US defence chief criticises coup leaders during Africa trip

While on a visit to Angola, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasised the necessity for African nations to have armed forces that are accountable to their citizens, rather than the reverse.

“That will remain a core principle of America’s engagement with our African partners,” Austin said in a speech in the capital, Luanda.

“So we will continue to invest in professional, civilian-led militaries… And we’ll be candid with our partners when their security institutions fall short of those universal standards.”

Although Austin did not explicitly mention any specific country, his remarks seemed to be a direct allusion to Niger. In Niger, military leaders staged a coup in July, ousting a democratically elected president, and the United States maintains around 1,100 military personnel in the country.

“When generals overturn the will of the people and put their own ambitions above the rule of law, security suffers,” he said, decrying “autocrats” who “undermine free and fair elections”.

Earlier this week, Austin stated that the United States would “assess” its future actions regarding the crisis in Niger, following France’s announcement of a complete troop withdrawal, as demanded by the military leaders in the country.

Austin’s visit to Angola marked the final stop on a three-country tour, which also included visits to Djibouti and Kenya. The purpose of the tour was to “strengthening partnerships” in Africa, where China and Russia have been increasing their influence.

Niger is one of several countries that have experienced coups since 2020, joining the ranks of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gabon, and Mali.

Niger is one of several countries that have experienced coups since 2020, joining the ranks of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gabon, and Mali.

“Africa deserves better than autocrats selling cheap guns, pushing mercenary forces like the Wagner Group, or depriving grain from hungry people all around the world,” Austin said, in a reference to the Kremlin.

In Luanda, he held discussions with President Joao Lourenco and affirmed that Washington would enhance collaboration with the country, focusing on areas such as military modernization, training, maritime security, and medical readiness.

The visit, which marked the inaugural one by a US Secretary of Defense, highlighted Angola’s diplomatic realignment toward the Western hemisphere under President Joao Lourenco’s leadership.

As one of the prominent oil exporters in Sub-Saharan Africa, Angola has historically maintained strong connections with both China and Russia.

During the civil war against US-backed rebels, Angola’s ruling party received support from the Soviet Union.

“Over the past few years, America’s relationship with Angola has taken huge strides forward,” Austin said.

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