Blinken headed to Africa to address various crises

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hold a news conference following the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Dialogue talks at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP) (Leah Millis, REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Africa next week as the Biden administration intensifies diplomatic efforts to resolve crises in Ethiopia and Sudan and seeks to boost counterterrorism cooperation, the State Department said Thursday.

Blinken will leave Monday for visits to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as America's top diplomat. In April, Blinken held online talks with the leaders of Nigeria and Kenya in what the State Department billed at the time as a “virtual trip to Africa."

Although he doesn’t plan to visit either Ethiopia or Sudan, both countries and neighboring Somalia will be at the top of his agenda on his first stop in Kenya.

Kenya, which is currently a member of the U.N. Security Council, has played a key role in regional efforts to ease the intensifying conflict in Ethiopia and has long sought to stabilize crisis-torn Somalia. It has also supported broader attempts to restore civilian-led government in Sudan after a coup there last month.

Blinken and Kenyan officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, “will discuss our shared interests as members of the UN Security Council, including addressing regional security issues such as Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan," the State Department said.

The Biden administration's special envoy for the Horn of Africa shuttled between Kenya and Ethiopia earlier this week in a bid to boost an African Union-led initiative to end the fighting between the Ethiopian government and ethnic Tigrayans from the country's north.

In Nigeria and Senegal, the State Department said Blinken will discuss West African security, health, climate, democracy and development issues, including recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the promotion of a fairer and more inclusive global economy. He will also press for expanded U.S. trade and commercial ties with the two countries, it said.

In Abuja, he will meet Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and give a speech on the Biden administration's Africa strategy. He'll close out his travel in Dakar, where he'll see Senegalese President Macky Sall, who will soon take over the chairmanship of the African Union.