High US diplomat Antony Blinken, on a uncommon go to to the landlocked West African nation, pronounces $150 million in new help for Sahel area, together with Niger, certainly one of world’s poorest international locations.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has supplied new help as he threw his assist behind Niger on a uncommon go to, holding up the Western navy companion and new democracy as a mannequin in an insurgency-torn area the place Russia is making inroads.
“Niger is a younger democracy in a difficult a part of the world,” Blinken informed a information convention within the capital Niamey on Thursday.
“However it stays true to the values we share. Niger has been fast to defend the democratic values beneath risk in neighbouring international locations.”
After talks with President Mohamed Bazoum, Blinken introduced $150 million in new humanitarian help for the Sahel area, together with Niger, one of many world’s poorest international locations.
The funding, which brings the full for the Sahel to $233 million for the fiscal yr, contains meals help and assist for migrants who’ve fled to war-ravaged Libya, he stated.
I loved studying extra concerning the tradition and other people of Niger throughout my go to to the nation. America is proud to offer almost $150 million in humanitarian help to assist susceptible populations in Niger and all through the Sahel.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 16, 2023
Niger has seen stability since a democratic restoration in 2011, as navy regimes have taken over in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.
Mali has shifted decisively into Russia’s orbit, hiring the Wagner mercenary group after French troops withdrew following a nine-year navy operation.
Burkina Faso, which noticed two coups final yr alone, has additionally fallen out with France, though each the nation’s navy chief and Russia have denied claims together with from democratic Ghana that Wagner is working there.
Nigerien International Minister Hassoumi Massoudou, talking alongside Blinken, stated he had no proof of Wagner actions in Burkina Faso however warned in opposition to any motion to the group.
“Our hope,” he stated, “is that it doesn’t go down this trajectory in direction of this organisation which we contemplate legal and mercenary,” he stated.
“We see that Wagner is just current in failed or failing states,” he stated.
“Our democratic establishments can defeat terrorism. The truth is, there isn’t any various,” he stated.
In contrast to many African diplomats, he additionally supplied a full-throated condemnation of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, noting Niger’s personal historical past as a former colony.
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Niger hit by local weather disaster
Blinken started his go to by assembly former rebels who’ve been rehabilitated by way of vocational coaching backed by $20 million in US funding.
The programme is about “giving them a better option” and is “from our perspective, very a lot a mannequin that others can look to”, Blinken stated afterwards.
Blinken additionally stated the US was dedicated to working with Niger on environmental challenges.
Niger is among the international locations hit hardest by the local weather disaster, shedding 100,000 hectares of arable land annually to the desert, in response to the United Nations.
The Biden administration launched its bid for larger engagement in Africa within the face of rising funding by China, seen as the highest rising challenger to the US, however considerations have grown extra not too long ago about Russia.
Final month, Mali was certainly one of simply six international locations that joined Russia in voting in opposition to a decision on the United Nations Common Meeting urging Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.
READ MORE: Conflicts, coups and droughts dominate Africa in 2022
Niger has since grow to be the linchpin for French navy efforts in West Africa, with 1,000 troops stationed within the nation.
America additionally operates so-called Air Base 201 within the centre of the desert nation, which is used to fly drones for assaults and surveillance on militants within the Sahel.
Blinken began talks in Addis Ababa on Thursday with the management of the African Union, a part of the Biden administration’s effort to point out deference to the area and keep away from perceptions of an overbearing US function.
AU-led negotiations, backed by US diplomats, led to a November 2022 ceasefire that has largely ended the two-year Tigray civil battle in Ethiopia.
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