Antony Blinken Says U.S. Has Seen How 'Fragile Our Democracy Can Be'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the U.S. knows democracy can be "fragile" on the first day of his visit to Africa, highlighting concerns surrounding democracies on the continent.

Blinken was speaking at a meeting of civil society leaders in Kenya on Wednesday ahead of his meeting with the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta. He is the most senior Biden administration official to visit Africa so far.

His three-nation tour will focus on promoting democracy and climate change action as well as potentially easing conflicts in the region, in particular the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia, which borders Kenya.

Blinken asked the civil society leaders for their ideas about stopping "bad actors" who may challenge democratic institutions.

"We have seen over the last decade or so what some call a democratic recession," the secretary of state said.

"Even vibrant democracies like Kenya experience pressure, especially around election time," Blinken said.

"We have seen the same challenges here than we see in many parts of the world—misinformation, political violence, voter intimidation, voter bribery," he said.

Blinken noted that these issues were not confined to Africa and spoke about the experience in the U.S., though he cited no specific examples.

"The United States is hardly immune from this challenge," Blinken said. "We've seen how fragile our own democracy can be."

Blinken's official Twitter account shared photos from the meeting and the comment: "Just finished an engaging conversation with Kenyan civil society leaders. We discussed ways we can work together to address shared challenges, as democracy requires active citizen participation."

President Joe Biden, who appointed Blinken as secretary of state, has seen his victory in the 2020 presidential election repeatedly challenged by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

Trump has continued to claim that the election suffered mass voter fraud and that it was "stolen" from him—claims that have not been substantiated and were rejected by courts multiple times.

On January 6, a mob of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol building as Congress was in the process of ratifying the Electoral College votes. The events of that day are currently being investigated by a select committee of the House of Representatives.

Some Republican Senators and members of the House voted to sustain objections to the Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Blinken will promote democracy during his visit, which will take in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. The 2017 Kenyan election saw violence and the deaths of at least 37 people, while the U.S. has criticized Nigeria for its human rights record.

Senegal has long been considered a stable democracy but saw violent protests earlier this year following the arrest of a prominent opposition politician. Blinken will conclude his African tour in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on November 20.

Antony Blinken Speaks About Democracy in Ecuador
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken speaks on the challenges faced by democracies in the region during a conference as part of his visit to Ecuador at Universidad San Francisco de Quito on October 20, 2021 in Quito, Ecuador. Blinken has spoken about the fragility of democracy on a visit to Kenya. Felipe Stanley/Agencia Press South/Getty Images