IT ALSO MEANS TRANSFORMATION
Flashes of brilliance have been seen around Afrika in the past few years. Moments where the people have seized opportunities to push back against regimes that are acting unjustly, unwisely, wickedly or a misery-inducing trifecta of all three.
In Sudan, discontent began to bubble up in 2018 and public discontent with the government’s November 2019 ‘emergency austerity measures’ pushed the people to the limit.
Peaceful protests were held where the Sudanese people demanded that Omar al-Bashir step down from power. Despite various maneuvers made by Bashir, the people pressed on. Their public demonstrations bringing them uncomfortably close to the presidential compound in April 2019. In a unique twist, the military stepped in to protect protesters from security forces and on 11th April 2019, the military announced that they had removed and arrested Bashir. Just over one year later, a peace deal was signed between the government and the rebels ending a 17-year civil war. An interim government was established to restore order ahead of the general elections scheduled for 2022 which are planned to take the country out of military rule. The interim government is facing the challenge of stabilizing the political, economic and social environment and balancing the various interests, pressures and expectations. Considering the recent attempt on interim Prime Minister Hamdok’s life – one can clearly see that things are not yet as they should be.
In February 2019, Abdoulaziz Bouteflika officially launched his bid for a fifth presidential term. Six days later, the people of Algeria shouted a loud and unified, “NO!” And the Revolution of Smiles or the Hirak Movement was born. After historic mass peaceful protests, Bouteflika resigned less than two months later, as did Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and months later the so did the Prime Minister’s replacement Nourredine Bedoui.
A new president was sworn in after mostly boycotted elections held on the 12th of December that same year. The ‘new’ president is a former cabinet minister from Bouteflika’s administration. The people managed to gain great ground as a result of this movement, forming groupings and alliances to increase pressure for their goals to be met. However, they were not satisfied because most of the ‘hidden’ power behind the ruling class had not been neutralized and the shift away from military rule not fully realized. And so, the revolution continues.
In October 2020, Nigerian youth rose up in mutually-shared frustration at the oppression they had faced for too long at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), kicking off the ENDSARS Movement. The valiant youth were pushing for the disbandment of the bullying and vicious police unit that had been tormenting them, beating them up brutally, raping innocent girls, murdering youth and arbitrarily denying them their liberties. In December 2017, after a video of SARS officers killing a man surfaced, a petition was created by Segun Awosanya calling for the disbandment of the unit. This petition was signed by over 10,000 Nigerians and presented to the National Assembly. The ‘leaders’ ignored it and did nothing to act. 3 years later the fruit of their negligence was produced when, SARS officers shot and killed a young Nigerian in Delta State and took his car, sparking a globally trending Twitter protest #ENDSARS which led to the swift disbandment of the SARS unit and the reassignment of these officers to other units. This cosmetic response did not satisfy the protestors and the protests went to the streets with the protestors demanding a raft of changes be made. These peaceful protests demonstrated the love and solidarity of Nigerians and were befouled by the greatest tragedy in the #ENDSARS movement when government forces opened fire on the peaceful, unarmed protestors at Lekki Toll Gate Lagos. In a dreadful irony, unlawfully killing and injuring those protesting against this very thing.
After the brutal government response, the courageous protestors returned to Lekki to remember their fallen. International attention was now firmly on the matter… but things gradually went quiet.
The 2020 Malian Spring began in the month of June, with mass protests by the people of Mali, who were calling for the resignation of then-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and the dissolution of the National Assembly. Fed up with incessant corruption, economic stagnation and a long drawn out Islamic insurgency in the north, the people rose up in response. The revolution’s genesis came in 2018, when during Keita’s ‘re-election’ the opposition decried the irregularities they found. Come 2020, protests were triggered by parliamentary elections, which were continually interfered with using underhanded tactics. The June 5th movement was birthed by opposition politicians and Malians took to the streets with their demands for change. After months of protests, Keita floated some reforms which were rejected by the protestors. Eventually, the protests turned violent and 14 people were killed. On August 18th, the military mutinied and arrested Keita and his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and the next day Keita resigned. An interim government was appointed to pave the way for new elections in 2022, headed by a former military man and deputized by a member of the junta… which went against the ECOWAS recommendations and desires of the members of the M5 protest movement. However, it seems plans will continue for the elections, prefaced by a constitutional referendum set for October 2021. The atmosphere seems to be one of let’s wait and see.
