PRETORIA – Political parties in South Africa this week challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to step into the plate and address the volatile situation in Nigeria, where protests over a police wing invited more state brutality.
Protests have been going on in the West African country for almost two weeks now, but took a dash for the worst when the government’s dissolution of the dreaded police wing – the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), only gave birth to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), something that the protestors believe is a mere recycling of the same organization.
The situation has escalated into serious human rights abuses, attracting widespread condemnation Tuesday, when a brazen shooting into the crowd by trigger-happy police drew at least a dozen fatalities.
Ramaphosa, currently occupying the rotational seat of African Union Chairperson, has – as has ALWAYS been the case with African leaders on human rights abuses by their own on citizens, been marooned in an island of silence as many surrounding him, including the international community, raised their voices in condemnation of the actions of Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
The political parties that took to the streets of South Africa’s capital Pretoria earlier this week challenged Ramaphosa to use his AU position to raise the situation to the United Nations Security Council, while SA’s third largest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, sent a message of support to the protestors in Pretoria Wednesday.
This was as Nigerians in South Africa joined growing #ENDSARS protests against police brutality in Africa’s most populous country, while the rest of the world continued to express outrage over the killings of civilians by solders at Lekki tollgate in Lagos Tuesday.
Nigeria’s SARS was set up in 1984 to combat rising crime and kidnappings, but international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, says it has credible evidence of the unit having used force and violating human rights, with at least 82 documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of civilians.
Addressing marchers, Nigeria’s Premier in South Africa, Nduka Udemezue, described SARS as a unit that was dangerous to the society and police force with their aggression.
“We are calling for the total dissolution of that unit and we demand prosecution, therefore we are marching in solidarity to our people at home,” said Mr Udemezue.
“We also call on the army and say: stop killing your children; don’t kill your brothers and sisters, don’t kill the youths, don’t engage on an informal violence with unarmed peaceful demostators.”
Some protestors raised banners branding President Buhari a “murderer in chief” and others written “Buhari must Go!”
Across the world celebrities have also sent messages of support to the people of Nigeria, with some of them taking to microblogging site Twitter to pledge their solidarity.
On Tuesday, Nigerian authorities announced a 24hour curfew, which was followed by the solders shooting at the protestors that evening, which also left many injured.
U.S presidential candidate Joe Biden and former U.S secretary for State and former Presidential candidate for the Democrats, Hilary Clinton have criticized the Nigerian government’s response to the demonstrations with a tweet #ENDSARS.
The Nigerian army denied it was responsible for the deaths.
Nigerian authorities, in a tweet by The Lagos State Govt, said they were investigating the reports that soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators.
“ The state government has ordered an investigation into the incident. Gorvernor Babajide Sanwo -Olu has advised the security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.”