US President Biden sends top diplomat to Africa as instability grows

Saturday November 13 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. PHOTO | AFP


United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s maiden official visit to Africa that is slated for between November 15 and 20 will bring him to Kenya, in a neighbourhood that has recently seen a dramatic increase in civil turmoil in the Horn of Africa.

Sudan on Thursday fell deeper into the grip of military generals and an escalation of the armed conflict in Ethiopia has drawn in the United Nations directly.

It is believed that US President Joe Biden is concerned with instability in some African countries and would wish the crises in the affected countries resolved.

Tellingly, Mr Blinken’s visit to Nairobi comes after he spoke with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen on Thursday, expressing concern over the Tigrayan conflict.

Mr Blinken reiterated his call for all parties to end the conflict including the Ethiopian government to urgently and seriously engage in negotiations on a cessation of hostilities without preconditions.

He underscored the need for immediate unhindered humanitarian access to northern Ethiopia’s region of Tigray and in support of all Ethiopian communities in need.


This week, the Ethiopian government had set out conditions for possible ceasefire talks with leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), following days of international diplomatic efforts aimed at halting intensifying hostilities.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said on Thursday that one of the conditions for possible talks which he stressed have not been agreed to would be for the TPLF to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions bordering Tigray.

“In order for there to be a peaceful solution, TPLF has to stop attacks. Secondly, leave the areas you have entered, Amhara and Afar, and third, recognise the legitimacy of this government,” said Mufti.

Read: Ethiopia sets terms of possible talks with Tigray rebels

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a year-long war with fighters from the rebel northern Tigray region who have pushed south in recent months, and have not ruled out a possible march on the capital, Addis Ababa.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda has previously maintained that pulling out from Amhara and Afar before talks begin is impossible.

The Tigrayan forces alleged last week they had seized Kemise, 325km from Addis Ababa.


In Sudan, any chance of a return to the process towards civilian rule was dashed when coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Thursday named a new governing council led by himself to run the country.

He left out the civilian component of the council. National and international mediation efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis had hoped to have toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's caretaker Cabinet reinstated. Mr Hamdok remains under house arrest in his residence.

Read: Sudan' Burhan names council for post-coup transition

Mr Blinken will also visit Nigeria and Senegal to underscore the depth and breadth of the US relationships with African partners.

He will meet the countries’ leadership and discuss matters to boost US-Africa co-operation in various fields. While in Nairobi, Secretary Blinken is set to address regional security issues affecting Eastern and Horn of African countries.

Address security issues

The US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price said Mr Blinken is expected to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta who is the current chairperson of the United Nations Security Council chairperson, to address security issues affecting Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

“The Secretary and representatives of the Kenyan government will discuss our shared interests as members of the UN Security Council, including addressing regional security issues such as Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan,” reads the statement by Mr Price.

Mr Blinken is expected to advance US-Kenyan cooperation on ending Covid-19, improving clean energy access, shared global priorities, including ending the Covid-19 pandemic and building back to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalising our democracies, and advancing peace and security.

“The Secretary of State will underscore US support for a peaceful and inclusive Kenyan election in 2022,” the statement further says.

US strategic partnership

"Secretary Blinken will begin his trip in Nairobi, where he will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo to affirm US strategic partnership with Kenya before travelling to Abuja, Nigeria and Senegal,” said Mr Price.

In Nigeria, he will meet President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and discuss furthering cooperation on global health security, expanding energy access and economic growth, and revitalising democracy.

He will deliver a speech on US-Africa policy in the capital of Africa’s largest democracy and engage with Nigerian entrepreneurs in the digital sector.

In Dakar, Mr Blinken will meet President Macky Sall and Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall to reaffirm the close partnership between our two countries.

“The Secretary will engage in events that highlight America’s strong commercial relationship with Senegal, amplify the role of female Senegalese entrepreneurs, and showcase the US partnership to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Price.