Blinken sees growing partner in Angola on Africa democracy tourThu, 25 Jan 2024 03:56:21 GMT

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday will explore greater coordination with emerging regional partner Angola, capping a tour of Africa to champion US-friendly democracies as global crises mount.After years of estrangement with Washington during the Cold War, Angola has seen growing common ground with the United States including by working together to address violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Blinken arrived late Wednesday in the oil-rich former Portuguese colony’s capital Luanda, where billboards with his picture welcomed him. He will meet Friday with President Joao Lourenco, who met US President Joe Biden at the White House just two months ago.Angola is a linchpin of one of the signature US infrastructure projects on the continent — the Lobito Corridor, which will connect landlocked Zambia, hailed by Washington as a model for its robust democracy, as well as resource-rich DR Congo to an Angolan port on the Atlantic Ocean.China, seen by the United States as its top competitor, has rapidly expanded its footprint in Africa through infrastructure spending, while Russia has ramped up security ties with military-run states.Blinken said the Lobito Corridor showed that the United States was not looking at making African states reliant on Washington.”Here’s the biggest difference maker, I think — the United States also, and maybe uniquely, invests in knowledge, and transferring knowledge, and sharing techniques,” he told Channels Television on his previous stop in Nigeria.Blinken’s trip, which also took him to Ivory Coast and Cape Verde, comes as many Africans voice unease both at the billions of dollars provided by the United States to Ukraine to defend against Russia and at US support for Israel as it bombards Gaza in response to a Hamas attack.South Africa, which Blinken is not visiting, has irritated Washington by bringing a case to the International Criminal Court alleging genocide by Israel.Biden has said that the United States is “all in” for Africa but he did not live up to a promise to visit the continent last year. – Seeking DRC headway -The United States during the Cold War backed UNITA rebels in Angola but has built close relations as the country transitioned to democracy.Angola, no stranger to conflict, has taken a leading role alongside Kenya in seeking an end to unrest in the east of vast DR Congo. Talks in Luanda in late 2022 reached an agreement for a drawback of the M23, ethnic Tutsi rebels that Kinshasa charges are backed by Rwanda, but the insurgents instead have since swept vast territory. The United States has made a new push to support the Angolan and Kenyan mediation, with intelligence chief Avril Haines in November meeting both DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and agreeing on steps to de-escalate.While remaining deeply worried, US officials believe that greater engagement is the best chance to prevent a worsening of the conflict, which has caused major displacement and taken an especially heavy toll on women. Blinken over the past two weeks met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with Kagame and spoke by telephone with Tshisekedi, who is starting a new five-year term after elections. The United States has previously found credible the allegations of Rwandan support for the M23. Kagame in turn has demanded action against Hutu fighters connected to the perpetrators of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide which targeted Tutsis.”It’s very difficult, but the parties have been very responsive to our engagement,” Molly Phee, the top US diplomat for Africa, said ahead of the trip. “We’re going to hopefully help consolidate some of the intense discussions we’ve had over the past six weeks or so, and see if we can help the Africans set things on the right track.”