Monday, May 16, 2011

The post-election violence killed 800 people in three days

The wave of post-election violence that swept Nigeria in mid-April, killed 800 people in just three days. So just to confirm what Human Rights Watch (HRW), the organization that ensures respect for human rights in the world, which also indicates that ethnic and religious hatred spread in 12 northern states [of a total of 36 in Nigeria], a Muslim majority in the days following the presidential election.

The organization also urges state and federal authorities to "investigate promptly and channel the violence orchestrated and carried out the crimes" in order to "get to the root causes of the recurring communal violence" in the country , Africa's most populous with 150 million inhabitants.

Nigeria held elections, presidential and federal agencies in April, with ballots that were applauded by the international community for its outstanding level of transparency, but nevertheless led to tragic days that blood stained northern Nigeria. The violence began with the massive protests by supporters of the candidate Muhammadu Buhari, of the Congress for Progressive Change, the main opposition, the same day that the Electoral Commission proclaimed the winner by outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party hegemony, which made with 56% of the votes in the first round.

Within hours, the protests turned into violent riots and even sectarian killings in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara, reports the organization, which also recalls that according to official figures the number of displaced rises to more than 65,000 people.

"The April elections were ranked among the fairest in the history of Nigeria, but also were among the bloodiest," said Corinne Dufka, a researcher at HRW in West Africa. "Elected officials should take advantage of democratic success of the elections by bringing to justice those who orchestrated these horrible crimes and getting to the root of violence," also calls Dufka in the report to be released today.

The organization Human Rights Watch said the protest quickly degenerated into riots with burning tires, assault, sabotage and assassinations in the north, where Muslims attacked and killed Christians and other members of the southern Nigerian ethnic groups, accusing them of having supported the party hegemonic.

The burning of churches, shops and homes became commonplace, as well as attacks on police stations and offices of the ruling party and the electoral commission. In Christian majority areas in the northern state of Kaduna, Christian bands took the law into their own and retaliated against Muslims, burning mosques and other properties.

According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, the coalition of the majority of Christian churches in the African nation, at least 170 Christians were killed in election violence, hundreds injured and thousands displaced. The organization also reported that more than 350 churches were burned down in ten states in Nigeria.

In his analysis of post-election violence, HRW also notes that both the police and armed forces have been involved in excessive use of force and other serious abuses in its response to the riots. HRW has evidence that in at least eight occasions the security forces illegally killed unarmed Nigerians in the towns of Zaria and Kaduna, while indicating that the figure could rise to more than a dozen.

The police spokesman in the state of Kaduna told HRW that more than 500 people have been arrested and released with charges after last month's violence, though the organization is complaining that justice has failed in Nigeria previous occasions to carry out serious criminal investigations that concluded with sentences for offenders.

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