President Obama has begun a two-day visit of Ethiopia, the first sitting United States President to visit the East African country.
During talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, the world leaders reportedly emphasized the need for further cooperation between the countries when it comes to combating radical Islam.
“We have discussed a range of issues related to cooperation on security and peace-building in the region and on the pivotal role the U.S. can and does play, the Ethiopian prime minister said.
Prime Minister Hailemariam stated that, in particular, Ethiopia and the United States are going to closely cooperate to dismantle al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group associated with al-Qaeda that has been terrorizing Christians in the region.
In any plan put together to combat al-Shabaab, Ethiopia will likely play a major leadership role.
“Terrorist groups like al-Shabaab offer nothing but death and destruction and have to be stopped. We’ve got more work to do… We have to now keep the pressure on,” the president said in a speech.
Al-Shabaab is best known for two brutal terrorist attacks.
In 2013, gunmen associated with al-Shabaab opened fire in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. That attack lasted three days, and 67 were killed.
Al-Shabaab is also known for a 2015 attack on Garissa University in northeast Kenya, which killed nearly 150 Christian students.
More recently, al-Shabaab has been warning Christians in northern Kenya not to worship or else face violent punishment.
Although much of the violence is occurring away from Ethiopia in Kenya and Somalia, there are fears that the violence could spread across the borders.
Other topics related to national security were being discussed at the meeting, as well.
“We have agreed to work closely on South Sudan to bring lasting peace to the conflict-ridden country. We have both agreed to work together in building peace in Somalia by helping create stable institutions and by strengthening the Somali security forces in their quest to be in charge of the peace of their own country,” Hailemariam also said.
“I also shared with the Prime Minister our interest in deepening intelligence cooperation. And we’ve had some fruitful discussions about ending the flow of foreign financing for terrorism. Our cooperation regionally is excellent,” President Obama said in a question-and-answer session.