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#EndSars, Abolish the Force Across Africa

Article by Maureen Kasuku
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Posted: October 21, 2020  

On Wednesday 21st October 2020, we woke up to the news that Nigerian Security Forces had  opened fire on #EndSARS protesters in Lekki, a wealthy suburb in Lagos killing tens and injuring hundreds. 

End Special Anti-Robbery Squad (End SARS) or #EndSARS is a decentralized social movement against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial unit of the Nigerian Police Force with a long record of abuses.

The protests were sparked by a viral video allegedly showing SARS officers killing a young man in the southern Delta state. Authorities denied the video was real. The man who filmed the video was arrested, provoking even more anger. In the aftermath of nationwide protests instigated by the murder of the young man by SARS a slogan has emerged: #EndSARS concurrently with #Abolishthepolice. 

It may be hard to fathom, but no matter how much policing and prisons have expanded across the continent since nominal “independence”, there has been no improvement in public safety. 

Things have only gotten worse. At the core of this problem is the police. They’ve been largely responsible for escalating crime across the continent. Here in Kenya for example, they are involved in grand theft and mafia-like activities. 

According to a recent survey conducted by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, police abuse in Kenya showed a significant increase” over the past six years, rather than a decline.

The rallying call from youth across the continent is  “abolish the police.” By that, we mean building a continent where we do not have to rely on anti-poor people and colonial relic institutions to regulate our society. 

This means that alternative forms of order should  be embraced, like social worker networks and justice structures that are grounded in restoration rather than punishment and violative surveillance by police. We’ve got to start trying to address what’s driving problematic behavior that we’ve assumed needs police intervention

Abolition is not the notion that we will get rid of the police and all of our problems will be solved. It’s about making sure that instead of investing in punitive measures like policing and prisons, we can invest in addressing the social and material conditions that inequality has created and the environment police can thrive in. 

But what about the terrorists, murderers and rapists? Are you satisfied with how the cops have been handling them? Most get away with a slap on the wrist anyway. Cash is king on this continent.

We need to think holistically and creatively on how we can combat social ills without involving the police. Police abolition is a steady process of strategically reallocating crucial resources and responsibility away from the cops and channeling them towards community-based methods of safety, support, and prevention. 

Abolition demands that we acknowledge that throughout the history of this continent since the independence wave of the 1960s,  poor and marginalized communities have been disproportionately subjected to state-sponsored vilification and punishment — by design!

We need more decolonised schools offering free, quality education to prevent the school-prison pipeline in underprivileged areas. We need unarmed negotiation-style experts to de-escalate tense situations that can lead to harmful confrontations between people. We need to address the roots of terrorism and religious extremism. We need to make mental health a priority in Africa. We need to eradicate poverty and offer opportunities to everyone; not just the elite.

This will take YEARS but it will make all the difference. The police will probably not be completely abolished in our lifetime but we’ve got to start now. It is not police brutality. It is the police.

 

The views expressed here are that of the writer and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KenyaBuzz and its affiliates.

 

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