United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III, has started his official travel to Dibouti, Kenya, and Angola on the heels of the 78th UN General Assembly high-level week held from 19-23 and 26 September.
“This visit underscores the US Department of Defence’s commitment to strengthening partnerships and enhancing regional security on the African continent,” a Department of Defence statement said of Austin’s 23-28 September Africa visit.
In Djibouti, Austin has already had meetings “with senior Djiboutian officials to discuss ongoing military cooperation, regional security challenges, and opportunities for further collaboration,” said the DoD.
On 24 September, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder confirmed “Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III met with the President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh in Djibouti,” and explained that “The leaders discussed the bilateral defence relationship and regional security issues, including Djiboutian support to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] in the fight against violent extremist organizations in the region.” Furthermore, Secretary Austin recognized President Guelleh for what the Pentagon called Djibouti’s “leadership and for the longstanding and effective security partnership between the two nations.”
The Pentagon Press Secretary also confirmed that Djibouti’s Minister of Defence Hassan Omar Mohamed Bourhan also met with Secretary Austin, and they talked about “the advancement of bilateral security priorities in East Africa.”
In his 78th UN General Assembly Debate address on 23 September, Djibouti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mahamoud Ali Youssouf spotlighted terrorism and challenges Somalia faces against Al-Shabaab. Terrorism will be high in Austin’s visit, not only with Djiboutian officials, but also in Kenya and Angola.
In Kenya, Austin’s itinerary includes engaging “with Kenyan defence officials on shared security interests and counter-terrorism efforts,” confirmed the DoD. “During his trip, Secretary Austin will also visit with US military personnel deployed to Djibouti and Kenya, reiterating the Department’s appreciation and gratitude for their service and dedication to promoting peace and security in the region,” said the DoD.
In New York, at UNGA, Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto underscored the “failure of peace and security systems,” as a key concern according to UN Affairs, at the conclusion of his high-level debate speech on 21 September. “If any confirmation was ever needed that the United Nations Security Council is dysfunctional, undemocratic, non-inclusive, unrepresentative and therefore incapable of delivering meaningful progress in our world as presently constituted, the rampant impunity of its actors on the global scene settles the matter,” Ruto underlined.
Before leaving the US at the conclusion of his meetings, Ruto met with Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, who commended Kenya for its “significant contributions to global peace and stability” and he “thanked Kenya for considering leadership of a multinational security support mission to Haiti, addressing the crisis in Sudan, promoting peace in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and countering extremism in Somalia.”
In August, Blinken applauded Kenya for considering to “serve as the lead nation for a multinational force in Haiti to assist in addressing insecurity caused by gang violence.”
In Angola, Austin’s “visit to Luanda will focus on building stronger defence relations and exploring avenues for increased military-to-military cooperation between the US and Angola,” confirmed the DoD. Austin will meet with Angola’s President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço.
President Lourenço told UNGA world leaders on 20 September there is a need for adequate and predictable funding for efforts to fight terrorism in Africa. He said, “We are increasingly convinced of the existence of an invisible hand interested in destabilizing our continent, only concerned with expanding its sphere of influence,” adding that the global is worried about the crisis in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan.
In the last 12-18 months, high-ranking Biden administration officials who have made official travels to Africa, in follow ups to Biden’s US-Africa Leaders’ Summit promise, are Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Dr Jill Biden, Blinken (State Department), Janet Yellen (Treasury), and US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. And General Langley’s first trip in his tenure was to Angola, and he has since travelled to Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Kenya, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia, Zambia, and most recently, Libya.
Previously, defenceWeb has reported at the start of the year, that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for African Affairs, Chidi Blyden confirmed the US is “recalibrating” to address “drivers of instability.”
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent and media commentator with expertise on US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe