(New York, April 25, 2003) - The Nigerian government should act immediately to address the political violence and intimidation that occurred during the recent elections, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch called on President Olusegun Obasanjo and other leaders of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to restrain their party members and supporters from committing further acts of violence, and urged opposition leaders to ensure their supporters do not react violently to the elections.
“President Obasanjo must commit his government to upholding the rule of law,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “The Nigerian government has consistently failed to stamp out impunity for political violence, which then set the stage for the current electoral violence.”
Takirambudde added that as a leader in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), President Obasanjo has a responsibility not only to the Nigerian people but also to people across Africa to set an example of good governance.
According to official results, the PDP won a significant majority in both the presidential and gubernatorial elections of April 19 and the National Assembly polls of April 12. However, the elections have been marked by serious incidents of violence, and widespread vote rigging and fraud. The violence has included clashes between supporters of the PDP and the largest opposition party, the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). The ANPP and other parties have rejected the official results at various levels.
Some of the worst violence and intimidation during the election period occurred in the oil-rich Niger Delta, in Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, where PDP incumbents have been announced victorious in the governorship races.
Human Rights Watch called on the Nigerian government to investigate all reported cases of electoral violence, as well as the many incidents of political violence in the months and weeks leading up to the elections.
“Nigerian officials should ensure that those responsible for the electoral violence are brought to justice. This includes members of the ruling party who may have organized or participated in killings,” said Takirambudde.
In a report published just before the elections, “Testing Democracy: Political Violence in Nigeria,” Human Rights Watch documented an alarming rise in political violence and highlighted the lack of accountability for perpetrators.