US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Tuesday, August 23, on the second leg of his three-nation tour of Africa and the Middle East. He had just completed a visit to Kenya where he engaged in high-level talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi.
Kerry was received by President Muhammadu Buhari and top government officials at the forecourt of his office in the state house at Abuja. The two men later engaged in a closed-door session at the presidential villa.
Last Friday, the US embassy in Abuja issued a press release ahead of the Secretary of State’s visit, which read: “Kerry will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss counter-terrorism efforts, the Nigerian economy, the fight against corruption and human rights issues.”
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Part of the Secretary of State’s itinerary also includes a visit to Abuja, where the Secretary will meet with a group of adolescent girls working to change community perceptions that devalue the role of girls in society.
While the details of Kerry’s visit were not made public, it is believed that his discussions with President Buhari centred around the progress that Nigerian authorities have made so far in their fight against the Boko Haram insurgents. Their talks were also expected to focus on the Nigerian economy, trade, democracy, and other important issues. America considers Nigeria a key diplomatic ally on the African continent and an important player in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Kerry later traveled to Sokoto, the religious and cultural heartland of northern Nigeria, where he delivered a speech on “the importance of resilient communities and religious tolerance in countering violent extremism.” During that speech, he urged the northern governors and religious leaders who were present to fight against insurgency by winning the hearts and minds of the general population with credible leadership.
“It is understandable that, in the wake of terrorist activity, some are tempted to crack down on anyone and everyone who could theoretically pose some sort of threat. But extremism can’t be defeated through repression or fear,” he said, warning them that insurgents would always find willing recruits to fight against the state if the government fails in its primary responsibility.
Kerry departed Nigeria today for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he is scheduled to meet with his counterparts from the six nations that belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council.