Blinken hails Ivory Coast fight against armed groups on West Africa tour

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The US diplomat is on a four-nation tour after months of being occupied by the Middle East crisis.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday praised the Ivory Coast for choosing a less militarised approach to security during his four-nation tour to rally African democracies as crises engulf the region.

In the capital Abidjan, the top United States diplomat hailed the Ivory Coast’s stand against last year’s coup in Niger and its approach of “building security together” by investing economically to combat rebel violence in northern areas bordering Mali and Burkina Faso.

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“I have to applaud the approach that’s been taken by Cote d’Ivoire – working with communities, listening to communities, making sure that their security forces understand the needs, the concerns of communities,” Blinken said alongside the Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara. “I think that can serve as a very powerful model for other countries.”

The Ivory Coast has not experienced a major armed attack in two years, despite being bordered by Sahel countries fighting insecurity.

Blinken nonetheless promised to boost cooperation on the ground with the Ivory Coast, largely the training of security forces. He said the US would provide an additional $45m to West African nations as part of a plan to battle instability, bringing total funding under the year-old programme to nearly $300m.

Ouattara, a veteran leader who has won US praise for consolidating democracy, expressed appreciation for the US assistance and voiced alarm over a spate of coups in West Africa.

“Like the United States, we are very committed to democracy and justice,” he said, promising that his government would do “everything possible to improve people’s day-to-day lives.”

Blinken met with Ouattara before heading to Abuja to see Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, elected last year on a platform of economic reforms.

Both West African nations have largely stood by the US – as has another key partner, Kenya – despite unease in much of the continent over the Western focus on arming Ukraine and, more recently, US support for Israel’s war with Hamas.

Their stance stands in contrast with another heavyweight, South Africa, which the US has accused of allowing arms shipments to Russia and which most recently annoyed Washington by bringing a genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice.

On this trip, Blinken will visit another Southern African country – Angola, which is playing a vital role in mediation to end unrest in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

And on Monday, he stopped in Cape Verde, a long-standing partner of the US.

Blinken has sought to showcase a softer side during his trip.

On Monday, he attended a football match in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations between Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, when his hosts gifted him an Ivorian orange jersey bearing his name.

Blinken, who has been occupied by the Middle East crisis, is making his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa in 10 months.

On his last visit to the region, he travelled to Niger to bolster elected President Mohamed Bazoum. Four months later, the army deposed Bazoum.

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