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Multinational Military Offensive Against Boko Haram Delays General Elections in Nigeria by Six Weeks

02/07/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Nigeria Electoral Commission has postponed the February 14 general elections for six weeks. The announcement of a multinational military offensive to regain territory in northeast Nigeria currently held by radical Islamic insurgency, Boko Haram, reportedly lead to the commission’s decision to delay what many have argued will be the most contentious election in Nigeria’s democratic history.

The postponement follows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Nigeria, during which he met both southern Christian and incumbent president, Goodluck Johnathan, and northern Muslim and opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. While in Nigeria, Secretary Kerry implored the electoral commission to move forward with the general elections as planned. Kerry was quoted as having stated it was “imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled,” asserting that holding free, fair and credible elections on time is
“one of the best ways to fight back against Boko Haram.”

The Johnathan administration, however, has repeatedly requested the elections be postponed; whereas. the Buhari campaign sided with the Secretary in support of holding the general elections as planned. According to a December poll by The Economist, Johnathan and Buhari are tied at 46% heading into the elections; though, the success or failure of a military offensive against Boko Haram could upset that tie in favor of either candidate.

Today, the African Union concluded a three-day conference in Cameroon’s capital city of Youndé to finalize details for a 7,500 member multinational force to fight Boko Haram. Troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin are to set to compose the force; but, the troop deployments may be delayed as some conference attendees reportedly conditioned support on U.N. funding.

The presidential runoff—a rerun of the 2011 presidential election—has experts and everyday Nigerians weary of the potential for post-election violence. Following Buhari’s loss to Johnathan in that contest, Muslims, primarily in the north, committed a pogrom against their Christian neighbors, burning down more than 700 churches and destroying more than 300 Christian homes and businesses. In all more than 800 people died as result of the violence.

Boko Haram, which has targeted crowded places with suicide and car bombings in its campaign of terror to establish a separate Islamic state, also poses a considerable threat to the safety of election participants. Northeastern states, including Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa and Yobe, remain under a state of emergency heading into the elections.

As result of violence committed by the Boko Haram insurgency, an estimated 1.5 million Nigerians have been displaced, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters, primarily from the country’s majority-Muslim north. As evidenced by numerous statements made during a recent congressional hearing on the situation in Nigeria, experts fear that regardless of the election’s outcome, the next administration will face great difficulty in securing the consent of the Nigerian people to govern. It remains unclear whether the military offensive that instigated the postponement will expand the pool of viable voters prior to the elections.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Cameron Thomas, said, “Regardless of the postponement, we remain concerned for the safety and security of the Nigerian people in the upcoming general elections. In recent months, Boko Haram has made major advancements and thoroughly established itself as Africa’s preeminent terrorist organization. While we hope and pray that the offensive will restore considerable amounts of territory to the control of the Nigerian state, we continue to call for greater efforts to secure polling locations in light of Boko Haram’s expanded capabilities. Furthermore, we call on spiritual, political and community leaders across Nigeria to promote peace regardless of the outcome of the impending elections. Nigeria can only move forward to address the many serious issues it faces in unity.”

For Interviews, contact ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Cameron Thomas:

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