Good afternoon – or good evening, everybody. Thank you for your patience here, we’re a little late. I just want to start by reporting to you with great sorrow that as we, the United Nations, and Cameroonian officials drove to Mokoko this morning, a vehicle in the convoy that we were a part of struck a young boy. Although he received immediate medical care from an ambulance in our convoy, he died shortly thereafter.
This afternoon, I joined the governor of the area – the Cameroonian governor, the leading UN official who manages the humanitarian and development response, and Ambassador Hoza, and we visited with the boy’s family to offer our profound condolences and to express our grief and heartbreak over what the family is going through. So I wanted to share that immediately.
In terms of the rest of the trip today, which of course was very clouded by what had happened on the journey to visit with IDPs and with refugees, we met with families who described for us the human consequences of Boko Haram’s terror. In the refugee camp we visited with, virtually every family you encountered has some horrific memory of Boko Haram coming into their village – whether that’s Nigerians who have come across the border to Cameroon, or Cameroonians who’ve been attacked in their own homes here in this country, IDPs. Vivid memories of soldiers coming in, burning everything, stealing livestock, killing the men, abducting the girls, killing often the girls and the boys, as well. So, none of us needed a reminder of Boko Haram’s brutality, but to go into a camp and to see so many people affected by this terror only deepens and reinforces our commitment to the people of Cameroon, to the people of Nigeria, Niger, Chad – all of you who are attempting to fight this terror. The United States stands with you, and we will look to support you economically as well as through providing intelligence and military and other support.
One of the young women that we met with today was a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who is living now in a camp with her younger sister, who’s been reunited, mercifully, with her mother. She had Boko Haram come to her village and tell her “either you marry me, and effectively become my slave, or I kill you and the rest of your family.” Imagine what it would be like. Even though she managed to escape finally, and even though the people who did this to her and the man who enslaved her, effectively, is now in jail – what she carries, the trauma she carries, the scars that she carries, are scars the likes of which I can’t even imagine. So we also will do everything we can to support the UN and the Cameroonian authorities and NGOs and others who provide psycho-social services, because these wounds are going to be very long in healing and it’s extremely important for the cause of reconciliation that we support beautiful young women like this young girl that we met in the camp.
I just want to underscore that America’s support for this effort is one that cuts across all areas. We cannot defeat Boko Haram only using military force. Of course, military force has to be part of it; they have guns, they have suicide vests, they have armored vehicles – they have those things, and we will fight them. And we will join you and support your fight against them. But we also have to ensure that as we take the fight to Boko Haram with us supporting you, that we do so in a manner that respects the lives of civilians in the areas where Boko Haram is operating.
The last thing we want to do is neutralize one Boko Haram soldier and create five or 10 people who want to become part of Boko Haram as we support your military efforts. So this is a really important message. It’s also extremely important that parts of Cameroon and Nigeria that have suffered economically – and suffered more now because of Boko Haram, because the border is closed – that those communities get economic support, that they obtain it of course from the international community – emergency support and development support – but also that the governments in the region that are fighting Boko Haram understand the centrality of political inclusion and economic development to the long-term ability to keep Boko Haram not just out of territory, but to defeat Boko Haram in the long-term.
Your militaries in the region are capable of clearing Boko Haram out of territory, but it is extremely important that communities are able to go back to those lands; that they can hold the territory, and then that they can build on those lands. And to do that, we have to have a comprehensive strategy, one that includes respect for human rights, inclusion – political inclusion – economic development, and of course, physical security provided by the police and on the borders by military forces. So I thank you and thank you for welcoming me to your country. Thank you.