How People Power has managed to topple authoritarian regimes in Africa: Dictators must take heed
By Stewart Musarapasi
The year 2019 alone has seen discord escalate between ordinary people and their governments within the African continent in at least three countries – Algeria, Libya and lately, Sudan.
The major causes of disharmony are corruption, oppressive laws, and false promises. It is so disheartening to see that most African leaders seem content with dragging their feet even in the face of growing discontentment from the populace, paying no attention at all to people’s demands and needs.
Despite clear signs that the writing has been on the wall, the dictators always wait to be removed via the embarrassing method of public demonstrations and in the worst-case scenarios – military coups.
Victory over even the most-authoritarian leaders is clear testimony that the People Power effect is sweeping across the whole of Africa, taking over as the only solution to the hitherto complicated equation of dealing with authoritarian leaders who dare not heed public calls for a change of governance methods.
Nearly a decade ago, the “Arab Spring” took over in North Africa, where drastic and successful street protests by civilians who had decided “Enough is Enough” was more than just a slogan, but a phenomenon capable of dislodging a dictatorial regime that had overstayed its usefulness influenced many other countries to do the same.
It began as a series of street demonstrations on December 28, 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. After the People Power effect in Tunisia, Egypt did the same when they removed Hosni Mubarak from power.
The Egyptian revolution was also another sweet victory scored for People Power. Egyptians took to the streets in full force for close to three weeks. It was very embarrassing to check that Mubarak’s three decades-long grip on power was dealt with in a period of less than a month from January 25, 2011 – February 11, 2011.
Next stop was Libya, where street demonstrations erupted into an unfortunate civil war that began on February 15, 2011 through a chain of civil protests and later evolved into a widespread uprising against the regime, resulting in the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Causes of all those streets demonstrations were as follows; Police brutality, State-of-emergency laws, Electoral fraud, Political censorship, Corruption, Unemployment, Food price rises, Low wages, Demographic structural factors, Social inequalities; Unemployment; Political repression.
Fast-forward to the latest happenings in Sudan, where protests were sparked by the astronomical bread price increases last year. On December 19, People Power emerged, albeit at a very low pace, when Sudanese people went onto the streets, dovetailing other issues of disgruntlement that included corruption and oppressive laws.
The protesters were numerically increasing at a very unnoticeable manner, but panic was raised by the Sudanese government through its now ousted president, Oma al-Bashir, who then imposed a ruthless State of Emergency in February this year, as he desperately tried to repel the swelling numbers of protesters.
The People Power spirit then gripped the suffering Sudanese people full-throttle on April 6, when they marched to the Army Headquarters. Apparently, the regime had not anticipated the possible fall of the 30 year-rule of Bashir – at a fast and unimaginable rate.
Omar al-Bashir was brought down by the same People Power, although his equally-cornered army then finished the equation. Bashir, who came into power in a bloodless coup in 1989, is still on the wanted list of the International Criminal Court of Justice and several arrests warrants were issued against him, although he kept on evading arrest.
The former Sudanese strongman is wanted for crimes ranging from brutal torture, genocide in Darfur, crimes against humanity and corruption, among a plethora of others.
People’s Power saw Omar al-Bashir get toppled by the same army that had for years protected and served him against the people. His former right hand man, his Defence Minister who doubled as Vice President had to usurp power. Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf recently promised a two-year transitional authority in which he would improve people’s lives, close air space for 24 hours, release all political prisoners and arrest Bashir but the People Power effect has seen protesters hold the momentum as they don’t trust the Army commander, whom they believe is the same as the 30 year ruler they toppled.
Algeria’s own 82-year-old ruler, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was felled just a few weeks ago – again through People Power. There was a nationwide student protests which cancelled his bid to contest presidential elections, which had been penciled for this month.
Algeria has a student population of nearly two million and managed to use this numerical advantage on streets, winning the war of peace in the process, as they successfully brought the regime down.
Conclusively, we can now agree to disagree that people have the power capable of winning over guns, tanks, bombs and or any form of brutality they may come across from even the most ruthless of regimes suppressing them – only if they stand united and resolute.
Africa’s remaining authoritarian leaders must take a leaf learn from these practical examples and treat people they govern with humility.
Stewart Musarapasi is a Business and Political Analyst based in Europe. He writes here in his personal capacity and can be contacted via:
Facebook: stewie musarapasi