FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2015 | USCIRF
Calls on President-Elect to Govern Inclusively and Address Inter-Faith Tensions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) congratulates the people of Nigeria on peaceful national elections held on March 28. The historic elections led to Nigeria’s first democratic transfer of power between parties and fears of inter-religious violence were unrealized. Opposition candidate Major General (ret.) Muhammadu Buhari was declared the presidential winner on March 31. USCIRF also applauds President Goodluck Jonathan’s gracious acknowledgement of defeat.
“Nigerians and democracy are the real winners of these elections, which we hope signals the end of identity politics,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett. “President-elect Buhari’s outreach to a diverse cross-section of Nigerians transcended many regional and religious fissures that long have characterized Nigerian politics. Now the hard work begins to govern inclusively, address inter-faith tensions, and confront Boko Haram.
“President-elect Buhari should seize this moment to help Nigeria tackle regional and religious differences and tensions by engaging in reconciliation with his opponents and their supporters,” said Lantos Swett. “Reconciliation is essential for Nigeria to address the sectarian and religious freedom issues confronting the nation.”
This change in leadership comes at a challenging time for Nigeria given the need to address insecurity, endemic corruption, inequality, and strains on the economy partly due to falling oil prices and a devalued currency.
Tackling the continuing Boko Haram insurgency that has killed more than 8,300 persons in 2014 and 2015 will be one of the president-elect’s primary responsibilities. USCIRF reiterates that efforts to confront Boko Haram must respect the human rights of citizens in affected areas. Additionally, any campaign to stop Boko Haram also must address the underlying conditions that have contributed to the radicalization of individuals, allowing the group and others like it to grow and operate.
President-elect Buhari also will need to address government failure to hold perpetrators of Muslim-Christian violence in the Middle Belt accountable, state-level religious discrimination laws, deteriorating inter-faith relations, and other religious freedom related issues. Since 1999, sectarian violence in Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt states, has resulted in more than 18,000 people killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and thousands of churches, mosques, businesses, homes, and other structures damaged or destroyed.
USCIRF has recommended since 2009 that the State Department designate Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” (CPC). For more information about Nigeria see the Nigeria chapter in USCIRF’s 2014 Annual Report.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at email@example.com or 202-786-0613.