Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Nigeria and Niger to meet with a wide range of government officials and non-governmental experts to discuss key political, economic, and security issues.
Before the Deputy Secretary departed on his trip, he participated in a Facebook chat about his trip and issues in the region. Here are some highlights from the chat:
On his Itinerary and Agenda
Can you share who you will be meeting with in Nigeria?
"Our team plans to meet with a full range of Nigerian officials from the federal to the state level, including President Buhari, and State Governors. An important part of the trip will be our engagement with a wide range of civil society leaders, and Young African Leaders Initiative Network alumni. President Obama is also looking forward to welcoming President Buhari to Washington on July 20, for meetings at the The White House."
On Security and Governance
Can you address government, security and corruption issues in Nigeria?
"This is a moment of great promise for Nigeria. The decades since independence have been marred by military coups, civil war, and corruption. Nigeria has fallen far short of its great potential. But the free and fair election in March produced a historic democratic transition and demonstrated that the people have the power to hold their leaders accountable. Nigeria’s new President Buhari is focused on the very issues you raise including security, corruption, energy, and also strengthening democratic institutions and improving governance and revitalizing the economy. I look forward to meeting with him and other Nigerian leaders to talk about how the United States can support these mutual priorities."
Can you adress international efforts underway to address the growing threat of Boko Haram and how their violent tactics have affected women and girls in Nigeria (including the girls taken from Chibok) and the entire region?
"Boko Haram is one of the top threats to regional stability and defeating them will take a coordinated and strong regional response. That is why we are supporting the Multi-National Joint Task Force that includes: Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin. In order to counter this threat over the long-term, we must not only maintain security, but also restore stability, establish rule of law and effective governance.
"To help Nigeria bring home the Chibok girls remains a top priority for us, as well as hundreds of other people including women, young girls and boys who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram. We are glad to see that some have returned, but we share President Buhari’s commitment to find them and bring them home. We will continue to do everything we can to help, including sharing intelligence and providing humanitarian and long-term development support to the areas hardest hit by Boko Haram. Even as we support vital regional security efforts to defeat Boko Haram, we must also address the root causes of the conflict in order to break the cycle of violence. I expect to discuss these efforts and how we can work even more closely in the future with President Buhari and other senior government officials and civil society members on this trip."
The Deputy Secretary also responded to a comment on the situation in Burundi to which he replied:
“We are deeply concerned about what is happening in Burundi -- especially the effect on Burundian citizens who have been forced to leave their homes. President Nkurunziza's continued disregard for the Arusha Agreement -- including the two term limit provision -- has resulted in many deaths and over 144,000 people fleeing their homes. The US, along with the international community from the AU, the UN, and others have told the Government of Burundi that elections should be postponed. President Nkurunziza needs to put the welfare of Burundi's citizens first and participate in the EAC dialogue."
On Civil Society
How is the United States is working to support the growth of Nigerian civil society and to encourage Nigerians youth to take on leadership roles in their society?
"We are very committed to investing in Africa’s next generation. One of the ways we are doing that is through the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which identifies and supports promising leaders from all walks of society across the continent with training, tools, and technology. I’m looking forward to meeting with some of our YALI alumni and learning about their innovative work. This year’s group of YALI Mandela Washington Fellows are in the United States right now. And President Obama will take part in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi later this month, which will bring young entrepreneurs from all over the world - including Sub-Saharan Africa - together with their peers, business leaders, and investors."
On Economic Growth and Investment
Can you address the need for transformation in Nigeria’s electric sector to help increase opportunity and U.S. investment?
"Access to clean, sustainable energy is critical across Sub-Saharan Africa - including Nigeria. That's why President Obama launched PowerAfrica and upped the goal to bring electricity to 60 million homes & businesses in partner countries across the continent, including Nigeria. You are absolutely right that the private sector involvement is critical, which is why PowerAfrica pairs governments with industry through public-private partnerships to support development in the energy sector."