Blinken hails Niger as model of cooperation, promises to ‘deliver results’ in Sahel
The United States and its Western allies must demonstrate they “can deliver results” in Africa’s Sahel region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said during his visit to Niger, pledging humanitarian assistance for displaced people and support for the country’s efforts to combat violent extremism.
Blinken’s trip to the West African country — the first ever by a US secretary of state — comes amid regional security crisis and growing influence of the Russian Wagner mercenary group. Washington has pursued a “comprehensive” approach that focuses on security but also “on good governance, on development, upon creating opportunity on being responsive to the needs of people,” the US top diplomat said in Niamey, the country’s capital and largest city, in an apparent effort to strike a contrast with what the Wagner Group could offer the region.
During an earlier meeting with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, Blinken announced a raft of regional initiatives, including $150m in new humanitarian assistance for the Sahel, bringing the total to $233m for the fiscal year, according to the US Department of State.
Blinken’s trip to Niger follows his visit, earlier this week, to Ethiopia, which is seen as part of a wider pledge by US President Joe Biden’s administration to better engage with Africa.
To that end, Blinken pledged the US assistance to make “Niger’s law enforcement more effective in combating terrorism, strengthening border security, enhancing counternarcotics capacity, stemming trafficking, and helping to investigate, prosecute and ultimately reduce terrorism and violent extremism.”
Blinken’s trip also comes amid growing disillusionment over European, and mainly French, involvement in the region, stoked in part by successive military coups in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. In 2022, French troops and a French-led European Union Takuba task force withdrew from Mali. French troops also withdrew from Burkina Faso in February.