“Nigerian lives matter! We are with you, Baga!” The cries outside the Nigerian Embassy in London rang down Northumberland Avenue as an anti-terror protest to raise awareness around the actions of Boko Haram was held on Tuesday afternoon. The terrorist movement is currently occupying an area the size of Belgium across the north-eastern area of Nigeria as well as swathes of Chad, Niger and Cameroun.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a total population of 150 million people. Last year, it became the continent’s strongest economy with a total GDP North of $500 billion. In the last decade, Boko Haram has spread across the country like a cancer. In April 2014, they were responsible for the kidnapping of over 270 Nigerian schoolgirls, which began the international campaign to ‘Bring Back Our Girls’.
One of the rally’s organisers, Akinola Davies Jr, a 29-year-old videographer, had said that he intended Sunday’s events to be an educational experience. Speaking to Dazed, Davies Jr. said: “The diaspora should educate themselves about what is happening in Nigeria and engage in more discourse with each other. We should try to use our privileges to garner international support to demonstrate and pressure the Nigerian government.”
While not going so far as to say there was a bias in the British media, Davies Jr. was critical of the selective nature of what is presented to the public: “You might hear about Somali pirates because it affects your vacation to Kenya or about the Ebola virus because it is a threat to Britain. You won’t hear as much about the ongoing violence and loss of life in Ukraine, Palestine, Mexico.”
“2,000 people dead like switching off a light,” said Chantelle Dusette, a 32-year-old writer, speaking at the rally. “There is such a problem out there and you can’t just get away with it. It is important to come out with your support.”
Emory Ruegg, a 32-year-old producer, echoed Dusette and Davies Jr. saying: “From my perspective, a rally isn’t about a contest of suffering. You might feel aligned to one cause or another. For example, what happened in Paris was a tragedy but France is much closer. We’re simply trying to address the balance of awareness.”
While Ruegg spoke, the crowd began to chant more fervently as the numbers swelled and railings were pushed back to accommodate the numbers. Up to 200 people joined the ranks, though police presence was minimal. Some officers even shook hands with demonstrators as they observed a wholly peaceful protest. As people chanted and waved at cars honking as they passed, they were joined by notable speakers.
Nigerian LGBT rights activist and public speaker Bisi Alimi, 40, spoke to Dazed shortly before addressing the crowd: “I want to remember the many lives we lost. It’s important to remember that our democracy rests on this. Today is a call on the government to protect our rights. This is not a game we can play with people’s lives.”
Earlier this month, it was estimated that the terrorist organisation had taken the
lives of 2,000 people in northern Nigeria. This is thought to be the Boko Haram’s deadliest attack so far.
As the rally was being held, Nigerian soldiers were resisting an assault in their home country on the city of Maiduguri, which left over 200 dead or wounded. If there is to be a repeat of world leaders showing solidarity in a gesture similar to Paris, it would be hoped that it will happen soon.