Blinken begins Three-Nation African tour

United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken is scheduled to arrive in South Africa today, to kick off a three-nation country tour of Africa that will take him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC and Rwanda. The visit is aimed at developing a strategy to counter Russia’s effort to undermine democracy in Africa, a France-based political scientist says.

Tell me more about the visit.

Blinken’s African tour is coming at the backdrop of the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Republic of Congo, to rally support for Russia amid its ongoing war in Ukraine; and also, that of French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Cameroon, Benin Republic and Guinea Bissau with the aim of renewing Frances’s relations with Africa continent.

This will be Blinken’s second trip to Africa since his appointment as Secretary of State. His first visit in November 2021, was aimed at “resetting the US-Africa relations following Donald Trump’s Presidency, demonstrating the United States commitment to democracy and showing that it cares about its relationship with African countries.”

What is the purpose of this visit?

According to Douglas Yates, a political scientist specializing in African politics, the purpose of Blinken’s second trip to Africa is to “develop a strategy with African partners to counter Russian’s effort to undermine democracy in the continent”.

Blinken was given authorization for such a mission by the HR7311, an Act of the United States House of Representatives titled “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” passed on April 27, 2022. According to the Act, the malign Russia activity include the use of hard and soft power to expand Moscow’s influence on the continent.

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What do these three African countries have to do with the frosty US-RUSSIA relations?

According to Yates, Blinken selected the three countries because except South Africa, the two other countries: Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are not considered models of democracy, and the United States wants to make sure the countries are on their side, as they possess the military capacity, which they can use to counter Moscow’s influence.

South Africa like 16 other African countries, abstained from voting on the UN resolutions condemning Russia invasion of Ukraine, while DR Congo and Rwanda voted for it. Also, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa refused to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine.

As part of the BRICS group composed of Brazil, Russia, India and China, South Africa is one of the countries that are seen as the world’s leading emerging market economies.

Will South Africa now condemn Russia?

The Secretary of State will be in South Africa from August 7 to 9, when he will launch what the State Department calls the “US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa”. The policy recognizes Africa as a partner and player on the pressing issues of the world from promoting an open and stable international system to tackling the effect of climate change, food security, global pandemic to technological and economic future.

According to Yates, the South African visit and the trip as a whole would be a major success for Blinken, if he managed to get a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensure that South Africa does not migrate to Russian’s camp.

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What else about the trip?

After leaving South Africa, Blinken will be in DR Congo from 9 to 10 of August, where he is expected to state the US support for regional efforts led by Kenya and Angola, to advance peace in Eastern DR Congo and the broader great lake region.

His last stop will be in Rwanda from August 10 to 11 where he will meet for the first time with Paul Kagame, Whom DR Congo has accused of supporting the M23 rebel group in Eastern DR Congo.

While in DR Congo and Rwanda, Blinken will highlight the need for respect for territorial integrity and explore how United States can support efforts to reduce tension.