Cablegate: Local Council Elections to Go Ahead Despite

Published: Sat 27 Nov 2004 03:31 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
271531Z Nov 04
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. (A) LAGOS 540
B. (B) LAGOS 1210
1. SUMMARY: The government of Delta State plans to hold
local council elections in Warri November 27 in three areas
where elections were suspended March 2004. The majority
ethnic group in the area, the Ijaws, have threatened to
boycott the elections because they believe the configuration
of the local government areas dilutes their voting strength
and will result in their under-representation in local
government. Due to the possibility of protests and violence
surrounding the elections, Post issued a warden message
advising Amcits in Warri to avoid unnecessary travel November
2. Barring a last-minute court injunction, the government of
Delta State will conduct local council elections November 27
for three areas in Warri: Warri South, Warri North, and Warri
Southwest. The Delta State Independent Electoral Commission
(DSIEC) will supervise the elections. The state government
originally scheduled the elections for March 27, along with
elections in the other areas of the state. However, violence
between the two major ethnic groups, the Ijaws and the
Itsekiris, caused the government to postpone the elections to
prevent a further escalation in violence (reftel A).
3. Arguing that several issues have not yet been resolved,
Ijaws have vowed to boycott the elections. Edwin Clark, a
prominent Ijaw chief, told Poloff that two key issues are
prompting the boycott: non-participation of the Ijaws in the
last voter registration and the allegedly discriminatory
demarcation of wards. According to Clark, most voters remain
unregistered in five of the ten wards in Warri, and most of
these voters are Ijaw. He commented that the government has
put soldiers in Warri to maintain the fragile peace, and yet
it threatens to disrupt the peace by holding these elections.
Clark said the government is "looking for trouble"; the
unwillingness of the courts and the government to address the
problems is "driving people to action." Clark said he could
not predict whether violence would erupt if the elections go
ahead. (Comment: What Clark did not say was that Ijaw leaders
are in part responsible for the number of unregistered
voters. During the last voter registration exercise, Ijaw
leaders persuaded their followers to boycott that process as
well. End comment.)
4. Itsekiris also are displeased with the current ward
demarcation and have taken the issue to court. Newspaper
reports over the past weeks, however, indicate Itsekiri
residents plan to participate in the elections. Isaac
Jemide, an Itsekiri leader, advised the Ijaws to follow the
Itsekiri example and contest the ward demarcation in court
instead of boycotting the elections.
5. A newspaper reported that an Ijaw group, the Federated
Niger Delta Izon Congress, warned all foreign nationals
working on oil installations to leave Warri by noon on
November 27 or face possible harm. According to the report,
the group plans to take over oil installations in the creek
areas. A Chevron contact told Poloff that the threat was not
a great cause for concern because few expatriate oil workers
remain in Warri; most have already been moved from the area
because of the ongoing violence over the past couple years.
6. COMMENT: Warri has not yet recovered from the upsurge in
violence in March 2003 when more than 100 people were killed
and property worth millions of naira was destroyed. The
"ceasefire" of June 1, 2004, has brought a period of relative
calm to the area (reftel B). The disputes and threats
surrounding the planned November 27 elections reveal that
tensions remain high and little progress has been made to
address underlying issues of the Warri power struggle. END
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