Blinken is a social enterprise that uses the power of blockchain to make affordable solar lighting available in developing countries. As part of its Africa Tour, Blinken will be visiting Kenya this week before heading on to Rwanda and Uganda.
Blinken Arrives in Kenya to Begin Africa Visit: Live Updates. The “Blinken Arrives in Kenya to Begin Africa Visit” is a blog post that will provide live updates on the arrival of Blinken, the world’s first autonomous robot, in Kenya.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Kenya’s cabinet secretary for international affairs, Raychelle Omamo, in Nairobi on Wednesday. Credit… Andrew Harnik took this shot of the pool.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called for an end to the bloodshed in Ethiopia, where a civil war threatens to swallow the Horn of Africa country and destabilize a fragile region in which the US has tried to avert a succession of democratic reversals.
Mr. Blinken, speaking in neighboring Kenya at the outset of a three-country tour of Africa, refused to declare whether Ethiopia’s racially motivated war is a genocide. However, he said that there will be repercussions for what the UN and human rights organizations have characterized as barbaric strikes against civilians in Ethiopia’s year-long struggle with militants from the northern Tigray area.
At a press conference with Kenya’s cabinet secretary for international affairs, Raychelle Omamo, Mr. Blinken stated, “The reality is that we have witnessed, and continue to see, crimes being perpetrated, people suffering.” “Whatever we name it, it has to come to an end.” Accountability is required, and we are committed to provide it.”
Mr. Blinken landed in Nairobi overnight on Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking official from the Biden administration to visit Sub-Saharan Africa. Advancing diplomacy to end the crisis in Ethiopia was one of his top goals, part of a surge of political instability that has prompted doubts about the Biden administration’s approach to the continent.
Mr. Blinken advised Americans in Ethiopia to depart as quickly as possible via commercial planes, reiterating a State Department travel warning. The secretary of state recently spoke with Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister, Demeke Mekonnen, and urged him to provide humanitarian access to northern Ethiopia.
Mr. Blinken said the escalating war posed a threat not just to Ethiopia but also to the rest of the region, and that it was a cause of “great worry to us and our allies, including here in Kenya.”
Mr. Blinken will offer a vision for US strategy toward Africa during a trip in Nigeria this week, with an emphasis on the importance of democracy to the continent’s future. Counter-terrorism is predicted to be a hot subject as well: Suicide bombers exploded two explosives in the heart of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, killing at least three people and wounding at least 33 others, only hours before Mr. Blinken’s arrival in Nairobi. The incident was claimed by the Islamic State, which has been engaged in East Africa for years.
Some critics claim that the Biden administration has been inattentive to Africa, a common criticism of US foreign policy that has gained traction as China, America’s top strategic competitor, establishes deeper political and economic roots on the continent and anti-American jihadist groups thrive there.
American officials are concerned about the continent’s democratic backsliding, which has seen a wave of military coups in recent months, including in Sudan, where a coup last month quashed a democratic transition that followed the ouster of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in 2019.
Mr. Blinken said that Sudan’s democratic transition needs to be “set back on track,” starting with the return of Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian prime minister.
According to experts, this year’s four successful military coups in Africa — including those in Guinea, Chad, and Mali — are the most in more than 40 years.
Kenya has been a crucial player in diplomatic attempts to end a war between Ethiopia’s central government and Tigray rebels in a peaceful manner.
“This reminds me of Rwanda,” Patricia Haslach, the US ambassador to Ethiopia from 2013 to 2016, said. Ms. Haslach stopped short of claiming that a genocide is taking place, but other analysts have said that in a war increasingly characterized by ethnic identity, that is a plausible possibility.
Former US officials have been plagued for decades by the Clinton administration’s reluctance to act and maybe avert the slaughter of up to 800,000 ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.
Mr. Blinken intends to visit Dakar, Senegal’s capital, towards the end of his journey.
— Declan Walsh and Michael Crowley
On Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with civil society leaders. Credit… Shutterstock/EPA/Daniel Irungu
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken began his tour to Kenya by meeting with civil society leaders in Nairobi, the capital, on Wednesday, urging them to continue fighting for democracy.
“You’ve seen what some have termed a democratic recession over the past decade or so, not just in Kenya, but throughout the globe,” Mr. Blinken said. “Even robust democracies like Kenya are subjected to these influences, particularly during election seasons.”
The senior diplomat in the Biden administration was speaking on the first day of a four-day trip around Africa, which was his first visit to the continent since a short stop in Cairo in May.
Mr. Blinken observed that Kenyan journalists and other civil society activists are facing increasing threats as the country prepares for national elections in August.
“We’ve seen the same issues here that we’ve seen in many other places of the globe,” he added, citing voter intimidation, disinformation, and corruption as examples.
