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Obasanjo Takes Office in Nigeria

The president says he'll heal wounds left from the April election.

May 30, 2003|From Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo took the oath of office for a second term Thursday -- pledging to heal the wounds of an election that was marred by fraud but was still considered a democratic milestone in Africa's most populous nation.

More than a dozen fellow African leaders watched as Obasanjo, in traditional white robes, raised his hand before an invitation-only crowd under high security here in the capital.

Obasanjo called his reelection "affirmation our leadership is trustworthy" -- after a first term widely acknowledged to have failed at curbing rampant corruption and violence.

Obasanjo's 1999 election to a first four-year term ended 15 years of brutal, corrupt military rule. He was reelected April 19 in a vote that opposition candidates rejected as fraudulent.

Balarade Musa, chairman of a coalition of 20 opposition groups, on Thursday called Obasanjo's inauguration a "celebration of fraud, brigandage and shame."

International observers reported many examples of fraud but did not question the victory of Obasanjo, a 66-year-old Christian from southern Nigeria, over top rival Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north. Both are former junta leaders.

Holding elections was an accomplishment, as military dictators have governed the Nigeria for most of the 43 years since independence from Britain.

Most Nigerians are poor, despite the country's oil wealth.

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