17 Mar 2014

Popular Democracy for Africa?

The ongoing hostilities in Ukraine is getting all the deserved headlines and once again people are asking whether the circumstances that led to this even can happen in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not the first time such questions are being asked. A couple of years ago, the events commonly referred to as the Arab Spring raised similar questions.  There are several possible reasons why we have not experienced such popular movements that can bring down unpopular regimes.

One of them is definitely not because we do not face similar challenges. It is either that people are not enlightened enough, are indifferent or passive, or that we lack the required bravery to challenge the status quo. It is also possible that we lack the organisational skills required to make it happen. My last possible option is that our time is yet to come.

Some people might argue that the outcome of such popular revolution in increased chaos as in the case with Egypt, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. After all, it should be better to avoid bloodshed at all cost.  You can even point to the situation in Central African Republic (CAR) as a case in hand.  Is it possible that the nightmares of previous bloody wars that have conditioned us to just accept anyone who seizes power or even elected leaders who act as if the country belonged to them alone?

The problem with the above conclusion is that we have resigned ourselves to fail. Our leaders take it that they are invincible. They take their subjects for granted. We stop caring and things stay the way they are. The ubiquity of social media means that people can air their views and meet people who think alike.  Take the ongoing incessant killings in Northern Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram. A lot of school children are being slaughtered on daily basis and well-meaning citizens should be demanding action from the government. 

Last weekend, a handful of Nigerians gathered in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London to show their concern and demand action. Someone might question what has been achieved by such a protest. For one it is important to send the right message to all those affected by this heinous crime that they are not alone. It is important to show solidarity to all those who now live in fear of being attacked. It is important to demand action

Against Boko Haram
Most importantly we do not have to wait to be impacted directly before we go out to show our support. This famous quote summarises why:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.


Christopher Ejugbo is a sustainability and project management professional and runs his own blog on energy, environment, sustainable development, current affairs and cultural diversity. 

This article first appeared in Africa on the Blog

This is a guest post; views may not represent that of ECDPM


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