Biden officials focus on African crises at UN gathering

by MMC
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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met Friday with African leaders seeking to restore Niger’s democratically elected government to power, capping a week at the United Nations in which the Biden administration worked to fulfill its pledges of support for amid high-profile crises elsewhere, such as the war in Ukraine.

In a sign of the instability that threatens Africa’s potential for economic growth and independence, several leaders spoke of the scourge of coups that have spread across the continent – ​​eight in the last three years – as President Biden attempted to promote democracy.

On Tuesday, the President of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, told the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly that the military overthrows reflect a widespread failure to improve the lives of Africans. “The wave across parts of Africa does not show favor towards coups,” he said. “It is a demand for solutions to eternal problems. »

Aware of complaints on the continent that the United States is consumed by the war in Ukraine and competition with China, President Biden devoted much of his speech to the United Nations on Tuesday to addressing topics of particular interest for African leaders, including food security, development aid and climate change.

U.S. officials said Mr. Biden’s speech drew an enthusiastic response from African leaders and diplomats in New York, who appreciated his attention to their issues. This included Mr. Biden’s discussion of plans for a U.S.-sponsored corridor linking Angola to the mineral-rich regions of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (a project in which the United States, dependent on rare earth minerals, have significant self-development). interest).

And recapping the week for reporters at a news conference Friday, Mr. Blinken dwelled on details of his African diplomacy, noting U.S. progress in a joint program with the United Nations and the E.U. which helps “African countries to develop their own sustainable and sustainable development”. efficient sources of food”, notably through what he calls “climate-resistant” crops.

But officials on the 54-nation continent say little about a unified pro-Western position. In his remarks Thursday, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya of Guinea, who announced himself as that country’s new leader after a coup in September 2021, condemned democratically elected African leaders “who cheat to manipulate the text of the constitution in order to remain in power forever. » calling them “real putschists”.

Directing his comments to Western nations, Mr. Doumbouya complained that “this democratic model that you have so insidiously and skillfully imposed on us” was not working for his continent.

This discord reflects just one of the challenges facing the Biden administration’s efforts to follow through on commits to increasing focus of U.S. foreign policy on Africa.

In the short term, Biden officials are working to resolve several burning crises in Niger, Sudan and elsewhere.

On Friday morning, Blinken met with the leaders of several member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, a regional group that is pressuring Niger’s military rulers to relinquish power under the threat of military intervention. The Biden administration hopes to avoid a conflict that could spread across the region.

In a statement released after the meeting, the State Department said participants “were united in their position that the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland in Niger” – the ruling military junta in the country – “must release President Mohamed Bazoum, his family and all those illegally detained.

Mr. Bazoum and his family have been detained since July.

In a parallel drama this week, representatives of Mr. Bazoum’s government and the junta both sought to address the general assembly.

Bakary Yaou Sangaré, Niger’s permanent representative to the United Nations, appointed under Mr. Bazoum, would have had the right to do so if he had not pledged allegiance to the generals who took power and appointed him again Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country. .

Under U.N. rules, the change in status means he will not be able to speak until next week, according to U.S. officials.

Despite everything, Nigerien diplomats distributed Mr. Sangaré’s photo to journalists in the General Assembly Hall on Monday, according to the Associated Pressaccompanied by a declaration proclaiming that it would “reaffirm the sovereignty of the nation”.

U.S. officials also held meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly as part of their efforts to reach a political settlement in Sudan, torn for months by civil war.

And Mr. Blinken also attended meetings aimed at rallying support for a multinational security and support mission for the Caribbean nation of Haiti, which Kenya has agreed to lead.

The Security Council could vote as early as next week to authorize such a mission, although U.S. officials have said China – which has veto power – is reluctant to do so.

On Thursday, Mr. Blinken spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto to discuss Sudan as well as Haiti, State Department officials said. “We must not leave Haiti behind,” Ruto told the General Assembly.

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