U.S. Removes Nigeria from Religious Freedom List ahead of Blinken’s Visit

•U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as he attends a civil society roundtable at the Sankara Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 17, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS.
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By Reuters/NAN.

Washington, Nov. 18, 2021 (Reuters/NAN) Washington on Wednesday removed Nigeria from its list of countries with religious freedom concerns, just a day before Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in the country as part of a tour of Africa.

Blinken is expected to arrive in Abuja on Thursday, where he is set to meet with officials including President Muhammadu Buhari and deliver a speech on U.S. Africa policy.

The U.S. secretary of state will be traveling to Nigeria from Kenya where he kicked off his Africa tour which will see him also travel to Senegal.

Blinken made an annual announcement on Wednesday of the countries on the list, naming Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as countries of particular concern. He also placed Algeria, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua on a watch list for religious freedom, and designated armed groups, including Islamic State and several of its affiliates, as entities of concern.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in April recommended that Nigeria remain on the list, citing “violence by militant Islamists and other non-state armed actors, as well as discrimination, arbitrary detentions, and capital blasphemy sentences by state authorities” in the country.

The commission, which had also recommended that India, Syria, and Vietnam be designated as countries of concern, said in a statement that it was “appalled” by the removal of Nigeria.

“We urge the State Department to reconsider its designations based on facts presented in its own reporting,” Chair Nadine Maenza said, referring to the department’s report on international religious freedom in May, which cited religious freedom concerns in Nigeria.




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