U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks Thursday in Abuja with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and other officials to discuss furthering cooperation on global health security, expanding energy access and economic growth, and revitalizing democracy, according to the U.S. State Department.
Nigeria is the second of three African countries Blinken will visit over a five-day period. On Friday, the top U.S. diplomat will deliver a major speech in Nigeria on the Biden administration's Africa policy.
Democracy was a key topic of Blinken's first stop in Kenya on Wednesday, telling a group of human rights activists in Nairobi that the world is undergoing a "recession" of democracy. He warned that "even vibrant democracies like Kenya" have become increasingly vulnerable to misinformation, corruption, political violence and voter intimidation.
"The United States is hardly immune from this challenge," Blinken said in an apparent reference to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump in an attempt to force lawmakers to disqualify Joe Biden's victory in last November's presidential election. "We've seen how fragile our own democracy can be."
Before Blinken's departure from Nairobi, he announced that the United States was removing Nigeria from a list of nations that violate religious freedom.
Blinken's African tour, which concludes with a visit to Senegal, is partially aimed at raising America's profile as a key player in the region as it competes with China.
Despite its large contributions of money and vaccines to contain COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, the United States has had little success in gaining influence in the region.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.