The United States will continue to support “civilian-led” armies in Africa, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Luanda on Wednesday, blaming militaries on the continent for “subverting the will of the people” through coups d’état.
“When generals subvert the will of the people and put their own ambitions above the rule of law, the security situation deteriorates, and democracy dies,” said Mr. Austin in a speech on U.S. security partnerships in Africa, delivered in the Angolan capital.
The Defense Secretary reiterated the US commitment to “support government policies that advance peace, security and democratic governance together”, stressing that these “elements are inseparable”.
“Africa needs armies that serve its citizens, not the other way around”, he added.
Mr. Austin’s visit to Angola, a first for an American Secretary of Defense, is the third and final stop on his African tour, following Djibouti and Kenya.
On Monday, in Nairobi, the Secretary of Defense indicated that the United States was evaluating various options concerning the future of its military presence in Niger, the day after France announced the withdrawal of its troops.
The United States has some 1,100 troops stationed in Niger, engaged against jihadist groups active in the region.
Niger is one of six African countries where the military has taken power by force in the last three years, along with Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan and Guinea.
The military in power in Bamako have turned to Russia, going so far, according to multiple sources, as to enlist the services of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
“Africa deserves better than foreigners trying to tighten their grip on this continent,” said Austin.
“And Africa deserves better than autocrats who sell cheap arms, support mercenary groups like the Wagner Group, or starve populations around the world of grain,” he added, in an allusion to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Oil-rich Angola has long enjoyed close ties with China and Russia.
But since 2017, current president Joao Lourenco has been forging closer ties with Washington, which will partly finance the renovation of a railway line linking the Congolese mining regions to the Angolan port of Lobito, on the Atlantic Ocean.
“Over the past few years, the relationship between the United States and Angola has made enormous progress”, Mr. Austin praised.