Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria votes in tight Jonathan-Buhari contest

BBC

Nigeria decides

Nigerians are going to the polls to elect a president, with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from Muhammadu Buhari.

It is said to be the most closely fought election since independence.

The election was delayed by six weeks to allow the army to recapture territory from militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The two main presidential candidates have pledged to prevent violence during the election and its aftermath.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, but the All Progressives Congress (APC) is viewed as a serious challenge.

Some 800 people were killed after the 2011 contest between Mr Jonathan and Gen Buhari, a former military ruler.

Follow live update from the Nigeria election here

The polls were due to open at 07:00 GMT.

Voters in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja – the capital – will also elect members of the house of representatives and the senate.

On Friday, the Nigerian army said it had retaken the town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of Boko Haram, one of the last places still under its control.

line

Nigeria at a glance:

A Nigerian voter poses for a photo with a newly acquired permanent voters card - February 2015
  • Two main presidential candidates:

Muhammadu Buhari, All Progressives Congress (APC), Muslim northerner, ex-military ruler, fourth presidential bid

Goodluck Jonathan, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Christian southerner, incumbent president, second-term bid

  • Years of military rule ended in 1999 and the PDP has been in power ever since
  • Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and leading oil producer
  • With a population of more than 170m, it is also Africa’s most populous nation

Nation split in tight contest

Nigeria decides 2015: Election coverage

line

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday: “The international community has high expectations that Nigeria will provide leadership in setting a high standard for this election.”

He called on Nigerians – in Africa’s most populous nation – to vote in large numbers.

He added that he hoped the presidential and parliamentary elections would be “transparent, inclusive and peaceful”.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed some 1,000 people this year alone.

On Wednesday, army chief Kenneth Minimah said adequate security arrangements had been made for the polls.

On Thursday, the government closed its land and sea borders for the election.

Nigeria – polls open in close election race

Al Jazeera

Voter head to polls in election that pits incumbent president Jonathan to former military leader Muhammadu Buhari.

 28 Mar 2015 08:19 GMT | Politics, Africa

Kano, Nigeria – Polling stations have opened in Nigeria, the electoral commission said, as voters prepare to elect a new president in what is being seen as the closest race in the country’s history.

“Polling stations have opened. Accreditation has started,” Independent National Electoral Commission spokesman Kayode Idowu said, despite reports of delays to the 8am (0700 GMT) start.

The process had not started at some locations in Kano, Lagos and Abuja because of delays in the arrival of INEC officials and election materials, reported the AFP news agency. Voting proper is due to start at 1:30pm.

Saturday’s election, delayed for six weeks while security forces attempted to subdue the armed group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast, will be the fifth since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

With dusk approaching on Friday in Kano, the biggest city in the country’s north, which has been hit by Boko Haram attacks, people waited patiently at ATMs as they prepared for a lockdown during voting.

Explainer: Nigeria elections in one minute

Analysts are calling the poll a pivotal event for the young democracy. President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled virtually unopposed for 16 years.

On Saturday, he could lose to former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who has contested three previous elections but never come close to winning.

Buhari’s opposition coalition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has gained popularity by presenting itself as the face of change for voters who have grown frustrated by the government’s weak record on corruption and security.

Most Nigerians expect a tight race. Insiders on both sides say that they are confident of victory, and a February poll by Afrobarometer put the parties neck and neck with 42 percent of the vote each.

“The opposition has perhaps slightly less momentum than it did six weeks ago, but the outcome is too close to call,” said Thomas Hansen, West Africa analyst with the Control Risks group.

Observers on alert

A democratic transition of power would be the first in half a century of post-colonial independence. Heavy manipulation or a contested result would undermine Africa’s biggest democracy, and could lead to post-election violence.

Observers are watching for signs of foul play and, for the first time, permanent voter cards are being used with biometric readers, which should make vote rigging harder.

There are so many loopholes that politicians use, but we have put in place measures to check most.

Nick Dazang, Independent National Electoral Commission,

“There are so many loopholes that politicians use, but we have put in place measures to check most,” Nick Dazang, a spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told Al Jazeera.

But there will likely be technological glitches, one Western diplomat argued, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Both sides have been accused of buying up voter cards to suppress turnout in opponent strongholds. Fear of intimidation prompted a court to rule this week against military presence at polling stations.

At least 58 people have died in political violence in the run-up to the poll, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Watch said over 800 people were killed in riots after the last election in 2011, which was seen as Nigeria’s most credible since independence. The majority of the killings took place in the mostly Muslim north, where Buhari – who hails from the region – has strong support.

