U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken begins five-day Africa tour in Kenya

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Nov. 17 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has begun a postponed official visit to Africa to demonstrate support for the continent amid an ongoing health emergency and civil violence in multiple nations there.

Blinken arrived in Kenya late Tuesday and met with Kenyan officials on Wednesday in the first stop of his planned five-day tour.

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The trip was initially planned for August, but Blinken postponed the diplomatic visit to attend to the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Officials say the Africa tour is a bid to reaffirm U.S. support, counter Chinese influence and encourage peace amid civil conflicts in Ethiopia and Sudan.

In remarks on Wednesday, Blinken called for an end to the fighting in northern Ethiopia between government and Tigray forces. He also pledged that there would be consequences for continued attacks on civilians.

“The fact is that we have seen, and continue to see, atrocities being committed, people suffering,” Blinken said at a news conference, according to The New York Times. “Regardless of what we call it, it needs to stop. There needs to be accountability, and we are determined there will be.”

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met earlier this week to discuss a ceasefire.

Ethiopian troops are backed by Eritrean and Amharan forces, while the Tigray People’s Liberation Front is supported by other ethnic-based groups.

The diplomat’s trip also comes amid a military takeover in Sudan, and Blinken said one of the first orders of business would be to reinstate civilian Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Blinken will also visit Nigeria and Senegal this week before returning to the United States.