February 2, 2007

HARRISONBURG—The International Republican Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit, nonpartisan democracy-building organization, published yesterday the final report of the international pre-election assessment mission which visited Nigeria from November 26 through December 3 of last year.

The mission was led by Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, former head (2001-2005) of the Office of War Crimes Issues of the United States Department of State, who was accompanied by former Congressman Harry A. Johnston II, a Florida Democrat who served as President Bill Clinton’s Special Envoy to Sudan (1998-2000), and Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. The three U.S. delegates were joined on in their mission by three African delegates.

The report sounded a somber note concerning the election, scheduled to take place April 14 and 21, 2007: “The delegation found that the political climate in Nigeria today, while relatively open in comparison to many other societies making transitions toward greater democracy, is very tense. While the overwhelming consensus among the delegation’s interlocutors—shared by the delegates themselves—is that elections must be held as scheduled and a transition must take place on the constitutionally-mandated date of May 29, 2007, there remains doubt on the part of a not insignificant number as to whether there truly exists a political will to actually have free and fair elections which are credibly carried out. Furthermore, even if assuming that the quasi-unanimous declarations of support for the poll on the part of political figures are indeed manifestations of the requisite will, the question remains whether Nigeria is prepared or can be reasonably expected to become prepared to actually carry out the exercise in a credible manner. Finally, even assuming both these presuppositions, serious concerns relating to security remain unanswered. In fact, enough reports of violence and fear in the current intra-party primary campaigns do not augur well for the general election campaign that is only now beginning.”

Dr. Pham, the author of two books on West African political conflicts, served as an official U.S. delegate observing the 2005 national elections in Liberia. He writes a weekly syndicated column, “Strategic Interests,” on African security issues and U.S. national interests. He has also authored a number of articles on the political situation in Nigeria.

The text of the report can be accessed by clicking here.