If his party loses, analyst expect violence to erupt again in that region.

“It will be all the same patterns as 2011, but this time the stakes are higher,” Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst with the UK-based analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, said.

If Buhari wins, former rebels in the Niger Delta – Jonathan’s home region – have threatened to again take up arms.

Posters and radio adverts across the country are calling for peace. “Your blood is worth more than the ambition of any politician,” went a message broadcast on one radio station on the eve of the vote.

Polls open at 8am local time (07:00 GMT).

Nigeria – Jonathan in Bayelsa for election

PunchFidelis Soriwei and Simon Utebor

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday arrived at his Otuoke country home in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State amid tight security so as to vote in today’s presidential election.

There was also tight security in neighbouring towns.

Military personnel, police operatives and other security agents were seen going round the President’s hometown.

Jonathan will be casting his vote at a polling unit near his palatial country home.

He usually casts his vote at Ward 13 in Otuoke.

Prior to his arrival, two Armoured Personnel Carriers were seen on the Otuoke Road. One was stationed in front of the President’s house.

The other was parked in front of Magels Resort, a hotel close to a commercial bank.

Earlier, a helicopter was seen hovering around the town, apparently on security surveillance.

Soldiers and policemen were also seen on the main Otuoke Road.

The president arrived at about 3pm in company of the Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, and other aides. Before his arrival, an army of women supporters had waited for him in Yenagoa, the state capital.

But Jonathan was said to have gone straight to Otuoke from the Port Harcourt International Airport.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – Jonathan warns against bloodshed during voting on eve of election

Reuters

Nigeria president warns against bloodshed ahead of Saturday poll

Fri Mar 27, 2015 2:08pm GMT
Print | Single Page
[-] Text [+]
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan stands for Kenya's national anthem before the Africa Union Peace and Security Council Summit on Terrorism at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, September 2, 2014.      REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
1 of 1Full Size

By Tim Cocks

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan warned against violence ahead of Saturday’s presidential election as people stockpiled food, cash and fuel for fear of post-election clashes.

Jonathan will face former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in what is seen as the closest presidential race since the end of military rule in 1999.

In a broadcast to the nation on Friday, Jonathan said no political ambition could justify violence or bloodshed, adding that security measures had been taken to guarantee a free and fair election.

“Let me warn, however, that as President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, I am under oath to protect the lives of all Nigerians and the security of our country at all times. I will never abdicate my responsibilities in that regard,” he said.

“Those who may harbour any intentions of testing our will by unleashing violence during the elections in order to advance their political ambitions should think again,” Jonathan said.

He added that security agencies were ready to deal with anyone who tried to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the elections or cause public disorder in Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.

Around 800 people died in post-election violence in 2011 in which Jonathan defeated Buhari. Western powers have been pressing both sides not to stoke tensions, with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders issuing a direct appeal for calm this week.

LONG QUEUES, STOCKPILING

In the capital Abuja long queues formed outside banks from people seeking to withdraw money. Queues for fuel also stretched for hundreds of metres in cities across the country.

“I’m getting my cash out now because I don’t know what is going to happen. If it gets bad, you don’t want to be stuck with no cash,” Wale Olatunji, 31, a businessman queuing in the sun at a bank in Abuja, said.

Ishaya Yahaya Junior, a 40-year-old civil servant in the northern metropolis of Kaduna, where worst violence occurred in 2011, said the atmosphere was tense, amid fears of a repeat of post-election violence.

“We have been stockpiling provisions – lots of people have been doing this. We don’t want to go outside if there is trouble,” said the father-of-two, who estimated that his family could live for three weeks on stored food if necessary.

In a sign of growing tensions, a spokesman for opposition Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi, said an unidentified gunman shot at the governor’s convoy on Thursday, wounding a security guard. The Nigerian police however, said in a statement that the gun shots were fired from the governor’s convoy.

BOKO HARAM HEADQUARTERS CAPTURED

The Nigerian army said separately that its troops had captured the northeast town of Gwoza, destroying the headquarters of the insurgents.

Jonathan said in the speech that the Nigerian army had contained Boko Haram Islamist insurgents in the northeast who were seen as the biggest security threat ahead of the election.

“They (army) have recaptured most of the communities and territories formerly occupied by the insurgents, making it possible for thousands of internally-displaced Nigerians to begin returning to their homes and communities,” Jonathan said.

