President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said the United States’ (US) Leahy Law “aided and abetted” the campaign of bloodletting of Boko Haram.
According to Wikipedia, the Leahy Law is “a human rights law that prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity”.
Speaking at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Buhari urged the US government to review the law so that it could provide the needed assistance to Nigeria to crush Boko Haram.
“On the issue of terrorism, Nigerians have lived with fear and insecurity for far too long. The human and material costs of the insurgency in my country and to my people are staggering and unacceptable,” he said.
“Defeating Boko Haram and finding a durable solution to the underlying causes of the insecurity in Nigeria are therefore a major priority of the new administration. Nigerians understand that terrorism stifles development and undermines the stability of society. The government that I lead is committed, and will do whatever it takes, to free Nigeria from the menace of terrorism. No matter how long it takes, we will reclaim every inch of Nigerian territory that is under the control of Boko Haram. We shall continue to do these within the framework of the rule of law and in compliance with our international and domestic human rights obligations.
“Let me emphasize that, as a government, we have no illusions whatsoever about the enormity of the challenges ahead of us. We know that it will be a long and bruising struggle, but this is a fight we are in to win. Failure is not an option for us. We do not contemplate it.
“In the first week of my presidency, I visited Chad and Niger to strengthen cooperation within the Lake Chad Basin Commission Members, the primary region of the Boko Haram insurgency. Upon my return to Nigeria from the US, I shall visit Cameroon on the 29th of July to further strengthen our sub-regional efforts at countering terrorism. Already, I have released $21 million for the rapid take-off of the Multi-National Joint Task Force. This is the force set up by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria plus Benin to jointly combat the insurgency.
“We are confident that we will defeat terrorism in our country and region, because we have the will to win this fight. We will win because we have the support of the Nigerian people who voted us into office to do things differently in order to secure them from harm and provide for their prosperity and well being. We will win because the United States and indeed, the International Community, have pledged to stand with us in solidarity.
“But winning the battle against terrorism means we have to do things differently; after all, the race for the future will never be won by going backward or standing still. Winning means we must change our strategy in a manner that will prioritize the mobilization of maximum capacity to fight terrorism, while ensuring the safety and protection of local communities in the frontline of the fight against terrorism. We are also improving cooperation and coordination with our neighbours and other international partners to add depth and muscle to our overall strategy.
“In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours other international friends and partners. Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents. In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.
“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the U. S. Government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes. I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes.
“I therefore strongly appeal to both the Executive Arm and the US Congress to examine how the US Government can provide us with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings. The longer we delay, the deadlier the Boko Haram gets. At all events, we have re-written the rules of engagement protecting the rights of combatants and in particular safeguarding civilians in theatres of conflict.
“As we ramp up our efforts to defeat Boko Haram, we know that winning this battle sustainably will require that we expand economic opportunities and create jobs for our teeming young population. We must also improve the quality of governance; ensure that governments at all levels are responsive, inclusive, transparent and accountable, and that public institutions deliver services in a timely and efficient manner. We must win and sustain the trust of the people we govern.”