News / Africa

People Power Movements Rise in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nico Colombant

As Egyptians mark one year since popular protests forced their long-time President Hosni Mubarak from office, further south in sub-Saharan Africa, analysts say people power movements are gaining traction as well.

In recent weeks, Senegal has had repeated protests, some of them deadly, in which demonstrators are denouncing incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade and his decision to run for a third term on February 26.

Walid Phares, an international relations expert in Washington who wrote a book predicting the so-called Arab Spring, thinks Africa's Sahel region from Sudan to Senegal will have more and more protests against autocratic governments and bad governance as social media develops.

Phares says civil society activists as well as several radical Islamic groups and a few ethnic insurgencies in the region want change.

"With the rise of technology, where you are going to have Internet you are going to have similar uprisings because of the connectivity ability of these forces, so it is not going to be as massive as in Tunisia or in Egypt or even in Benghazi and Tripoli but it is going to find its way," said Phares.

Carl LeVan, an Africa expert from American University, says growing disappointment in the outcome of Africa's many elections is also playing a part.

"In many countries, Africans do not feel like democracy is consolidating, they in fact feel like autocracy is consolidating," said LeVan.  "And that is a volatile combination for people who are otherwise used to going to the polls and who placed high hopes in democratic political reform."

Constitutions are routinely changed to allow for more mandates and leaders who came to power through coups or wars win elections often marred by fear and fraud.

The longest serving leaders in Africa are both from oil-rich, but extremely impoverished countries, Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Angola's Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Both of them have been in power since 1979.

In a close third place, in terms of length of tenure, is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980.

Even in extremely repressive environments, activist Maurice Carney, from a group called Friends of the Congo, believes people power movements can make a difference.

He says the current convergence of these movements, which also includes the so-called Occupy trend in the United States, helps.

Carney points to a recent protest by Congolese women activists at the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa following botched elections which returned Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to power.

"Strategically, if the opposition were to get the women back at the embassy, and serve as a symbol to tap into the global, the greater Occupy movement, I think it can have some legs, without a doubt," said Carney.

Emira Woods from the Foreign Policy in Focus advocacy group in Washington says despite the challenges in facing formidable security and state structures, there is historical precedence in having African hardline leaders forced out through social pressure.

She points to a wave of such protests after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when U.S or Soviet-backed leaders lost support.

"That was when the dictator from Mali, Moussa Traore, was kicked out because women and students organized demonstrations and occupied, forcing him to leave office," said Woods.

This year, protests in sub-Saharan Africa have been successful, not to change a regime, but to force a government to review unpopular policies. This happened when Nigeria's government decided to lower gasoline prices, after an earlier subsidy slash had caused them to more than double.

A young Nigerian engineer at a protest in Lagos last month, Adeboye Forowa, had this warning for leaders.

"They are not in tune with the pulse of the environment," said Forowa.  "They need to walk out of their offices onto the streets and just listen for a change."

Analysts say that with more social media organizing these types of protests, a growing African middle class demanding better governance, as well as radical movements also seeking change in a context of widespread corruption, street demonstrations and regional insurrections are likely to escalate across the continent.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More