Nigerian youth are on the streets.

Since the beginning of October, a protest movement has shaken the country.

At the cry of "#EndSARS" (put an end to Sars, a special police unit against theft), he calls for an end to impunity for police violence, but also a change in the political system.

The #EndSARS mobilization began online on October 3, 2020, when a video showing officers from this special unit brutalizing two young men before shooting one went viral.

"It was the murder at the hands of the SARS of a young person in the Delta State (south), which set fire to the powders", recalls Laurent Fourchard, director of research at the International Research Center (Ceri) and specialist in Nigeria, interviewed by France 24. "This police unit has become known for its extrajudicial abuses by torturing and killing a large number of young people. It acts in extortion. It acts without plates and without uniforms" , explains Laurent Fourchard to France 24.

Nigeria: "this kind of violence is usual on the part of the Nigerian army and police"

04:31

The founder of the unit himself, Fulani Kwajafa, says he does not recognize the force he founded in 1984. "Today's Sars is not the same Sars that I created." , he said in a recent interview with the BBC, admitting to feeling "sad" and "guilty" in front of these abuses.

The end of Sars, the beginning of Swat

Faced with the pressure of the street, and especially the scale that the #EndSARS movement has taken on social networks, with the sharing of international super-stars like CardiB, Kayne West, and even the CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey, the Nigerian government announced on October 11 the disbandment of this unit and the creation of the SWAT (the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit) to replace it. 

#ENDSARS 🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/59lrs8JnDA

- Rihanna (@rihanna) October 20, 2020

Sentence lost: Shortly after the announcement, the hashtag #EndSWAT replaced #EndSARS, and hundreds of other demonstrators took to the streets in many cities in the south of the country and Abuja, the federal capital.

"At the beginning, the movement fought for a reform of the police", explains Laurent Fourchard.

"Little by little, under the weight of repression, the movement has become radicalized and now calls into question the political system, its corruption and its functioning. It has become a general protest against the power in place."

The Ceri researcher notes that the social movement is unprecedented "in terms of its scope, duration and radicalism"

"It is unprecedented because it has no equivalent in magnitude since the mid-1960s. It is unpublished politically because it rejects party support while waving flags and singing the national anthem to show its attachment to Nigeria Finally, the movement is unprecedented because it is transclass: the well-to-do youth mix with the poor unemployed ", lists Laurent Fourchard.

Fifty six dead since the start of the movement

It all started on "Bloody Tuesday", as the local press called it.

On October 20, protesters gathered at the Lekki tollgate, near Lagos, which had become the epicenter of popular protest.

That day, more than a thousand demonstrators had decided to defy the curfew decreed by the authorities from 4 p.m. in Lekki.

The police dispersed them with live ammunition, killing 12 people, according to the NGO Amnesty International, which estimates the total death toll at 56 since the start of the movement.

https://t.co/RPrTibk0DF

- Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) October 21, 2020

"This kind of violence is usual on the part of the Nigerian army and police, but there they suppressed a peaceful demonstration of unarmed people. The attack was premeditated. The stage emptied of the media. It is appalling, ", considers Laurent Fourchard.

Washington, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations have condemned the violence and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Some demonstrators suffer from terrible psychological consequences, as Moïse Gomis, France 24 correspondent on the spot, recounts.

"People are traumatized by what happened. I spoke with a father who told me that he must have slept with his children, while the bullets were whistling. Another protester is prostrate in his room since the events of Tuesday ", details Moïse Gomis.

After this "bloody Tuesday", Lagos plunged into chaos, supermarkets were looted, shots were fired, and two prisons were attacked, before the police regained control.

The president did not convince

On Thursday, October 22, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military coup, spoke for the first time since the start of the crisis in a highly anticipated speech.

He was uncompromising and inflexible, warning protesters that he "would not allow anyone or any group to endanger peace and national security," he said.

"Resist the temptation to be used by subversive elements to cause chaos and kill our young democracy."

A speech that is far from convincing, especially since many Nigerians expected the president's speech that those responsible for the repression be appointed.

The army and police deny being involved. 

"People are devastated but did not have any illusions about the speech. For them, the president said nothing, he answers side of the plate to the movement", notes Moïse Gomis.

“Has anyone noticed that the president has not been able to recognize the lives lost and those injured because of the police trigger?” Nigerian actress Kemi Lala Akindoju said on Twitter.

"Instead, he celebrated the brave policemen who lost their lives. Nothing about the shootings."

Anybody notice that the President couldn't even acknowledge the lives lost and people injured because of trigger happy policemen?

Instead he celebrated the gallant policemen who lost their lives.

Nothing about the shootings.

- Kemi Lala Akindoju (@lalaakindoju) October 22, 2020

"I am so disappointed, undermined. My heart is broken. How can you have such a leader?" Asks Chioma *, one of the participants in the movement.

"If you are among those who still believe that Buhari did not order the massacre of Lekki, then you are morons. His speech shows that he is as guilty as a priest in a brothel", blurted Michael *, in on social networks.

"Twelve minutes of anything," said Fati *, another protester, on social networks, in reaction to the speech attaching several crying emojis. 

After three nights of looting and riots, the security forces are gradually regaining control of Lagos, according to AFP journalists.

Police officers patrol the city's neighborhoods to ensure the safety of its residents.

You are kindly requested to stay at home, ”the police tweeted overnight, a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari's speech.

For their part, the few organizations or celebrities who carried the movement also seemed to call for calm.

"Prepare your voter cards! It's not over," wrote Afro-pop music star Davido, stressing that the fight should now take place at the polls and not in the streets.

EVERYBODY get your PVC READY #ItIsNotFinished

- Davido (@davido) October 23, 2020

* All comments were collected by our correspondent and the names have been changed

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