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Antony Blinken’s First Trip to Sub-Saharan Africa

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s visit was intended to be a grand gesture of American support for the continent. But his first day also illustrated the frustrating limits of American influence in a region undergoing deep turmoil. As Mr. Blinken met with officials in Nairobi, Kenya, security forces in the capital of neighboring Sudan shot and killed at least 15 pro-democracy protesters and wounded many others in the deadliest violence since a military coup on Oct. 25 set back hopes for the country. At the same time, a civil war continued to rage in Ethiopia, where the beleaguered prime minister Abiy Ahmed, once a darling of the West, lashed out at international critics, even as Mr. Blinken renewed his appeal for an end to the fighting — another jarring juxtaposition that raised new doubts about Washington’s powers of persuasion in a turbulent region. It is an unhappy context for Mr. Blinken’s visit to Africa, where he plans to give a speech on Friday in Nigeria outlining the Biden administration’s vision for a continent that President Donald Trump often treated with a mixture of indifference and contempt.