Charles Onyango Obbo
South Sudan: How the wombs of Africa’s women and Internet killed revolution
Posted Wednesday, December 25 2013 at 02:00
The story so far: After barely two years as the world’s newest independent nation and Africa’s 54th state, South Sudan has lost it.
An alleged attempted coup has left the country bleeding, with hundreds – some say thousands – dead, and what threatens to be a full-blown civil war pitting the dominant Dinka and Nuer armed groups looms. Uganda sent troops.
But we are missing something here. In the Central African Republic (CAR), the Seleka rebels run Francois Bozize out of power in March, and installed their leader Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia as president.
The mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, as they are often described, murdered, raped and looted. Now not only have they broken out in warring factions, but a Muslim-Christian civil war has broken out. Uganda, again, already has troops in CAR. France threw in more forces, and Rwanda is now joining the struggling African Union peacekeeping force there.
In North Africa, two years ago a people’s uprising, dubbed the Arab Spring, ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s long-term dictator Hosni Mubarak. It also ignited a rebellion against Africa’s longest-ruling autocrat Muammar Gaddafi then. Gaddafi took longer to fall as Libya smouldered in bitter war. Perhaps he should have fled to safety early, because a year later he was cornered by revolutionary hordes as he tried to hide in a drainage pipe and lynched in the most horrible fashion.
Maybe the ghost of Gaddafi is haunting Libya. The place is still a mess. And the dark moods of Mubarak have also brought bad political luck on his country; first the dodgy Muslim Brotherhood won elections fair and square – then became rogue. Next the military put the boot in, and took power from them in a coup.
The bright-eyed protestors of two years are bitter or in despair.
Generally, then, from South Sudan, to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and CAR, the last three years have been bad for revolutions of all types in Africa. They have all ended in tears, blood, or both.
In the case of Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni and his men and women, took power in 1986 and enjoyed a longish honeymoon. Though the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front took power in the wake of the 1994 genocide in which nearly one million were people were killed, but it too consolidated and has dominated the game in Rwanda since.
So why was the end of the 20th Century fruitful for revolutions, wars of liberation, and even coups, but not the second decade of the 21st Century? What has changed?
It is easier to ask the questions, than to find answers. But we can fly some kites and see how far they will go.
My sense is that one reason is demographic. With 70 per cent of its people under the age of 30, Africa is the world’s youngest continent. Africa is urbanising very fast, and it is estimated that by the end of this year over half of all city-dwellers on the continent will be under 18.
African cities are now the most informal economies in the world. Some 70 per cent of workers live on their wits.
While 20 years ago wars of liberation and revolutions in Africa were about the peasants, and agrarian reforms, today they are about the youth in towns and cities – and jobs.
Also, in 1986 when Museveni came to power, there were many older people who returned from exile to rebuild their lives – reunite with families, finish incomplete buildings, recover property looted by state agents in previous regimes, and even find some closure in holding last funeral rites for relatives who died or were killed when they were in exile.
Majority of today’s youth didn’t leave. The revolutions found them at home. And they don’t have a past to rebuild, only a future to build.
They also come to age in a globalised world, where the Internet and cable TV has allowed them to see bigger possibilities, conjure up bigger dreams, and learn of things without the mediation of the local media, political leaders, or their parents. Unlike the peasants who will take the Big Men at their words, the youth are more questioning and often know better.
An older person from exile will be happy enough to return home, and ask no more of the state. A peasant who fled his land will be content to return and till in peace, even though in poverty. A young revolutionary in Egypt will want that job, house, and the promises made by politicians to be met today.
And this is partly South Sudan’s problem, made worse by the failures of Salva Kiir and his cronies. So the reason revolutions have become bad business in Africa these days is due, first, to the prolific wombs of Africa’s mothers and, second, the Internet.
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