Political parties in Nigeria have signed a code of conduct, in an effort to curb political violence before elections in April. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports political violence has emerged as the foremost threat to Nigeria's emerging democracy.
At least 40 of Nigeria's 50 political parties signed the Political Parties Code of Conduct 2007 at an elaborate ceremony in Abuja.
U.S. Ambassador John Campbell, who emphasized United States support for the initiative, described the new code.
"Key points of this code of conduct include rejection of violence and inflammatory rhetoric and party discipline of members who participate in, encourage or condone violence," he explained. "The code is also significant because it provides for inter-party advisory council to observe and monitor the implementation of the provisions of the code of conduct, as well as adjudication of disputes."
Dozens of people have been killed in the run up to the April polls. The elections will mark the first democratic transition in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.
Armed gangs are driving the prevailing culture of violence, which involves killing, threatening, and intimidating political opponents.
Electoral commission chief, Maurice Iwu, says growing politically motivated violence represents a serious threat to the April elections.
"The critical challenges are, one, the threat of violence that could disrupt everything," he noted. "In Benue state, in Alayide, for example - just primaries - people are having primaries and they were going to war, burning houses, killing people, burning cars. Is that how you conduct elections? These are challenges that everybody should address."
Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 after nearly three decades of military dictatorship, but violence remains a feature of the political system.
The U.S. State Department says Nigeria's last elections in 2003 were marred by widespread fraud and violence.