U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, would make his first official trip to five Africa countries next week and will discuss his strategy on how to defeat Islamist group Boko Haram, a senior Trump administration official said at a background press briefing on Friday.
Mr. Tillerson would visit Kenya, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia and Djibouti on his first trip as President Donald Trump’s top envoy.
The official was responding to a question by Simon Ateba, the publisher of Today News Africa, on what type of cooperation Mr. Tillerson would discuss or propose with the Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari, next week.
According to the official, defeating Boko Haran would require more than bombs, fighter jets and guns, it would involve education, jobs, and many other things.
Below is the exchange between Simon Ateba and the senior administration official on Friday.
OPERATOR: We have a question from Simon Ateba with Today News Africa. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, says there cannot be business without peace. And as you know, yesterday Boko Haram killed several UN humanitarian workers and also kidnapped hundreds of students last week. Will Secretary Tillerson, will he propose any new cooperation with Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon in the fight against Boko Haram, or will this be only about business?
And finally, why (won’t) the Secretary go to Cameroon since the U.S. has hundreds of troops in Cameroon fighting Boko Haram? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, those are very – they were very good questions, and thank you. And just kind of starting out last, the Secretary’s trip, this is his initial trip to Africa. He’s going to come back again, and we are going to look at Cameroon, we’re going to look at South Africa, we’re going to look at other countries. Of course, with South Africa, with the transition to Ramaphosa, we were kind of saying, well, probably this is a very critical country for the U.S., but I think it’s once the government is established and set, I think then we’ll probably go there.
But Cameroon, yes. Cameroon raises an issue, but so does Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali. And so there’s a lot of countries, and which countries do we head to? So on Nigeria, this is really a really 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.
So on Nigeria, you really raised really good points, is that – so 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, terrible, and how do you do security? 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 issues 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. So looking at the UN, we have fresh UN reports about some of the extremist operations in the G5 countries, the Trans-Sahel, is for some of these groups it’s not – it’s about getting jobs, it’s 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 is political institutions, political dialogue, reconciliation, supporting community-based development, helping growth, education. And then on the other hand, as you said, is the security, particularly in the north, and how do you enhance security. And 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 G5 countries. So those are some of the things that we’re looking at, much more broad-based, comprehensive, and really interrelated with security. Over.