The big news this weekend was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s decision to postpone Nigeria’s National Assembly elections by 48 hours.
Mr. [Attahiru] Jega [Chairman of INEC] placed blame for the delay on a failure to get voter materials shipped in from outside Nigeria on time, but said he was confident that everything would be in place for the vote to proceed on Monday.
Mr. Jega made no suggestion of a delay in the presidential election or votes a week later for the nation’s 36 governors. The electoral commission has put tougher measures in place to prevent cheating and intimidation, which raised such broad doubts after the last elections in 2007 that foreign observers said they might not have reflected the will of the people.
Voters had gathered eagerly on Saturday to register at polling places across the country’s two most populous cities — the commercial hub Lagos in the south and Kano in the north — but elsewhere, tempers were frayed by the delays. Gunshots in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta also raised worries of violence.
The delay has caused domestic fears of tampering and international worry over the integrity of the process. Today INEC “raced to get aborted polls back on track.” Matthew Tostevin and Wole Soyinka consider some of the ramifications of the delay and of the elections generally. 234Next has Nigerian leaders’ statements on the delay.
In Sudan news, President Barack Obama has a new Special Envoy to Sudan, veteran diplomat Princeton Lyman, who has been closely involved with Sudan over the past few years. On Friday the two men met at the White House:
Before Friday’s Oval Office meeting, Lyman told reporters that “tough” negotiations are ahead before South Sudan’s formally achieves its independence in July.
At the State Department on Thursday, he said issues remaining to be settled include border demarcation and the question of oil revenues. Lyman also discussed what he called a “very tense situation” in Abyei, where clashes between rival groups have left more than 100 people dead and displaced at least 20,000.
“We have to work on two fronts. We have to try and ease this immediate security problem, but I don’t think we are going to get the tensions really resolved until the people in Abyei know what is going to happen to them, particularly by July. Are they going to remain in the north, are they going to move to the south? And that the Sudanese leadership needs to address,” Lyman said.
The White House statement on the meeting with Lyman is here. Former Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell calls Lyman’s appointment “an encouraging sign of the Obama administrations continued engagement with Sudan.”
In Senegal, “about 200 disabled Senegalese former soldiers held a two-hour demonstration Friday on a busy Dakar street to call for better pay and health coverage.” This protest does not seem to have been formally connected with other recent protests in Senegal, but it does hearken back to a veteran’s self-immolation in February.
Finally, some Somalia news, or perhaps just a rumor. The Standard, a Kenyan outlet I am not familiar with, says that Somalia has “plans to create another autonomous region along its borders with Kenya.” Have readers heard anything about this? If true, that would be a radical change to the current political configuration of Somalia.
Hope your weekend is going well.