By Prudence Arobani
The U.S. says Nigeria’s 2019 general election and a peaceful transition, remained its major priority in view of the country’s strategic position in the region.
The U.S. Department of State said during a background briefing on the first trip of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa, monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria in New York.
Tillerson would meet with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government functionaries, and also leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya during his travels from Tuesday, March 6 to 13.
The department said over two decades ago, the number of countries in Africa with really democratically elected governments were really very few – only three or four.
It said, however, now we had over two dozen African countries with democratically elected governments and which are hopefully not going to have transitions in government through coup d’etats and other illegal methods.
“As we look at the 20 elections, obviously Nigeria, though it’s not this year – it’s going to be next year – that really is a major priority focus, because that’s going to be the third most populous country in the world by 2050.
“It has really very complex political issues and ethnic and tribal issues and security issues,
“And that’s an area that we really are focusing on how to do a peaceful transition, a democratic transition, but more important is how to hold governments accountable to the people,” the state department said.
The department explained that obviously, a lot of those African countries were still fragile democracies and the U.S. was trying to strengthen them.
The U.S. commended the most recent elections in Liberia, saying it was the first open, fair, and peaceful transition of government in over 75 years, saying that is a good thing.
It regretted what it called the “horrendous rule of Charles Taylor and the degradation of the institutions there, but now they’re building, and I think with the election of George Weah that’s going to be a positive thing”.
The U.S. also noted the election of Nana Akufo-Addo in Ghana, Alassane Ouattara in Cote d’Ivoire and Macky Sall in Senegal, describing them as positive developments.
It said, however, that Ethiopia remained a challenge for the U.S. and a focus for it as well and an opportunity.
The U.S. explained that it was looking at trying to build institutions, really strengthen institutions, and also have peaceful transitions and hold governments accountable to the people in Ethiopia.
It said it was also looking at how it could have reconciliation and dialogues between all of the different groups – the Oromos, the Amharas, the Tigrays, and also in Kenya with the opposition and with the ruling government.
Accordingly, the department said building strong institutions and holding governments accountable are some of the things that are certainly going to be the subjects of discussion during Tillerson’s trip.
“How do we advance political and economic reforms that will help in the transition process? Those are issues too that we’re working on in Zimbabwe with the transition between Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“And also we’re looking hopefully at South Africa with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa from Jacob Zuma and seeing how that’s going to transition,” the state department said.