Nigeria: Democracy Gets Mugged


April 19, 2007: The government is using the police and army to assist political gangs that are attacking opposition campaigning efforts. Last weekends local elections were often invalid because of the intervention of the more powerful government backed gangs. This weekends presidential elections appear to be headed in the same direction. If that is the case, the country will have un-elected government at the state and national level. That, plus the usual corruption, could be enough to trigger the long feared civil war. Then again, Nigerian politics has evolved into a "survival of the fittest" contest, and that would mean just another African dictatorship. This is far more common than civil war in Africa.

April 18, 2007: In the northern city of Kano, police and soldiers killed at least 25 people as they sought those responsible for yesterdays attack on a police station. Kano is one of twelve northern states, where the Moslem majority has voted to use Islamic law (Sharia). But there are numerous Islamic groups that battle each other over exactly how Sharia should be interpreted and enforced.

April 17, 2007: In the northern city of Kano, Islamic militants attacked a police station, killing twelve policemen, and the wife of one of the cops. The police blame the spread of Islamic fundamentalism on radical clerics, and their followers, coming from nearby Chad.

April 13, 2007: Unidentified gunmen killed a prominent, and conservative, Islamic cleric in the northern city of Kano. Ustaz Jaafar Adam was shot while leading early morning prayers. The cleric had been a supporters of the Kano state governor, but had recently turned on the governor. The government immediately mobilized additional police and troops, as they expected Adams followers to turn violent.

April 11, 2007: Political violence leading up to state and local elections this weekend have left at least seventy dead. That number will probably double by the day after the election. The violence stems from the custom of politicians hiring local thugs to intimidate opposition voters, break up rallies and generally interfere with the other sides efforts. To remain competitive, all the major parties get themselves gangs. The national and state governments have not been able to shut down this practice. The thugs are often criminal enterprises that tend to their usual felonies (theft, extortion, prostitution, you name it) the rest of the year. The politicians use a lot of the money they steal, to pay off the gangsters. The thugs don't just intimidate voters, but will often go to polling placed on election day and forcibly cast votes for their guy.

April 9, 2007: The Niger Delta separatist group MEND says it has two Turkish engineers who were kidnapped two days ago. MEND wants a ransom, not political demands (like freeing jailed MEND members).


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