US Secretary of State Blinken seeks to counteract Russia, China influence in Africa
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently on a three-nation African tour, vying for US military, political and economic influence in the continent where Russia and China have gained a growing foothold in recent years.
On the second leg of his tour in Congo on Wednesday, Blinken met with the central African country's prime minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde in the capital Kinshasa. His next stop is going to be Rwanda.
On the first leg of his high-profile tour in South Africa on Monday, Blinken said the African nations have been treated as "instruments of other nations’ progress" rather than the "authors of their own", in remarks many see directed at Moscow.
Blinken said the US will launch a Global Fragility Act which "will make a decade-long investment in promoting more peaceful, more inclusive, more resilient societies in places where conditions are ripe for conflict".
South Africa and the US have long been at odds. The ruling National Congress party regularly issues declaration communique criticizing Washington.
Blinken’s South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, has reiterated criticism of the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which she said could punish African countries for not aligning with the US on the issue of Ukraine.
She again slammed the draft bill going through the US congress, saying it could penalize African countries for not toeing the line on the Ukraine conflict - calling it an "offensive legislation".
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been an example of an unofficial supporter Moscow has managed to retain. Last month, Ramaphosa joined President Vladimir Putin for a meeting on the sidelines of a virtual summit of the BRICS group of countries.
Political observers say the underlying purpose of Blinken’s trip will be to try to contain Russian and Chinese geopolitical influence in Africa.
In his speech, Blinken reacted to Russia's claim that Western sanctions are to blame for rising grain prices, which are affecting Africa the most.
"Even before President Putin launched his full invasion, 193 million people around the world were in need of humanitarian food assistance," he said, adding that the US is supporting African countries affected by the war, whereas Russia is causing problems.
"The World Bank believes Russia's invasion could add another 40 million people to this unprecedented number. Most are in Africa," he remarked.
Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, the US and its allies have strongly lobbied for African support.
Over the past few years, Russia has built several military alliances with governments in African countries facing violent insurgencies, including Libya, Mali, Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Mozambique.
The West accuses Russia of having connections to the private military contractor Wagner Group, which has been active in counterinsurgency operations in countries such as Mali, CAR, and Libya. The Kremlin denies any links to the contractor.