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In Africa, Kerry presses Nigeria on abuses

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Making his first official trip to sub-Saharan Africa, Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday demanded that Nigeria respect human rights as it cracks down on Islamist extremists and pledged to work hard in the coming months to ease tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.

Kerry, attending the African Union's 50th anniversary, backed the Nigerian government's efforts to root out Boko Haram, an al-Qaida-linked radical sect. But he said there is no excuse for abuses by armed forces in Nigeria's long-neglected north, where President Goodluck Jonathan has declared emergency rule.

"We defend the right completely of the government of Nigeria to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists," Kerry said.

He added, however, that he has raised his concerns with Nigerian officials to insist on the military "adhering to the highest standards and not itself engaging in atrocities."

"One person's atrocities do not excuse another's," said Kerry, who later made his case directly to Jonathan over lunch. "Revenge is not the motive. It's good governance, it's ridding yourself of a terrorist organization so that you can establish a standard of law that people can respect."

Amnesty International says Nigeria's military has committed "grave human rights violations" over the past three years, including executions and kidnappings.

Speaking to reporters, Kerry also blamed Sudan's government for much of the tension along its volatile border with South Sudan. -- AP

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