Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Trip to Kenya and Nigeria

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Via Teleconference
August 19, 2016


MODERATOR: Great, thank you. And thanks to everyone for joining today’s call to preview the Secretary’s travel to Kenya as well as Nigeria. We are very pleased to have [Senior State Department Official] join us today. As a reminder, for the purposes of the call, our speaker will be referred to as a senior State Department official. Again, the call is on background. It’s embargoed until wheels down in Kenya. And with that, I’ll turn the call over to our senior State Department official.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good. Thank you very much and delighted to be here. I will just run through very, very quickly our plans for this trip, and then I’d be happy to take questions from you.

The trip is August 21st through 24th. We will be starting in Nairobi, Kenya, where the President will – sorry, the Secretary will meet with President Kenyatta. The plans are to discuss regional security issues, counterterror/terrorism cooperation, as well as Kenya’s 2017 election. He will also have the opportunity while he’s in Kenya with the Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed to meet with other regional foreign ministers to discuss areas of mutual interest in the region, to include, of course, South Sudan as well as support for Somalia’s political transition. Additionally, in Kenya we have plans to meet with some of the President’s Young African Leader Initiative fellows as well as opportunities to meet with the opposition.

During the trip to Kenya, some of the key messaging will include an enhancement of our partnership with Kenya, a partnership that is strong and robust, and our appreciation to Kenya’s leadership in the area of regional peace and security. We will also be discussing with the Kenyans the next – the upcoming 2017 election, pressing them to hold free and peaceful and credible elections. This is a critical step, in our view, for Kenya consolidating its own democracy and realizing the promise of the 2010 constitution.

The Secretary will then leave Kenya on the 23rd of August in the morning headed to Sokoto in Nigeria. He’ll visit Sokoto. It’ll be the first time the Secretary will travel to northern Nigeria. This is a city that has been a political and trading and religious center since pre-colonial times, and it’s the capital of Sokoto state. It has a population of about 4 million. There the Secretary will meet with the sultan of Sokoto, who actually was in Washington a few weeks ago. He’ll also have the opportunity to meet with other religious leaders and talk to them about how we can engage with them in helping to prevent and counter the influence of violent extremist groups, particularly Boko Haram.

He will also give a speech on the importance of resilience in communities and religious tolerance and countering violent extremism. We in Sokoto will commend the Nigerian-led efforts to prevent conflict and strengthen the community, and identify and address some of the local grievances.

The Secretary will then travel to Abuja, where we have meetings with President Buhari and other members of the Nigerian Government. Areas of interest are the Nigerian economy, the fight against corruption, human rights issues, and of course, Boko Haram will play – and the fight against Boko Haram will play a major part in all of those discussions.

He will also meet with northern governors and religious leaders in Abuja, and we have plans for him to meet a group of adolescent girls who will be working – girls working to change community perceptions that devalue the role of girls.

During our trip to Nigeria, we will make clear in our meetings, as we did with Buhari last year, that we continue to support Nigeria in its efforts to fight corruption, strengthen democratic institutions after their historic elections, and to promote economic development and uphold regional security. And our hope is that we leave Nigerians with the message that Nigeria continues to have enormous potential, and we want to work with Nigerians as they move forward in tackling the serious challenges that they are facing. We’ll continue to assist where we can on security cooperation, on humanitarian assistance to displaced Nigerians, on equal access and opportunity for women and girls, and on religious tolerance for communities.

Why don’t I leave it there and I’ll look forward to your questions. I will mention that this is the Secretary’s third trip to Nigeria. (Inaudible.) Yeah.

MODERATOR: That sounds great. And thanks to our senior State Department official for that introduction. Operator, if you can just open up the lines for questions, we’ll get right to it.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, please press * then 1. Once again, for any questions or comments, press * then 1.

MODERATOR: Okay. If we have no questions, then that was a great --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Wow.

MODERATOR: -- background call for a Friday. Operator, any questions?

OPERATOR: No one has queued up. Please continue.

MODERATOR: That sounds great. [Senior State Department Official], would you like to offer any final thoughts?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, let me just mention that one of the areas that the Secretary will be looking to make some accomplishments on is the situation in South Sudan. We will be bringing together – the Kenyan foreign minister will be bringing the IGAD foreign ministers together to talk about how we move forward in trying to implement peace in this country. The people of South Sudan have suffered for far too long, and the continued instability there has led to almost a million refugees and a humanitarian crisis that is far beyond the abilities of even the international community to respond to. We will do everything in our power to assist the people of South Sudan in their efforts to find a peaceful solution and a way forward.

MODERATOR: That sounds great. Operator, one more call for questions?

OPERATOR: Very good. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, press * then 1. Once again, if you have a question or comment, press * followed by 1.

And no one has queued up. Please go ahead.

MODERATOR: That sounds great. So thanks, everyone, for joining the call. Have a safe trip. And thanks to our senior State Department official for [Senior State Department Official]’s time.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you.