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Africa is coming fully on board the protest movement for climate justice, for very good reasons. While Africa contributes only 2 to 3% of the world's carbon emissions, the continent is especially vulnerable to the ravages of climate change. There are no less than 7 African nations in the top category of nations most vulnerable on the planet, among them Kenya, with Nairobibi often cited as particularly vulnerable.
Africa Joins the Struggle for a More Just and Sustainable World
In recent years, Africa has witnessed widespread protests against injustice and police brutality, as citizens raise their voices demanding accountability and an end to systemic oppression. One such pivotal movement was the "End SARS" campaign that emerged in Nigeria in October 2020. This movement exposed the deep-rooted issues of police brutality and sparked a broader conversation about social injustice in Africa. In this article, we will examine the causes, impact, and ongoing efforts to address these issues, highlighting the resilience and determination of African citizens to bring about meaningful change.
Historical Context of Injustice and Police Brutality in Africa: End SARS Movement
To understand the "End SARS" movement and similar protests, it is crucial to recognize the historical context of injustice and police brutality in Africa. The continent has faced a legacy of colonialism, oppressive regimes, and corruption, leading to systemic inequalities and human rights violations. Police forces, originally established to maintain law and order, have often become instruments of repression, targeting marginalized communities, stifling dissent, and perpetuating violence. Across various African nations, incidents of police brutality have been recurrent, leaving communities traumatized and demanding justice.
The "End SARS" movement originated in Nigeria, where the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force, had gained notoriety for its abuses of power, extrajudicial killings, and extortion. Triggered by a video showing the killing of a young man by SARS officers, widespread outrage erupted, and the hashtag #EndSARS went viral on social media platforms. Thousands of Nigerians took to the streets, demanding the disbandment of SARS and an end to police brutality.
The "End SARS" movement had a profound impact not only in Nigeria but also across Africa and the world. It highlighted the power of grassroots activism, as citizens united to demand justice and an end to impunity. The protests gained international attention and support, leading to increased pressure on the Nigerian government to take action. As a result, the government disbanded SARS, but the movement's demands went beyond this single action. Demonstrators called for comprehensive police reform, an end to extrajudicial killings, justice for victims, and accountability for law enforcement officers.
However, the movement also faced significant challenges. The peaceful protests were met with brutal force from security forces, leading to further casualties and injuries. Reports of intimidation, harassment, and arrests of protesters raised concerns about the suppression of free speech and assembly. Additionally, the Nigerian government's initial promises of reform and justice were met with skepticism, as previous pledges had often fallen short of expectations.
The "End SARS" movement resonated beyond Nigeria's borders, inspiring solidarity and similar protests in other African nations. Citizens across the continent saw the movement as a reflection of their shared experiences with police brutality and systemic injustices. In Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, and other countries, activists organized demonstrations to show support for the "End SARS" cause and address local issues of police misconduct and impunity.
Protests in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal
Ethiopia's Amhara region witnessed protests demanding the government abandon its plans to integrate regional fighters into the national military. The demonstrations arose from violence near the Amhara-Tigray border, resulting in curfews and transportation restrictions. The Amhara region, having supported the federal army during the Tigray conflict, accused the government of ignoring attacks on ethnic Amharas in the neighboring Oromia region. Dissolving the regional forces raised concerns about vulnerability to future attacks and limitations on self-defense.
In Kenya, anti-government protests turned violent as clashes between protesters and the police erupted. Demonstrators created barricades by setting fires and throwing objects, while the police responded with tear gas and water cannons. The protests, organized by the opposition, aimed to pressure President William Ruth into resigning, alleging his administration's responsibility for the rising cost of living. There were claims that Ruth's victory in the August 2022 elections lacked legitimacy.
Senegal experienced deadly protests, resulting in several deaths and heightened tensions. Demonstrators clashed with the police, firing guns and setting vehicles and tires on fire. The protests followed the sentencing of opposition politician Usman Sonko to a two-year prison term. While acquitted of other charges, his supporters claimed political persecution to prevent his presidential bid. The government responded by blocking social media platforms, alleging incitement of violence. Sonko's potential arrest and the involvement of the military raised concerns about the state of democracy in Senegal.
The recent protests in Africa, including the "End SARS" movement in Nigeria and the ongoing demonstrations in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, signify the growing discontent with injustice, police brutality, and systemic issues plaguing the continent. These movements demonstrate the resilience and determination of African citizens to bring about meaningful change. They call for an end to impunity, comprehensive police reform, and accountability for law enforcement officers. The international community must pay attention to these protests and support the demands of the people for justice and equality. Only through collective action and collaboration can lasting change be achieved in Africa.