Blinken to make first trip to Africa as top US diplomat

Next week Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Pacific tsunami threat recedes, volcano ash hinders response Fears of Russian invasion of Ukraine rise despite US push for diplomacy MORE will make his first trip to Africa as the United States’s top diplomat.

Blinken will visit Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal between Nov. 15 and Nov. 20, the State Department said in a statement.

The department said that on the trip Blinken will “advance U.S.-Africa collaboration on shared global priorities,” such as ending the coronavirus pandemic, combatting climate change, revitalizing democracy and advancing peace and security.

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Blinken will begin the trip with a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, during which he will address “regional security issues” such as the ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia and Sudan.

The Ethiopian government remains engaged in a yearlong battle with opposition forces; last week, the conflict caused the U.S. order to order nonemergency officials to leave the country. Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, visited Ethiopia and Kenya from Nov. 4 to 8 in an effort to encourage all parties to engage in a dialogue about ceasing hostilities.  

Meanwhile, Sudan’s military dissolved the nation’s transitional civilian-military government late last month in a move that alarmed the U.S. Despite promises from military leaders that they will cede power to civilian leaders, on Thursday Sudan’s Army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, reappointed himself as head of the interim government.

Blinken will then travel to Abuja, which is the capital of Nigeria, where he will discuss global health security, expanding energy access and economic growth and revitalizing democracy with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.  

The secretary will also deliver a speech on U.S.-Africa policy in Abuja, and “engage with Nigerian entrepreneurs in the digital sector.”

Blinken will end his trip in Senegal’s capital city of Dakar, where he will meet President Macky Sall to “reaffirm the close partnership” between the nations, the agency said.

“Given President Sall’s upcoming African Union chairmanship, Secretary Blinken looks forward to discussing regional issues and shared values,” the State Department said of the meeting. 

The in-person trip to Africa comes after Blinken in April took a “virtual trip” to the continent, during which he met with officials in Nigeria and Kenya.