This is a day of new possibilities in the Arab world, and indeed, in Africa too. We have been witnessing such a turning point in recent years from the Arab Spring, the early 2017 fall of Gambia’s Yaya Jammeh, and the Zimbabwe coup in late 2017 that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe. Suddenly, once insuperable obstacles seem surmountable.
Despotic regimes that have been entrenched across the Africa some for two full generations are suddenly vulnerable. Two of the most formidable among them in Algiers and Khartoum have just crumbled before our eyes on April 2 and April 11 respectively. Others in Cameroon and Togo, some of the most brutal and repressive, are tottering at this moment. The old men who dominate so many of these countries suddenly look their age, and the distance between the rulers and the vast majorities of their populations born 40 or 50 or 60 years after them has never been greater.
Across Algeria and Sudan in recent weeks, apparently frozen political and social situations melted almost overnight in the heat of popular movements that took over the towns and cities. Only time will tell whether this is now spreading to other autocratic led nations. We are privileged to be experiencing what may well be a world historical moment.
Post-Arab Spring, the fall of Gambia’s Yaya Jammeh and the Zimbabwe coup, when what once seemed to be fixed assets vanish and new potentials and forces emerge. Albeit not in all countries will democracy follow. For instance, although Mugabe was disposed in Zimbabwe, the old system remain intact and even more brutal.
A world in motion
Algerian and Sudanese youth, at the end of the day, have been shown to have hopes and ideals not that different from those of the young people who helped bring about democratic transitions elsewhere pre-Arab Spring. It was humbling to see the mainstream world media show images of ordinary Algerians and Sudanese people peacefully making eminently reasonable demands for respect of human rights, social justice, accountability, the rule of law, and democracy.
These young dissents have been a revelation only to those brainwashed by media’s obsessive focus on Islamic terror whenever it turns its attention to the Arab countries. This is thus also an important moment not only in the Arab world, but also for how Arabs are perceived by other nations, especially after the Arab Spring was so badly stained by the violence of ISIS.
Sadly for Algeria and Sudan, the most difficult episodes are yet to come. Yes, it was not easy to overthrow a power hungry tyrant, whether in Algiers or Khartoum. Building a working democratic system will be much harder. The military had a hand in disposing both leaders and the same old system remain intact today, a situation that in the case of Zimbabwe continued long after Mugabe fell. It will be harder still for smaller Cameroon, Togo and several other African states to ensure that a democratic system, if one can be established, is not dominated by the military and same old faces from previous regimes who abound in Africa and by entrenched, powerful interests influenced by greedy.
Finally, it will be a daunting task for any new popular democratic regime to achieve the benchmark respect for rule of law, human rights, social justice and the rapid economic growth that will be necessary to provide employment, low-cost housing, innovative education, infrastructural development, and equal opportunity for all. These are the very things that the old regimes failed to provide and whose absence influenced the peaceful revolution.
Failure at any of these daunting tasks ahead could literally lead to old habits that triggered the revolution in the first place. It could also unleash those extreme, violent, minority-led trends that prosper in circumstances of chaos and disorder, such as were created by the western countries airstrikes of Libya and the attendant destruction of the Libyan social fabric. We must never forget that this is Africa, which is the most coveted continent of the world and the most penetrated by foreign interests. It is thus vulnerable, as it has been throughout its history of colonization, to western countries intervention that could easily divert or distort outcomes to their selfish advantage.
Despite this sorry truth, what has happened in Algeria and Sudan has revived hope that has long been cherished post Arab Spring. The energy, dynamism, and intelligence of the younger generation in the Africa have been unleashed after being dammed up for generations by a system that treated the young and their aspirations with contempt.
Seemingly out of nowhere, young people in the Africa have gained a confidence, an assurance, and a courage which have made fearsome rogue regimes that once looked invincible shake. Watching both young and old Algerian and Sudanese speak on Arab satellite TV stations was a revelation to many in the world. These people were hopeful and articulate. Al Jazeera led the way relaying news about events about the famed Tunisian-branch Arab Spring, where it was way ahead of other media in perceiving the importance of what was happening, but also in Algeria and now Sudan, and in Zimbabwe in 2017. Other Arab TV stations played a major role, including Algerian and Sudanese stations, once the fear of reprisals had been overtaken by events and the spirit oneness had spread.
It once looked as if the Arab Spring would be a once off event but it seems the Arab World continue indefinitely to be an example to the wave of liberation from authoritarianism which has swept other regions of the world over the past years. The younger generations of Arabs and indeed Africa have proven that they are no different than anyone else. They have shown that they have been following events elsewhere and watching carefully the examples of others outside their region. They have learned straight from the mistakes of their forefathers, and they are far more technologically savvy than the rogue regimes with its unlimited resources to suppress the will of the people.
There are however question that may remain unanswered. Which country (s) continued to supply tear gas canisters and other materials used copiously against peaceful protesters in Algeria and Khartoum? Which countries continued to oil Khartoum machinery through oiy sales? What was their interests? When for instance people in Sudan were chanting “the regime has fallen”. When is it right to support stability in rogue nations at the expense of the will of the masses? I bet these answers are on the minds of smart young people African who follow the Western and other international media, and are aware of what is happening in the rest of the world. They are much more aware than those who have repressed them for so long like the now disposed Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Hassan Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
The Algerian and Sudanese revolutions also raise many questions about the role of regional bodies and the African Union (AU) in particular. What a useless body and an embarrassment to democracy. The youth will be leading the way to democracy in the Middle East and Africa.