Exactly seven days before Valentine’s Day, central Manchester was occupied by activists marching in solidarity with the victims of Boko Haram’s heinous January attacks. Not only did the vigil – organised by self-funded collective African Rainbow Family (ARF) – condemn the attacks, but it raised the alarm against the lack of mainstream media coverage. With people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and faiths, up to 60 activists gathered in Piccadilly Gardens, having walked from St Peters Square via Market Street where the march commenced.
Echoing the reverberation of the megaphone’s “I Am Baga Too” and “Black Lives Matter Too”, the protesters peacefully marched with lit candles and placards denoting the value of all human life, regardless of background or social standing.
Despite the outbreak of news interest in the initial kidnappings of 200 schoolgirls in March 2014 – including a social media hashtag campaign that even Michelle Obama took part in – little-to-no light has been shone over Boko Haram’s further spate of abductions of women and recent bombing of an estimated 2,000 civilian lives.
The rally’s aim was to raise awareness of those neglected by mainstream media and to provoke “a national debate with western and African leaders” driven towards active change rather than lip-service, founder of ARF Aderonke Apata told TNT.
Amongst the speakers of the day, which included Alfa Kuabo and Colette Williams, was a young fledgling activist who commanded both the megaphone and crowd with verve and finesse.
“It’s just not fair that we keep sending letters to the BBC and they’re not putting it on the news. How would they like it if this [the massacre in Baga Nigeria] happened to them [the British] and we didn’t answer? 2,000 lives have been lost and no one is doing anything to sort it out. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, it just matters that you care,” schoolgirl Fehintola Charis spoke to an attentive crowd who were gripped by her spirited speech.
Accompanied by her mother, Fehintola took part in the entire march and her message was coincidentally echoed on the same day by joint Nobel peace prize-winner Malala Yousafzai. “If these [abducted] girls were the children of politically or financially powerful parents, much more would be done to free them. But they come from an impoverished area of north-east Nigeria and sadly little has changed since they were kidnapped”, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban said in criticism of Nigerian and world leaders for not doing enough to help the Nigerian victims.
ARF is the group behind last December’s march along Portland Street, Manchester. The convention saw hundreds of activists protesting against institutionalised injustices such as that which happened to the late Mike Brown from Ferguson, Missouri USA.
“Going forward, we want to see more communication between activist groups and volunteers. We want to connect with each other as we are more powerful together. Ultimately we want community voices to be heard,” Sacha Buchanan, who co-organised the event with Naomi Mabita, said.
Terrorist militant group, Boko Haram, has taken over the Baga town of north-east Nigeria. It continues its monstrous crimes against thousands of innocent women and children. Activists feel there is no other option but to take to the streets in protest, rather than mirror the meek and passive reaction of mainstream media. The next public meeting has been provisionally booked according to ARF group; however, the date will be confirmed soon. In the meantime, we should all continue to let the appalling silence burst away from us.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri