#EndSARS has snowballed from a hashtag into a movement since the start of October. The movement is calling for an end to police brutality and for SARS to disband.
Many are now speaking out. #SoroSoke, meaning ‘speak out’ or ‘speak up’ in the Yoruba language, has trended on social media in recent weeks. Across Nigeria condemnation of SARS, police harassment, cruelty, intimidation, rape and unlawful arrest are growing at pace.
Peaceful protests calling out the brutality and violence have met excessive force. Reports estimate that 56 people have died and hundreds have been injured since demonstrations began.
Peace Direct condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful protesters. We call on the Nigerian police to end the use of force against non-violent demonstrations. We also stand in support of local efforts to end conflict, and the power of local civil society to build bridges and lead change.
Young Nigerians are among the most vocal protestors, despite allegations they fuel violence. They’ve spoken of having to “learn to coexist with the casual cruelty of our police.” With the largest youth population on the African continent, they have been at the forefront of the response – forming a pro bono legal service, a healthcare response service, security services, and community support services in response.
Nigerians have rallied across ethnic, religious and regional divides with a common cause. Muslims and Christians are praying for bereaved families side by side. This is a united with one voice – EndSARS.
Supporting communities and young people to rebuild peacefully starts now. But they need support.
In Kano, our partners the Peace Initiative Network (PIN) are helping. They support young people to address the causes of conflict, bridge ethnic and religious divides and avoid joining extremist groups. PIN also helps communities to resolve disputes peacefully. Their work is continuing, amid Covid-19 and now protests and violence.
The scale of the challenge facing Nigeria and the response required is unknown.
Yet, Nigerians have shown they can organise, speak up, and demand change. In the face of barbarity, thuggery and violence, their unity is laying the foundations for the reconciliation and peace which we hope will come. But more support, more dialogue and renewed leadership is needed to bring sustainable peace to the country and its people. We call on Nigeria’s leaders to listen and act now.