Community, Diaspora and Immigration
On the recent people’s revolutions across Africa.
Tunisians led the way in Northern Africa, and showed what the people’s power can achieve. The revolution brought together Tunisians of all social classes to peacefully match for democracy, for change. It was a non-violent mass movement to better conditions for everyone. The same went for the Egyptians. The people managed to prove that poor or rich, elite or non-elite, the development of democracy in a society benefits society as a whole. Only a few can lose out, and it is always those who seek to use public offices for personal gain. On the other hand, when we close doors for democracy to flourish, we leave a vacuum for chaos to erupt in form of a revolution. Revolutions are only necessary where leaders fail to initiate pro-people changes. Usually revolutions see those who are well placed in terms of investment losing more because they have more.
Had democracy been encouraged and change embraced, societies like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, with big numbers of elites amongst their populations, more organised and with more investment, would avoid revolutions. However, it is commendable that Egyptian and Tunisian elites placed themselves well at the helm of the revolutions which helped avert large scales of violence. This group must have helped a lot in convincing the presidents that were enemies of the people that it was not only in their best interest to quit power, but also in the interest of entire societies. And for Mr. Mubarak, it was also in the interest of the revolution he had served since the 60s.
In Libya, developments in Tunisia and Egypt helped spark off anti Gaddafi sentiments, which are hoped, will lead to the success of the revolution there. High levels of education in all these countries have helped a lot in starting off the revolts, and leading to success where they have succeeded. At the same time, better incomes to a big number of people, as compared to elsewhere in Africa, contributed a lot. Most people would go for days and weeks on end without working and still maintain a steady supply of basic needs of life. The decision to throw off fearfulness, and the Arab background of insubordination went a long way in sustaining the spirit of the revolutionaries. This spirit, however, would not be sustained to the end had the people in the countries where the revolutions succeeded not been willing to sacrifice personal comfort for the interest of the larger society.
In all their dealings, African leaders sow the seeds of revolution. To this day, even after all the developments that have gone on throughout the history of man, and of Africa in particular, most Africans do not realize that the human heart has craved and will always crave for freedom. African leaders still think they can keep the masses in a state of want and oppression. All the revolutions around the world, in all man’s history, have a desire to end oppression in any form.
The conditions in black Africa are still far from causing people’s revolutions. Most countries in black Africa that still experience outright/disguised dictatorship have experienced civil wars for decades. Massacres are very common in wars that have raged on these societies, no wonder Gaddafi used black machineries against his people. Fear resulting from those wars still holds a grip on people’s minds. It is not surprising that in these countries, dictators produced by those wars pride in the knowledge that they spent years fighting wars which prepared their societies for dictatorship. From Kenya through Uganda, to Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Ivory Coast, this fear is evident. The overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 set Egypt on the path to democracy, and the overthrow of King Idris in Libya in 1969 suggested that the Libyans longed for democracy. Much of black Africa has not seen the overthrow of kings. This
seems to suggest that people in those countries are still willing to submit to one man control. Dictators take advantage of this mindset.
Though very selfish, all African dictators claim themselves nationalists. Their claim granted if their efforts as nationalists are to bring sustainable benefit to their societies, the best way to do it would be to foster loyalty to the society from the people they lead, and not to themselves. Taking initiatives that help prepare young people for leadership abilities in their societies would ensure that countries get better leaders, in the present and the future. Accepting dialogue with all those disgruntled, and incorporating their legitimate proposals in government policies and accepting change would save society from revolutions, which normally dismantle societies. It is common amongst African dictators to cite their concern of chaos befalling their societies if they quit power as a reason for their prolonged stay. Prolonged stay by these dictators has been a cause of the revolutions that have swept Tunisia and Egypt. Other than prolonging their stay, these one-time revolutionaries would do better supporting orderly change to take place. If African leaders want to lead and go into history books as heroes, they have to help empower people out of illiteracy, ignorance, poverty and want; they have to deliberately build democracy. That’s the only way. Dictatorship in any form only prepares the time bomb for revolutions, chaos.
The African Union has not taken a central role in aiding the development of democracy on the continent. It has looked on as dictators have continued to tighten their grip in their countries while depriving the people therein, of their rightful ownership and enjoyment of those countries’ resources. Of course we cannot expect much from the AU. How could we when the union is headed by the same dictators who oppress people in their home countries?
Revolutions are proving once again that most Africans, many of whom are running governments in many societies, lack ability to create and sustain peaceful and democratic societies. Peace is a prerequisite for economic development, and peace and democracy are inseparable. When we build peaceful and democratic societies in Africa, much of the UN intervention on the continent will be reduced since it is created by Africa’s failure to build democracy, develop literacy and fight poverty.
We will not have to blame the UN, the US and the International community for such things as waiting too long to respond to stop the deaths in Libya, for not intervening to stop genocides and other abuses against humanity before they happen, because they intend to prosecute perpetrators in the ICC at the Hague. Our own efforts would make all this complaining unnecessary.
The failure of the international community to solve Africa’s problems says one thing to us Africans; only Africans have the key to ending its problems. Will we use the key to lock up these problems?
The write is former independent candidate for MP Kyadondo East