John Kerry in Nigeria urging Non violence in election

January 25, 2015 10:08 pm
Maiduguri () (AFP) – fighters on Sunday overran a
strategic town in northeastern Nigeria and seized a military base, as
Secretary of State pledged further US support against the
militants.

The Islamists captured the town
of Monguno in Borno State, which lies about 125 kilometres (80 miles)
north of the state capital Maiduguri, which was targeted in a
simultaneous dawn raid.
“Monguno
has fallen, Monguno has fallen,” said a senior military officer, who
asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the
media.
“We fought them all night long but they took over the town, including the military barracks there.”

The military in Abuja said that “scores” of Boko Haram fighters were killed as troops restored order in Maiduguri and Konduga, some 40 kilometres away.

But
on Monguno, defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said an air campaign was
being mounted as “troops had to retreat from the location” after the
commander and soldiers were injured.
– Elections and violence –
With closely-watched
elections in Nigeria less than a month away, top US diplomat Kerry
jetted into the financial capital Lagos for meetings with President
Goodluck Jonathan and his main opposition rival Muhammadu Buhari.
Kerry’s whistlestop visit came amid fears of a repeat of election-related violence which in 2011 left some 1,000 people dead.
Security has dominated the
build-up to the February 14 presidential and parliamentary vote, as Boko
Haram has intensified its attacks.
Nigeria
is currently scrambling for a solution to the problem of how to allow
hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence to vote, which
has led to calls for a delay.
There
have also been sporadic tit-for-tat attacks by supporters of Jonathan’s
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and those of Buhari’s All Progressives
Congress (APC).
Jonathan said
he had told Kerry that his government would “provide all the resources
that are required by the Independent National Electoral Commission to
ensure that the election goes smoothly”.

Kerry said it was
“absolutely critical” that Nigeria had free, fair and timely elections
and that the world was “paying very close attention” to developments in
Africa’s most populous nation.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and more than one million made homeless by Boko Haram violence since 2009.
Kerry
said Washington was “prepared to do more” to help Nigeria, which has
west Africa’s largest military but has been criticised for failing to
protect lives and property.
The
United States has been sharing intelligence with the Nigerians and was
involved in the multi-national effort to find 219 schoolgirls kidnapped
by Boko Haram in April last year.
“Bottom
line, we want to do more and that was part of the message to both
President Jonathan and General Buhari today,” Kerry added.
“We
are prepared to do more but our ability to do more will depend to some
degree on the full measure of credibility and accountability and
transparency and peacefulness of these elections.”Wider threat –
Boko
Haram has twice before tried to take over Monguno and its fall was
potentially significant, as it removes the last military base before
Maiduguri from the northeast.
“On
the other hand, it may be more of Boko Haram overrunning the base with
the intention of seizing as much weaponry as possible, amid concerns of a
possible regional counter-insurgency operation,” said Ryan Cummings, of
risk consultants Red 24.
The
renewed violence underscored the extent of the difficulties facing
Nigeria as the election approaches and also the increasing threat Boko
Haram poses for the country’s neighbours.
Last
week, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon met to discuss the creation of a
new multi-national force while troops from Chad deployed to Cameroon to
help repel attacks there.
The
group’s leader Abubakar Shekau last week dismissed the initiative,
saying: “Kings of Africa, you are late. I challenge you to attack me
even now. I’m ready.”
Boko Haram, which the US has
declared an international terrorist organisation, has until recently
been seen as a largely localised group.
The
militants want to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria
and have been capturing towns and villages for the last six months,
declaring some part of a caliphate.
Jonathan
said he “reaffirmed (Nigeria’s) strong committment to working with the
United States to put an end to global terrorism and particularly Boko
Haram”.
Nigeria was also “strongly committed” to the proposed new regional force, he added.
But
Kerry warned that action needed to be taken, with so-called Islamic
State militants in Syria and Iraq trying to extend their reach into
parts of north Africa.
“It is obviously a concern that they try more aggressively to try to spread to countries of… other parts of Africa,” he said.
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