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Wife of fugitive pro-Biafra leader vows vote boycott

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Nigeria’s authorities need to disclose the whereabouts of pro-Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu or risk a mass boycott of next year’s election, his wife said in an interview broadcast Monday. Uchechi Kanu said her husband, who has not been seen for six months, should be “the number one issue” in the run-up to the February 2019 vote for a new president and parliament.

“Where is he? You need to provide him, at least tell us where he is,” she told the BBC Yoruba language service in an interview in English. “You need to at least do something before you run an election, otherwise we’re not going to vote. In a separate interview to the BBC Igbo service, she said: “I don’t know where my husband is, whether he is dead or alive, I don’t know.”

But she said she knew he was being held by the military, despite government denials. Nnamdi Kanu heads the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, which has revived separatist sentiment in the Igbo-dominated southeast region of Nigeria. The former London estate agent has not been seen since soldiers raided his house in the Abia state capital, Umuahia, following a crackdown on his supporters in September last year.

Kanu is on bail and facing trial on treason charges in the capital Abuja but was not in court at the resumed hearing of the case in October, leading to an adjournment. The IPOB leader was first arrested in October 2015, prompting a wave of protests in the southeast and a crackdown by the police and military. A previous declaration of an independent republic of Biafra in 1967 sparked a bloody, 30-month civil war.

The conflict left more than one million dead, most of them Igbos, from the effects of starvation and disease, as federal forces blockaded the fledgling state. Kanu, who is in his 40s, has said his aim was “civil disobedience”, including shut-downs and boycotts of elections, to force a referendum on self-determination.

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