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Nigerians Pray For End to Politically Motivated Violence


Recent political killings in Nigeria have prompted fears about next year's general ballot. Election related violence has dogged Nigerian politics over the years, and some Nigerian groups are seeking divine intervention.

At least 10 people have been killed in politically motivated violence in Nigeria in the past few weeks. Several more escaped or were seriously hurt in attacks by armed gangs.

The fear is that violence and ethnic bloodletting instigated by politicians could mar the run-up to the 2007 vote.

Analysts say violence has become a regular part of political life in Africa's most populous country, which returned to civilian rule in 1999 after three decades of almost continuous military rule.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has a stern warning for politicians.

"Let the people give you the mandate to serve them," he said. "Do not destroy them with violence. Do not destroy your competitor and if you really believe you have superior ability to perform better than competitor, why should you want to destroy him with violence? Go and destroy him at the polls. Go and win at the polls. Violence from any quarter in the process of politics, campaigning and competition that is ahead of us, we will not allow it."

The presidency, legislative and state governors' seats are up for grabs in polls scheduled for April 2007, which should mark the first time one elected government hands over to another since Nigeria gained independence in 1960.

Worried that the violence could spiral out of control, several religious groups are making supplications to God to intervene and steer Nigeria through a potentially difficult period.

A Christian sect, known as the Global Day of Prayer, has just completed 40 days of fasting and prayers and its leader, Madukaura David, is certain God will preserve Nigeria.

"Frankly speaking, our hearts are burdened seriously for our nation," said Mr. David. "We know he wants the peace of Nigerian and we are just crying to God to save us from things like this [political violence] and possibly even worse scenarios. We are actually saying God, for every elective position, God please place your own person. I believe God is all-knowing and that before the elections of next year, God has his own candidate for every position. I do not care where he comes from. All we are saying is Lord bring those people of your choice to be in these positions in the midst of peace and tranquility."

At least 15,000 people have been killed in ethnic, political and religious violence since 1999 in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch estimated that more than 100 people were killed in election related violence during Nigeria's last general ballot in 2003.

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