Allegations of government corruption, the need for political freedom and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots have sparked a massive wave of demonstrations. Protest in the pasts has pushed governments to action however it is not a guarantee that things will change as not all the protests are driven by economic complaints.
In January 2019, Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, discovered that the world’s 26 richest individuals own as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. While the billionaires grew their combined fortunes by $2.5 billion a day in 2018, the world’s poorest 3.8 billion people became poorer as their wealth declined by $500million a day. Little wonder protests have spiked in the last decade.
The traditional system of enforcing power from top to bottom is increasingly being challenged as has been evident in Africa. The people are tired of being passive citizens and have actively begun challenging the status quo.
A 2011 analysis by Andreas Madestam, Daniel Shoag, Stan Veuger and David Yanagizawa-Drot discovered that protests do in fact have a major influence, especially on politics. The researchers say that the actual protest or the large crowds were not the reason for the change, but the change was a result of motivated attendees. They argued larger turnout/engagements for protests had lasting effects and positive outcomes.
Social movements are a central component of democratic systems, expressing fundamental critiques about unfavourable policies. Historically, social movements have created transformational change, with their greatest strength being the ability to gather the powerless in unison against the powerful. In these movements, protests have played an important role in making issues visible to those who were unaware, giving people a platform to be heard.
In 2016, half of Africa experienced major protests that were centred around salary delays, price hikes, police brutality, unemployment and political decisions. 2017 also saw a lot of protests and 2018 was no different, except that many of the protests drew popularity that compelled government action. The same goes for 2019. Here are the significant protests that happened across Africa in 2019.
Since April 6, before the former president, Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after ruling the country for 30 years, Sudanese have been protesting in front of the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum . They have been demanding the full dismantling of the “deep state” left behind by the ousted leader and that power be handed to a civilian transitional government.
So far, hundreds of Sudanese have been injured, over 60 people killed and scores went missing in the deadliest attack since Sudan began its sit-in protest.
Egyptians are attempting to take charge of their own destiny, sadly, this boldness has landed over 500 people who protested the removal of their president, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi in prison. In a rare display of dissent, thousands of protesters on Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, defied a de facto ban on demonstrations and took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, in the port city of Suez and several other cities in the country protesting against Sisi.
The protesters, some of whom were under the age of 18, reportedly shouted “Leave, Sisi” before they were detained and accused, among other charges, of participating in an outlawed group, spreading false news via social media and protesting without permission. El-Sisi, on the other hand, dismissed the corruption allegations as “lies” and “slander” as he blamed them on “political Islam.”
South Africa is sometimes referred to as the “protest capital of the world”, because of our affinity for taking to the streets. Thousands of South African women took to the streets on Thursday to protest at the government’s failure to deal with rising violence against women.
According to official figures, at least 137 sexual offences are committed each day mainly against women in South Africa. Even the women’s minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, confirmed that more than 30 women were killed by their spouses in August 2019 alone.
This 2019 as well, rioters in and around Johannesburg targeted immigrants from other African countries, leading to another round of xenophobic attacks. In the latest xenophobic attack, South Africans looted, damaged and burned shops belonging to other country nationals as they chanted, “foreigners must go back to where they came from.”
Since February this year, Algeria has witnessed social unrest after its President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would be standing for a fifth term, having already spent 20 years in office. Algerians, though thankful for the peace the 82-year old had brought to Algeria, were tired of his leadership and required a new face of power.
Pressure mounted on Bouteflika to withdraw when 1,000 lawyers gathered in Algiers in protest; more than 16,000 rallied in Paris and France. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when over 1,000 Judges said they would refuse to oversee the planned election if he runs. Finally, the protests paid off and he bowed to pressure.
Just days after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded a Nobel Peace Price, protests erupted in country after a prominent critic accused the police of attempting to orchestrate an attack on him. This protest which has caused 67 persons their lives is threatening to taint the reputation of Ahmed.
Jawar claimed on his Facebook account that police officers in two cars had arrived at his home around midnight and demanded that his own security guards leave. Jawar said the police officers apparently had wanted “to remove my security and to mobilize a mob attack and claim it was linked to ethnic strife. I cannot say for certain” that Abiy was responsible, but it is possible that loyalists in the security services thought they had a green light from what he was saying in Parliament.”