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To combat the Russian charm effort, Blinken will visit to Africa | Russia-Ukraine war

To combat the Russian charm effort, Blinken will visit to Africa | Russia-Ukraine war

The US secretary of state will travel to Pretoria, Kinshasa, and Kigali weeks after Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited the continent.

The Department of State said on Friday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda in the following month as Washington steps up its diplomatic efforts in Africa to counter a Russian charm offensive.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, will visit Ghana and Uganda in August, and Samantha Power, the US assistant secretary of state for international development, just returned from a visit to Somalia and longtime ally Kenya. On her trip, Power emphasized the rise in malnutrition that has been made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The diplomacy followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's own extended tour of Africa, where he attempted to blame Western sanctions for the rise in food prices around the world. However, Washington dismissed this theory and instead pointed to Moscow's blockade of Ukrainian ports.

According to a Department of State statement, Blinken will convey that "African countries are geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system to combating the effects of climate change, food insecurity, and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures."

Due to its studious neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict and refusal to support Western calls to denounce Moscow, which still enjoys support due to the Soviet Union's historical opposition to apartheid, South Africa, a leading nation in the developing world, has become a key diplomatic battleground.

From August 7 to 9, Blinken will travel to Johannesburg and Pretoria, the nation's administrative center. He will then travel to the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kinshasa, in an effort to support the largest nation in sub-Saharan Africa as it works to put decades of strife behind it.

He will end his journey in Rwanda, which has seen tensions with the DRC rise after the latter accused its neighbor to the east of supporting the M23 rebels, a claim Kigali has refuted.

According to the Department of State, Paul Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide and served as the inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda, will be the target of Blinken's pressure.

Rusesabagina, a permanent resident of the US and a critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was given a 25-year prison sentence for "terrorism" in 2020 after a jet he thought was headed for Burundi landed in Kigali.

Since joining President Joe Biden's cabinet last year, Blinken has made two trips to sub-Saharan Africa. He visited Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal around the end of last year.

Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, the US's efforts in Africa were heavily framed in terms of competition with China, which has invested heavily in infrastructure development on the continent while setting itself apart from the US by making no demands regarding democracy or human rights.

Although the Biden administration has recognized China as the US's main long-term rival, it has placed its short-term attention on Russia's counteraction.

Developing countries, particularly those in Africa and South Asia, have been less eager to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine despite the immense indignation and efforts made by Western states to do so.

When Thomas-destination, Greenfield's Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, met Lavrov on Tuesday, he asked, "How can we be against someone who has never hurt us?"

Speaking the next day in Ethiopia, Lavrov encouraged Africa to oppose a world that was "completely submissive to the United States" and cautioned that African countries ran the possibility of facing consequences if they went against Western interests.

Lavrov's trip, according to Blinken, is "a desperate game of defense to justify to the world the acts that Russia has taken," particularly its "aggression" in Ukraine, on Wednesday.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has a long history in Africa, referred to Russia as "one of the last imperial colonial powers" on a visit to Benin on Wednesday.

During her visit to the Horn of Africa, Power, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, presented more than $1 billion in emergency aid to combat rising hunger and urged other countries, including China and Russia, to do the same.

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