The African continent has become, in recent days, the scene of an impressive diplomatic ballet. After Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron, it is the turn of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit sub-Saharan Africa. The first stage of the diplomat’s African tour will be South Africa, which is facing a major socio-economic crisis exacerbated by the multiplication of power cuts.
In the rainbow nation where he will stay from August 7 to 9, he is expected to unveil the Biden administration’s strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. According to the statement from the US State Department, this will be an opportunity to emphasize that “African countries are geostrategic actors and essential partners for the most pressing issues of our time”, including climate change, food insecurity and the issue of pandemics. A message he had already sent during his first African tour which led him to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal in 2021.
The second stage of his new African journey will be the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the United Nations Mission (Monusco) in the country has, as in 2015, become undesirable. Particularly in the east which has suffered bloody attacks from the M23 rebellion for several months. A confidential United Nations report has just provided evidence that Rwanda supports the rebel group, thus confirming the accusations made by Kinshasa against its neighbour. With the Congolese authorities and civil society, the American diplomat will discuss the 2023 presidential election and will focus, among other things, on “support for African regional initiatives aimed at promoting peace in the eastern DRC and in the Great Lakes region”.
Peace and security will also be discussed in Rwanda, the last stage of Antony Blinken’s African tour which will end on August 12. In Kigali, it will be about “role that the Rwandan government can play in reducing the current tensions and violence in eastern DRC”. The Rwandan authorities considered that the allegations in the UN report on Kigali’s links with the M23 were “invalid”. In Rwanda, Antony Blinken will also address issues relating at “democracy and human rights”, notably “wrongful detention” by Paul Rusesabagina, permanent resident in the United States. accused of terrorism, the man who saved more than a thousand lives during the 1994 genocide was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2021.
On the African continent, Antony Blinken was preceded by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The latter left the United States on August 3 for a four-day visit to Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde. Asked about the recent interest the Russians and Americans seemed to have in African countries, at the press conference announcing her African tour, she said that Washington was not asking “Africans to make a choice between the United States and Russia”. A choice, after all “simple”, According to her, with regard to “the long-standing relationship” that Washington has with the continent and American investments in African countries.
In Uganda, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stayed before her, Linda Thomas Greenfield said that African states had “the right to choose who are their friends and who are their enemies”. “We are here as friends of Uganda”she added on August 4 in Kampala, the Ugandan capital during a press conference.
The American diplomat’s rhetoric about Russia is similar to that of Antony Blinken during his first tour of sub-Saharan Africa. “We don’t want you to make a choice. We want to give you choices.” then declared the American Secretary of State on November 19, 2021 at the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria.. Washington was then defending its interests on the continent against China.