CW 42/2020: State and Violence
Press Review 10 October 2020 to 16 October 2020

Disputed Nigerian police unit disbanded

The Nigerian police unit SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was dissolved on Sunday after continuing protests. The demonstrators accuse  SARS of disproportionate violence and criminal activities such as harassment, extortion, kidnapping and extrajudicial killings. The protests first began online on Twitter under the hashtag #EndSARS before young people took to the streets nationwide to demonstrate against police violence. In the capital Abuja as well as in Lagos and other large cities, main roads and toll booths were blocked. Despite the announcement of the dissolution of the infamous special unit, daily protests against police violence continue in the continent’s most populous state. The demonstrators are demanding justice for the victims and compensation for the families affected, as well as a commission of inquiry and training for police officers. There is also criticism that the SARS unit is to be dissolved, but that the former members are simply to be transferred to other police units. This is not the first time in Nigeria that protests have been raised against police violence and explicitly against SARS. In previous years, the government had repeatedly promised reforms or the dissolution of the police unit. Nevertheless, Amnesty International has documented more than 82 cases of abuse and homicides by members of the SARS unit alone since 2017. Meanwhile, the Nigerian police are cracking down on the protests. According to Amnesty International reports, ten people have lost their lives since last week.


Police raid on Ugandan opposition politician Bobi Wine

On Wednesday, heavily armed security forces stormed the party office of Uganda’s leading opposition politician Bobi Wine. He was in a meeting with other high-ranking officials of his party National Unity Platform (NUP). The police confiscated documents and campaign material related to Wine’s presidential candidacy and arrested more than thirty people. The spokesman for the Ugandan army justified the raid citing the need to secure military equipment: The red berets – Bobi Wine’s identification symbol – were reserved exclusively for the military. However, the spokesman did not comment on accusations that  the signature lists necessary for Wines’ registration for the presidential candidacy were stolen during the raid The former singer and current member of parliament, whose civil name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is considered Museveni’s greatest challenger in the presidential election in February 2021. Long-time ruler Museveni has ruled the East African country, which has not seen a peaceful change of power since independence, for 34 years. Most recently, the 76-year-old succeeded in lifting the constitutional age limit of 75 years for the office of president. Museveni is  repeatedly  criticised for the country’s growing corruption, social injustice and ineffective governance. Wine, who is only 38 years old and has been arrested several times under dubious pretexts since entering politics in 2017, is therefore considered a serious alternative for the young population of Uganda in many places.


In other news

Last Monday the Rwandan government accepted new regulations for the cultivation and processing of medical cannabis. The new regulations legalise cannabis exclusively for export. Its use as a “recreational drug” remains illegal in the East African country. Experts agree that the European Union will become one of the largest markets for medical cannabis from African countries. Other countries such as Eswatini, Uganda and Malawi are also considering a possible legalisation for medical use. The British market research company Prohibition Partners estimates the value of cannabis and related products manufactured in Africa to reach about 7.1 billion US dollars (around 6.4 billion Euros) in 2023.

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