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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid