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SAF Gives Subdued Congratulations to Nigerian President-Elect

The South African government has released a statement on Nigeria’s presidential election – and it appears to be more reserved in its tone than similar announcements of the past.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson has a copy of the statement. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the reaction of President Mbeki’s administration.

“The congratulations on this occasion were quite subdued. Normally, President Mbeki issues quite effusive messages of congratulations. In this case, Mr. Mbeki congratulated the president-elect, Mr. Yar’Adua, on his election as president of Nigeria. But he also specifically said that he intended to lead South Africa in continuing to forge closer working relations between the two countries. He did not say between himself and the president. And further in his message, further along, he said that South Africa expressed its solidarity with the people of Nigeria and wished the president-elect well in his endeavors. But (he) did not express solidarity with the president-elect,” she says.

Robertson adds that the South African leader usually chooses his words very carefully and that the statement is carefully worded.

“It is indeed and it’s typical of Mr. Mbeki in that way…if he was feeling extremely congratulatory in this case I think he would have said so. And the tone of his message would have been much warmer than what it is,” she says.

As for President Mbeki’s reaction to the elections themselves and accusations of fraud, Robertson says that he commented on them indirectly.

“President Mbeki said that Nigerian authorities should empower their electoral tribunals to fast track all the disputes so that they are resolved as quickly as possible. He did not comment on the freeness or fairness of the election,” she says.