Nigeria president warns protesters as unrest flares

The broadcast was Buhari’s first public statement to the nation since security forces were accused of gunning down peaceful protesters in Lagos on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Nigeria president warns protesters as unrest flares

LAGOS: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday warned protesters not to “undermine national security” as he avoided addressing the shooting of demonstrators after days of unrest.
The broadcast was Buhari’s first public statement to the nation since security forces were accused of gunning down peaceful protesters in Lagos on Tuesday.
But he failed to make any direct mention to the incident that has helped unleash chaos in Africa’s biggest city and drawn international outrage.
Instead he blamed those who had “hijacked and misdirected” weeks of protests against police brutality for bloodshed and warned against “undermining national security.”
“Under no circumstances will this be tolerated,” he said
The 77-year-old called on the youth to “discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions.”
“Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding,” he said.
The president shrugged off condemnation from the US, African Union, European Union and Britain over the excessive use of force by the authorities.
“We thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements,” he said.
Amnesty International has said Nigerian soldiers and police shot dead 12 unarmed demonstrators on Tuesday, while 56 people have died overall across the country since protests began on October 8.
Shops were looted, buildings torched and sporadic gunfire reported for the second day in Lagos on Thursday despite a round-the-clock curfew.
Buhari’s uncompromising line stirred immediately anger online and looked unlikely to quell widespread ire in the face of one of the biggest crises of his tenure.
Protests erupted in Nigeria two weeks ago over brutality by the police’s loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Buhari scrapped the unit and pledged reforms but the demands from the young protesters broadened to call for more sweeping change.
Authorities said the demonstrations were increasingly being taken over by criminals as violence flared and sought to shut them down.
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness,” Buhari said in his speech.
Nigeria’s army has denied that its soldiers opened fire on demonstrators on Tuesday.
But rights groups, the UN and the US have decried the shooting that was captured in video and images shared globally online.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there were signs the attack was “premeditated, planned and coordinated.”
The International Criminal Court said it was “closely following the events around the current protests in Nigeria.”
The incident has unleashed a wave of major unrest on the streets of Lagos that has seen supermarkets emptied and prisons attacked.
The authorities insist the violence is being carried out by “hoodlums” and have sent the army out into the city to restore order.
In the middle-class neighborhood of Lekki, soldiers had taken taken control of the streets by Thursday afternoon.
But the burnt out husks of official buildings, smoldering wreckage of cars and smashed shopfronts testified to the ferocity of the mayhem.
“Now they have seen what we are capable of,” one angry youth said, “We are just hungry, we are tired.”
In another district a warehouse holding food that was meant to be distributed to poor residents impacted by coronavirus restrictions was looted.
Elsewhere in the country the governor of oil-rich Delta state ordered a 48-hour curfew after incidents of arson, robberies and attacks on a prison and other public buildings.
The Delta state police public relations officer, Onome Onowakpoyeya, told AFP that perpetrators were “hoodlums” protesting under the guise of demonstrators.
Nigeria — which has a median age of 18 and the highest number of people in extreme poverty in the world — is a tinderbox of deep grievances.
Africa’s biggest oil producer and largest economy is facing a profound recession as a fall in crude prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic has robbed the state of revenues.


Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

Updated 43 min 49 sec ago

Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

  • An Arab News en Francais/YouGov poll suggests the largest minority group in France suffer from lack of acceptance, even stigmatization
  • More than half the respondents said they adhere to secularism and believe it could help alleviate problems in the Arab world 

DUBAI: As a wave of violence inspired by radical Islam shakes French cities and the culture at large, creating a sense of insecurity and fear, Islamophobia is on the rise. Islamism is not Islam, but for lack of knowledge, conflation of the two is easy.

It is through this wrong prism that French Muslims are viewed, as well as some Jews and Christians due to their Arab origins. INSEE, France’s national statistics bureau, said that by 2019, 55 percent of immigrants (both first and second generation) had come from Arab countries. They are the largest minority group in France and therefore it is not for an extremist minority to represent them.

For the first time in France, a survey was carried out among French people of Arab origin. Arab News en Francais commissioned leading online polling firm YouGov to conduct research on the perception of their life in France and their position in the face of secularism.

Arab News Research and Studies Unit partnered with YouGov for the survey which was carried out between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, and was based on a representative sample of 958 French people from Arab countries, living in France.

The survey confirms their desire to belong to a democratic and secular France. It emerges that all religions are not perceived in the same way by French society, as indicated by the feelings of the French of Arab origin, Muslims and Jews who were interviewed.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those interviewed were found to be educated and employed, while French people of Arab origin are generally familiar with the French system and its history, and adhere to the fundamental values ​​of the French Republic.

The French of Arab origin have largely adapted to the way of life in France, but they do not feel accepted, with many citing a sense of stigmatization. Both religion and their national origin have no impact on their sense of belonging to French society. But the sounding of their name has an impact on their careers.

Half of the people questioned believe that neither their race, nor their origin and their religion had any impact on their feelings of belonging to French society and on their professional careers. Their responses, however, underline a feeling of exclusion which, for 51 percent is not linked to skin color, but rather to the ethnic origin of their name (36 percent), which, on the other hand, has a negative impact on their career prospects.

This feeling of exclusion is exacerbated among women who believe that their country of origin (46 percent against 33 percent of men) as well as their religion (66 percent against 52 percent of men) causes a negative perception among their compatriots.

French people of Arab origin clearly respect French values, such as secularism, and believe that a secular system would be beneficial for their country of origin. Many even claim to be ready to defend this model in their country of origin.

IN NUMBERS

55% French immigrants with roots in Arab countries.

51% Who did not link feeling of exclusion to skin color.

36% Who linked feeling of exclusion to ethnic origin of their name.

In fact, 54 percent of them advocate secularism, which would be, for them, a solution to the problems of the Arab world. The people questioned are reluctant to interfere with religion in politics and appreciate the secular system applied in France, which they even openly defend in their country of origin.

Moreover, the majority is not in favor of regulations on religious clothing, but 45 percent of men, 48 percent of respondents residing in rural France and 50 percent of those aged over 55 support regulatory laws and are in favor of such decisions, against 29 percent of the youngest (18-24 years) interviewees.

The oldest are better integrated than the youngest who were born in France. The younger generations are much less enthusiastic about state institutions and seem to be going back to their parents’ roots, thus reinforcing their sense of otherness.

The survey highlights the widening gap between the generations, insofar as young French people of Arab origin aged 18-24, for whom their religion is perceived positively (53 percent), seem less inclined to respect the regulations and join institutions like the national football team. Thus, 58 percent would support the football team of their country of origin against France, while 58 percent of men aged 35 to 44 and 72 percent of those over 55 would support the French team.

This last point reflects a generational gap and a generational conflict, which represents a major challenge for the future. A significant 49 percent of respondents and 52 percent of 18-34-year-olds believe that education levels are the most important factor in advancing their careers, but that their last name alone has a negative impact on their career, despite their ability to progress and the fact that they give themselves the means to do so.

A better knowledge of French people of Arab origin, peaceful and attached to the values ​​of freedom and secularism, is essential if the fight against extremism and Islamization in France is to be won.