Mr. Blinken’s tour focuses on defending democracy on a continent that has experienced four military coups in the last year, as well as coronavirus vaccine distribution and political turbulence in Kenya’s neighbors, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Mr. Blinken recognized the flaws in the United States’ own fractious political system.
“This is a situation that the United States is not immune to,” he added. “We’ve seen how vulnerable our own democracy is.”
Mr. Blinken delivered a warning to Kenyan politicians ahead of next year’s elections, stating at a press conference that “the rule of law must be preserved,” after meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo.
On July, Tigrayan troops marched in Mekelle, Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region’s capital, with seized Ethiopian government soldiers. The New York Times’ Finbarr O’Reilly is to blame.
Not long ago, the Horn of Africa, also known as East Africa, was regarded as one of the continent’s most active regions, with fast-growing economies, dictator-overthrowing revolutions, and fierce jockeying between competing foreign powers seeking influence. Ethiopia’s young prime leader, Abiy Ahmed, was even a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Now, as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken starts a visit to Kenya, the Horn of Africa is a crucible of instability, beset by Ethiopia’s escalating conflict and hunger, as well as Sudan’s recent military coup, which threatens to disrupt the country’s democratic transition.
Because of these challenges, the Horn of Africa has become the most important focus of American strategy in Africa this year. Yet, despite its efforts, Washington has nothing to show for it.
The Biden administration sent top envoys to Ethiopia to reason with Mr. Abiy, put visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials involved to alleged crimes, and threatened penalties against both sides of the conflict.
Officials from the United States have made passionate pleas for international cooperation at the United Nations. In July, a clearly irritated Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, exclaimed, “Do African lives not matter?”
Ethiopia’s fall has not been halted despite these attempts. Two million people have been displaced from their homes; seven million people need immediate humanitarian aid; and human rights violations continue unabated.
Mr. Abiy, who is battling ethnic Tigrayan rebels advancing on the capital, has repeatedly rejected American calls to talk — a top priority for Mr. Blinken, whose trip in Kenya is part of a diplomatic sprint to avoid what he has described as the prospect of Ethiopia imploding.
Sudan’s situation is comparable in certain aspects. The US staked a lot on the 2019 revolution that deposed dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, resulting in the removal of decades-old sanctions and the reintegration of Sudan into the international community.
Since Sudan’s army leader, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, took control on Oct. 25 — only hours after Washington’s top regional envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, flew out of the country — progress has been jeopardized.
Some opponents have accused the Biden administration of responding too slowly, namely for failing to take forceful action against Mr. Abiy sooner.
Others argue that the expanding number of foreign governments with interests in the Horn of Africa, such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, and Russia, has hampered US diplomacy.
And the escalating issue may have just gotten out of hand.
“The Americans should have managed their ties with Ethiopia a little better,” said Murithi Mutiga, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “I believe that the root of this dilemma is the cold logic of confrontation in a society with a long history of dominance over accommodation.”
Last week, a protester on his way to a rally in Omdurman, Sudan, against the military takeover. Credit… Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images/G
As if the Ethiopian conflict wasn’t bad enough, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s trip to Africa will be marred by a military coup in Sudan, which has sparked weeks of demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people.
According to Reuters, Sudanese security forces fired volleys of tear gas during the latest rally in Khartoum, the capital, on Wednesday, injuring several people. Since the army seized control, at least 24 people have allegedly been murdered in demonstrations.
Sudan’s coup was an unanticipated crisis that erupted just a few weeks ago, right in front of one of Mr. Blinken’s most experienced envoys.
That envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, had spent days in October navigating between Sudan’s army head, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in an attempt to save a two-year-old democratic transition from collapsing.
General al-Burhan argued that Sudan’s government should be sacked and replaced in a last meeting late on Oct. 24, but he gave no indication that he was planning to take control. With that guarantee, Mr. Feltman boarded a journey to Qatar, where his phone lighted up when he landed: Sudan was in the midst of a coup.
Protests occurred, and Mr. Hamdok was placed under house arrest, along with other civilian authorities. Despite his claims to the contrary, General al-Burhan has taken moves that show he intends to keep power. The military takeover was a terrible surprise for Mr. Feltman, and it has been impossible to overturn.
“They lied to him,” Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, Nureldin Satti, claimed of his country’s military leadership. “This is quite severe because you have to suffer the repercussions if you lie to the US.”
There were some apparent hints of improvement in Sudan when Mr. Blinken travelled to Africa on Tuesday. Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee, another of his top advisers, was in Khartoum and met with both General al-Burhan and the jailed prime minister. “I am glad for the chance to meet with @SudanPMHamdok today to discuss options ahead to restore Sudan’s democratic transition,” Ms. Phee stated on Twitter.
