blinken: Top US diplomat visits Nigeria facing calls to rethink ties – Times of India

ABUJA: Secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Nigeria on Thursday as persistent unrest and human rights issues immediate calls for a rethink of the US relationship with Africa’s most populous nation.
The prime US diplomat was on his first journey to sub-Saharan Africa the place he’s wanting to champion President Joe Biden‘s key priorities of selling democracy and preventing each local weather change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
On his first cease Wednesday in longtime ally Kenya, Blinken known as for African-driven options to the continent’s crises together with the spiralling conflict in Ethiopia — the place Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo has been main mediation.
With 20 % of sub-Saharan Africa’s inhabitants and its largest financial system, Nigeria is important for any continent-broad technique and successive US administrations have courted Nigerian leaders for the reason that restoration of civilian rule in 1999.
But US views of Nigeria, already marred by years of violence and rampant corruption, hardened final 12 months after safety forces unleashed lethal violence throughout huge protests towards police brutality.
Biden, in an unusually forceful assertion as a candidate, voiced solidarity with the protesters and urged President Muhammadu Buhari — whom Blinken will meet Thursday — to rein in safety forces.
Senator Bob Menendez, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a listening to with Blinken known as for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria.
Congressional objections have held up the sale of 12 US Cobra assault helicopters to Nigeria amid calls to probe whether or not the army is doing sufficient to forestall civilian deaths because it battles the 2-decade Boko Haram jihadist insurgency.
But Nigeria just lately began receiving a separate cargo of Super Tocano warplanes after former president Donald Trump gave the inexperienced mild to the sale that had been held up by the earlier administration of Barack Obama following Nigeria’s unintended strike on a refugee camp that killed greater than 100 individuals.
Removal from blacklist
On the eve of his go to, Blinken undid one Trump motion by eradicating Nigeria from a US blacklist of nations that violate spiritual freedom.
Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo, who didn’t go to Nigeria, made the choice late in his time period on the urging of evangelical Christians who say that assaults on the neighborhood within the religiously numerous nation are systematic.
Blinken, in Nairobi, additionally nudged shut ally Kenya on guaranteeing free and secure elections subsequent 12 months — and acknowledged that the United States was “hardly immune” to such issues, a veiled allusion to the January 6 mob violence by Trump supporters who sought to overturn Biden’s victory.
Oge Onubogu, West Africa director of the US Institute of Peace, mentioned the Biden administration ought to see parallels between Nigeria and Ethiopia, the place lingering ethnic battle in a significant nation has mushroomed right into a devastating conflict that dangers regional chaos.
Blinken, she mentioned, can reinforce the message that “what happens in Nigeria doesn’t only affect Nigeria, but it affects West Africa and the rest of the continent as well”.
Onubogu mentioned there must be no extra “business as usual” and that the United States wanted to deal extra straight with the Nigerian individuals, not simply the federal government.
State Department officers mentioned Blinken would elevate human rights in Nigeria and meet civil society teams all through the journey, which may also take him to Senegal.
“That’s what folks will be looking at. They will be saying, ok, the tone is changing, but they will want more assurances that things are actually changing in the right direction,” Onubogu mentioned.

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