U.S. Secretary of State, who is on his first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa, demanded on Saturday that Nigeria respects human rights during its fight to crack down terrorists.
Sitting beside Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the African Union Dinner, Kerry once again raised the issue of gross human rights violations by Nigerian forces as they continued to fight the Boko Haram Islamist sect. Kerry encouraged the president to continue “to combat terrorism but (said that) government security forces have to do so smartly (and) respect human rights," according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Nigerian troops bombarded the Boko Haram groups who began their fight for a separate Islamic State almost four years back. The ongoing civil war in the country has encountered several cases of human rights violations that have only escalated violence and fueled extremism.
"Boko Haram is a terrorist organization and they have killed wantonly and upset the normal governance of Nigeria in fundamental ways that are unacceptable and so we defend the right, completely, of the government of Nigeria to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists," Kerry said earlier at a news conference with Ethiopia's foreign minister.
"That said, I have raised the issue of human rights with the government, with the foreign minister. We have talked directly about the imperative of Nigerian troops adhering to the highest standards and not themselves engaging themselves in atrocities or in human rights violations. That is critical. One person's atrocity does not excuse another's."
Kerry’s visit to Africa to attend the 50th anniversary of the African Union comes at a time when U.S.’s top priority remains resolving the Middle Eastern crisis. Since leaving Washington on Monday for his Middle Eastern trip, Kerry has so far traveled to Oman, Israel and Jordon.
Since the civil war began, the United States has cooperated with Nigeria, a major oil-producing country, on counterterrorism and has provided the country with law enforcement assistance.
Declaring a state of emergency in the country by the Nigerian president, the forces have exploited their power to carryout extrajudicial killings, including against civilians, forcing the United States to speak its mind on an international level and to ask Goodluck Jonathan to stop the atrocities.
An official close to the talks said that Nigeria was working to control such human rights violations, but stressed that the country must realize that revenge is not an adequate strategy and instead, what is needed is good governance in riding off terrorism.