Events in Kenya took a surprising turn recently when the IMF approved a loan to Kenya worth $ 2.34 billion and unwittingly set off a social media storm with Kenyans taking their protests online. This new loan came on the back of increasing disappointment and discontentment with the government’s management of the country’s increasing public debt as well as the theft and misappropriation of funds – with the president himself admitting that $18 million is lost daily from state coffers due to corruption. According to reports, the country has received over $6.4 billion in loans in the past 12 months or so. A petition to the IMF was started which quickly garnered over 200,000 signatures, asking the international body NOT to lend money to the Kenyan government, citing an excessive debt burden, graft and misuse of funds as the key reasons. Within days of the approval of the loan, Kenyans had reduced the IMF app rating from 5 to 1 as part of their protest and flooded IMF Facebook live series comments section with demands that loans to the country be stopped using the hashtags #StopLoaningKenya and #StopGivingKenyaLoans. The IMF responded to Kenyans, saying that they had loaned the government more money to help them contain public debt. The institution, it seems, had far underestimated the ire of Kenyans four out of five of whom, according to a recent survey, felt anxious, fearful or angry because of the debt burden. The IMF – of course – has not had a change of heart and pushes relentlessly forward to soak Kenya in more debt.
Those are just five examples in a continent of fifty-five nations with multiple stories just like those of weary citizens pushing for change. Flashes of brilliance, barometers of social change… indicators of public sentiment and levels of commitment. Sometimes it’s like pushing with everything you have against a massive rock that seems immovable, other times the rock shifts just an inch, yet others perhaps a mile. It can seem discouraging and futile sometimes trying to change Afrika’s heart and ways but one cannot afford to give up. Like Tracey Chapman sang, “Don’t you know, they’re talking about a revolution, it sounds like a whisper. Poor people are gonna rise up and get their share, Poor people are gonna rise up and take what’s theirs… just finally the tables are starting to turn…”
International and Afrikan bodies were all quick to condemn the military takeovers in the examples above because they cannot be seen to approve of a coup in this day and age – no matter how that coup may have been started and despite them not taking decisive action on the evident injustices prevalent in those countries – until the military action was taken. It is a blatant hypocrisy that Afrikans have become accustomed to. In times of peace, everybody says, just hang in there, let’s not upset the applecart, let’s make step changes – when radical change comes they adapt and deal with the situation at its new level… before going back to the same old step-change rhetoric. Meanwhile, the person left to bear the heaviest of the burdens for their rhetoric is the one who has to live with the wickedness and injustices each day, while their defenders turn on them to attack and oppress them further.
It is impossible to divorce corruption on any scale or wickedness and cruelty or nepotism from the individual. It is either by the choice of or compliance and complacency of the individual that the rot takes root and spreads.Chioma Phillips
Obviously, thriving in the middle of civil strife is only the domain of those in control of the strife; arms dealers, rebel leaders, their funders and so on. For the citizens, there really isn’t much that happens by way of safely raising their babies to adulthood or planting food crops and expecting to be able to tend them until harvest or even to harvest them if you do. The uncertainty leads to instability and tension that Afrika doesn’t need. So, even while creating a tidal wave on social media can get people to hear a message or while being disgruntled and marching through the streets as part of the exercising of one’s civil rights can help draw attention to an issue, and even while forcibly removing an evil dictator and sending him to the ICC for trial, while bringing in stale blood to run things for an interim period can shift the nature of the landscape for a while – the more fundamental revolutions in Afrika can only begin from within. Within the individual.
