The United States will continue to support “civilian-led” armies in Africa, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday September 27 in Luanda, blaming the military who, on the continent, have “subverted 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,” Austin said in a speech on state security partnerships -United in Africa, delivered in the Angolan capital.

The defense secretary reiterated the United States’ commitment to “support government policies that jointly advance peace, security, and democratic governance,” emphasizing that these “elements are inseparable.” “Africa needs armies that serve its citizens, not the other way around,” he added.

Austin’s visit to Angola, a first for a US defense secretary, is the third and final stop on his African tour, after Djibouti and Kenya. On Monday, in Nairobi, the Secretary of Defense indicated that the United States was evaluating different options regarding the future of its military presence in Niger, the day after France announced the withdrawal of its troops.

“Africa deserves better than autocrats”

The United States has some 1,100 soldiers stationed in Niger, engaged against jihadist groups active in this region. Niger is one of six African countries where soldiers have taken power by force in the past three years, along with Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan and Guinea.

The military in power in Bamako turned to Russia, even going so far, according to multiple sources, as to secure the services of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner. “Africa deserves better than foreigners trying to tighten their grip on this continent,” Austin said.

“And Africa deserves better than autocrats who sell cheap weapons, who support mercenary groups like the Wagner Group or who deprive starving populations of grain all over the world,” he added in an allusion. to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Oil-rich Angola has long maintained close ties with China and Russia. But the current president João Lourenço has since 2017 made a rapprochement 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. “In recent years, the relationship between the United States and Angola has made enormous progress,” said Mr. Austin.