Despite Nigeria’s failing in dealing with Boko Haram, the United States says it will now team up against the group
The United States on Thursday issued a scathing rebuke of the Nigerian government’s failure to curb the extremist sect, Boko Haram, responsible for thousands of deaths, as President Goodluck Jonathan announced he will attend an inter-regional security summit in France to discuss the threat.
A top U.S. Defense Department official told the U.S. Senate subcommittee that Nigeria was too slow to find a response to the threat of Boko Haram, but said the United States is now committed to helping fight the al Qaeda-linked group and safely return over 250 school girls seized from Chibok, Borno State, a month ago.
“In general Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram,” said Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal director for African Affairs, according to Reuters news agency.
Ms. Friend gave testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Africa subcommittee ahead of a hearing Thursday.
“The Department has been deeply concerned for some time by how much the Government of Nigeria has struggled to keep pace with Boko Haram’s growing capabilities,” Ms. Friend said. She also condemned the spate of abuses by Nigerian security forces in the fight against Boko Haram.
Another senior official, Robert Jackson, who is the acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said the U.S. has been urging Nigeria to change its approach to Boko Haram. “When soldiers destroy towns, kill civilians and detain innocent people with impunity, mistrust takes root,” Mr. Jackson was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The Nigerian Presidency announced Thursday that President Jonathan will travel to the French capital, Paris, on Friday to attend a security summit convened by French President Francois Hollande.
The security meeting will discuss fresh strategies for dealing with the security threat posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in West and Central Africa.
Mr. Jonathan will be joined at the summit by Heads of State and government of Benin Republic, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Britain, United States and the European Union are also expected to send in representatives.
The Nigerian president is travelling alongside the defence minister, Aliyu Gusau, the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and other aides. He will return to Abuja Saturday, a spokesperson, Reuben Abati, said in a statement.
President Jonathan has been widely condemned for his handling of the Boko Haram crisis, and his slow response to the group’s abduction of the girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State.
Government officials said ahead of the Paris trip Friday, Mr. Jonathan will fly into Chibok, a remote community without a paved road, where he will seek to reassure distraught parents and guardians of the kidnapped school girls.
The president’s planned visit to the community comes over one month after Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped the girls from their dormitory where they prepared for final examinations.
Mr. Jonathan has rejected an offer by Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, to swap the missing girls with detained Boko Haram fighters. Other top officials, however, signalled the government would be willing to negotiate with the extremists.
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