Nigerian leader urges peaceful vote amid electoral violence

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Nigerian leader urges peaceful vote amid electoral violence

“No political ambition can justify violence or the shedding of the blood of our people,” Jonathan said Friday in a televised broadcast.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 27 Mar 2015, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 9:15 PM

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan urged his nation to vote peacefully and accept the results of Saturday’s presidential elections, which analysts say will be the most tightly contested in the history of Africa’s richest nation and its largest democracy.

“No political ambition can justify violence or the shedding of the blood of our people,” Jonathan said Friday in a televised broadcast.

Dozens already have been killed in a country steeped in bloodshed caused by politics, ethnicity, land disputes and, lately, the Boko Haram uprising.

The close contest should be “cause to celebrate” and signal growing democracy, said Chidi Odinkalu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

Instead, the high-stakes contest in Africa’s biggest oil producer where patronage and corruption are rife has spawned “the most extraordinary form of hate speech, incendiary vituperations, ethnic bating; all the things you are not supposed to do,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.

His state-sponsored but independent organization reported at least 58 killings by Feb. 13 and there have been many more since then, Odinkalu said.

He complained that politicians have done little to dampen tensions.

Nigeria’s political landscape was transformed when main opposition parties formed a coalition two years ago and for the first time united behind one candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for president for the fourth time.

Jonathan’s party has governed since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999. His insistence on running has caused many defections to the opposition by politicians who say Jonathan is breaking an unwritten party rule to rotate power between the mainly Christian south, where he is from, and the predominantly Muslim north that is Buhari’s stronghold.

Buhari’s loss to Jonathan in 2011 elections sparked riots in his northern stronghold that killed more than 1,000 people, according to the human rights commission. A complaint before the International Criminal Court at The Hague accuses Buhari of instigating the violence, a charge the retired general denies.

In recent days, the church of a pastor who backed Jonathan has been burned down in northern Kaduna state, the opposition governor of a southern state was shot at as he campaigned, and there has been nightly gunfire in Lagos, the commercial capital in the southwest where Odinkalu said there is an “arms race” getting weapons to ethnic militias.

Jonathan and Buhari signed peace pledges Thursday and urged their supporters to avoid violence.

Security forces are on high alert against electoral and extremist violence and all Nigeria’s land and sea borders have been closed as an extra precaution. There are extra roadblocks in cities like Abuja, the capital that has been rocked by three massive suicide bomb blasts in the past year that killed hundreds and were blamed on Boko Haram.

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