ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA— The United States is concerned about what it says are "continuing" human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces in their fight against Islamic militants. It is part of the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the African Union summit in Ethiopia.
When Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced a state of emergency against Boko Haram militants earlier this month, U.S. officials expressed concern about a "heavy-handed" response by some security forces in northern communities.
Briefing reporters ahead of Kerry's talks here at the African Union summit, a senior State Department official said Washington has monitored the conduct of Nigerian forces during this state of emergency and concludes that human rights abuses are continuing.
The official said, "It still remains a concern for us," along with "peace, stability in the north and human rights issues."
Human rights groups and some northern leaders have complained about reprisal attacks by Nigerian security forces that only serve to further alienate local populations, making it harder to gain information about the Boko Haram group.
Jonathan has ordered an investigation into alleged misconduct during security operations in the village of Baga, and he and Kerry are expected to discuss the campaign against Boko Haram in talks on the sidelines of the AU summit.
Kerry will meet separately with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti and with South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir. Those talks are expected to focus on issues of border security and the agreement between Sudan and South Sudan that has resumed oil exports.
Kerry will hold talks with African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on peacekeeping for northern Mali, and security in both Somalia and East Africa's Great Lakes region.
Kerry also will consult with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on broad issues of African security and preparations for peace talks on Syria's civil war. U.S. officials say the secretary of state will stop in Paris on his way home from this trip to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about those talks on Syria, as well.
While in Ethiopia, Kerry will meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to discuss economic reforms and prospects for Middle East peace, as well as with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is the current chair of the African Union.