U.S. President Donald Trump focused on counterterrorism efforts and economic relations Monday during his first calls to the presidents of Nigeria and South Africa.
Nigerian officials said Trump commended President Muhammadu Buhari on the military’s efforts to combat Islamic terror group Boko Haram and rescue 24 of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants in 2014.
Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman, said in a statement the two leaders discussed ways to improve joint counterterrorism efforts.
“President Trump assured the Nigerian president of the United States’ readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria, in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism,” the statement said.
The United States had stopped selling weapons to Nigeria after human rights groups accused its military of mass human rights abuses. But the military continued to receive training and other forms of technical assistance.
Ebrahim Deen of South Africa’s Afro Middle-East Center said weapons may help the military but the battle against Boko Haram’s insurgency is moving in a different direction. The regional joint task force has cleared the extremists from their major stronghold in northeast Maiduguri state, although Boko Haram continues to launch sporadic attacks.
“Boko Haram is on the defensive already, so what’s needed now is more governance not weapons,” Deen said.
Martin Ewi, a counterterrorism expert with the Institute for Security Studies, said the United States could continue to materialize its assistance for Nigeria’s military in the form of light military equipment, such as drones, and by funding other initiatives in the affected regions.
Trump invited Buhari to Washington at a date convenient for the both of them.
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