World Bulletin/News Desk
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Nigeria on Sunday to urge its rival political camps to respect the outcome of a Feb. 14 presidential election, amid concerns that post-poll violence could undermine the fight against Boko Haram militants.
Overnight Boko Haram attacked the main northeastern city of Maiduguri, leading to hours of fighting before Nigerian troops repelled the militants.
Kerry's visit to the commercial capital Lagos highlights the stakes for Washington in what is expected to be Nigeria's closest election since its 1999 transition from military rule.
"Given the stakes it's absolutely critical that these elections are conducted peacefully," Kerry told reporters on a visit to Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and main opposition rival Muhammadu Buhari.
Kerry's visit, which he announced only on Friday, marks an unusual intervention so close to a national election.
For example, the White House has said President Barack Obama will not meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli leader visits Washington in March in order not to be seen as choosing sides on the eve of an election in Israel.
U.S. officials say there is a difference between Obama meeting a sitting foreign leader at the White House and Kerry urging calm by meeting both candidates in Nigeria.
A report by an election assessment team organised by the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute said there were widespread doubts among Nigerians about the election's integrity.
The team cited a Gallup poll which found that confidence in the electoral process has dropped from 51 percent during the last election in 2011 to 13 percent in 2014.
Although the 2011 poll was widely seen as successful, post-poll violence led to more than 800 deaths, the report said.
"There is a propensity for such violence to erupt. And we want to get ahead of it," the U.S. official said.
Kerry's talks in Lagos will also focus on the Boko Haram threat amid U.S. media reports of distrust and lagging cooperation between the Nigerian and U.S. militaries.Last Mod: 25 Ocak 2015, 17:57