18 April, 2011

VIOLENCE IN THE NORTH


Nigerian incumbent's election win spurs unrest

Ex-PM Clark observing Nigerian election

Results from Saturday's election released live on national television indicated Jonathan had a commanding lead of more than 10 million votes with only two states left to be announced. The Muslim north had largely voted for former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.
 
 President Goodluck Jonathan, seen voting on Saturday, had an insurmountable lead with only a few states' results left to count. (Joseph Penney/Reuters) Buhari's party brought a formal complaint Monday afternoon to the national electoral commission over vote tallies, alleging massive rigging in Jonathan's home state. The letter also alleged that the computer software used to tally results had been tampered with in northern states to favour the ruling party.
"What is being exhibited to the world is not collated from polling units but … a lot of manipulations," the letter read.
In a statement, the federal police blamed the violence on "persons who failed to accept the results," denying it came from religious or ethnic roots.
Witnesses said youths in the northern city of Kano were setting fires to homes that bore Jonathan party banners. Heavy gunfire also could be heard. A reporter there saw hundreds of youths carrying wooden planks in the street, shouting "Only Buhari" in the local Hausa language.
In Kaduna, home to the oil-rich nation's vice-president, angry young men burned tires in the streets and threw stones at police and soldiers trying to restore order, witnesses said.
"Right now, I'm holed up in my room. There's gunshots everywhere," said Shehu Sani, a civil rights leader. "They are firing and killing people on the street."
Federal emergency management agency spokesman Yushua Shuaib declined to release casualty figures out of fears it would further stoke sectarian violence.
Nigeria's elections have long been marred by violence and rigging. But voting in Saturday's presidential election had been largely peaceful apart from a hotel blast that wounded eight people and the fatal shooting of a police officer at a polling station.
Nigeria, a country of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria's north have Islamic Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.
Jonathan, who became president after his Muslim predecessor died in office last year, has long been considered the front-runner. His ruling People's Democratic Party has dominated politics in the West African giant since it became a democracy 12 years ago.
However, the country's Muslim north remains cold to Jonathan as the Christian from the south who took over after the death of the country's elected Muslim leader.
Many of the north's elite wanted the ruling party to honour an unwritten power-sharing agreement calling for a Muslim candidate to run in this election, yet Jonathan prevailed in the party's primary.
 NEWS
 

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