NEW YORK— President Barack Obama has promised Nigeria's leader the U.S. will help fight terrorism in that country. In their meeting ahead of Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the two leaders discussed the terrorist attack in Kenya and similar threats to Nigeria.
Obama's discussion Monday with President Goodluck Jonathan dealt with the threat that terrorism poses across Africa, including in Nigeria where the government is battling the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The president said the United States will continue helping Nigeria build capacity to deal with the problem, which he called “an extraordinary security challenge.”
But it is the attack by al-Shabab terrorists on a shopping mall in Kenya that now dominates headlines.
Obama referred to his telephone conversation Sunday with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost family members in the attack. He said the United States stands with the people of Kenya, and vowed to work with all of Africa to dismantle terrorist networks.
“This I think underscores the degree to which all of us as an international community have to stand against the kind of senseless violence that these kinds of groups represent," the president said. "And the United States will continue to work with the entire continent of Africa and around the world to make sure that we are dismantling these networks of destruction."
Jonathan called the United States and Nigeria “natural allies” and spoke of Nigeria's role in helping to stabilize West Africa and the rest of the continent.
Referring to the “dastardly attack” in Nairobi, he said it underscores the need to fight terrorism.
“Terror anywhere in the world is terror on all of us, and we call on diplomat leaders to come together and fight terror, and until we all agree to wipe out terror all over the world, the world will continue to be embarrassed by these acts of violence," Jonathan said.
Jonathan said Nigeria needs more U.S. support to deal with its own terrorism problem.
Obama said U.S. assistance would help Nigeria confront the problem in a way that is consistent with human rights.
The two leaders also discussed elections in Nigeria in 2015, with Obama stressing the importance of ensuring that the elections improve the country’s democratic process.
In the first of only three formal bilateral meetings on his schedule in New York, Obama and Jonathan also discussed the goal of spreading electricity throughout the continent, and helping to empower young Africans.
Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.