Niamey, 17 March 2023 (TDI): The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, traveled to Niger after a two-day stop in Ethiopia. Blinken’s visit to Niger is the country’s first visit by a US Secretary of State, according to the office’s statement.

Following the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington DC in December 2022, Blinken’s visit is “a recognition of our robust bilateral relationship with a key partner on democracy, governance, and regional security,” the statement added.

Antony Blinken on Thursday called Niger “a model of resilience, a model of democracy, a model of cooperation” in the region and warned that the expansion of Russian mercenaries in the Sahel region would not bode well for the countries embracing them.

The United States Secretary of State commended the Government of Niger’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region by implementing a Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Reconciliation (DDRR) program.

The program is designed to provide a pathway for individuals who have defected from violent extremist organizations to reintegrate into society and contribute positively to their communities.

The US Secretary acknowledged the importance of this program as a successful model for other countries in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region to emulate.

He further emphasized the significance of the DDRR program in addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting long-term stability in the region.

Significance of The Sahel

The Sahel is a semi-arid strip of land in Africa that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The region has a long history of trade and migration, with various empires and kingdoms controlling the area over the centuries. Recently, the region has been affected by conflict, poverty, and climate change.

Russia has been increasing its presence and influence in the Sahel region recently, particularly in countries such as Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), and Mali.

The United States government is committed to supporting Niger’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, and Secretary Blinken expressed appreciation for the partnership between the two countries in this regard.

Meetings held by Secretary Blinken

Secretary Antony Blinken met with the hard-working team at the US Embassy in Niamey. He appreciated their contributions to strengthening ties between the United States and Niger.

The Secretary also applauded the team’s efforts in supporting democracy, development, and security in Niger and their dedication to enhancing bilateral relations.

Blinken used the trip to announce $150 million in new humanitarian assistance to help meet needs in Western and Central Africa and the Sahel region created by instability.

Apart from that, the United States has military personnel stationed at two air force bases in the country and has supported the Nigerien armed forces with training, equipment donations, and support for intelligence and surveillance to combat violent extremism.

Secretary Blinken then met with the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, and Foreign Minister, Hassoumi Massou, to express appreciation for the country’s commitment to democracy, peace, and education, particularly for girls’ education.

During the meeting, US Secretary and the Nigerien officials discussed shared priorities, including regional and food security and commitment to refugees.

Both parties acknowledged the importance of regional stability in promoting economic growth and development in the area.

Furthermore, he commended Niger for its efforts in promoting education for girls, recognizing that access to education is critical for advancing women’s rights and empowerment.

The parties emphasized the importance of investing in education to promote long-term development and progress.

Finally, the meeting highlighted Niger’s commitment to providing a safe haven for refugees, particularly those fleeing conflict and violence in neighboring countries.

Both parties recognized the need to continue to work together to address the challenges faced by refugees, particularly in providing access to basic needs such as food, water, and shelter.

US Secretary concluded the meeting by expressing gratitude for the warm reception and productive discussions.