Nigeria has been placed on the United States Special Watch-List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom. This was announced in a statement by Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, on Friday.
Other countries added to the list besides Nigeria are Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan. The US secretary of state did not say why Nigeria was added to the list, but it may be connected to the clampdown on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) by the government. “On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom,” the statement read.
“The Department renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list. “Sudan was moved to the SWL due to significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous regime’s “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” Pompeo also announced that the Department of State also designated Boko Haram as an “entity of particular concern”. According to him, the designation is to underscore the US stance on the need for religious freedom and tolerance. He said: “Finally, we designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern. “These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protecting those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief. We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience. We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions. “No country, entity, or individual should be able to persecute people of faith without accountability. We have acted, and we will continue to do so.”