The past six weeks have seen a dramatic turnaround against the insurgency, with troops from Chad, Cameroon and Niger joining a battle to dismantle the group’s hold on a territory that in January was the size of Belgium. It is unclear, however, whether that will help Jonathan’s re-election chances.

“Concerted and well-coordinated land and air operations have liberated Gwoza, the headquarters of their so-called caliphate which they renamed “darul hikima”, the army said in a statement, adding that arms and ammunition were recovered and Boko Haram’s administrative headquarters was destroyed.

It said Nigerian troops had taken over enclaves and hideouts from the militants, who were fleeing towards border areas.

Nigeria – army says it has retaken Boko Haram’s Gwoza HQ

This is incredibly well-timed.  Is it real, was it deliberately delayed until today for political reasons. Impossible know who to trust in the current situation in Nigeria.KS

Premium Times

Finally, Nigerian troops recapture Gwoza town

FILE PHOTO: Recapture of Mubi Town

The Nigerian military has finally recaptured Gwoza, a popular town in North Eastern Borno State.

The Defence Headquarters, in a tweet, said the town was recaptured on Friday morning by troops.

“FLASH: Troops this morning captured Gwoza destroying the Headquarters of the Terrorists self styled Caliphate,” the DHQ said Friday morning.

Gwoza, one of the largest towns in Borno, fell under the control of Boko Haram terrorists on August 6, 2014.

The terrorists, after sacking the town, killed many people and displaced others, including the Emir, Muhammed Timta.

The group also erected its flag, declaring the area as an Islamic caliphate.

Just recently – on Wednesday – President Goodluck Jonathan, while receiving some International Election Monitoring Groups said the military command had assured him that Gwoza would be liberated on Friday.

He said the liberation of the areas under terrorists attack would pave way for the successful conduct of general elections in all states of the federation.

He also that after the twon had be recaptured, a little time will be needed for clean up.

There were reports that Boko Haram was hiding the abducted Chibok girls in Gwoza, but the military hasn’t said if they were found there.

BBC

Boko Haram HQ Gwoza in Nigeria ‘retaken’

Nigerian soldiers celebrating their capture of Gwoza in Nigeria
The capture of Gwoza was celebrated by Nigerian soldiers after the battle
Boko Haram

The Nigerian army says it has retaken the north-eastern town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The insurgents had now been driven from virtually all the territory they had held, it said.

Some militants were now fleeing towards border areas, the military said.

News of Gwoza’s recapture comes a day before presidential elections, which were postponed by six weeks because of the offensive against Boko Haram.

Thousands of people have been killed since 2009, when the group began its insurgency to create an Islamic state.

An estimated three million people have fled their homes because of the unrest, and many may be unable to vote.

line

Analysis: BBC’s Will Ross, Lagos

Nigeria map

Gwoza’s location made an ideal base: The nearby Mandara Mountains offered protection and the jihadists could flee into Cameroon until the military there stepped up patrols. There is a complex system of caves and tunnels, some of which burrow hundreds of metres into the mountainside. Recent rumours suggest the Boko Haram leader may have been hiding there.

When Gwoza was captured by the jihadists last August thousands of residents were trapped and terrified on the mountain slopes with no food. They were badly let down – the military fled, leaving the jihadists to help themselves to the armoury.

Now on the eve of a pivotal election there is at last some good news for those who survived. The cost was high though.

One resident told me the jihadists recently assembled all the elderly residents and informed them that, as they were unable to defend themselves from a military attack, they would be helped on their way to paradise. They were slaughtered in Gwoza’s abattoir.

Eyewitnesses say that after the military assault, people could be seen heading over the mountain by torchlight – Boko Haram fighters on the run.

line

BBC Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo says Gwoza’s capture is a major milestone for the Nigerian army.

The town is not far from Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from a boarding school last April.

Our reporter says Gwoza was one of the places where the militants were rumoured to be hiding the girls, who are yet to be found.

‘Weapons recovered’

After his fighters captured Gwoza in August 2014, the Boko Haram leader declared a caliphate in areas under his control.

The militants have been pushed back since Nigeria’s neighbours sent troops to help it earlier this year.

“These successful operations have culminated in the dislodgment of terrorists from towns and communities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states,” military spokesman Chris Olukolade said.

Army personnel shaking hands in front of a police training college near Gwoza
The armed forces also recaptured a police training base near Gwoza
Soldiers from Niger with a Boko Haram flag after recapturing Damasak
Soldiers from Niger (pictured), Chad and Cameroon have been helping in the offensive

The recapture of Gwoza was first announced in a tweet from Nigerian armed forces.

