Blinken to make first trip to Africa as top US diplomat

( This week, Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, is schedule to make his first trip to the continent of Africa as the country’s top diplomat.

The State Department issued a statement last week that said Blinken has plans to visit Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya.

During the trip, Blinken will “advance U.S.-Africa collaboration on shared global priorities.” Some of the topics he plans to discuss with the other countries’ leaders include combatting climate change, advancing peace and security in the region, revitalizing democracy, and helping to bring an end to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The first meeting Blinken will have will be in Nairobi with Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya. While there, the State Department has said Blinken will address “regional security issues.” One of the top priorities of that conversation is likely to be the ongoing conflicts happening in Sudan and Ethiopia.

The government in Ethiopia is still knee deep in battles with opposition forces, which has been going on for a year now. Just last week, the situation got so bad that the United States ordered all officials determined to be non-emergency to leave the country completely.

The U.S. has been trying to get the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia to encourage all sides to start engaging in conversations to cease the hostilities. The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, traveled there to meet with officials between November 4 and November 8.

At the same time, the military in Sudan dissolved the civilian-military government there in late October. It was a transitional government agreement that was put in place, but the military decided it no longer wanted to cooperate with that plan.

Military leaders promised to the world that they would soon cede their power to leaders who were civilians, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chief of the Army, last week re-appointed himself as the head of the interim government.

Following his trip to Kenya, Blinken will head to Nigeria’s capital Abuja. There, he’s expected to discuss health security, economic growth, expanding energy access, and revitalizing democracy. He’s set to meet for those discussions with Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria.

In Abuja, Blinken is also expected to give a speech on the United States’ policies toward Africa, and also “engage with Nigerian entrepreneurs in the digital sector.”

The trip is scheduled to end in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. There, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, where he’ll “reaffirm the close partnership” between the United States and Senegal, the State Department said.

The department further explained:

“Given President Sall’s upcoming African Union chairmanship, Secretary Blinken looks forward to discussing regional issues and shared values.”

This will be Blinken’s first in-person tour of Africa as secretary of state. Back in April he conducted a virtual tour, meeting online with some of the top officials in both Kenya and Nigeria.