NIAMEY, March 17 (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced $150 million in direct aid to Africa’s Sahel region Thursday during a visit to Niger, seeking to strengthen ties with Niger, which has so far It has so far avoided a string of recent military coups and Russia’s destabilizing mercenaries in neighboring countries.
Blinken’s visit comes as Mali and Burkina Faso remain increasingly volatile, with each experiencing two military coups since 2020. The two neighbors have also driven French troops out of their countries and have sought military assistance from Russia amid ongoing violence by Islamic extremists.
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Blinken on Thursday called Niger a “model of resilience, democracy and cooperation” in the region and warned that the expansion of Russian mercenaries in the region does not bode well for the countries that host them.
“It’s not just because we know it’s going to end badly — we’ve seen it,” he said, adding that the secretive Russian agency doesn’t offer “right” elsewhere it does business. safe and effective response”.
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“At the same time, we’re seeing countries find themselves weaker, poorer and less developed because of their relationship with Wagner,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Niger’s Foreign Minister Hasoumi Masoudou. Safer and less independent.”
Over the past decade, Islamic extremists have greatly expanded their influence in the Sahel region, which lies beneath Africa’s Sahara Desert. Some of the worst violence has occurred along Niger’s porous border with Mali and Burkina Faso.
Niger has emerged as an important international partner in the region amid rising anti-French sentiment in Mali and Burkina Faso. Russian flags were openly waved in these countries, urging the junta to favor Moscow and away from former colonizer France.
France is relocating its troops to Niger after spending nearly a decade trying to help the Malian army fight Islamic extremists as relations with Mali’s junta leader-turned-president deteriorate sharply. Some 1,000 Wagner Group mercenaries are believed to be operating in Mali and have been accused of human rights abuses over the past year.
Burkina Faso denies recruiting Wagner fighter jets, but says Russian instructors will conduct military training after buying equipment from Moscow.
Blinken, who traveled to Niger after a two-day stay in Ethiopia, said the country needed to make more progress in implementing a peace agreement with its northern Tigray region before normalizing relations with the United States. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)