Kerry pushes Nigeria to protect human rights during Africa trip

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Nigerian leaders to order their troops to protect the human rights of enemy combatants during his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

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Speaking during a press conference after meeting with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Kerry said Nigerian leaders had to balance their right to defend their country with the need to observe international law.

“I have raised the issue of human rights with the government, with the foreign minister,” Kerry said in response to a question about Boko Haram groups that are battling in Nigeria.

“We have talked directly about the imperative of Nigerian troops adhering to the highest standards and not themselves engaging in atrocities or in human rights violations,” Kerry continued.

“That is critical. And the balance comes by having strong leadership – leadership from the civilian government, leadership that flows through the forces that are there.”

Kerry called Boko Haram a “terrorist organization” and he said that the U.S. acknowledges Nigeria’s right to defend itself.

But he said that “one person’s atrocity does not excuse another’s."

“Revenge is not the motive,” Kerry said. “It’s good governance. It’s ridding yourself of a terrorist organization so that you can establish a standard of law that people can respect. And that’s what needs to happen in Nigeria.”