Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari met with President Obama Monday in an effort to reinvigorate relations between the two countries and work towards a less radicalized West Africa.
Buhari, elected in March, has been public with his desire to reaffirm a relationship with the United States as he makes sweeping changes to the military structure there, seeking additional aid in combating Boko Haram and corruption in his country. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Buhari writes, “The fact that I now seek Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials is testament to how badly Nigeria has been run. This way of conducting our affairs cannot continue.”
The White House quickly issued an invite following Buhari’s election victory, a tell-tale sign of how important the Nigerian ally is in a region plagued by insurgents. The 2014 kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram have led to increased tensions between the U.S. and Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, resulting in the Nigerian government’s inability to effectively combat insurgents gaining momentum in the country.
As a result, the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign became notably recognized across the country, prompting an international response against the Nigerian government.
As Boko Haram continues to gain ground, more than 13,000 lives have been lost in countless attacks forcing over a million from their homes.
Monday’s meeting with Buhari comes as Cuba’s D.C. embassy re-opened after more than five decades of severed ties between the two countries. Efforts to restore a relationship there, coupled with efforts in countries like Nigeria, draw focus to the Obama administration’s efforts to solidify its legacy and define its wide-reaching foreign policy approach.
Buhari will also attend meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry during his U.S. visit.