US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry addressed the press after meeting
with President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari.
Read the full transcript of his briefing released by the US State Department after the cut:
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am really
delighted be here in Nigeria. And I was just admiring the extraordinary
view and this wonderful location. I’m particularly pleased to be here at
this particular moment, just a few weeks before one of the most
important elections that this country has held. And this will be the
largest democratic election on the continent. Given the stakes, it’s
absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully, that
they are credible, transparent, accountable, so that the people of
Nigeria can have faith and the world can have faith in the government
that flows from it.
So I came here today to deliver a very simple
message, and I met with both major candidates in order to underscore
that the international community is paying very close attention to this
election and that the international community is deeply committed to
working with Nigerians going forward with the hopes that they will have
an election that is free of violence and capable of instilling
confidence in the future.
I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this weekend where I
delivered a speech about the need for a long-term, comprehensive global
effort to combat violent extremism, and to address the underlying causes
before that extremism takes root. The unfortunate truth is that
Nigerians know as well as anyone how desperately that kind of effort is
needed. Day after day, the group that calls itself Boko Haram continues
to kill scores of innocent civilians and attack villages and military
installations in places like Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. The United
States condemns these attacks which have escalated in recent weeks. And
we extend our deepest condolences to the thousands of families that
have been impacted, and we deeply regret the toll that this violence has
taken on the Nigerian people. We will absolutely continue to support
the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram. And as I said in
Davos, all of us must work together to advance a strategy that will not
only stop groups like Boko Haram, Daesh, and al-Qaida, but that will
address the environment from which these groups emerge.
We were very happy to see the Government of Niger host a regional
security ministerial meeting last week to discuss how to better
coordinate counterterrorism efforts. This is exactly the kind of thing
that I suggested is necessary in the comments that I made a couple of
days ago. It is very important that the world cooperate more in helping
countries where they want to and where they don’t the full capacity to
be able to step up and take on lawless terrorist entities.
That is precisely why President Obama has announced that next month in
Washington we will host an international summit on combating violent
extremism around the world. It will be held at the WH and at the State
Department, it will be at the ministerial, and we hope to bring people
together who have been engaged in these fights against the Boko Harams
and other entities so we can share best practices, so that we could hear
from people about what they need and what they think is necessary in
order to be able to summon an even stronger global response.
The fact is that one of the best ways to fight back against Boko Haram
and similar groups is by protecting the peaceful, credible, and
transparent elections that are essential to any thriving democracy, and
certainly, essential to the largest democracy in Africa. It’s imperative
that these elections happen on time as scheduled, and that they are an
improvement over past elections, and they need to set a new standard for
this democracy. That means that Nigerians have to not only reject
violence but they have to actually promote peace.I met with President Jonathan earlier today and separately with General
Buhari, and I was encouraged to hear once again from both men that this
is exactly what they intend to do to try to press for an election that
can be held with the credibility the people of Nigeria want and deserve.
As President Jonathan said in his New Year’s message, none of our
political ambitions is worth the blood of any of our countrymen, women,
and children. And as General Buhari recently tweeted, electoral violence
is unacceptable, and every Nigerian life is sacred. Both candidates
have also signed on to the so-called Abuja Accord, which commits them to
running exclusively issue-based campaigns, refraining from violence
before and during and after election day, and speaking out against any
violence that does emerge.
These are commitments that we need to see from everyone and they are
commitments that need to be kept. Many people are stepping up. For
example, Chairman Jega and the thousands of independent national
election commission employees are taking concrete steps in order to
guarantee that this election is successful. We also urge all of
Nigeria’s governors to call for peaceful democratic engagement among
their residents, and we ask all parties and all candidates to do the
And I would say to everybody that no matter what the outcome, if you
have a question, if you have a doubt, if there is someplace where issues
may have arisen, it is absolutely vital that whatever differences may
exist be resolved through legitimate channels, through the legal
channels, which are fundamental to the democratic process. And I urge
all of Nigeria’s candidates to do what is best for their country no
matter the outcome on election day.
I want to emphasize that for the United States, Nigeria is an
increasingly important strategic partner. Nigeria has a critical role to
play in the security and prosperity of this continent and beyond. We
are committed to helping the electoral process succeed, and last week we
sent an electoral security advisor in order to support INEC’s efforts
to advise on security concerns and to help develop a risk mapping tool
to prepare for any violence that might emerge.
So let me be clear: Anyone who participates in, plans, or calls for
widespread or systematic violence against the civilian population must
be held accountable, including by ineligibility for an American visa.
Violence has no place in democratic elections, and I can guarantee you
that the perpetrators of such violence would not be welcome in the
United States of America. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and
one of the world’s largest democracies. It is blessed with some of the
planet’s most valuable and abundant natural resources. Conducting
accountable, credible, peaceful elections will help put the Nigerian
people on a path to prosperity and regional leadership that is needed in
order to address a wide range of challenges in this part of the world,
including, obviously, violent extremism.
With this election, Nigeria has an opportunity to put an indelible stamp
on the kind of future that Africa wants to see and most importantly
that Nigeria wants and deserves. I want to reiterate what President
Obama recently said, that he, I, and the American people stand with you
as Nigeria’s great democratic exercise unfolds. And we stand ready to
work with the Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian people, and whomever
they elect next month continue – to continue building on the important
partnership that we share.
And with that, I would be delighted to take a couple of questions.
MODERATOR: Our first question comes from (inaudible).
QUESTION: Could you give us a bit more of a response to these
attacks by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria and how concerned you are
about this (inaudible)?
