The United Nations on Thursday warned against the worsening security situation in Nigeria.
The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Nderitu, expressed this concern while urging Nigerian authorities to ensure counter-terrorism operations are conducted in line with international human rights and humanitarian law.
This worsening security situation, she noted, is characterised by the politicisation of transhumance – the seasonal movement of livestock for grazing – and increasing divisions among communities, including based on stigmatisation along religious and ethnic lines.
She also condemned the 24 January airstrike that killed at least 40 people. The explosion occurred in Rukubi, on the border between Nasarawa and Benue States, in an area plagued by communal violence.
“These dynamics of targeting communities along identity lines, if unaddressed, risk further fuelling intercommunal tensions, recruitment by armed groups and retaliatory attacks, with obvious impact on civilians,” Ms Nderitu warned.
Ms Nderitu lamented the increasing trends of hate speech along identity lines, and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence that permeates political discourse in Nigeria.
“In this extremely volatile environment, it is important that the general elections scheduled to be held on 25 February 2023 do not trigger violence and even atrocity crimes.” she warned.
She urged political leaders to abide by the peace accord they signed.
Religious and traditional leaders were also encouraged to work to appease tensions, prevent incitement to violence and address the risk of crimes ahead of the elections and beyond.
Beyond Nigeria, Ms Nderitu expressed concern over the manipulation of transhumance in political discourse, across the whole of West Africa and the vast Sahel region.
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“Continuous high levels of violence targeting communities in relation to transhumance, including with hate speech and incitement to violence, are particularly concerning in view of upcoming elections in many countries in the region,” she said.
She appealed for urgent action to address conflicts, prevent crimes and allow for peaceful elections to take place.
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