Earlier in October, videos surfaced of a young man being shot at by members of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS, with the latter driving off in his car after the execution. This is not the first time images or videos of execution or brutality by this tactical group of the Nigerian police force would surface online, but this time around, the outcome would be vastly different.
In a manner never seen before since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, protests spilt from the pages of social media to the streets. By Thursday 8th of October 2020, unorganised protesters began to converge in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos, demanding that the government puts an end to SARS. Hashtags of #EndSars and #EndPoliceBrutality have since flooded the internet, travelling beyond the continent from Lagos to London, Oyo to Houston, Port-Harcourt to the Gambia and beyond. In spite of assurances by the government that the demands raised by the protests would be addressed, with it going as far as changing the name of the Unit from SARS to SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics Team), Nigerians remain unsatisfied, citing different times in the past when names have been changed and promises made with no actual change.
Currently, protests are still ongoing, with 10 people confirmed dead and fresh violence breaking out every day against protesters, either from armed security forces or armed unnamed groups.
A day after Nigerians took to the streets to protest against police brutality, Namibians followed the same route, only that their protest was against femicide and sexual and gender-based violence. The #ShutItAllDown protest started when it came to the public’s notice that the police had received an anonymous tip on the whereabouts of the body of 22-year old Shannon Wasserfall who had been missing since April 2020. Wasserfall is one in many thousand cases yearly of femicide and SGBV. Reports earlier this year said police were receiving at least 200 cases of domestic violence monthly, while more than 1,600 cases of rape were reported during the 18 months ending in June 2020.
Protesters believe that the police are not doing enough to help women, and want the government as well as the country’s security operatives to step up and protect women more. Sadly, as has been in the case in Nigeria, they have been assaulted, teargassed and arrested. Like Nigerians, the fight to make their voices heard and for justice continue unabated.
In the Democratic Republic Congo, the situation is slightly different. The agitations are online for now, with the hashtag #CongoIsBleeding trending as a way to raise awareness over the killings ongoing in the cobalt-rich country. Cobalt is used mostly in electronic devices, including smartphones and electric cars, but has recently fallen in value mostly due to the Coronavirus, but also because supply has now surpassed demand.
Sadly, the violence in the country has not fallen as well. Different parts in Congo continue to experience killings which the media reports as ethnic skirmishes, but which the people say is tied to their mineral resources. There are reports of genocide currently ongoing, and even though most remain largely unconfirmed, the hashtag continues to exist online.
— #GenocideInCongo🇨🇩 (@sarah_pembele) October 13, 2020
It has certainly being a tumultuous yet historic week in these countries whose youths have decided to take a stance against injustice and inequality fostered by oppressive systems. At ASPIRE, we believe in the values the youths are demanding – justice and equality – and stand in solidarity with the struggle. As part of our commitment to the protests, our social media page will feature no posts until further notice, so that these agitations can receive the attention they need.
Regardless of the outcome, we are proud of this generation that has refused to be silent and has decided to stand on the right side of history. If you wish to find out more about these movements and how you can help, kindly follow the hashtags on Twitter. You can also visit the Twitter pages of FK Abudu, Aisha Yesufu and Mochievous for more information.