A lot of arms and ammunition were recovered and “a massive cordon and search has commenced to locate any of the fleeing terrorists or hostages in their custody”, Mr Olukolade said.

line

Boko Haram at a glance:

Wanted poster for Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in Maiduguri, Nigeria - May 2013
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education
  • Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria
  • Has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Pledged allegiance to Islamic State

Turning the tide against Boko Haram?

Who are the militants?

Nigeria decides 2015: Election coverage

line

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.

Earlier this month, the group pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants, who control large parts of Syria and Iraq and are also active in Libya.

Nigeria – “political thugs” fire on Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s convoy

Punch

Thugs open fire on Gov Amaechi’s convoy

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi

 RIVERS State Governor Rotimi Amaechi escaped unhurt in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area on Thursday when gunmen, suspected to be political thugs, fired shots at his convoy.

Two members of the All Progressives Congress were however unlucky as they were seriously injured in the incident, which happened at about 6pm on Thursday.

The governor was   on a door-to-door ward campaign of the area.

An SMS sent to our correspondent by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. David Iyofor, indicated that the attackers   made bonfire along a major road in the area to prevent the governor from leaving.

The SMS read, “This evening, gunshots were fired at the convoy of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi at Rumuolumeni, Obio/Akpor LGA by PDP thugs.

“Obio/Akpor is the home of the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Nyesom Wike. The thugs attacked the governor’s convoy and his entourage with bottles, stones and other dangerous objects. Then gunshots were fired at the convoy.

“When the governor was leaving the community, bonfire was set up on the road to prevent him from leaving. More gunshots were fired at his convoy. Amaechi was on door-to-door ward campaign in the state.”

The Greater Together Campaign Organisation, a team in charge of the APC candidate, Dakuku Peterside’s governorship campaign, described the attack on the convoy as part of the plan to assassinate chieftains and members of the APC.

The Director of the campaign organisation, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said in a statement   in Port Harcourt   that the thugs were repelled by the governor’s security personnel.

Semenitari lamented that the situation in the state had become worrisome considering that a group of security operatives had gone to the governor’s home town to carry out a secret investigation.

The statement read in part, “In keeping with their plans to attack and assassinate chieftains and members of the APC, thugs of the PDPambushed the convoy of Governor Amaechi, who was on a door-to-door campaign in Rumuolumeni, Obio/Akpor, Rivers State.

“The thugs were repelled by the governor’s security personnel. However, the PDP in Rivers State has concluded plans to launch house-to-house attack on APC chieftains in the state with the aid of security personnel.”

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Ahmad Mohammad, told our correspondent that he was still trying to reach out to the Divisional Police Officer in Obio/Akpor to ascertain the veracity of the claim that the governor’s convoy was attacked.

Mohammad promised to react to the matter as soon as he got any response from the DPO in Obio/Akpor   but he had yet to keep the promise as of 9pm on Thursday.

Also in Edo State, the government on Thursday alleged deployment of armed soldiers in the country home of Governor Adams Oshiomhole in Iyamoh     Etsakor West LGA.

A statement by the state Commissioner   for Information and Orientation,   Louis Odion, said the presence of the soldiers was to “intimidate the governor on   election day.”

The statement read in part, “Family members of the   governor were shocked to find his country home taken over by soldiers this(Thursday) afternoon. When asked, the invading force said they were acting on orders from above.

“We also have it on good authority that the Army high command in Abuja had sent some soldiers to Edo State on what they described as ‘special operations’.

“In order not to arouse suspicion, these soldiers were told to dress in suits and pose as SSS operatives and station them at polling units on election day, particularly in areas seen as APC strongholds.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Sierra Leone in three day ebola lockdown

BBC

Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone in lockdown

A file photo taken on November 12, 2014 shows health workers from Sierra Leone"s Red Cross Society Burial Team 7 preparing to carry a corpse out of a house in Freetown.
Thousands of people in Sierra Leone have died of Ebola

The authorities in Sierra Leone are enforcing a three-day lockdown to curb the spread of Ebola, with the entire population ordered to stay at home.

There is a two-hour exemption on Friday to allow Muslim prayers and a five-hour window for Christians on Sunday.

Volunteers are going door-to-door, looking for people with signs of the disease and reminding others how to stay safe.

Dozens of new cases are still being reported in Sierra Leone every week.

The three West African countries worst affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – have set a target of having no new cases by the middle of next month.

The outbreak has killed more than 10,000 people in the three countries over the past year.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,273 other followers