Amid Bombings and Gunfire, Voting Continues in Nigeria

Amid Bombings and Gunfire, Voting Continues in Nigeria

Fighting in the nation has claimed the lives of at least 500 people since last week.

Published April 26, 2011

A police officer watches as electoral officials count ballot papers during the gubernatorial elections in Uyo, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 26, 2011. The oil-rich nation began voting Tuesday for state governorships, lucrative positions that many politicians use violence and fraud to obtain. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Violence continued in Nigeria on the day of state governors’ elections, a week after results from the presidential election ignited deadly riots across the nation killing at least 500 people.

Gunmen stormed a polling place in Akwa Ibom state, taking ballots and a youth volunteer captive, witnesses told the Associated Press.

About 700 young volunteers who were to assist with running polling stations have evacuated the violence-plagued north, said a spokesman for the West African nation’s National Emergency Management Agency. Voter turnout has been low in that region, reports the BBC. And Reuters reports there are many fewer international observers during this election, likely due to the start of elections being delayed one week.

In the northern city of Maiduguri, bombs exploded but no one was hurt, the BBC reports. On Sunday, a bomb blast at a hotel in the city killed three and injured 14 people. 

Tuesday’s election vote is the final ballot in Nigeria and has great importance, as the nation’s governors hold a lot of power.

Earlier this month, people went to the polls to cast ballots in legislative and presidential elections that ultimately resulted in about 40,000 people fleeing their homes. Election officials postponed the governors' races in the two northern states hardest hit by postelection violence—Kaduna and Bauchi—but vowed to press ahead with ballots elsewhere, writes the AP.

The violence following last week’s presidential elections have illuminated a deep division in the nation between the mostly Muslim north and the mostly Christian south. After Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, won re-election, rioters alleged vote-rigging, setting churches ablaze and launching retaliatory attacks. Although northern Muslim Muhammadu Buhari himself publically cast doubt on the results last week, he denied his comments added any fuel to what he called the “sad, unfortunate and totally unwarranted” violence, the BBC reports.

 

Written by Hortense M. Barber

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