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In Nigeria, Baga Attacks Spark Protests


Members of Youth Advocates for Change during protest in Abuja, Nigeria, Jan. 17, 2015. (VOA/Chris Stein)

Members of Youth Advocates for Change during protest in Abuja, Nigeria, Jan. 17, 2015. (VOA/Chris Stein)

About 150 people marched through the center of the Nigerian capital on Saturday demanding change in a country wracked by a violent Islamist insurgency in the north.

Calling themselves the Youth Advocates for Change, the protesters' outcry follows recent attacks around the northeastern Borno State town of Baga by Boko Haram militants that may have killed thousands and displaced as many.

The Lake Chad fishing village has been hard hit by the group's five-year campaign to establish a caliphate with strict religious law.

Next month, Nigerians will vote in a high-stakes presidential election that will pit incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Zayyad Abdullahi, president of civic group that led the protest, says his group is not sponsored by a political party but does support a change in government and plans to endorse a candidate at some point.

The group, he says, staged the march because it is upset about the nation's direction.

“For change, for Baga, for so many corruption allegations that haven’t been attended to," he said. "So many crimes; people getting killed daily: the government doesn’t even care to make a statement about it. For free and fair elections. For everything basically, the whole country’s upside down.”

Earlier this week, Jonathan visited troops in the Borno State capital of Maiduguri.

Maureen Kabrik, a marcher who also works with the #bringbackourgirlscampaign, which also organized protests during its work to free more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok last year, said Jonathan needs to speak out in the wake of the Baga violence.

“It doesn’t matter whether it was one life taken or two lives or three lives. What matters is that a town was attacked. Is that town in Nigeria? Yes. Were they Nigerians that were killed? Yes. So it doesn’t matter the number of people that were killed. And that’s all you keep getting from ... the government," she said. "[They're] just making flimsy statements and not coming out to own the problem.”

Nigerians go the polls to vote for president on February 14.

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