Africa: Will there be “Jasmine Revolution” in Sub-Saharan Africa?

This post is part of our special coverage Uganda: Walk to Work Protests.

Ghanaian blogger Osabutey says that West Africa may be hit by Jasmine's smell. Jasmine Revolution is the term used to describe a series of street demonstrations taking place throughout Tunisia since December 2010.

As protestors in Egypt continue to push out dictator Hosni Mubarak out of office after three decades in office, anti dictator activists in West Africa are keeping their fingers under lock to see if the dose of the Jasmine will surely spread across their region.

According to Osabutey countries that may be hit by Jasmine Revolution are Zimbabwe, Gabon, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Morocco, Swaziland, Central African Republic, Uganda, Sudan, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Togo.

Cameroon, he says, needs “the jasmine flavor more than anyone other regimes in the sub-region”:

Though Togo appears to be heading to a somewhat reform, it is all cosmetic. Both Burkina Faso and Cameroon need the jasmine flavor more than anyone other regimes in the sub-region. Cote D’Ivoire’s case is pretty much different, though I’m confident it sure will not that as well. But the two French speaking countries have had dictatorial regimes that are impervious to change and free speech, clamping down heavily on dissent. Corruption, human rights abuses and massive unemployment are very deeply nailed into the hearts of the millions of citizens in these countries who live on less than a dollar a day.

Rosebell Kagumire from Uganda explains why some African leaders are smiling at the storm in North Africa. Unlike many Ugandans, she is not optimistic about the events in North Africa:

Many Ugandans in the social networks have facebook status and tweets warning or wishing the same could happen in Uganda. I have refused to be optimistic about the events in North Africa. However a good look at Zimbabwe, Angola, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville to Uganda you would understand the excitement.

The first post I made when Ben Ali was ousted by Tunisians was “the African club of dictators has lost a member and they will be doing some rethinking.” May be I should have been more specific on which leaders. So far only Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and to some extent, the self-baptised Africa’s king of Kings, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi are feeling the quakes and tremors.

She compares the political and economic situation between Egypt and Uganda:

Almost two thirds of Egypt’s population has been born since President Hosni Mubarak came to power. Unemployment rate is North Africa has been as their leaders live a royalty life. Corruption has been so rampant that the middle class in these countries never saw the reason why they paid taxes. The living conditions in these countries for most of the population were terrible. Only one percent of rural people in Tunisia have access to clean water and unemployment was at 14.2 percent as of 2009.

Compare the situation in these countries to Uganda you will find a lot of similarities.

About 77 per cent of Uganda’s population is youth. According to a 2008 World Bank report, Uganda has the highest youth unemployment rate and the youngest population in the world.

The African Development Indicators [ADI] report 2008/2009, showed youth have borne the burden of unemployment with the rate at 83 percent.

Corruption has been well documented and a few examples including the siphoning of the Global Fund money meant for HIV and Malaria interventions. More than $1.6 million was embezzled and misappropriated and we still can’t really point out to any recovery more than 3 years down the road.

Bert Olivier visited Egypt three years ago where he met an Egyption who predicted what is happening today:

He told me in no uncertain terms that a revolution was brewing in the country because of precisely what my question had focused on, namely the conspicuous material, economic disparities in Egypt. He pointed out that the president of the country, Hosni Mubarak, appointed his wealthy businessman cronies to political posts, which they used to enrich themselves and their families even further (sound familiar?) while ordinary Egyptians often had to live in squalor, and even where this was not the case, people had to work extremely long hours to sustain themselves and their families. He — the guide — was a case in point. Although he was a highly qualified man, he had to work for at least 14 hours a day as a tourist guide to look after himself and his family.

Commeting on Bert Olivier's post, die antwoord is worried that protests in Sub-Saharan Africa might be directed towards whites:

Of course, in sub-saharan Africa the politicians always have a convenient scapegoat that they can direct the poor’s ire towards – whitey. Vide Zimbabwe. The truth is that Zanu-PF, and lately in SA the ANC, have conned their supporters in exactly the same way that Nasser’s successors in Egypt have done. What worries me as a white person, is that when the explosion comes it will be aimed in our direction whilst the true culprits – the hypocrites who claim non-racialism whilst using their own brand of racism – BEE – to enrich themselves – go unpunished.

Arie believes that popular uprising will happen in South Africa:

The way the current authorities are going a popular uprising similar to that what is happening in Egypt will happen in South Africa.
I only hope that the uprising will be aimed in the right direction.

Candice Holdsworth draws a comparison between the events in North African and the fall of communism:

An immediate comparison can be drawn between the events unfolding in North Africa and the fall of communism in the later part of the 20th century. The domino effect that the US so feared in the 1960s in South-East Asia, in the end, operated in reverse, bringing about the demise of communism in Europe and not its triumph. Were the totalitarian communist regimes of Eastern Europe a total perversion of Marx’s thought? It would seem so. Although, one could quite plausibly argue that any idealistic philosophy is by nature corruptible. What is constant, however, is the natural human resistance to such overwhelming systems of control and dominance.

She hopes that secular tradition in Egypt will be preserved:

Similarly the freedom that so many desire in Tunisia and Egypt is open to exploitation. In Egypt the biggest concern among secularists is that in the event of Mubarak’s departure and the ensuing power vacuum, Islamic extremists will move in to fill the gap. Or even if Mubarak does conduct free and fair democratic elections, the Muslim Brotherhood could be popularly elected. I know of more than one Egyptian who comes from a mixed religious background. It is in their interest to preserve Egypt’s secular tradition.

She explains why dictators such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe have been able to prevent popular uprising:

The revolution will also be stillborn without the support of the armed forces — no revolution in history has ever been successful without their complicity. We know why Mugabe kept his security forces well-fed and watered while the rest of the population were left to scrabble in the dirt.

A reader leaves a comment on her post saying that South Africa should be very afraid:

South Africans should not be smug regarding the events unfolding in the ME.

What we are seeing in Tunisia and Egypt is not an Arab phenomenon – it is the phenomenon of poverty, lack of services and kleptocratic behaviour by those in power.

Once South Africans’ unblinkered support for the ANC ends, as surely it must, the jobless here might also take to the streets to force a regime change.

The ANC needs to understand that its constituency includes the jobless and the poor.

Relaxation of labour laws is the only way to reduce unemployment in any meaningful way. There is no way 5m jobs will be created without doing so.

Stability rests in employment, reduction of poverty and lowering the Geni coefficient.

SA should be afraid, very afraid.

Finally, Gukira from Kenya says that people in Sub-Saharan African should learn from Tunisia and Egypt and extend their political demands “beyond the strange compromises of power-sharing”:

We Africans must also pay attention to the nature of the demand embodied by Egypt and Tunisia, one that extends beyond the strange compromises of “power-sharing” now understood as “imperfect solutions.” Something significant is happening. Something our outcome-driven agendas have no way of understanding or anticipating.

This post is part of our special coverage Uganda: Walk to Work Protests.


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