By Spy Uganda
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to three African countries from August 7 to 12 with visits to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. These stops will follow visits to Cambodia and the Philippines beginning August 2. The trip will be his second to Africa since taking office, following a November visit to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.
A centerpiece of the trip will be a major policy speech enunciating the administration’s Africa strategy. A new policy framework has been under discussion for many months, coordinated by Judd Devermont, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined the National Security Council as special advisor for Africa strategy last October. On July 1, Devermont was tapped as the NSC senior director for Africa, replacing Dana Banks.
The visit comes days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavlov toured four African capitals and French President Emmanuel Macron visited three west African states and follows on the announcement by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris of a U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC in mid-December.
According to the State Department announcement, in Pretoria Blinken will take part in the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue, which was launched in 2010 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deepen cooperation on a range of issues including health, education, food security, law enforcement, trade, investment, energy, and nonproliferation.
From Johannesburg, Blinken will travel to Kinshasa where he “will meet with senior DRC government officials and members of civil society to discuss our mutual interest in ensuring free, inclusive, and fair elections in 2023, promoting respect for human rights and protecting fundamental freedoms,” the announcement states. The Secretary’s trip “will also focus on combating corruption, supporting trade and investment, addressing the climate crisis, building agricultural resilience, and support regional African efforts to advance peace in eastern DRC and the broader Great Lakes region” Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez will join the delegation in Kinshasa, Phee said.
The final stop will be Kigali where the State Department says “he will meet with senior Rwandan government officials and civil society members to discuss shared priorities, including peacekeeping.” Further elaborating on the two-day stopover agenda, the announcement says: “The Secretary will focus on the role the government of Rwanda can play in reducing tensions and ongoing violence in eastern DRC. Recent outbreaks of fighting in eastern Congo have escalated tensions between the geovernments in Kinshasa and Kigali, with DR Congo accusing Rwanda of backing the M23 militia in the North Kivu region.
Blinken “will also raise democracy and human rights concerns, including “transnational repression, limiting space for dissent and political opposition, and the wrongful detention of U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Paul Rusesabagina,” the State Department statement said. Asked about the recent letter from Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raising concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record and calling for called for a review of U.S. policy toward, Phee told reporters the Secretary had spoken with Menendez and said “he intended to raise the issues outlined in the letter” in his talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
A week after Lavlov’s visit to Kampala, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield will travel to Uganda, and Ghana “to discuss the U.S. and global response to the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on global food security, as well as other regional and bilateral priorities.”