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Nigeria's Muslim rebel movement capitalized on electoral tensions

The Muslim rebel movement Boko Haram has bombed polling stations and electoral offices, contributing to the chaos and instability following the elections.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / April 25, 2011

Motorcyclists ride past a campaign billboard of John James Akpan, of the Action Congress of Nigeria, in Uyo, Nigeria, on April 25. Only a week after the presidential election sparked riots that left an estimated 500 people dead, voters are being asked to cast ballots Tuesday for their state governors. Concern about renewed violent upheaval already has prompted officials to delay two elections in the volatile north, and some voters and poll workers now plan to stay home for fear that holding another poll will inflame tensions.

Sunday Alamba/AP


In the months before Nigeria’s elections, the Muslim rebel movement Boko Haram assassinated several politicians in the Northeastern state of Borno. The victims included the gubernatorial candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), which is an opposition party at the national level but is the ruling party in Borno. Even before the elections began, then, Boko Haram had affected their outcome.

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Boko Haram is not the sole, or the main, agent of violence in Northern Nigeria right now. The movement did not orchestrate the violent riots that occurred in many Northern states following the announcement of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory last week. But Boko Haram’s acts of violence are significant. During Nigeria’s multi-stage elections, the sect has continued to carry out attacks. Yesterday, a statement it put out warned of more violence and called for the implementation of shari’a throughout Nigeria (currently shari’a only applies in twelve Northern states). With state elections happening this week (most legislative elections, along with the presidential elections, have concluded), it is worth keeping an eye on Boko Haram and on the Northeast.

Here’s a look at some of Boko Haram’s activities during election season:

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