February 5, 2010, 9:23 am
By John Stremlau
The Carter Center has deep roots in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and one plagued by poisonous politics. Jimmy Carter’s 1978 visit was the first time a U.S. president visited an African state. The Carter Center has worked there since 1988 to eradicate or control neglected diseases like Guinea worm and river blindness. In 1999, the Center observed the presidential election, but our team was dismayed by blatant ballot stuffing and other corrupt practices by all sides and concluded that the process was so badly marred by widespread fraud that it was impossible to make an accurate assessment of the outcome. In subsequent years, as political conditions worsened, the Center declined to accept invitations to observe Nigeria’s national elections in 2003 and 2007.
Carter Center Vice President for Peace Programs John Stremlau addressed a recent conference on electoral reform in Nigeria convened by Chinua Achebe at Brown University. The conference, which highlighted the relevance of international election principles and standards for improving Nigeria’s upcoming state and national elections, drew on lessons from the Center’s successful partnership with Nigerians to advance public health in local communities throughout the nation. Watch his remarks here (17:15): http://www.brown.edu/web/achebe-colloquium/videos2009/02.html