By William Wan
JJust as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton takes off for a 10-day trip across Africa, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has issued a letter asking her to bring up specifically the topic of religious freedoms in Nigeria, where a clash between religious factions has left more than 700 dead.
For years, Nigeria has seen violent struggles between its Islamic and Christian sects. Here’s a Reuters timeline tracking the bloody history. But the unrest reached a peak in recent weeks, when the Islamic Boko Haram sect attacked a police station in a five-day uprising , sparking violence that killed more than 700, according to Red Cross estimates.
In its recent the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom–an independent U.S. agency, whose job is to make sure religious freedom is taken into account in U.S. foreign policy–asked that Clinton talk to Nigerian officials about “religious freedom issues.” The USCIRF also issued this conclusion:
USCIRF concluded that the government of Nigeria has done little to prevent sectarian violence and that there have been no serious efforts to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators of the numerous sectarian killings and crimes that have occurred over the past ten years
Here’s an outline of Clinton’s upcoming trip from a state department press conference:
Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde, starting on August 4 and returning to the United States on August 14. The trip will start at the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, known mostly as the AGOA Forum, in Nairobi, Kenya, where she will deliver a speech at the ministerial opening ceremony of the forum on August the 5th.
The Secretary’s trip comes just three weeks after President Obama’s successful trip to Accra, Ghana, and will highlight and underscore the Obama Administration’s commitment to making Africa a priority in U.S. foreign policy. This is the earliest trip by the Secretary of State and the President to Africa of any previous administration.