Not just in Kenya, but all over the world, you have seen over the past decade what some have called a democratic recession,” Mr Blinken said. “Even vibrant democracies like Kenya are under these pressures, especially at election time. “

Such a speech did not prevent Mr. Blinken from receiving an enthusiastic public reception from his counterpart, Ms. Omamo. She said Mr. Blinken’s visit showed that “the United States is indeed back and interested in advancing our continent,” an apparent implicit contrast to President Donald J. Trump, who has never visited the continent and denigrated some of its nations with a vulgar epithet.

Ms Omamo even echoed one of President Biden’s iconic slogans, saying Kenya and the United States would “build better” together.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Unsolvable African crises erupt as Biden's top diplomat visits Kenya
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