Blinken says US must show it can ‘deliver results’ to Sahel

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First visit by a US Secretary of State to Niger amid regional security crisis and growing Russian influence.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States and its Western allies must “show they can deliver results” in Africa’s Sahel region, amid the growing influence of the Russian Wagner mercenary group.

Speaking during a historic visit to Niger, Blinken said Washington has taken a “comprehensive” approach that focuses on security, but also “on good governance, on development, on creating opportunities that are responsive to people’s needs.” “.


“I think it really is the difference maker,” Blinken said during a joint press conference with Nigerian Foreign Minister Hassoumi Masoudou, adding that the Wagner Group was in striking contrast to what the region had to offer.

Blinken said of the group’s intervention, “We’ve already seen it end badly in many places.” “Where Wagner has been present, bad things have been inevitable.”

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This visit is the first time the US Secretary of State has visited the country. Earlier in the day, Blinken met with President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger and announced regional initiatives including $150 million in new humanitarian aid for the Sahel, totaling $233 million for the fiscal year, according to the US State Department. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with President Mohamed Bazoum of Nigeria at the Presidential Palace in Niamey, Niger [Boureima Hama/AP Photo]

Blinken’s visit to Niger follows his visit to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa earlier this week and is part of a broader pledge by the administration of US President Joe Biden to better engage with Africa.

It also comes as widespread disillusionment over European involvement in the region has been fueled by frequent military coups in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.

Asked about that disillusionment on Thursday, Blinken said: “It’s up to us to demonstrate – through this more comprehensive approach that we’re leading to insecurity – that we can actually deliver results.” Are.”

In 2022, French troops and a French-led European Union force withdrew from Mali, where France intervened for the first time since a rebel movement in the north of the country in 2012. French troops also withdrew from Burkina Faso in February.

The Malian government has become increasingly dependent on the Russian Wagner Group as it has sought to contain violence in its vast central region, which borders Niger and Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso’s government has also reportedly turned to Wagner, although it has denied reports that mercenary groups are operating in the country.

Violence in the region has risen in recent years, with a 50 percent increase in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in 2022 compared to the previous year. Attacks have also occurred in more prosperous coastal West African countries.

The UN Human Rights Council has called for an independent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses, including torture, sexual violence and disappearances, during a recent joint operation between Malian forces and the Wagner group.

“We have seen countries that find themselves weaker, poorer, more insecure, less free as a result of their engagement with Wagner,” Blinken said on Thursday.

“So it’s not a recipe for success that I think anybody should be looking at.”

‘Cooperation model’

Blinken underscored Niger’s growing relevance for the US and Western allies, who are concerned about the potential spread of violence beyond the region, where al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic Sahara, affiliated with the State of Greater ISIL (ISIS), has jockeyed for power, stoking sectarian tensions.

French and EU forces have reestablished their operations in Niger and Western leaders have praised President Bazoum’s approach to addressing widespread insecurity in the country as well as Niger’s move towards greater democratization .

This comes despite widespread challenges in the country of 25 million, which in 2021 was ranked 189 out of 191 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

For its part, Washington has for years seen the Sahel as another front in its decades-long “war on terror” and has been active in supporting European and regional powers, as well as providing humanitarian and climate aid .

According to the US military, about 800 US personnel are stationed in Niger, where they are believed to support Nigerian airbases, including a newly built drone base in the city of Adeje.

On Thursday, Blinken pledged to further deepen ties.

“I come back to the fact that Niger is truly an extraordinary model in a time of great challenge – a model of resilience, a model of democracy, a model of cooperation,” Blinken said.

“It’s someone we deeply value, and deeply respect.”

Blinken says US must show it can ‘deliver results’ to Sahel

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