Nigeria – The United States will send a team of experts to Nigeria in a couple of weeks to discuss with the new government, the ways to renew relationship in the fight against the Islamist militant group called Boko Haram, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Thursday.
Washington has directly reached out to the new President Muhammadu Buhari, since his election win in March and sent U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to his inauguration a week ago to underscore U.S. interest in working with his administration.
Tensions have emerged between the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and the Obama administration a year ago over corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in its campaign to destroy Boko Haram.
In his inauguration speech, Buhari promised to destroy Boko Haram existence in Nigeria and called the group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in March, “Mindless” and “Godless.” “With the new government we are hopeful we can reset the relationship,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told a congressional hearing.
“We want to work with him and have communicated that to him.” She said Buhari had committed both publicly and privately to “Do everything possible to address the situation regarding resources and staff” to destroy Boko Haram, which launched its insurgency in 2009”.
U.S. authorities have said the United States could send more advisers to Nigeria to prepare its military and help boost the economy, the largest in Africa, through more interest in its oil and gas sectors.
However, Thomas-Greenfield said the United States were encouraged that Buhari’s first trips were two neighbors Niger and Chad, which are part of a multi-national power being set up to fight Boko Haram’s insurgence in the Lake Chad area.
Nigeria’s Major-General Tukur Buratai has been chosen to head the new force, which will be funded partly by the international community.
“He is somebody we have worked with and somebody we feel will be a positive force on the multinational task force,” she said, adding that Buhari was busy studying options on choices to fund a stepped-up force to battle Boko Haram.
Experts believe that the challenge for the United States is to work with Buhari while giving him time to address issues in the Nigerian security forces.
A report by rights Group Amnesty International this week supported U.S. concerns over human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces.
In a 133-page report issued on Wednesday, Amnesty said more than 8,000 people already died while being held prisoners by the armed force in the campaign against Boko Haram, many of them killed, starved or tortured.
Amnesty said large portions of the prisoners, including young men as young as nine years of age, were held together in Boko Haram strongholds and shot to death while inside detention headquarters.