West Africa: Blinken’s trip to fight threat of terrorism


Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, is set to visit West Africa on the 22nd of January to discuss the threat of terrorism in the region, according to the National News and agencies.

The continent has struggled with the threat of terrorism for some time. Notably, the Coup in Niger in 2023 and the ongoing havoc in parts of Sahel created by Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a group associated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Greater Sahara.

Molly Phee, an assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs commented on Mr Blinken’s upcoming trip stating, “When we’re in Cote d’Ivoire, we’ll talk about the situation in the Sahel and coastal West Africa.”

Ms Phee highlighted how they have “Long been concerned” about Nigeria, the largest country on the continent that is facing a variety of security threats from Boko, Haram and Isis, especially along its northern border with Niger.

She stated, “Nigeria is dealing with a lot of internal security challenges and Angola has played a really important role in trying to address and reduce the tensions in the eastern Congo.” She proceeded by saying “If the terrorist threat in the Sahel were to disrupt life in those countries it would be really problematic for a huge portion of Africa”. All topics Ms Phee predicts Mr Blinken will discuss.

Mr Blinken is expected to discuss the Lobito project in Angola. The project is a joint effort with the European Union and regional partners to establish a rail corridor connecting Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr Blinken’s trip to the region will come days after his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi visited several countries on the continent, including d’lvoire.

Though Washington has struggled to counter Chinese and Russian influence in the region, Ms Phee dismissed the idea that Mr Blinken is travelling to west Africa to compete with china or any other country. She told reporters that “Africa is important for its own sake, and it’s important for American interests”.

Mr Blinkens trip has followed a hectic few weeks as he has already spent seven days criss-crossing the Middle East. He sought to rein in Israel’s military operations in Gaza and build a consensus on what Gaza needs post-conflict, neither of which he appears to have achieved.

This will be Mr Blinken’s fourth trip to west Africa as Secretary of State and his first trip back to sub-Saharan Africa since his visit to Niger in March 2023, the first ever by any US Secretary of State.

He Visited Niger last year to help counter the influence of armed groups that threatened the religion after it took more than three months for Washington to officially acknowledge the coup.

Disappointment and frustration have been expressed by both Nigeria and Cote d’lvoire over the coup in Niger. Members of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) threatened military action and imposed harsh sanctions, including cutting electricity supply to the country.

The military overthrew and imprisoned the democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum only four months after Mr Blinken visited Niger in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.

READ: Fate of Niger’s president ‘uncertain’ after July coup                        

The US still has a small military presence in Niger but all counter-terrorism training has been paused since the military takeover.

The National News and Agencies.


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