While publishing the Bitcoin white paper in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto would have no idea how far bitcoin would travel. More than a decade later bitcoin will be used as a medium of donation in a protest to end police brutality in Nigeria. The protest which was tagged End SARS brought a new meaning to the use case of bitcoin in Africa.
The West African country, Nigeria popularly called the Giant of Africa has the largest population in Africa. Asides having the largest population in Africa, Nigeria also tops the chart of African countries that trade bitcoin alongside South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe amongst others. However, Nigerian Youths found a new use case for Bitcoin in Africa.
People took to the streets to protest police brutality, extrajudicial killings by the police as well as the abuse of human rights. The protest to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has started as far back as 2017. However, despite claims by the government to have suspended/reformed the SARS which is an arm of the police force, they continued to abuse the human rights of the citizens. Fresh protest tagged #EndSARS was sparked on the 8th of October 2020 and kicked off in Lagos state, the commerce centre of Nigeria.
Unlike other protests to bring an end to police brutality, this protest seemed to be a call for reforms in all areas of governmental corruption. The protest was organized with feeding, first aid respondents, lawyers and ambulances and cleanup units available during the protest. To help the protest run smoothly as well as provide compensation for the families of those who had lost their loved ones to police brutality, different rights groups set up funds. One group, in particular, Feminist Coalition provided protesters with transparent dealings of donations made and how funds were dispersed which is something not common in the Nigerian government.
As the protest progressed, Nigerian banks started to freeze the accounts of various rights groups used to receive donations. Also, Flutterwave, a payment gateway that has supported the protest and was used for receiving donations has refuted claims that its account was placed on PND/lien. However, more Tweeter users claim that the CBN had summoned Flutterwave for supporting terrorist actives. Thus, the payment gateway had to block the account used for receiving the donations.
Bitcoin and Democracy
Despite the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria to censor the fundraising process, BItcoin came to the rescue. One of the beauties of the use of bitcoin in the #EndSARS movement is that it has a link to the initial purpose for which bitcoin was created-freedom. According to Abraham Lincoln, Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people. Bitcoin can also be said to be “money for the people, by the people.” The people of Nigeria are fighting for the freedom to live without fear of police brutality. Bitcoin was also created to give people freedom from corrupt financial institutions.
Since bitcoin is built on the blockchain, it is transparent and easy to use. Also, the #EndSARS protest has shown that people desire transparency in government which can be seen in the way and manner the Feminist Coalition handled the funds raised. The purpose of democracy is defeated when there are no checks and balances. This is the case of the Nigerian police as most officers who were accused of police brutality were not brought to book. However, with cryptocurrency, we see a situation where the blockchain enables a transparent and immutable process.
Whats Does the Use of Bitcoin in the #EndSARS Protest mean for Africa?
A change in the narrative of Nigeria will most likely create a ripple effect across Africa. All over Africa, there is a call for change. For instance, The Cameroon crisis between the Anglophone and Francophone countries have now lasted for four years. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is also faced with violence as armed groups launch attacks against villagers. There are also conflicts in Sudan and Somalia that threaten the peace and safety of the people.
Although Africa is blessed with natural and human resources, it is often plagued with bad leadership, corruption, poverty, greed and exploitation from European and Asian countries. The use of Bitcoin in Africa has greatly helped to lift families out of poverty through crypto trading or remittance. Also, countries in conflicts can use bitcoin in getting relief materials as cash may become scarce and difficult to come by. The use of Bitcoin in the #EndSARS movement is proof that Africa can have leaders who are accountable and willing to have a transparent government. It is also proof that no corrupt government can stand in the way of the will of the people.
While the use of Bitcoin in the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria seems to be the silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud, there is a need for caution. For the past 10 years, Nigeria has battled with the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram and has not been able to subdue the group. Since Bitcoin can be used as a means to liberate the people from the clutches of greedy politicians, it can also be used by terrorists. However, you may wonder where the terrorists get their funding from before the launch of bitcoin? The use of Bitcoin to bypass the gimmicks of the government to quell the #EndSARS protest is proof that Bitcoin is “money for the people and by the people.”
Written By: Rebecca Asseh