Ben Carson announces year-end visit to three African countries

Source: Wash post

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson announced Monday that he will make a week-long trip to Africa at the end of December, visiting at least three countries on the continent in the days following Christmas.

Carson told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he will visit Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia, in part because of the strategic importance of those regions and because of his own family ancestry.

“I think a lot of our policy in the future is going to affect Africa, but those three in particular because my ancestors are from the Kenya-Tanzania region, the Turkana tribe. I’ve had all of that traced back,” he told Hewitt, according to a transcript of the interview. “To Nigeria, I want to get an ideal from the people what the effects of Boko Haram are, what people are thinking, to see what the economic situation is there, and also there’s a medical school there named after me which I want to visit.”

Carson said he will leave on Dec. 27 and will be abroad for about one week.

The retired neurosurgeon has seen a dramatic drop in support in national polls amid increased scrutiny over his grasp of foreign policy issues. National security has become central to the 2016 campaign in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris last month and potential terrorist ties to the San Bernardino shooting last week.

Carson traveled to Jordan shortly after Thanksgiving on a short “fact-finding” journey, where he visited to refugee camps. He has since said the trip informed his belief Syrian refugees not be brought into the country, instead saying that the international community should expand its aid to Jordan and its neighboring countries in order to maintain existing refugee camps. Carson has said the refugees he spoke to all expressed the desire to return to Syria one day, which would be made easier if they stayed in neighboring countries.

The trip was intended to boost Carson’s credibility on the refugee issue, which in addition to relating to the broader national security debate in the United States also is of particular importance to Christian evangelical voters.

“I have a tendency to like to see things firsthand. So you know, I went down to the Arizona border, went to Ferguson, when to Baltimore. You know, I tend to make a much bigger impression, so by going over to Jordan and actually talking to the Syrians themselves, and really getting their perspective on things, very different from what we hear in the media,” Carson said. “And it makes a difference. And I think we need to make decisions based on real information as opposed to filtered information.”

Carson, who took flack for not making his trip to Jordan open to the press, told Hewitt that there will be “some” press but did not elaborate on who would be joining his team.

The retired surgeon added that he will visit Zambia to check in on two former patients — twins who were conjoined at the head before he helped separate them.

“They were joined at the top of the head facing in opposite directions almost 18 years ago, and this is the year they graduate from high school,” he said.

“Wow,” responded Hewitt.

The Carson campaign said it will release further details later this week.