Okello Oculi writes that street protests attract attention to bad governance
In the 1960s and 1970s, liberation movements seized Africa’s rural areas before grabbing government in urban centres. From Tunisia and Algeria in North Africa to Kenya, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique, Angola, South-West Africa (now Namibia), Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde and South Africa, liberation warriors fought from mountain tops and tropical bushes. Samora Machel in Mozambique’s bush outwitted and seized a star general of the Portuguese army.
In the model, guerrilla wars sucked energy from village populations by conducting themselves as friends and providers of health care and education for rural people as well as organising them in cooperative economic production for their own welfare.
Streets have become zones of contest by protestors armed with their feet and mouths: demonstrators occupy spaces in which their bodies are vulnerable to bullets, police batons and teargas. In Egypt, military tanks rolled over members of the Muslim Brotherhood along Cairo’s streets.
In Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir’s troops were accused of gunning down protesters in Khartoum and dumping bodies into River Nile.
Bashir was confronted by supporters of political parties he had banned following his military coup of 1989. This included Sudan’s Communist Party with a long record of organising secretive anti-colonial activities. The breaking away of South Sudan denied him oil revenues at a time of angry unemployed youths. The disgrace of failing to ensure the territorial unity of the largest country in Africa infuriated people’s sense of patriotism and deepened disgust with 30 years of dictatorship.
Women graduates were alienated by daily humiliations of any male Islamist grabbing them on a street and dragging them to a police station for an assumed crime of being badly dressed. Anger drove people to demonstrations on streets to grab power for freedom.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, unemployed youths of Bakongo and urban migrants (from the north-western and central regions), became increasingly alienated by corruption in Joseph Kabila’s government; its failure to defeat terrorists funded by 85 multinational corporations – and military elites in Uganda and Rwanda engaged in exploiting valuable minerals, coffee and timber from a vast eastern section of the country – also eroded his legitimacy. Elections won by Kabila’s faction tipped anger of crowds into seizing streets of Kinshasa.
In Burkina Faso unemployed youths were furious over the assassination of a very popular Thomas Sankara. His financial support to local women textile weavers (by promoting their products as substitutes to imports from France); his abolition of corrupt practices by ‘’traditional rulers’’ in rural communities, and his financial support to local industrial processors, including food processors as substitutes for imports from France, were blamed for his death in a conspiracy by Blaise Campaore. Corruption and secret police terror chased demonstrators onto streets.
In Algeria the Islamists barred from winning of elections in 1992 (by the ruling military elite with roots in the Front for the National Liberation of Algeria), joined other groups angered by corruption among a cabal around a senile and ailing President Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika to mount massive demonstrations demanding the fall of his government. The prospect of climbing into power under the cover of mass rage on streets in many urban spaces in Algeria was countered by a resolve not to lose power by the rump of the revolutionary war against French colonialism in Algeria.
In Mali, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, citizens have risen up to shout and scream and often inhale teargas or gunpowder, if not bleed and die against bad governance. John Lewis, a star African-American Civil Rights combatant (who inspired the global ‘’Black Lives Matter’’ demonstrations), urged citizens to cause ‘’Good Trouble’’ for Justice. In Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe street protests were against stolen elections by governance rooted in corruption and ethnic patronage.
In South Africa women have demonstrated against a pandemic of rape, violence against women and ‘’Femicide’’ perpetrated by males whose derangement seems to be rooted in the end of racial dictatorship without their experiencing a curative violence by Black victims against white perpetrators. Franz Fanon outlined such a ‘’liberating violence’’.
The demonstrators promote civic participation as individuals demand new good governance measures against poverty; use Local Languages for education from Primary to University education; ensure free high quality health care for all; and industrialisation through their own genius. In D.R. Congo villagers are reported to have asked: ’’When will Independence Go Away’’, because the one of June 30, 1960 brought endless civil wars.
The current demonstrators accept responsibility for struggling to build good governance. They are filling toxic political seasons of failure and selfishness by politicians lacking self confidence and courage to be creative and patriotic; are obsessed with consumer goods and selfishness. The demonstrations are moments of crowd education in political courage for hungry youths.