Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nigerian Elections: 800 people killed in post-election violence

Post-election violence in northern Nigeria, following the April 2011 presidential polls, has left more than 800 people dead, Human Rights Watch reported.

The victims were killed in three days of rioting in 12 northern states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara).

The violence began with widespread protests by supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), following the re-election of incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).
Jonathan was declared winner of the presidential election after obtaining about 57 per cent of the total votes cast, with 22.5 million votes, to Buhari's 12.2 million votes; in an election that was declared by international observers as free and fair.

The protests, which degenerated into violent riots in the 12 northern states, caused the displacement of 65, 000 people, according to estimates given by relief officials.

“The April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria's history, but they also were among the bloodiest,” said Corinne Dufka, the senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The newly elected authorities should quickly build on the democratic gains from the elections by bringing to justice those who orchestrated these horrific crimes and addressing the root causes of the violence.”

Muslim rioters targeted and killed Christians and members of ethnic groups from southern Nigeria, who were perceived to have supported the ruling party, burning their churches, shops, and homes. The rioters also attacked police stations and ruling party and electoral commission offices. In predominately Christian communities in Kaduna State, mobs of Christians retaliated by killing Muslims and burning their mosques and properties.

In many of the northern towns and cities, Christians found refuge in police stations and military barracks. In the South, especially states like Anambra, Muslim women and children flocked to police stations for safety. The police successfully protected people in many cases, but they were largely ineffective at controlling the rioting and violence in other places.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization for Christian churches in Nigeria, reported that at least 170 Christians were killed in the post-election riots, hundreds more were injured, and thousands displaced. The organization also stated that the Muslim rioters destroyed more than 350 churches across 10 northern states.

Human Rights Watch estimates that in Kaduna State, at least 180 people, and possibly more, were killed in the cities of Kaduna and Zaria and their surrounding suburbs. There were cases of unlawful battering of citizens by the police and army officials in response to riots and sectarian violence. Such cases were reported in Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe. In Zaria and Kaduna, police and soldiers allegedly killed eight residents, Human Rights Watch said.

On May 11, President Jonathan appointed a new 22-member panel to investigate the causes and extent of the election violence.

The police spokesperson in Kaduna State reported that more than 500 people have been arrested and charged following the recent post-election violence. But police and state prosecutors in the past have rarely followed through with criminal investigations and effective prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch documented eight cases of alleged unlawful killing of unarmed residents by the police and soldiers in the cities of Zaria and Kaduna, and received credible reports of more than a dozen other incidents.

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