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On a tour of Africa, Blinken used his stop in Nigeria to put more pressure on Sudan


Sudan's new democracy came to an end last month when the military ousted the country's civilian prime minister. The State Department has been trying for weeks to convince the military to restore a civilian-led transitional government. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is using his trip to Africa to put more pressure on Sudan. NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with him.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Blinken is currently in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and home to a West African regional security organization, so there's plenty on his plate here. But he took the opportunity at a news conference in Abuja to send a warning to Sudan's military rulers.


ANTONY BLINKEN: The United States is deeply concerned by the violence used by the Sudanese military against people engaged in peaceful protest.

KELEMEN: More than a dozen protesters have been killed as they try to get their country back on a path to democracy. Blinken has been looking to countries in Africa to use their influence in Sudan to resolve the crisis. That's true in Ethiopia, too, where a former Nigerian president is taking the lead diplomatically to try to pull that country back from the brink. Nigeria's foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, says his country doesn't shy away from its role on the continent.


GEOFFREY ONYEAMA: It's a bit like the U.S. globally. When you're a big country, big economy, big population, of course, a lot of the countries are going to expect a lot from you.

KELEMEN: Nigeria is also expecting a lot from the U.S. these days. Onyeama says he's glad to see the U.S. involved in the fight against climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, but he says Nigeria really needs to be able to manufacture vaccines at home. It also needs investment in infrastructure. On that front, he jokes that Nigeria gets a lot out of the competition between the U.S. and China.


ONYEAMA: But sometimes it's a good thing for you if people - if you're attractive bride, you know, and everybody is, you know, is offering you wonderful things, so you take what you can from each of them.

KELEMEN: Secretary Blinken says there should be a race to the top.


BLINKEN: Our partnership with Nigeria, with many other countries, is not about China or any other third party. It's about Africa.

KELEMEN: And helping African nations develop in a more sustainable way. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Abuja, Nigeria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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