Published on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, April 7, 2011.
Will the protests across Africa result in real social and political reform, or just a changing of the guard, asks Sokari Ekine.
In addition to the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – all of which remain in various revolutionary stages – protestors have taken to the streets in Zimbabwe, Senegal, Gabon, Sudan, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Cote d’Ivoire and most recently in Burkina Faso and Swaziland. Some protests have been single ‘days of rage’, others have lasted a few days or weeks. There are many similarities between the uprisings but also differences, often related the level of organising prior to the uprisings, for example the strength of trades union and student movements, political activism and so on; levels of repression and overall frustration of youth in particular with high unemployment and lack of freedom; the belief that civil disobedience can work; and the willingness to persevere not for days but for weeks on end.
Social movement scholar George Katsiaficas describes the mass movement of citizens uprising against their governments as ‘the eros affect’ – people coming together out of solidarity and revolutionary love for one another with a shared self-understanding. This contrasts with the enemy – authoritarian regimes which act out of hate, fear and repression of the masses. Katsiaficas points out that uprisings like the ones taking place in Africa at the moment often take place regionally, such as in Asia in the 1980s and 1990s – in Bangladesh, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Nepal, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand – and in Eastern Europe. It is also worthwhile considering the outcomes of these previous waves. How different are these countries today? In most cases there has been little real change in the power structures – different faces, same people. The post Tahrir Square uprisings in Egypt speak to the complexities and difficulties in achieving real social and political change and it is a long way from clear how Egypt or Tunisia will look in one, two, five years time … //
… I think we have reached a point now when political activists from across the continent and allies need to ask how can we support each other in these uprisings – crossing regions and national borders? How can we in the diaspora support our sisters and brothers at home? How do we create a Pan-African network of solidarity – students, workers, trade unionists, queers, land rights activists and civil society in general which can give support to national movements, possibly in the same way that leaders of the 1950s and 60s independent movements supported each other in their struggles.
COTE D’IVOIRE: … (full long text).