15 March 2011

Nigeria: U.S. Gives Strong Backing to Elections Chief

Photo: Tami Hultman/AllAfrica
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson

Washington, DC — The Obama administration's top Africa official, Johnnie Carson, has given the head of Nigeria's election commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, strong public backing.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was being "well-led" by Jega, Carson told AllAfrica in an exclusive interview. "We believe he is a person of integrity and that he is working as hard as he can along with others to promote a fair election process that is worthy of the Nigerian people."

Carson, who is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, said the Obama administration was giving INEC financial and technical support.

"We want the Nigerian national elections to be a step forward for Nigeria. We want them to be substantially and significantly better than the last national elections in 2007."

The 2007 elections had been "seriously flawed," he added. "Many people were disenfranchised and were not given an opportunity to vote for national level candidates.

"Nigeria's public deserves more, and if they are to have confidence in their leaders and in their democracy, they must be allowed to participate freely and fairly in an election that is well-organized and is well-run."

The U.S. recognized that there were "challenges and obstacles" in the way of an election, which he enumerated as including "problems in the Delta [and] in the middle belt in Jos between farmers and herders against new inhabitants; problems in the north as a result of the continued activities of Boko Haram and other extremists associated with them."

"Nevertheless," he added, "if a country like Iraq can have elections, then a country like Nigeria should have elections that are fitting to the aspirations of a country and a people who want democracy, who aspire to have stronger democratic values and institutions and representatives who are the stewards of that democratic process.

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