Biden to hold Africa summit to boost cooperation: Blinken

United States President Joe Biden plans to hold a summit with African leaders to show Washington’s commitment to the continent, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Blinken made the announcement on Friday from the Nigerian capital of Abuja, his second stop on a three-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa that began in Nairobi, Kenya and will end in Dakar, Senegal.

“President Biden intends to host the US-Africa Leaders Summit to drive the kind of high-level diplomacy and engagement that can transform relationships and make effective cooperation possible,” Blinken said.

Blinken, who is on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as secretary of state and is the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit the region, did not give a date for the summit.

The move comes as the US has increasingly focused on countering China’s engagement with the continent. A major summit on China-Africa cooperation is planned for later this month in Senegal.

US allies France, the United Kingdom, and Japan have also been holding regular summits with African leaders.

On Thursday, Blinken met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.

In a joint news conference with Onyeama, Blinken said the US supports Nigeria’s “engagement, leadership and strong voice”. However, he called for greater human rights accountability in the country.

Nigeria, the most populous country with the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, has long been plagued by rampant corruption. In 2020, security forces were accused of unleashing disproportionate and deadly violence during massive protests against police brutality.

Meanwhile, objections in the US Congress have held up the sale of 12 US Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria amid calls to probe whether the military is doing enough to prevent civilian deaths in its two-decade-long fight with the Boko Haram group in the country’s north.

Blinken was giving an address on the US’s Africa policy in Abuja on Friday, an area observers say has lagged behind the administration’s other foreign policy priorities. He will then travel to Senegal.

In Kenya on Wednesday, Blinken met President Uhuru Kenyatta and discussed the spiralling conflict in Ethiopia as well as the military takeover in Sudan.

 

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