Blinken eyes African crises, says continent must reform

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called on African nations to heed warnings posed by crises in Ethiopia and Sudan, take seriously popular demands for better governance and enact reforms.

In a speech outlining the Biden administration’s policy toward the continent, Blinken said growing extremism, increasing authoritarianism and exploding corruption in Africa are imperiling democracy, human rights and the future of a massive portion of the world’s population.

Blinken delivered the message in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, a day after telling Nigerian leaders and officials in Kenya the day before that the U.S. is looking to them for results, including setting examples for their Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts.

“Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world,” he said in an address at the Abuja-based headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc.

He cited threats to free speech and freedom of assembly that have been on the rise and that civilian governments in Africa have been toppled at least four times this year.

“Meanwhile, governments are becoming less transparent,” Blinken said. “We see this happening across Africa — leaders ignoring term limits, rigging or postponing elections, exploiting social grievances to gain and maintain power, arresting opposition figures, cracking down on the media, and allowing security services to enforce pandemic restrictions brutally.”

Blinken said the Biden administration is awaiting the findings of recently concluded probes into allegations of brutality by Nigerian police as it seeks Abuja’s leadership more broadly in trouble spots like Ethiopia and Sudan.

“The threats posed by violent extremists, criminals and internal armed conflict are very real. So is their potential to destabilize nations and regions, undermine development and ignite humanitarian disasters,” he said. “Part of the answer is effective and professional security forces and local law enforcement that can protect citizens while respecting human rights.”

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