Nigeria swore in its new president, a Christian, this week after months of leadership confusion while its elected president was receiving medical treatment.
Goodluck Jonathan, who has been Nigeria’s acting president since February, officially became president of Nigeria on Thursday. His Muslim predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, died on Wednesday despite extensive treatment, including a medical stay in Saudi Arabia.
The peaceful power shift provides stability to the oil-rich country, avoiding Nigeria’s history of military coups whenever there was a leadership vacuum.
It is unclear at the moment if Jonathan will run for the office of president during the next election.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is about evenly split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. There is an agreement that the office of president would be alternated between Christians and Muslims.
While the presidency problem is, for now, settled, Nigeria is facing the problem of increased sectarian violence.
Just last month, Islamic extremists allegedly kidnapped and killed Pastor Ishaku Kadah of the Church of Christ in Nigeria and his wife.
In March, ethnic Fulani Muslims attacked predominantly Christian villages in the central Jos area where somewhere between 100 to 500 people were killed, depending on reports. The attack occurred at night and many of the victims were defenseless women and children.
Then acting president Goodluck Jonathan ordered security forces in Plateau State and neighboring states to be on high alert to keep the violence from spreading.
The attack had come just months after a large-scale clash around the Jos area. Nearly 500 people were killed in January. The Plateau state police said the violence was sparked by an unprovoked attack on worshipers at a local church.
Jos has a well-known history of conflict between the Muslim and Christian communities. The central city lies between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Beyond religious differences, many sectarian conflicts are also sparked by poverty and competition over access to resources.