QUESTION: And can you also give us a bit more of a sense of what
concrete steps the U.S. is prepared to take with the Nigeria to fight
Boko Haram? Because it has been a concern within the Pentagon about the
capability or the commitment of the military to fight Boko Haram. And
finally, could you give us sense from here that Boko Haram’s kind of
spreading to other parts of Africa and aligning (inaudible) the Islamic
State or other terrorist groups?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me take the last part of your question
first. There’s no specific declaration by Boko Haram of an affiliation
with Daesh, but there is evidence that Daesh is making an effort to
spread its tentacles throughout a number of countries in the northern
part of Africa, and it is obviously a concern that they may try more
aggressively to try to spread to countries in the center and southern
and other parts of Africa.
The United States is deeply engaged with Nigeria. And I’ve seen the
articles that refer to some of the problems with respect to that
engagement. Everybody’s heard certain criticisms that have been made.
Some of them are just flat-out inaccurate. For instance, we do continue
to share intelligence with the Nigerian military and intelligence folks.
We do cooperate in many ways. We don’t believe that the level of
support provided by the United States or the international community is
the limiting factor in the Nigerian Government’s ability to fight Boko
And with respect to the military assistance that we’re delivering, we
are currently helping the Nigerian – helping Nigeria to increase the
capability of its military; to improve its counter-incident explosive
detection and civil-military operations capacity; and to carry out
responsible counterterrorism operations. Now, does it always well as
work – work as well as we would like or as well as the Nigerians would
like? The answer is no. There are developmental issues in that
relationship and in those efforts. But the United States maintains a
very significant level of military cooperation with various elements of
the Nigerian security forces.
And we’re also providing law enforcement assistance, including by
training Nigerian law enforcement officials on counterterrorism
investigations and post-blast investigations and crisis management.
Right now, we have a team of Nigerian Government crisis management
officials in the United States who are participating in a senior crisis
management exercise. We have provided equipment and training for the
Nigerian intelligence fusion center. And most recently, we’ve worked
with Nigeria’s neighbors Cameroon, Chad, and Niger to develop
institutional and tactical capabilities that will increase the joint
efforts between our countries in order to be more effective.
So bottom line, we want to do more. And that was part of my message to
both President Jonathan and General Buhari today. We are prepared to do
more, but our ability to do more will depend to some degree on the full
measure of credibility, accountability, transparency and peacefulness of
this election. And one of the principle reasons that President Obama
asked me to come here at this moment is to reinforce to all Nigerians
the desire of the United States to be able to engage even more so in the
effort to push back against Boko Haram or any other violent extremist
group, but the quality of the democratic process is important to
contributing to our ability to do so. And that’s exactly why I’m here
MODERATOR: Our last question is from Victor Asije of the News Agency of Nigeria.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and welcome to Nigeria.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Are you confident that President Jonathan and General
Buhari can be held to their promises – promises they made to you,
(inaudible), credible elections, (inaudible) that the U.S. (inaudible)?
The other question is this: Now, even after the (inaudible) that the
U.S. (inaudible) to discriminate against people from West Africa
SECRETARY KERRY: Can you repeat the last part? The U.S. is likely to discriminate?
QUESTION: That the U.S. is likely (inaudible) to discriminate against people from West Africa who are (inaudible)?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I – let me answer that first. I’m personally
very proud, and I think every American is very proud, of the
extraordinary efforts the United States has made in order to combat the
Ebola disease. President Obama made a remarkably courageous and critical
decision right up front, when people didn’t know all – publicly,
certainly – all of the potential dangers. But when he, by virtue of his
briefings and his understanding through his medical advisors, had a
strong sense of what was possible, the President committed 4,000 U.S.
troops to go to Liberia immediately in order to begin to build the
capacity to fight Ebola. We worked extremely closely with our friends
and allies, the French and the British particularly, but with many other
people – Japan, China. Many countries stepped up as we came together at
the United Nations in September, summoned more response, sent people
over here, many workers, as you know, who have come back to the United
States, and a few of them who came back with Ebola and they were
treated, one of whom who died and others who were cured.
We have confidence in the ability of people to be cured. We have
confidence that this is – that we are gaining in our capacity to control
this; we’ve made enormous strides, and I can guarantee you there will
be no discrimination against people from anywhere because this is a
disease from which people can be determined to be either cured or free
in the first place from any infection. As long as protocols are
followed, as long as the screenings are taken, I don’t think anybody has
to fear any form or any nature of discrimination. I think the efforts
of the United States, frankly, speak volumes against that possibility.
On the first part of your question about the promises of the two
leaders, let me make this clear: I think the real question ought to be
will the Nigerian people be able to count on the president, whoever it
is? The promises to the people of Nigeria – and to the world really, but
principally the people of Nigeria – and I think it’s up to the people
of Nigeria to make the judgment about whether they’re confident that any
particular person or candidate is going to live up to their word. It’s
not up to us to make that judgment. The proof will be in what happens in
the days ahead.
But I’m here today because President Obama and the American people and
the world are looking at Nigeria in this extraordinary exercise of
democracy, in this important country in Africa, with the largest
democratic election on the continent – and it matters. And that’s why
we’re here: to emphasize to everybody, nobody gains by violence. Nobody
gains by turning a political disagreement into a killing spree or some
other kind of violence. And our hope is that Nigeria will set a
remarkable example for the world in this election, and that that will
give whoever is President coming out of this election the momentum that
he needs in order to be able to define the future that the people of
this country so want. And the proof will be in the actions that are
taken in the course of the election and afterwards.
So thank you all very, very much. Appreciate it.