No Spring in West Africa

 

Occupy Nigeria has come and gone. Senegal’s week of mass protests continues in sporadic outbursts and it remains to be seen if people will respond to Youssou N’dour’s call for a mass rally next Sunday. N’dour’s candidacy was suspiciously rejected by the Constitutional Council on the grounds he was unable to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures. But maybe it is not such a bad thing he is not running in this year’s election. It is possible he will be far more influential in bringing about change outside the formal political arena as support for Wade falls with many defections from his camp.

No matter how much mind pushing we engage in, the ‘African Awakenings’ have been sporadic with short-lived dream-like moments of intensity followed by exhaustion. However, there has to be a starting point and the political dynamics have forever changed and at least all of us now know that ‘We can’. Whether we will or not is another question. But a more considered truthful analysis is needed where people stop exaggerating and ignoring realities on the ground. Some Ghanian bloggers have been expressing their thoughts on the real or imaginary African awakenings. Nana Yaw Sarpong [Ready to Go] is rather scathing and calls for a more sustained mobilisation rather than intense street moments…

“But many have asked, in fact the questions have been led by the media, if West Africa could go through a similar Spring. My response is this: There is no Spring in West Africa. More so, I cannot urge anyone to be influenced by some half-awakening. The preamble, or prelude, to the question of protests across West Africa is foul. And we must be weary of those who are quick to compare Nigeria to Tunisia or Egypt. It is erroneous…..I am for mobilising; creating awareness among people; networking to ensure a strong people who know the ins and outs of government. I am for opening the eyes further to activities within our communities; how our resources are been applied; how we can creatively change the systems we have inherited to suit our collective progress. Not some Spring. That obviously is the wrong way to go.”

In answer to the BBC question, ‘Is an African Spring necessary?’ Gameli [The Gamelian World] writes that, no, Africa does not need more ‘violence, deaths and destruction’. Instead, the continent needs a

‘refinement of our democratic systems so as to get them to work in the way we want. In many African countries, government goes and government comes but still, the people see no change. Protests and wars, resulting in deaths, injuries and destruction of valuable national assets will not bring immediate solutions to our socio-economic problems. I don’t see the change whatever government any uprising raises will bring. However, if we continue setting up governance structures, going after corrupt officials, voting out incompetent governments, cutting down on discrimination in its many forms, building patriotic consciousness and collaborating meaningfully with the larger world, we stand a better chance at progress.’

George N Ayittey has some answers to the question of how we can defeat dictators and fight tyranny and move beyond the streets. African Dictator.

‘As Professor George Ayittey, Obama adviser and veteran Africa author and analyst, knows too well, such drama is merely the denouement. There is far more to ousting dictators than convening a crowd, as in Tahrir Square. And western military intervention, while it toppled its targets in Libya and Iraq, is hardly a template that should or will be rolled out across the world. (Atrocious as the crackdown in Syria is, few expect the west to intervene.)
Rather, as Ayittey makes clear in his latest work, undermining dictators is a science that requires time and thought, not to say a long hard grind. He correctly concedes that there is one enduring lesson once a revolution is under way: as soon as army units turn, the end is in sight. The principal reason most in the region expect Mr Assad to cling on for a while is that soldiers have defected as individuals and not en masse. After all, it was only when Romania’s crowds could confidently shout “armata é cu noi” (‘the army is with us’) that Ceausescu’s goose was truly cooked. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has defied political logic and stayed on primarily because he has kept the security chiefs on side.’

Women have been conspicuously absent from many of the African Awakenings [not including Egypt]. Women especially those identifying as feminists often find themselves bullied and victimised on social media. In response and with the aim of making their online presence felt, a group of African feminists have chosen the hashtag #AfriFem as a way of discussing a broad range of issues from uprisings and occupy movements on the continent to forced marriages, bullying and abuse on Twitterspheres and homophobia.

To follow the discussion from now use the hashtag #AfriFem – some of the Twitter handles @blacklooks [me] @nas009 @MzAgams @sheroxlox @FahamuAfrica @saratu @fowora @wapinduzi @zawadin, @spectraspeaks @NFF2008 @MsAfropolitan @eccentricyoruba @pdbraide @rmajayi @stillSHErises and more to follow.

First published in Pambazuka News