Opinion

#EndSARS mustn’t end with SARS…a case for global solidarity

The #EndSARS movement exploded across social media in October as Nigerians took to the streets to protest police brutality at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

The movement has brought the lengthy history of police brutality and abuse of power in Nigeria to the forefront and has even led to the UK government being exposed for their training of SARS officers.

But less than three weeks since the protests first took place, international attention and coverage have begun to wane – all while authorities crackdown on those involved in earlier protests.

This year we’ve witnessed the power of global solidarity across and between the entire African diaspora through Black Lives Matter. The BLM message was spread and solidarized from Ghana to Grenada.

As authorities round protesters up, and new threats of censorship cloud an initially promising air of change in Nigeria, this article explores how and why people of African descent globally must continue to stand in solidarity with #ENDSARS and the movement it has inspired.

Beyond borders

Legendary author and activist Walter Anthony Rodney once said “To talk about Pan-Africanism is to talk about international solidarity within the Black world…whichever sector of the Black world we live in, we have a series of responsibilities.

One of the most important is to define our own situation. A second responsibility is to present that definition to the other parts of the Black world…A third responsibility…is to help others in a different section of the Black world to reflect on their own specific experience”.

Rodney reminds us that open communication and solidarity between Black communities across the world is crucial, and furthermore that we should not allow ourselves to be limited by borders and geographical confines.

This message has infinite importance when we consider the events that have unfolded in Nigeria and the way in which strikingly similar scenes have been replicated across the entire continent and diaspora.

Photo by Ayanfe Olarinde on Unsplash

The EndSARS movement first began in 2017 but came to the attention of the world in early October after a video surfaced of SARS officers dragging two men out of a hotel then shooting one of them. Before long, Twitter was filled with testimonies of others, sharing their experiences with SARS officers.

Protests broke out in Lagos and spread throughout the country, receiving widespread coverage from local and international press. Local people declared this the start of real change for the West African giant.

But the powers that be aren’t going down without a fight. Protesters have been rounded up and there are rumours of new bill proposals to limit the use of social media, with Twitter thought to be the app of focus.  

Whether or not the bill will pass remains to be seen, but what is crystal clear is that the government intends to hamper the ability of those on the ground to continue advocating for change…and sharing their message beyond Nigerian borders.   

In many ways then, the global solidarity Rodney describes as crucial has never been more necessary than it is now.

Should these voices be silenced through this attempt at censorship it’ll be up to us as a diaspora to continue agitating for change both on and offline.  Several have taken up this mantle already.

Finally, what of the final responsiblity Rodney sets, to “help others in a different section of the Black world to reflect on their own specific experience“?

Echoes of SARS can be seen across the entire diaspora. Just last week a video surfaced online of a Jamaican  Police officer allegedly brutalising Jamaican market vendors, and police brutality amongst Black and brown populations in Brazil is well-documented. Similarly, Kenyans and South Africans have bemoaned brutality at the hands of police and the military.

As home to the world’s largest Black populace and as Africa’s largest economy, real change in Nigeria could well be the catalyst for change across the entire continent and diaspora – now more than ever we must raise our voices across the diaspora if we hope to make this possible.

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