International

Nigerian Elections Spark Violence

It's an unfortunate reality that West Africa has long had a problem with what I would call "Sore Loser Syndrome."

Just last week, it was the Ivory Coast and a battle that had to be taken, quite literally, to leader Laurent Gbagbo's doorstep to force him to accept the verdict in last November's presidential election (Gbagbo lost, most observers agree). Many lives were lost effecting a transition to the elected Alassane Ouattara.

This week, it's Nigeria. To be sure, it's not at all clear who has won Saturday's election, but angry mobs weren't waiting for the official word, either.

To make matters worse, there's a religious component: election officials have said that the Christian incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan had a commanding 10 million-vote lead over his Muslim rival, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan is from the mainly Christian south and Buhari is from the Muslim-dominated north.

Heavy gunfire rang out Monday in several towns as angry supporters of Buhari set fire to homes bearing ruling party banners, The Associated Press reports. While it's clear that the religious divide is a key factor, the federal police issued a statement blaming the violence simply on:

"persons who failed to accept the results," denying it came from religious or ethnic roots. Election officials said they would finish releasing election results later Monday regardless of the ongoing violence.

An Associated Press reporter described his harrowing situation in the northern city of Kano:

"What I am looking for now is rescue, the mob is still outside. I need rescue," said Mark Asu-Obi, who was trapped inside his Kano home with his wife and three children. "There are hoodlums all over the place. It's not just my place that they are attacking. I am not a politician. I am an independent observer."

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