By Simdi Gloria:-
For the first time, the United States has placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist making way for potential sanctions if it does not improve its record.
Mike Pompeo, State Secretary designated the US ally as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom, alongside nations that include China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
US law requires such designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Nations on the blacklist are Eritrea, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan and Sudan were removed from a second-tier watch list by Pompeo.
Their relations with the United States have rapidly warmed after the ousting of dictator Omar al-Bashir and its recent agreement to recognise Israel.
On Nigeria, an annual State Department report pointed to the mass detention of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria(IMN), a Shiite Muslim group that has been at loggerheads with the government for decades.
Nigeria has been criticised for its treatment of the movement, including in a 2015 clash in which hundreds were said to have died.
The report highlighted the arrests of Muslims for eating in public in Kano state during Ramadan when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight hours.
The approval of a bill in Kaduna state to regulate religious preaching was also noted.
The State Department has already listed Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
An insurgency by these militants in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria has since spread to neighbouring countries, killing more than 36,000 people and forcing three million to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
According to US law, nations on the blacklist must improve or face sanctions which includes losses of US government assistance, although the administration can waive actions.
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