The decision to release former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) and Convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoleye Sowore was announced few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met the new United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Leonard was in the Presidential Villa to present her Letter of Credence to resume as the new head of her country’s mission in Nigeria. The U.S. Senate reportedly confirmed Ambassador Leonard on August 1, 2019 after she was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump on June 24, 2019.
Without revealing so many details, the Presidency quotes Ambassador Leonard as saying her country placed Nigeria on a watch list to deepen the conversation on the humanitarian situation in the country. In her own words “the report will deepen conversation of the situation in the country especially with religious leaders and mediators”.
It will be recalled that on December 18, 2019, Nigeria and six other countries including Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Sudan were on the recommendation of the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added on the Special Watch List (SWL) of states that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom among others.
President Buhari is reported to have told the new American envoy that he took some time to explain to President Trump the situation in Nigeria when the two of them met in Washington DC in April 2018. He said that he needed to offer the explanation because the American President while hosting him “expressed concern with reports of attacks on segments of the society”.
He added that “I know that those with access have created an impression of being marginalised… I sit here with a clear conscience. I took an oath and I am honouring the office…It is not an easy task to work for the unity of the country, and I am doing my best. During your stay in the country I am asking you to ensure that your sources of strategic information cut across”.
In recent weeks, there were reports of some members of the American government also expressing serious concerns about human rights issues and obedience to the rule of law by the administration of President Buhari. Ambassador Leonard had told President Buhari that “there are people who make things less attractive than they seem”.
The 57-year old diplomat is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor. A multi-linguist who speaks French, Spanish, Afrikaans, and Dutcha in addition to English has served in different capacities across U.S missions especially in Africa.
Until her accreditation to Nigeria, Ambassador Leonard was the U.S Representative to the African Union (AU), with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. She also served concurrently as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ambassador Leonard who joined the State Department in 1988 has served the U.S Government in Cameroon, Namibia, Togo, South Africa, Suriname and Mali where she was recognised with the Department’s Diplomacy for Human Rights Award in 2013. This is an honor that annually recognizes a U.S. Chief of Mission who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to defending human rights and advancing democratic principles in his or her host country.
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