UNITED States (U.S.) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, left Washington DC yesterday on what may be her valedictory trip to Africa, but the formal announcement released Monday night left out a stop in Nigeria.
Sources had indicated earlier that a stop in Nigeria was high on her mind, but conflicting engagements of President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have temporarily affected the plans, as Clinton is said to be keen on a personal meeting with Jonathan during the trip.
Just before the U.S. State Department released Clintonâ€™s travel itinerary, Nigerian Presidential Spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, had earlier on the same day announced that â€œPresident Goodluck Jonathan will depart Abuja tomorrow to attend Trinidad and Tobago Emancipation Day and Jamaicaâ€™s Independence Anniversary celebration.â€
A source at the Nigerian Embassy in the U.S. explained that Clinton had planned to stop at Abuja on August 2, by which time President Jonathan would still be out of the country, having left yesterday.
Both Nigerian and U.S. officials are said to still be working out a meeting between Jonathan and Clinton while stops in Nigeria and Ghana are still on the cards before the Secretary of State returns to the U.S. on August 10.
â€œThey are still working out the rest of the schedule with the death of Ghanaian President Mills. I will let you know if I receive any information that I can share publicly,â€ a spokesperson from the U.S. government told The Guardian yesterday morning.
The U.S. State Department in its statement said: â€œSecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Africa July 31 through August 10, 2012. During this trip, the Secretary will emphasize U.S. policy commitments outlined in the Presidential Policy Directive – to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, advance peace and security as well as promote opportunity and development for all citizens.â€
Clinton is also interested in discussing Boko Haram with President Jonathan, especially the internal pressure from the U.S. Congress and other units of the executive arm to designate Boko Haram, a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). As the U.S. Congress, especially led by Republican lawmakers, are demanding the designation, other executive arms of the U.S. including FBI, Justice and Homeland Security Departments are all of the view that the Boko Haram should be categorised as an FTO.
The State Department, which is virtually the only U.S. department yet to endorse the designation, may also do so if by the end of the year, the Boko Haram problem has not been properly addressed by the Federal Government
It was learnt that before Clinton took off on her trip to Africa, she launched this yearâ€™s US International Religious Freedom report as mandated by the Congress and commented again on Boko Haram.
In the report it was noted that in Nigeria, â€œattacks by elements of the violent extremist sect Boko Haram claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims. The government did not effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence. There also were reports of abuses of religious freedom by certain state governments and local political actors who stoked communal and sectarian violence with impunity.â€
The report also detailed the effects of conflict on religious freedom, saying â€œgovernments responded to conflict and to groups they considered to be violent extremists in ways that restricted religious freedom and contributed to societal intolerance in countries as diverse as Bahrain, Russia, Iraq, and Nigeria.