[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern Friday over increased ethnic violence [press release] in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” region [Nigerian Newsday backgrounder] between Christians and Muslims. The report states that up to 70 people have been killed since August, and, in order to stop cycles of violence, local authorities must work to address the underlying issues. The report also describes the recent actions of Boko Haram [CFR backgrounder] in bombing a UN building in Nigeria [VO report] last month as “cowardly.” At least 18 people died in the attack. Spokesperson Rupert Colville said:
We encourage the authorities at national and local levels to take effective preventative measures against such violence, including by curbing hate-speech and working with civil society, including human rights NGOs, religious leaders and academic institutions, to attempt reconciliation between the various communities. It is of utmost importance that justice is done and is seen to be done by prosecuting the alleged perpetrators of violence and ensuring remedies for victims and their families.
Colville also stressed that “security forces must … act in full compliance with the law.”
Corruption in the Nigerian government has further inflamed ethnic rivalries. In August Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported that corruption in the Nigerian government has become endemic [JURIST report]. The group criticized President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile] and Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency. Earlier that month a Nigerian official called for the creation of a special anti-corruption court [JURIST report] because corruption cases in the regular courts were taking too long to process. Nigeria’s outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives was arrested in June [JURIST report] on allegations of fraud. In April the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [official website] announced an investigation [JURIST report] into ethnic violence that broke out following the most recent national election. After Jonathan, from the predominantly Christian south, defeated the challenger Muhammadu Buhari [BBC profile], from the predominantly Muslim north, riots ensued, resulting in the death of over 100 people and the displacement of more than 40,000.