The United States has pledged a more robust relations with Nigeria and other African countries.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken who was in Nigeria on an official visit lamented too many times, the countries of Africa have been treated as junior partners – or worse – rather than equal ones, insisting that it does not want to limit the nation’s partnerships with other countries.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken explained that his country did not want to force Nigeria to choose but “we want to give you choices.”
Blinken, who stated this in an address at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Friday, also highlighted five areas of common interest for the US and Africa.
He said these are global health, the climate crisis, inclusive economic growth, democracy, and peace and security.
Blinken said: “Now, I know I’m hardly the first American secretary of state to come to Africa and promise different and better engagement. Too many times, the countries of Africa have been treated as junior partners – or worse – rather than equal ones.
“Too often, we ask our partners to help uphold and defend an international system that they don’t feel fully reflects their needs and aspirations. And we’re sensitive to centuries of colonialism, slavery, exploitation that have left painful legacies that endure today.
“I also know that many countries across the region are wary of the strings that come with more engagement, and fear that in a world of sharper rivalries among major powers, countries will be forced to choose.
“So I want to be clear – the United States doesn’t want to limit your partnerships with other countries. We want to make your partnerships with us even stronger. We don’t want to make you choose. We want to give you choices. Together, we can deliver real benefits to our people, on the issues that matter most to them.”
He however noted that the US was making good on its commitment to provide COVID vaccines to the world, adding that 250 million doses had been delivered worldwide, noting that one billion doses would be delivered by next spring.
The Secretary of State also expressed America’s commitment to creation of local, support for anti-corruption and jobs transparency measures, so leaders and citizens can evaluate whether deals made on their behalf really are worth it.
He said: “Too often, international infrastructure deals are opaque, coercive; they burden countries with unmanageable debt; they’re environmentally destructive; they don’t always benefit the people who actually live there.We will do things differently.”
Blinken further advised government to tackle the root causes of conflict, stressing that not everything can be solved with more or better-equipped armed forces.
He added that: “ Attempts to address violent extremism have at times had the perverse effect of violating people’s rights, contributing to grievances, and furthering cycles of violence.
“We urge governments to contribute to and commit to criminal justice and security sector approaches that respect rights, as well as greater accountability for abuses, which is critical for earning the public’s trust.
“We think we can achieve better results in confronting insecurity if we work together to expand economic opportunity, especially for young people and others who might be drawn into criminal activity out of desperation, out of a feeling that they have no other choice.”
Michael Olugbode in Abuja