Africa: Adapt or be Prepared for More Unrest
On 11th January last year I wrote an article entitled: “Events in South Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire will not define African Democracy“. In the article I argued that the outcome of the South Sudan secession and the outcome of the then election stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire would not define African democracy, I argued that Africans would. I emphasised that it was time the world started paying attention to what had already been a growing wave of protests on the continent – I mentioned Mozambique and Algeria, for example.
I wrote the piece in response to what was growing consensus among the mainstream media, especially Western, that South Sudan secession and the then election stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire would define maturity African democracy.
Three days After I wrote the article, Tunisian people overthrew the administration of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, ending its 23 years rule. Egyptians followed with ouster of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years rule. Protests and demonstrations also took place in the south of the Sahara, including Malawi, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Angola. In North African, Morocco has been forced to give its citizens some freedom to vote, in order to avert any possible rebellion. Algerian government increased subsidies for basic food items and fuel to ease any tensions and unrest.
I have no any reason to believe that to 2012 will be any different; it could get worse in fact, as such unrest could spread to other countries while grievances that forced people on the streets have not been solved; be it in Tahir Square (it is gone worse since Mubarak ouster), walk to work protests in Kampala, Uganda or fuel and foreign currency crisis in Malawi.
There are scores of problems attributable for these problems, the umbrella term for most of the problems is poor or bad governance and of course presidents overstaying their welcome – like Robert Mugabe and Yoweri Museveni do not help. Speculations of whether Paul Kagame will actually retire at the end of his second constitutional term – history of the continent suggests that this is not an empty speculation, leaders of his ilk tend to cling on. Kagame may need to come clean on this sooner than later to avoiding uneasiness and tensions.
Problems of governance and “life presidents” are not new to Africa, and indeed elsewhere, the question is why are people standing up against it now? The problems are mainly down to the increasing global integration hastened by Africa’s rapid urbanisation, especially by technologically savvy youth who are demanding more from their governments. Uganda and Malawi protests for example, were a largely urban affair – these protests were mainly over fuel and foreign currency. The youth of Angola are protesting because the national wealth – especially oil proceeds are not trickling down.
Pan-African slogans such as “Africa is not poor, Africans are” (though true in every sense) are losing grip, as it is increasingly becoming clear that utilisation of natural resources into human resources is simply not there – at least it is not benefiting the populace.
Africa will write its own history, Patrice Lumumba rightly argued, yet the increasing global integration, especially through modern technologies (something Lumumba did not envisage) suggests that Africa would have to write its history with global influence, not only via neo-colonists or conditional “development aid” but because young educated and Western influenced urban populations are demanding more from their governments – Much more than their fore-parents did. African Leaders must wake up to this reality, or be prepared to rule angry citizens.
This article is also published on Africa on the Blog