Muhammadu Buhari, a former Major General in the Nigerian military that is opposing President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s February 14th elections, could face charges of inciting violence that led to the killing of over 800 people in 2011, according to an Associated Press report.
Goran Sluiter, a human rights lawyer at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and professor at the University of Amsterdam, has claimed to be in possession of evidence showing that Mr. Buhari instigated the rioting and murderous mobs that roamed throughout Nigeria following the successful election of Goodluck Jonathan as President in April 2011. “There are references to lynching, there’s a reference to killing,” Mr. Slutier said of video recordings he has reviewed.
While the 2011 elections were internationally recognized as free and fair, Buhari’s supporters, concentrated in the country’s predominantly Muslim Northern states, began to riot when it became clear that Jonathan had won a majority of votes, burning administrative buildings, churches, and killing Christians with sticks and machetes. Nigerians in the predominantly Christian South soon retaliated, targeting mosques and Muslims. Altogether, an estimated 800 people were killed and more than 65,000 displaced.
Mr. Buhari, who briefly led the country following a coup d’état in the 1980s, was criticized at the time for his failure to condemn the violence. Activists such as Yunana Shibkau, however, have maintained that the embattled Major General actively encouraged violence in the wake of his electoral defeat, actions that could see him accused of crimes against humanity.
To substantiate his claim, Mr. Shibkau quotes from a 2011 campaign rally, where Muhammadu Buhari stated, “If anybody tries to prevent you from guarding your vote, kill them.”
As Mr. Buhari faces off against President Jonathan for a second time this year, many are worried about another post-election surge in sectarian violence. Far from calming such fears, the challenging candidate has already stoked tension between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim communities, calling for the introduction of “total” Sharia law across the country and threatening further violence if ‘vote rigging’ occurs.
“If what happened in 2011 [the alleged electoral fraud] should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood,” he stated cryptically in May 2012.