As Nigerians celebrate the victory of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the just concluded presidential election, the U.N. says the ongoing violent conflict in north-eastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency remains a challenge but did not disrupt the elections. In its six-year insurgency, Boko Haram has killed thousands and displaced about 1.5 million people.
NEW YORK, USA (UNTV) – Boko Haram militants were unable to disrupt Nigeria’s presidential election, a United Nations envoy has said but the group’s allegiance to Islamic State insurgents shows it has an agenda that goes beyond Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.
Boko Haram, which has killed thousands and displaced some 1.5 million people during a six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist emirate, committed itself this month to Islamic State, which controls swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.
But the group largely failed to deliver on threats to disrupt the polls in the north when the election was eventually held on the weekend of Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29.
“There were reports of Boko Haram activity outside Bauchi, but just as the day before, they did not have any impact of the voting process. In other words, Boko Haram was unable to disrupt the electoral process,” said Mohammed Ibn Chambas, U.N. envoy for West Africa, told the U.N. Security Council.
Despite some technical glitches and the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen, the election was the smoothest and most orderly in Nigeria’s history.
At least 15 people were shot dead during polling, most of them in the northeast where Boko Haram has declared war on democracy in its fight to revive a mediaeval caliphate in the southern Sahara.
However, the chaos was significantly less than in previous elections.
Three decades after seizing power in a military coup, Muhammadu Buhari emerged winner of the fiercely contested election to become the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box.
Outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing popularity due to a string of corruption scandals and the rise of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the northeast.
The margin of victory – Buhari took 15.4 million votes to Jonathan’s 13.3 million – was enough to prevent any challenge.
Buhari inherits a host of economic and political problems. As well as the Boko Haram insurgency he must deal with the fallout from a dive in global oil prices in the last eight months which has hammered squeezed state revenues and forced two de facto currency devaluations.
Boko Haram continues to commit atrocities including the abduction women and children.
“Today, as we meet, though weakened, the group continues to commit horrendous acts against civilians, including against women and children. We have received reports that children in particular have been abducted, abused, recruited, maimed and killed. Schools in north-east Nigeria are no longer safe places of learning,” said Chambas.
The United Nations says more than 7,300 people have been killed by Boko Haram since the start of 2014, more than 300 schools have been damaged or destroyed and less than 40 percent of health facilities in the area are operational.
The Security Council is negotiating a resolution – drafted by Chad, Angola and Nigeria – to back and fund a regional force to take on Boko Haram. The 54-nation African Union has already approved a force of 10,000 troops.
“As many as three million people in northern Nigeria will not be able to meet their basic food needs after July 2015 unless they receive well-targeted humanitarian assistance,” said deputy U.N. aid chief Kyung-Wha Kang told the council.
Oil-rich Nigeria remains a complex ethnic mix of 170 million people speaking more than 500 languages, split between Muslims and Christians. Though they mostly live side by side in peace, many harbor disputes that politicians have often used to stoke violence that has worsened over the years.