John Kerry heads U.S. delegation at President Buhari’s swearing-in
BY JIBRIL TURE
The U.S. delegation at this Friday’s swearing-in ceremony of president-elect Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja was headed by Secretary of State John Kerry who was accompanied by Gen. David M. Rodriguez, head of the U.S. Africa Command. A brief meeting between Buhari and Kerry after the swearing-in ceremony was the new president’s meeting with any foreign dignitary.
The presence of Gen. Rodriguez finds its justification in the United States’ plan to jumpstart strained relationship between the administration of former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and the Obama administration over matters related to military cooperation, intelligence sharing and human rights violations (on the part of Nigeria) including extrajudicial execution and incommunicado detention, all of which led to the cancellation of a military training planned for earlier this year. The relationship was also strained by Washington’s exasperation over rampant corruption in the Nigerian army and across the Jonathan’s administration, not to mentin the former Nigerian president’s reluctance to take on the terrorist group Boko Haram.
In statements reportedly recorded by The Punch, a popular Nigerian newspaper, after the swearing-in ceremony, Kerry praised Buhari’s inaugural speech as a ‘powerful agenda’. “The inauguration is historic and very promising. The President made a very important speech, laid out a very powerful agenda and the United States is prepared to work very closely to help to do everything we can on the economy, Boko Haram and other issues. The President did a great job today,” the newspaper quoted Kerry as saying.
Despite the strained relations with Nigeria, the Obama administration worked extensively to ensure that the just-concluded presidential, gubernatorial, legislative and local elections are conducted transparently and the results accepted by all: “And when elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins,” President Obama stated in a video posted on the White House official website.