Last week the White House announced the details of President Obama’s trip to Africa next month. President Obama will be going to only three African countries: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. Nigeria, which was originally thought to be on the agenda, has been left out of the itinerary.
This is not President Obama first trip to Africa. During his first term he traveled to Africa and like this trip neglected to visit Nigeria. In the wake of the mounds of evidence of attacks on Christians and other minorities this trip should take precedence to support an ally. No explanation has been given as to Nigeria’s exclusion from this trip.
The only explanation Jubilee can find for this exclusion is the Obama Administrations disapproval of President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency . It is the U.S. State Department’s belief that declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization would alienate Boko Haram and stop their ability to cooperate with its members. Jubilee’s question is what good is cooperation if it does not lead to even a reduction in the number of attacks?
Prominent African-American commentator Armstrong Williams also has pointed out that the United States should be supporting Nigeria in its efforts to stop Boko Haram’s take over of northern states rather than criticizing efforts to restore peace as the Secretary of State Kerry had done during his trip to sub-Saharan Africa last month. Mr. Williams wrote, “Given the strategic implications of the fight now underway in Nigeria, the U.S. should be looking for additional ways to assist, as opposed to publicly chiding the government there.”
Although condemning acts of violence by Boko Haram, the State Department repeatedly declares support for “legitimate grievances” it claims Boko Haram endorses, although all public Boko Haram declarations and interviews only describe the imposition of Sharia law as its motivation for violence. Offering amnesty and cooperation is a form of condoning the violence and endorsing the goal to impose Sharia law and displace the democratic Nigerian government. No credit has been given to the Christian population in Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria, for their restraint from retaliatory violence.
If the Obama administration is choosing not to go to Nigeria on the grounds that it is too high risk of a visit, we believe that this only goes to prove the seriousness of the situation and the need for engagement from the Obama administration. The US government has designated three of Boko Haram’s prominent leaders as terrorists but refuses to name the group as a whole terroristic. This is concerning and confusing. This terror group has already claimed the lives of people from 15 different nations and risked the lives of two American’s during the UN bombing in Abuja. What more will it take?
Nigeria is known to be the US’s tie to Africa. It is the US’s top trading partner in Africa, largest African immigrant group in the US, and a major strategic partner for Bilateral communication in Africa. Now it seems that the US will isolate Nigeria at a time when Nigeria needs the US most to encourage democratic development. Obama is widely admired in Nigeria and a visit during this strategic time could provoke change and democratic fervor. Jubilee is deeply saddened by the Obama Administrations decision to leave Nigeria’s side when needed most.