U.S. committed to Chibok girls return, says envoy
The United States (U.S.) is not resting on its oars to ensure the safe return of the 219 Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Africa Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said yesterday.
She spoke at a media parley she jointly attended with Special Assistant to President Barack Obama on African Affairs, Grant Harris, on the on-going Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in Washington DC.
The envoy said Obama was in constant contact with governments of countries being affected by the Boko Haram activities, noting the U.S. was concerned about breach of peace in the affected countries and was also mapping out strategies to “deal with the lawless insurgents”.
The theme of the conference which began last Monday is: Investing in the Next Generation.
Obama met with 500 young Africans participating in the summit to provide supports they need to foster change in their countries.
Without peace, Mrs Thomas-Greenfield said, Africa’s development could be a mirage, saying how to achieve sustainable peace and economic growth would be part of the focus at the YALI Summit.
She said: “The problem of Boko Haram is one of the issues to be discussed by participants at the summit. We believe Boko Haram insurgency is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, it has turned regional problem, just the same way Al-Shabaab is terrorising Somalia and East Africa.”
Mrs Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. was always willing to invest in Africa’s development, noting that the objective of the YALI Summit was to promote good governance and economic development in the continent.
She said the focus of the summit would also be on how African governments could combat faming and engender viable agriculture sector that will boost food security on the continent.
The economic forum, which is one of the features of the YALI Summit, will be attended by 50 presidents or their representatives from Africa, the envoy said, stressing that the summit was also to support Africa’s aspiration for development and empower African leaders to solve challenges facing their countries.
“The relationship with Africa is based on shared interest and history. We believe it is a partnership that is moving in positive direction, which is to help African to stay ahead of the developmental challenges they face. African economy is growing rapidly and the U.S. would like to increase its investment to create jobs and opportunities for the youths. YALI would generate employment opportunities never seen before on African continent,” she said.
The envoy dismissed the notion that Obama cut aid to Africa because of anti-gay stance of African leaders, saying: “The U.S. is not at loggerheads with African governments on the passing of anti-gay laws but America, while respecting the sovereignty of all nations, will continue to push for the rights of the gay people.”
On whether the United States was disturbed by the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa sub region, Mrs Thomas-Greenfield, a former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, said America had stepped up its humanitarian activities by partnering with World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international humanitarian groups to provide protective materials and treatment for victims.
To achieve the aims of the summits, the envoy said U.S. would continue to press for institution-building among African leaders, noting that President Obama would continue to reject manipulation of state institution to promote individual lust for power.
“President Obama has never supported and will not support any leader who manipulates institutions for personal benefit. The president believes in building strong institutions and supports democratic succession. This, we believe, is at the heart of development in Africa,” she said.
The Initiative was established last April, with the network already have more than 68,000 members.
Journalists, who participated in the media briefing in the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, were trained on how to effectively use the social media by Chief of New Media for U.S. Department of State, Ms Corina DuBois.
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