Nigerian Government Opens Gunfire on Protestors, Killing 45
On Monday, October 29, the Nigerian military opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 Shiite protestors. According to Amnesty International, 39 people were killed and hundreds injured. The protests on Monday follow the deaths of 6 people on Saturday, bringing the total to 45 deaths. Amnesty International reports that much of the carnage pointed to “injuries caused by a heavy fully-automatic machine gun such as a PKM or DShK.” The director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said the following regarding the events: “This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill.”
The Nigerian military has responded to these claims with denial. They have argued that protesters were throwing rocks and their actions were prompted by self-defense. Six officers were injured in the protests. Additionally, the Nigerian military posted a video on their Twitter of President Donald Trump’s speech in which he stated that rocks are firearms if they are thrown at troops at the border. The video was captioned “please watch and make your deductions,” referencing the events that took place Monday. The tweet has drawn criticism from around the world, including from Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who called it “sickening.” In response to the widespread criticism, Nigerian Army spokesperson John Agim stated “we released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International? What are they then saying? What did David use to kill Goliath? So a stone is a weapon.”
The Shiite protestors are members of a group called the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. They were protesting the widespread oppression of their group and more specifically the fact that their leader Ibraheem Yaqub El-Zakzaky has been in jail since December 2015. He was arrested and soon after protests broke out where 350 protestors were killed in two days. After waiting two years in custody despite a court ruling calling for him to be released, he was charged with murder this year. It should be noted that El-Zakzaky represents a Shiite movement of the same time period and ideological vein as the 1979 Iranian revolutionary movement. However, the protestors that belong to the IMN have not shown the violence that warranted such a response by the government.
Many international Human Rights organizations are calling this a gross violation of international law. Amnesty International, for example, is calling for a “full and independent investigation of deaths at the hands of security forces.” It should be noted that on Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive in Nigeria as a part of their Africa tour. They have made no comments regarding the tragic events up to this point. In addition, both the US and UK have signed major arms/security deals with the Nigerian government. This includes an agreement with the US of $600 Million worth in fighter jets. It is unclear whether any UK/US provided weaponry or ammunition was used in the massacre.