Nigerian post election riots kill many

April 19, 2011 12:00 am

, KANO, Nigeria, Apr 19 – A new outbreak of post-poll rioting in northern Nigeria left many dead overnight, the Red Cross said on Tuesday, after President Goodluck Jonathan appealed for unity following his win.

Authorities have not given a death toll for the rioting that began sporadically over the weekend over allegations of vote rigging and quickly spread to some 14 states on Monday. An estimated 15,000 have been displaced.

"Things are relatively calm right now, but violent protests went on last night, especially in Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara (states)," Umar Abdul Mairiga, the Nigeria Red Cross disaster management coordinator, told AFP.

"What may come out of there is not very palatable because many people were killed, especially in southern Kaduna. The displaced people are getting hostile because nothing is coming up in terms of relief."

Jonathan, the first president from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region, was declared winner late Monday of a landmark vote that exposed regional tensions and led to the deadly rioting.

He took 57 percent of the vote in Africa\’s most populous nation, easily beating his northern rival, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who had 31 percent.

Buhari has not spoken publicly of the results, but his party has rejected them and filed a challenge. In brief comments to the BBC\’s Hausa service on Tuesday, Buhari condemned the rioting.

"I disassociate myself and my party from what happened," he said.

"I contested elections in 2003 and 2007, but I never resorted to violence. I have no reason to do so this time around. I urge people to remain calm and law-abiding."

An unspecified number of people were killed Monday in the main northern city of Kano when homes and shops were attacked, and also in Gombe when a home was set ablaze and in Kaduna, where mobs had stopped people on the highway.

Vice President Namadi Sambo\’s home was torched and a 24-hour curfew was imposed in his native state of Kaduna. A prison was raided and inmates set free.

Jonathan reached out to his opponents in his victory speech late Monday and called for national unity, also saying Africa\’s largest oil producer had shown itself capable of holding fair polls.

"I congratulate the candidates of the other political parties," he said. "I regard them not as opponents, but as partners."

Jonathan mentioned by name his main challengers, including Buhari, saying he wanted to pay tribute to them.

Observers hailed the conduct of the poll as a major step forward for a nation with a history of violent and deeply flawed elections.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague congratulated Jonathan and said the election "appears to be the most credible since the end of military rule in 1999".

The Project 2011 Swift Count group of local observers said Monday the official results matched closely with its sample of 1,441 polling units. It called the results an "accurate reflection of how Nigerians voted".

But concerns were raised over Jonathan\’s extraordinarily high totals in certain states, including his native Bayelsa, where he took 99.63 percent.

The vote also showed a country deeply divided between its predominately Christian south and mainly Muslim north.

In Monday\’s riots churches were burnt while mobs roamed in a number of states, armed with sticks and setting bonfires alight in the streets. Protesters fought running battles with soldiers in Kano.

A mosque was burnt early Tuesday in Kano in apparent reprisal, prompting Christian-owned shops to be destroyed, but normal activity appeared to be returning to much of the city.

Police said the rioting had been instigated by those unhappy with the results and it was "neither ethnic nor religious". The military made similar comments and warned it was ready to act.

Jonathan, from a family of canoe makers and who rose to the presidency in May 2010 after the death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar\’Adua, condemned the violence.

"I enjoin our political and religious leaders in their usual sense of patriotism to call on their followers to eschew all acts of bitterness and violence," he said.

"As I have always stated, nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian."


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