The United States has described the abduction of 110 Dapchi schoolgirls as “horrendous, unacceptable and terrible”.
Department of State officials stated the U.S. position Ton Monday during a background briefing ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first trip to Africa.
Tillerson is due to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya between today and March 13.
The officials described Nigeria as critical to the stability of West Africa and the future engagement of the U.S. in the sub-region.
They pledged continued U.S. commitment in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists.
Agency Reports quotes the officials saying, “On Nigeria, this – fight against Boko Haram – is really an important issue.
“And I know that in the last administrations, even the last three, we have always said going to Nigeria is critical to stability and the future for the U.S. relationship in West Africa.
“We are following the recent kidnappings of 110 school girls, which really kind of follows up on several years ago of the Chibok girls.
“And those are horrendous, they’re unacceptable and terrible.
“But the issue that comes in, it’s not only a security issue – and it is a terrible security challenge – but it’s also political issue and really building those institutions and political dialogue between north and south, and also with the region.
“And so those are some of the things that we need to look at. It’s a comprehensive approach. The other issue, too, is on economic development and education.”
The U.S. noted recent UN reports about some of the extremist operations in the G-5 countries and the Trans-Sahel.
The department, however, regretted that the operations of some of these criminal groups were “about getting jobs” and “about looking at getting an income for families”.
“And if terrorism or trafficking of persons, if that’s going to get them the jobs, then that’s unacceptable and we really need to find alternative ways to help the economic development in these regions.
“And so those are some of the issues and challenges that we’ll be working on – political institutions, political dialogue, reconciliation, supporting community-based development, helping growth, education.”
It said “another issue was enhancing the security, particularly in the North, saying “it just can’t be constantly a kinetic strike operation or bring in U.S. military”.
“That’s not the answer. The answer has to be developing institutions and also providing good police training, military training, and having governments accountable to the people and having people really have faith in their institutions, and also having opportunities for job creation.
“And what happens in Nigeria is going to affect the Lake Chad region, and that includes Cameroon as well as the G-5 countries.
“So those are some of the things that we’re looking at, much more broad-based, comprehensive, and really interrelated with security.”
The U.S. added that Nigeria’s 2019 general election and a peaceful transition remained its major priority in view of the country’s strategic position in the region.
The department said over two decades ago, the number of countries in Africa with really democratically elected government was really very few – only three or four.
It said, however, now we had over two dozen African countries with democratically elected governments and which are hopefully not going to have transitions in government through coup d’etats and other illegal methods.
“As we look at the 20 elections, obviously Nigeria, though it’s not this year – it’s going to be next year – that really is a major priority focus, because that’s going to be the third most populous country in the world by 2050.
“It has really very complex political issues and ethnic and tribal issues and security issues,
“And that’s an area that we really are focusing on how to do a peaceful transition, a democratic transition, but more important is how to hold governments accountable to the people,” the State Department said.
The department explained that, obviously, a lot of those African countries were still fragile democracies and the U.S. was trying to strengthen them.
The U.S. commended the most recent elections in Liberia, saying it was the first open, fair, and peaceful transition of governments in over 75 years, saying that is a good thing.
It regretted what it called the “horrendous rule of Charles Taylor and the degradation of the institutions there, but now we’ll going back and they’re building, and I think with the election of George Weah that’s going to be a positive thing”.
The U.S. also noted the election of Nana Akufo-Addo in Ghana, Alassane Ouattara in Cote d’Ivoire and Macky Sall in Senegal, describing them as positive developments.
It said, however, that Ethiopia remained a challenge for the U.S. and a focus for it as well and an opportunity.
The U.S. explained that it was looking at trying to build institutions, really strengthen institutions, and also have peaceful transitions and hold governments accountable to the people in Ethiopia.
It said it was also looking at how it could have reconciliation and dialogue among all of the various groups – the Oromos, the Amharas, the Tigrays, and also in Kenya with the opposition and with the ruling government.
Accordingly, the department said building strong institutions and holding governments accountable are some of the things that are certainly going to be the subjects of discussion during Tillerson trip.
“How do we advance political and economic reform that will help in the transition process? Those are issues too that we’re working in Zimbabwe with the transition between Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“And also we’re looking hopefully at South Africa with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa from Jacob Zuma and seeing how that’s going to transition,” the State Department said.