US Secretary of State’s current tour of Ethiopia, Niger makes him most travelled top American envoy to Africa
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ethiopia this week singles him out as America’s most travelled foreign affairs diplomat having logged over 68,389 kilometres (42,495 miles) in flying to Africa.
Blinken is President Joseph Biden’s representative in face-to-face diplomacy in Africa, which is being aggressively courted by China and Russia. He will be in Africa from March 14-17 visiting Ethiopia and Niger.
This is his second trip this year alone to Africa, having done more than 9,000 kilometres flying to Cairo, from 29-30 January. Much of the increase in official travel is in fulfilment of diplomatic activity in 2023, which was highlighted by President Biden at his White House-led US-Africa Leaders’ Summit.
While Blinken is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 15 he will, “discuss implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement to advance peace and promote transitional justice in northern Ethiopia,” disclosed a US Department of State March 10 press statement. This was a landmark peace deal which halted the country’s civil war and was signed in Pretoria on November 2, 2022.
The US-Ethiopia partnership was highlighted at the December US-Africa Leaders’ Summit and the US asserts that it played, “a critical role in facilitating the engagement,” said Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau, Molly Phee, last week, which included Kenya, South Africa, and the African Union, who helped the parties reach an end to the fighting.
To familiarise himself with events on-the-ground in Niger, on March 16 Blinken will make the first ever visit to Niger by a US Secretary of State. He is expected to meet President Mohamed Bazoum and Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou in Niamey. They will talk about ways to advance the US-Niger partnership on diplomacy, democracy, development and defence.
Secretary Blinken will also engage youths from Niger’s conflict zones, who have completed the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration and Reconciliation (DDRR) programme, to learn about their contributions to peace in Niger.
“Niger is one of our most important partners on the continent in terms of security cooperation. They deal with a very difficult threat from JNIM and from ISIS-WA, and they are an important leader in the region showing that democracy and having an inclusive political system is an important way forward in confronting that kind of terrorism challenge,” Phee told defenceWeb on Friday. Also, over the last year and at each stop, the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine has been an agenda item, as have security, stability, regional conflicts in Africa.
Historically, the three Secretaries of State in the last six years – Michael Pompeo (2018-2021) and Rex Tillerson (2017-2018), and now Blinken (2021-present) – have each visited Egypt during their tenure. Likewise, Ethiopia has also been visited by these three high-ranking foreign policy leaders.
Nigeria has been visited twice in over the same period by former Secretary of State Tillerson and by Secretary Blinken. All countries now on Secretary Blinken’s travel log to Africa total 11: Algeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, making him the most travelled US Secretary of State in six years.
Previously, Blinken’s reason for selecting Egypt was to include talks on, “shared support for elections in Libya and the ongoing Sudanese-led political process.”