According to Ms. Phee’s meeting with General al-Burhan, “measures for their release have already started,” and “any inmate who has not been proved guilty of a criminal act would be freed,” according to the official Sudan News Agency.
Raychelle Omamo, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for international affairs, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the State Department in July. Credit… Tom Brenner took this shot of the pool.
It didn’t take much for Vice President Joe Biden to change the tone in Africa.
His predecessor, Donald J. Trump, called several African countries “shithole countries,” prohibited nationals from six of them from visiting the US, and failed to visit the continent even once while in office.
Mr. Trump’s principal policy goal was to reduce Chinese influence in Africa, but he was only partially successful. Melania Trump, who accompanied him on his trip to four nations, drew attention in Kenya by donning a colonial-style pith hat, which is connected with a violent and racist history.
On the continent, the Biden administration instantly set a more courteous and engaging tone. The travel prohibition was lifted. Senior diplomats were deployed to Ethiopia to deal with the dispute, and military advisors were sent to numerous nations to resist the rising influence of Islamist terrorists. It spoke out against autocrats rather than applauding them.
However, many Africans believe that the United States’ relationship with Africa is still primarily focused on dangers rather than possibilities. They also say they’re waiting for the Biden administration to develop a policy that suggests a different path.
“Historically, Africans have believed that American officials regard Africa as a problem to be fixed,” said Murithi Mutiga, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “Their assistance has mostly taken the shape of humanitarian relief, and it continues to do so now.”
On Wednesday, when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled in Kenya for his first trip to Africa as Secretary of State, the problem-solving method was a recurring theme. Blinken was seeking to mobilize diplomatic support for an urgent attempt to broker peace in Ethiopia.
Mr. Blinken’s journey to the continent was his second, after a scheduled trip in August was delayed due to the Afghan conflict, while Mr. Biden, who visited Kenya and South Africa as vice president, has yet to announce a trip.
Africa is a continent that captures the attention of many ordinary Americans only when a major catastrophe occurs, such as the famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s, the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in the 2000s, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic and Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Economists, analysts, and ordinary Africans are increasingly expressing a desire for the US to connect with Africa as a place of opportunity. It is the world’s youngest continent, with the fastest-growing population and several of the world’s fastest-growing economies (albeit often in countries starting from a very low base).
They also want to rethink what it means to be a Westerner. Following the recent COP26 climate change meeting, some campaigners are urging huge polluters, such as the United States, to realize their responsibility to African countries with low carbon footprints, who are already facing the brunt of climate change.
Last year, in Lagos, Nigeria, a protest against police brutality took place. Credit… Reuters/Temilade Adelaja
The rules of contemporary diplomacy dictate that when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken comes in Nigeria on Thursday to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and make a speech on US strategy in Africa, he should send a tweet.
However, Twitter is prohibited in Nigeria, demonstrating the country’s restrictions on freedom of expression.
Nigeria, generally referred to be Africa’s largest democracy and the second destination on Mr. Blinken’s three-country tour of the continent, is not one of the three West African nations that have witnessed coups in the last year. Neither is its president attempting to amend the Constitution to enable him to run for a third term, as numerous other nations in the area have recently done.
However, increased insecurity and restrictions on fundamental freedoms have placed Nigeria’s democracy in jeopardy. During his election campaign, President Biden chastised the country’s leadership for rampant corruption and for forcefully suppressing protestors wanting more civil society freedom.
Last year, when young Nigerians protested police brutality in a campaign dubbed EndSARS after a notoriously vicious police unit, security forces opened fire on hundreds of nonviolent protesters. Mr. Blinken will come days after a leaked report said 48 people were killed, 11 of them were verified dead, in the Lekki tollgate incident.
Mr. Blinken is dealing with a tricky situation since the US is assisting Nigerian security forces in combating extremist organizations such as the Islamic State West Africa Province, which is loosely associated with ISIS. The United States handed 12 Super Tucano military aircraft to Nigeria this summer, after a delay in Congress due to human rights concerns. Another deal, to supply US attack helicopters, has been put on hold.
Despite the military accords, Mr. Buhari claimed in a recent opinion column that infrastructural investment is what Africa needs most from the US. This would assist produce employment for an increasing young population, who would otherwise be a target for extremist recruitment.
“On the ground, we need builders’ boots, not military boots,” he added.
Mr. Blinken’s statements on democracy, though, would not be addressed at any one nation, according to his aides.
Despite the fact that Africans largely favor presidential term limits, according to the polling firm Afrobarometer, several of the continent’s rulers have evaded or repealed them.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Blinken may have to use a workaround used by millions of Nigerians — a virtual private network, or V.P.N. — to tweet from Nigeria.
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