'Stop the violence, respect the law': Ramaphosa speaks on Nigeria protests

22 October 2020 - 17:03
By nonkululeko njilo AND Nonkululeko Njilo
African Union (AU) chairperson, SA President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking during an AU meeting on Thursday.
Image: GCIS African Union (AU) chairperson, SA President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking during an AU meeting on Thursday.

The African Union (AU) on Thursday weighed in on the protests in Nigeria, urging the government to refrain from the use of violence.

The call comes after protests, under the hashtag #EndSARS, demanding an end to police brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) in Nigeria.

AU chair President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the Nigerian government to “respect human rights and the rule of law” amid the ongoing protests.

“As we meet here, we are deeply concerned about the violence that has taken place in recent days in Lagos in Nigeria. We join the chairperson of the AU Commission in calling on all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law,” said Ramaphosa.  

He was speaking during the second midyear co-ordination meeting of the AU, Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms, held on Thursday.

Ramaphosa's call comes after scores of people are reported to have lost their lives during the Sars protests, following which the squad has been disbanded.

“We offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” said Ramaphosa.

The meeting discussed, among other things, the economic recovery post the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy which the continent continued to grapple with.

Ramaphosa said the AU formed the African Task Force for Coronavirus, which established the Partnership for Accelerated Covid-19 Testing (Pact) campaign, and launched the innovative Africa Medical Supplies Platform to ensure that all African countries have access to affordable medical equipment, diagnostics and other essential supplies.

“[That] we have been able to respond proactively to the Covid-19 threat is due to the great work of the AU Commission and the member states. On behalf of us all I wish to thank His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, the commissioner for social affairs Amira Elfadil Mohammed and the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, for their efforts,” said  Ramaphosa.

Economic integration

While many set their eyes on economic recovery, Ramaphosa affirmed the continent's commitment to economic integration.

“While some regional economic communities have made significant progress in key areas of integration, others have struggled to achieve the goals set out in their respective treaties and conventions and in meeting the milestones set out in the Abuja Treaty.

“We welcome the fact that all the regional economic communities affirm the importance of trade in advancing economic integration,” he said.

With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) set to come into operation next year, Ramaphosa said economic integration would gain more momentum.

'Stop the violence, respect the law,' Ramaphosa urged the Nigerian government.
Image: Esa Alexander 'Stop the violence, respect the law,' Ramaphosa urged the Nigerian government.

He said the AfCFTA offers the continent a great opportunity for job creation, industrial linkages, economic diversification and structural transformation.

“The pandemic will in the long term lead to a trade rebalancing, with economies in the developed world turning to localisation, local job retention and other programmes to support their respective recoveries. So too must we use this opportunity to engage in greater trade with each other and to create more jobs and opportunities for our people, especially for youth, women and persons with disabilities,” he said.   

Women were identified as one of the key driving forces in the formal and informal economies. Ramaphosa said women needed to be afforded more opportunities, including higher levels of public procurement for women-owned businesses.

“The AU should consider an AfCFTA Protocol for African Women in Trade as a legislated instrument for trade facilitation for women in Africa. Without targeted trade facilitation, women will be excluded from the benefits of the AfCFTA by virtue of the structural barriers women face in Africa’s economies,” he added.