When the Arab Spring uprising hit the top gear in January 2011, some observers doubted its ability to deliver any meaningful result. Not so long after, regional strongmen that had stayed in power for decades started falling. The success in one country inspired an uprising in another one. Tunisia toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt parted ways with Hosni Mubarak while Libya brought Gaddafi to his knees. The Arab world does not have areal democracy, but people made a statement here that they were fed up with authoritarian rule and wanted power back in their hands. Leaders that had seemed invincible were running scared. The people had spoken and stripped them power and the privileges, legal and self imposed that come with it.
The Rest of Africa
If this could be dismissed as an Arab affair, November 2017 threw a spanner in the works. 37 years at the helm of Zimbabwe came to an end for Robert Mugabe. The streets of Harare came alive with jubilant celebrations as Zimbabweans ushered in a new era. Another seemingly infallible regime had tumbled to pieces, and the world was pleasantly surprised.
April 2018 claimed Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Sudan’s Omar El Bashir, in what has looked like a return to Arab Spring. In both incidences, senior military figures appeared to side with the protesters.
The Military Factor
Is the strategy of “pocketing” military bosses so as to retain power even against public will failing? Is the disconnect between the military and civilians getting repaired? Are the continent’s masses realizing that the ultimate power indeed rests with them and not the leaders no matter how authoritarian they may be? Is it time the prospective dictators read the signs and embrace full democratization? How will the Arab world prevent countries from disintegrating after a revolution, bearing Libya in mind? How will the continent prevent leaders that come in after revolutions from reinstating dictatorship and eroding the democratic gains made?
Africa is undoubtedly on the move and the forced resignation of president Jacob Zuma of South Africa in February 2018 on corruption related allegations has shown that the continent is becoming conscious, not just to political misdeeeds, but to socio-economic ills as well. The masses are forcing leaders to be accountable. It is a nice sight, a good development, but do we have what it takes to protect and sustain it?