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Blinken wraps up Africa tour as U.S. influence on the continent wanes

Nigeria and other African countries confront security and political instability


Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Tuggar shake hands after a press conference at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday. Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool Photo

Blinken wraps up Africa tour as U.S. influence on the continent wanes

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. The same day, authorities in Mangu county in Nigeria’s restive Plateau state imposed a 24-hour curfew as violence grew between the mostly Christian Mwaghavul ethnic group and the Muslim Fulani community. Violence has spiraled since then: At least 43 people have died, and rioters have destroyed about 100 homes and several churches and mosques.

Blinken visited four African countries this week, hoping to reassert the United States’ position as a key security partner on the continent as other global crises take the front seat. African countries have seen a streak of military takeovers, Russian alliances, and persistent violent extremism in recent years.

In Nigeria, ethnic and religious violence continue unabated. Kidnappings for ransom that originally occurred among feuding groups in the north have more recently expanded into to parts of the capital city. Open Doors, a ministry supporting persecuted Christians, called Nigeria the deadliest place for Christians in its annual assessment. In contrast, the Biden administration this month failed to add the country to its list of worst religious freedom violators.

Blinken began his tour on Monday, with stops in Cape Verde and Ivory Coast, before wrapping up in Angola on Friday. He pointed out that countries like Niger, where the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group is active, have seen insecurity “getting manifestly worse and worse.” He said the United States, in contrast, wants to provide technical support, intelligence sharing, and equipment to Nigeria and other regional partners working to stabilize the Sahel region.

“It goes to having a comprehensive approach that genuinely focuses on citizens’ security, working with local communities in partnership, demonstrating the security forces that are there, first and foremost, to protect them and to support their needs,” Blinken told reporters.

Most of the Christians who were murdered for their faith in 2024 were in African countries, according to Open Doors. Last week, the ministry released its annual World Watch List, which tracks the top 50 worst countries for persecution of Christians. Nigeria accounts for 82 percent of killings targeting Christians. Other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also reported killings of Christians.

Kidnappings for ransom have also increased in parts of the capital city of Abuja. On Sunday, abductors released a father, four of his children, and his niece after receiving a ransom. The kidnappers killed one of the daughters, 21-year-old Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, after her father failed to meet an earlier ransom deadline.

In Mangu county, residents said the recent violence began after a cow belonging to Fulani herders crossed a roadway and was killed by a Mwaghavul resident on a motorcycle. Plateau state has a history of violence between Christian farmers and Fulani herders turning violent. Residents said military officials present in the county failed to stop the attacks.

A late December attack on Christian communities also in Plateau state killed 200 people.

Olajumoke Ayandele, a visiting assistant professor of practice at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, highlighted Blinken’s pledges of better economic ties, private investment, and security.

“What is needed right now is for citizens to feel that the U.S. is consistent with its promises and to also show that sustained commitment,” Ayandele said.

In December 2022, President Joe Biden announced plans to visit Africa in 2023. He never made the trip. Ayandele noted that the Biden administration has sent Blinken and other senior officials to the continent, but the United States is no longer the dominant player, she said.

African leaders have increasingly turned to China and Russia for security and trade partnerships. On Wednesday, Russia deployed a contingent of 100 military personnel to Burkina Faso to assist the country’s leaders.

“African countries are willing to see if other models [of governance] can be replicated in their own way,” Ayandele said. “Nineteen African countries are going to the poll, and the U.S. is also conducting its own [election]. This is going to be a pivotal year for U.S.-Africa relations.”


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks


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