Blinken’s visit to Africa
Do not blink: The American Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken is coming on an official visit to Africa. This is something of a maiden visit. To be frank, it is fitting that Washington through this visit has put Africa on its schedule after all. Naturally, he cannot visit the entirety of the African continent.
So, our man will be winging his way from Washington to Nairobi, through Abuja and finally Dakar. There could well be a discernible pattern to this shuttle-diplomacy across the African continent. As regards his first stop, Kenya, this clearly underscores the importance of this East African country to Washington in that part of the world. At least in relative terms, the country constitutes something of an oasis of stability in East Africa.
Indeed, such is the instability in the region that Kenya plays host to one of the largest numbers of refugees in the world. As if to worsen matters, there are also irredentist dimensions in the region. Such irredentism has the capacity to spawn instability within Kenya itself. Interestingly enough, as this visit is taking place, Ethiopia, a neighbouring county to Kenya is embroiled in a civil war. Specifically, this war is between Ethiopia and the Tigray rebels.
So concerned is Washington with this issue that some form of sanctions is being wielded and promised against the belligerents. Undoubtedly, in the course of his visit, the American envoy will be briefed about this ongoing conflict- which as usual will not do anybody any good. Rather, as we have clearly seen, it has resulted in the loss of lives and the attendant displacement of people-mainly Women and children.
Undoubtedly, it will be very good for Washington to lend its massive weight to the A.U. led initiative for peace in that region. Incidentally, our own Olusegun Obasanjo is the point man of this venture, and presumably, he would have briefed the appropriate authorities in Washington on the way forward. Again, it is expected that Blinken will also take time to confer with Kenyan leaders on the state or better still, the health of their own polity. For those who know, Kenya since independence can be regarded as a land of broken promises. It is a situation where, although democracy holds sway; yet governance remains elusive. The situation has been worsened by an identity marker, like ethnicity.
This has always featured in major elections in which the dominant groups- the Kikuyus, Luos, and the rest of them struggle for leverage, with a view to having access to the privilege and fruits of the Kenyan State. This is essentially an intra-elitist game, which continues to draw in the hoi-polloi, who mindlessly join the fray. The consequence is that every election is usually accompanied by bouts of violence and instability. It is evident that this and other issues will be raised by Secretary Blinken, with the various indices of Kenyan leadership.
Incidentally, very much the same situation is likely to obtain when Blinken touches down in our own Nigeria. Through him, it is very likely that Washington will convey its concerns about the evolving realities in our polity.
Incidentally, very much the same situation is likely to obtain when Blinken touches down in our own Nigeria. Through him, it is very likely that Washington will convey its concerns about the evolving realities in our polity. Some of these will include features like our election process and matters arising from the EndSARS protest. As regards the former, one could partly see this in the comments of the US embassy on the just-concluded elections in Anambra.
Among other things, there was concern about violence, which could have marred the elections. And indeed, visa-related sanctions were promised against anyone, who tried to thwart the process in an illegal manner. Blinken will also have a lot to say on the EndSARS protest, whose panel report is already in the public sphere. And as you may have guessed, Washington is also in the thick of things here. The US embassy has gone on to state that all those involved in the commission of atrocities must be brought to face the law. Beyond much of the foregoing is that in one vital respect, Nigeria happens to occupy a unique place in the US- African relations. It is arguable that, within Africa, we have the highest number of students in the United States.
Very much the same thing can be said for the fact that we have the highest number of immigrants in the States. The upshot is that, in all the various areas of endeavour in the US, the Nigerian can be found. Even fields that are as rarified as space and nuclear projects, Nigerians can be found in the US contributing their respective quotas to the famous American dream. Indeed, it should also be appreciated that on every American campus, there is at least a Nigerian professor plying his/her trade. It is that good-at least for America.
The downside in much of the immediate foregoing is that we also have Nigerians in the United States who are steeped in crimes and other vices. So, should the august visitor raise this with his Nigerian hosts, he should be reminded that just as we have the bad ones in the States, Nigeria also has the good ones in the self-same place. At the risk of sounding indulgent, what obtains here has clearly been echoed by one of our writers, Chinua Achebe said that, in the compound of a great man, there must be all kinds of dancers. But, it is doubtful whether our leaders can afford to really shoot straight from the hip like this. This is because, at this point in time in our national life, the outlook is bleak.
We are a debtor nation, the oil power of the past is waning and corruption, despite the exertions of the current government continues to hobble the nation. Under this kind of situation, the power-equation weighs heavily on the side of Washington in relation to Abuja. Incidentally, very much the same thing can be said for Senegal in relation to the United States. But the reasons are different. Although Senegal comes across as a stable polity, yet it is a microstate, compared to the United States. So why is Blinken visiting the place?
Probably and just probably, Dakar is viewed as something of an embodiment of the Francophone phenomenon and as such, it could well be Washington’s own way of ensuring balance on this trip. The reader may wish to know and note here that Senegal is not completely a garden of Eden. There was also a separatist group-the Casamance in this West African country. Over time, however, some form of accommodation has been reached with the central authorities in Dakar.
This is certainly my wish for my own country Nigeria as regards evolving social forces and realties like Igboho and IPOB. On this note, chances are that Blinken will have one or two things to say to the Nigerian authorities. All told, what becomes clear from these visits is that the three hosting countries are likely to be on the defensive in relation to the United States.
Most likely, they will not be able to assert themselves fully. One can possibly understand this passive profile on the part of Kenya and Senegal. However, I find it difficult to appreciate a similar posture on the part of Nigeria. This is because, at least in the potential sense, we have what it takes to assert ourselves in relation to other countries in the international system. Such a situation was obtained in the past. But no longer.
This is because in the immediate past, and up till the present we have consistently punched below our weight in view of the various unforced errors which we have inflicted on our polity. So, as I sit in my own little corner here, I can only say to Blinken: welcome to Nigeria and the African continent. But, nevertheless, I am blinking, sad and wondering about whether my country will ever regain its mojo and groove in relation to the United States and other status-quo forces in the international system.