Amid increasing competition between Washington and Moscow for influence in Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Russia on Monday for exploiting instability in the region and blamed the Kremlin for worsening food security on the continent, The Hill reported.
In a speech at the University of Pretoria in South Africa highlighting the Biden administration's strategy towards the sub-Saharan region, Blinken emphasized that the United States "will not dictate Africa's choices, neither should anyone else," but added that Washington is looking to African nations "to defend the rules of the international system that they've done so much to shape."
The secretary of state, who will also visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, emphasized, in a reference to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that "we believe that all nations should be able to stand up for the right of a country not to have its borders redrawn by force. For if we allow that principle to be violated anywhere, we weaken it everywhere."
Blinken's comments come as many African countries have not taken a firm stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with at least 17 African nations, including South Africa, abstaining in U.N. votes condemning Moscow on the issue.
Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited several African nations and praised them as acting responsibly and decried the history of colonial rule on the continent by Western democracies.
The Biden administration has often stressed that the U.S. is a better "choice" for developing countries as a partner, compared to nations like Russia or China, which is also heavily invested on the continent.
As part of its diplomatic push, the U.S. will host a summit meeting for African leaders in December, The Guardian reported.
Blinken said the U.S. "recognizes that African countries face real security concerns and that countless communities are afflicted by the twin scourges of terrorism and violence. But the answer to those problems is not [the Kremlin-backed] Wagner — it's not any other mercenary group," adding that the U.S. is focused on bolstering democracies to combat instability, The Hill reported.
The secretary of state added that the best solution was building more effective and accountable African security forces and trying to prevent the marginalization that often drives people to criminal or extremist groups, according to The Guardian.
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