Theresa May’s first-ever visit to Nigeria is all about fighting off Boko Haram

A powerful ally.
A powerful ally.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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On the second stop of her first trip to Africa, UK prime minister Theresa May chose to focus on security in Nigeria.

Announcing a new security and defense pact today (Aug. 29), May committed to increased military support—through training and the provision of equipment—to help Nigeria combat the terrorist sect Boko Haram. The group has waged a deadly insurgency since 2009, killing more than 20,000 Nigerians and displacing millions more.

May’s pledge is notable given Nigeria’s struggles over the past decade to secure arms purchases. Under US president Barack Obama, Nigeria’s requests to purchase American military gear were delayed over charges of human-rights violations by Nigerian troops, some of which stemmed from a March 2015 report by Amnesty International. Nigeria’s military were accused of arbitrarily detaining and killing civilians in the northeast.

The UK also promised to fund $16 million in school equipment and training for teachers to serve 100,000 children disrupted by the insurgency. May announced plans for more economic co-operation with Nigeria, keeping with the overall theme of her visit to Africa as Brexit draws closer.

In Cape Town, the first stop on her visit, May signed signed trade deals with president Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa as well as representatives from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and eSwatini (Swaziland). May also notably backed land reform in South Africa, a recent hot-button issue. 

She will conclude her trip in Kenya, where she’ll be the first visiting UK prime minister in over 30 years. Security and defense will likely feature prominently there as well, given the prominence of  terrorist sect Al-Shabaab in the horn of Africa.