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Africa: Green Shoots Show. Will They Flower, Or Be Repressed?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 15, 2021 17:07

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A friend suggested I look for the good news in the present atmosphere of negativity. So here it is: In the chaos of African politics and the threatening authoritarianism signs or popular participation, of the voice of the people can be heard if we listen carefully.

After decades of increasingly authoritarian leadership in Chad that masqueraded as democracy, strongman Idris Déby fell under the guns of a ragtag rebel force. His son, 35 year old Lt Genl Mahamat Déby heads a military council that suspended the constitution and rules by decree. Security crackdowns left nine dead.

Now a popular movement of opposition parties, civil society organisations, dissident military and trade unions form a growing coalition to push for all inclusive talks to rebuild the fragile unity of this nation. Fragmented between a number of clans, tribes and ethnicities with a history of internecine war there is a need for national consensus, a social contract to face the threats of regional instability, environmental damage and changing global politics.

Dogon men in Mali. Wikipedia - Devriese CC BY 3.0

Mali is tentatively finding its way back from a military takeover that ended an increasingly unstable regime. Faced with public distrust and allegations of election fraud, an increasing threat from militant groups often funded by cross-border crime, the Military took control and promised a return to civilian rule in a limited time. Elections have now been promised for March 2022. A new constitution will be submitted to a national referendum, planned for 31 October 2021. While regional and international groups exerted pressure, public participation protests against military action and demands for accountability played a major role in this transition to democracy. Ex-President of Nigeria and now mediator on behalf of West African countries, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, urged for more inclusivity, participation by social stakeholders in actively participating in the process, and better communication between all parties.

In Uganda, Presidential challenger Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known by his stage name Bobi Wine, lost disputed 14 January 2021 elections and was confined to his house by the military. Now Yoweri Museveni, President for the last 35 years, faces increased threats from insurgents, changing international dynamics, and growing pressure from a large and growing young population.

Museveni meets Reagan. Wikipedia - Public Domain

In an era where disruption by COVID, social changes by unprecedented technological development, and increasingly fluid international borders threaten ossified political and social structures, we see a repeat of the forces that characterized the Renaissance. As the Gutenberg press made information available to millions and the plague decimated rich and poor alike, political and social structures were threatened.

African youth drive a movement to popular participation, green shoots in a desert of authoritarian, obsolete governance. Thwarted, they could fuel an endless cycle of revolution, repression and destruction. If the green shoots are allowed to flower they could herald in an era of unprecedented political renewal, innovation, art and culture.

My money is on the flowers.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 15, 2021 17:07

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