Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on African leaders to listen to and engage the youth and not try to silence them.
Her call comes on the back of the ongoing protests and violence in Nigeria for better governance and an end to police brutality.
Commenting on the development, Johnson Sirleaf called for a de-escalation of the festering violence in Nigeria.
She tweeted: “The right to peacefully protest must be protected. I join the calls for an immediate de-escalation of violence against the #EndSARS protestors. It is critical that we listen to, and engage with, the voices of the youth—not try to silence them.”
Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on the youth and civil society organisations of Nigeria to pursue dialogue to ensure an early and cordial resolution to the ongoing social unrest in order to safeguard its image as a peaceful state.
A statement issued on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, signed by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Jean Claude-Kassi Brou, said it has noted with “concern” that “demonstrations by Nigerian youth calling for police reform, particularly the abolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, accused of misconduct by those demonstrating, have turned violent.”
The Commission expressed its “condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives during the protests” and wished the “injured a speedy recovery.”
It continued that while it “recognises the right of citizens to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and protests, it is also of the view that those rights should be exercised in a non-violent manner.”
The Commission also called “on all protesters to remain peaceful in the conduct of their demonstrations” and urged the Nigerian security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of the protests and act professionally.
“ECOWAS Commission further notes that, in an effort to address the demands of the protesting youth, the Federal Government of Nigeria took important decisions regarding disbandment of SARS, comprehensive police reforms and investigation of cases of police brutality. It encourages the Nigerian Authorities to conduct the investigation rapidly”.
It also appealed to the “Federal Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian youth and the civil society to urgently pursue dialogue for an early and amicable resolution of this social unrest and maintain the Nigerian image as a bastion of law and order.”
A number of protesters were reportedly shot dead or wounded on Tuesday night when armed uniformed officers opened fire on them at the commercial hub of Lagos.
The military has denied involvement.