We need a MIND REVOLUTION
It is impossible to divorce corruption on any scale or wickedness and cruelty or nepotism from the individual. It is either by the choice of or compliance and complacency of the individual that the rot takes root and spreads. I do not discount the very real threat of repercussions that exist in many of these despotic nations. Death by assassination is a reality that all those who choose not to collaborate with the pathways of the corrupt have to factor into their decisions to face down the evils in their society. As is death by assassination of character, finance and social access… not to mention imprisonment. One of the reasons why corruption has had such free reign is that the consequences can be dire for the ones who are willing to take up the mantle to fight against it. But the cost of corruption if far worse – far worse for every individual who initiates, supports, conceals and sustains corruption in their society. It brings upon a society a darkness far worse than the death of those who choose to stand up and fight.
It brings a type of living death to a society. Liberty is choked out of the nation that embraces corruption as a norm. Individuals are forced to face the option of compliance or being ostracized and oppressed, thereby suppressing and obliterating any form of truth, rightness and justice in a society. Individuals cannot speak up for fear of being targeted they tend towards sycophancy; they raise families that are experts at tiptoeing around the system or blatantly aligning with its corrupt practices.
Honor is trampled underfoot as lies and manipulations take hold of everything from government to private sector. Honest enterprise is crushed brutally and honest business people are confronted with the option of closing down or cooperating with their prison guards. Initiative and innovation shrink or a done in a concealed manner by those who do not want to have their efforts corrupted and grabbed… or it is done in a manner that is designed to ingratiate the inventor with the one who controls the power… in that way even art is corrupted by a desire to cover one’s behind and survive another day. The nation ceases to grow as all life is choked out of it. It exists from the cesspool of its own making in an anaerobic state where only the slimy can rise to the top, the unwilling are condemned to a life of a form of slavery where their labors sustain a dying system. Labors of futility where not one soul, not even the most corrupt who may be at the top of the pile, will ever attain their fullest potential. NEVER.
Obsequious individuals pandering to the sick nature of the vile can never carry a nation to greatness. The financial cost is too high for any society to manage as well, with each loan taken, portions of it are siphoned off into the accounts of every greedy, fawning sustainer of the corrupt system until only coins are left for the original intended purpose (intended, at least on paper) to be carried out. The outcome is a cycle of evil that is unbearable.
The nation loaned, goes for more, is given more stringent terms, pays off its evil minions, scrapes some of the money into the debt account and puts the burden of the terms onto its people to carry generations into the future. Each child who is born is stamped with an unholy seal of debt to his name that he knew nothing of in the womb, else he may have asked the Lord to return him back to the peace of heaven.
For those reluctant to fight – this is the reality you embrace. For those who say we will never break out of it – this is the system that you are voting to sustain. For those who say the fight is not worth it – this is the bed you apathetically lie in. For those who say it’s not worth the risk – this is the burden you accept for yourself and the generations to come. For the one who is willing to push with all their might until something gives – this is what you are fighting to overcome.
We must commit ourselves to it and raise generations who see the value in it and are committed to it if we are ever to overcome the rot. The revolution of the mind that comes about by one taking an honest look at the state of affairs and choosing the path of light instead of the one of darkness. The one that puts them and their family in grave danger because they do not desire to have their potential and their family’s potential rot in the grave of corruption but would rather fight and die than live in rot… that is the true revolution that will bring Afrika to her fullest potential – or at least hold back the darkness while the next generation of warriors of light are raised. Providing them with sufficient room to grow in the light and to come to an awareness of its necessity. Choosing to take up their mantles to push back the darkness. Guns are useless against it and the revolution that is fought with guns is useless without it… because once the guns fall silent – if the hearts of the people have not been transformed, the darkness will creep in yet again.
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Chioma Phillips is the Editor of Msingi Afrika Magazine and the host of Msingi Afrika Television. Her hope is to see the Truth shared, with all who will listen, for the transformation of the people and the continent of Afrika - and the world. She believes passionately in the critical role that Afrika and Afrikans have to play on earth right now and hopes to ignite the spark that will cause them to see and believe who they are, so that they can live out their Truest lives for the remainder of their days.