“Not Encouraging Protests in Nigeria” -Ex-President Sirleaf Reaffirms Call to Protect Peaceful Protestors
The escalation of violence in Nigeria between state security forces and angry youths protesting over police brutality has left over 60 Nigerians dead and properties vandalized, claiming the attention of current and former world leaders, with Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf adding her voice to the numerous calls on the Nigerian authorities to protect the rights of the protestors. In the wake of the Nigeria melee, Madam Sirleaf recently commented on Twitter saying, “the right to peaceful 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.” But quite contrary to her Twitter comments, Madam Sirleaf says she is taken aback by the publication in of the Liberian local dallies that she is encouraging protest in Nigeria.
Africa’s first democratically elected president Johnson-Sirleaf in a chat with this paper said “My earlier Twitter comments on the October 7 anti-SARS protest which turned violent was only meant to alert our sisterly West African neighbors that it is better to peacefully engage the youths than to turn on them with violence. It was never meant to encourage protest in Nigeria as it was reported New Democrat newspaper that put a spin on my genuine call for an end to the ongoing violence in Nigeria.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has already informed the country that so far, 69 people have been killed in protest against police brutality that have rocked the West African nation. A group that has been key in organizing the demonstrations has now urged people to stay at home. The Feminist Coalition also advised people to follow any curfew put in place in their states.
Madam Sirleaf in her second tweet, this time to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, stated: “I respect my brother, the President of Nigeria, and have faith that he will take the steps needed to protect the rights of protesters.”
“As I stated in my latest Tweet that, I sincerely believe that my brother, President Muhammadu Buhari, will take the steps needed to protect the rights of protesters. I have confidence in his ability to end the violence,” Madam Sirleaf emphasized with confidence.
Observers are of the opinion that with the content of the two tweets, it is surprising that a credible local newspaper would report that “Ellen Supports Protests in Nigeria”.
It can be recalled that on March 27, 2020 Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a peaceful ex-president of Liberia, appeared among a throng of protestors who had turned out in the streets of Monrovia to campaign against the increased rape of young babies, girls and women in the country. Madam Sirleaf, a one-time political activist, said she could not sit in her house to see all those women demonstrating for something that is good for the country without showing a sign of solidarity with them.
“So my idea was to just go across to show solidarity; sit with them, talk to them, tell them to make sure that they keep the peace, the peace that we fought for all those years and we maintained all those years when I was President; tell them that we don’t need violence,” Madam Sirleaf stated at the time.
As former Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Madam Sirleaf in December 2016 played a yeoman’s role in brokering peace in neighboring Gambia after President Yahyah Jameh refused to concede defeat in elections won by his opponent Adama Barrow. Former President Sirleaf’s leadership role in the ensuing negotiations led to the successful exit of the defiant Gambia ex-president.