Regime changes reflect political maturity of Africans

Africa is experiencing unprecedented political upheavals since the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. A wave of regime changes in Sudan and Algeria depicts the level of political maturity of Africans. Of course, it illustrates the zeal and determination of citizenry to stand up for their needs, aspirations and wishes. These political upheavals have resulted into the removal of some of the longest-serving leaders in Africa. 

Just last week Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was ousted and arrested by the country’s military following months of protests. The epicentre of the protests was due to the government imposition of emergency austerity measures and cutting of fuel and bread subsidies. The hiking of prices on basic goods was the bone of contention. It is noteworthy that these basic goods are the lifeline of the most Sudanese. As a consequence, the government responded by dispersing protesters, arresting opposition politicians, and censoring the media.

To make matters worse. Bashir, who was defiant, declared a national state of emergency, dismissing the federal government and replacing all state governors with members of the security forces instead.

The protesters in thousands camped outside the Military headquarters throughout the week, something that divided the security forces, where some used tear gas and made arrests, while another group defended the protesters, hence polarizing the status apparatus.

Bashir had been in power for nearly 30 years and was a severe and uncompromising ruler. He seized power in a military coup in 1989, amid a long civil war between Sudan’s north and south.

Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, a man currently in charge of Sudan, announced the restructuring of state institutions, the end of a night curfew and the release of political prisoners. However, the protests continue to demand an immediate transition to civilian rule and vow to stay in the streets. Gen Burhan, who replaced the coup leader after he resigned on Friday, also dissolved all provincial governments and pledged respect for human rights.

As a matter of principle, the army bears the responsibility to maintain peace, order and security of the country. The transition period would last at most two years until elections could be and civilian rule introduced.

Just last March in Algeria, almost in similar circumstances, the head of Algeria’s army, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, demanded that Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was then President, to step down  from power, signalling the end of the ailing president’s almost two decades in power. General Gaid Salah, who was once part of Bouteflika’s inner circle, made the statement as the ruling elite struggles to respond to weeks of mass demonstrations against the regime. Early in the movement demonstrators’ slogans demanded “no fifth mandate”.

They were rejecting Bouteflika’s candidacy for re-election to a fifth term in the presidency he had occupied since 1999.

As the General pointed out that, under the Algerian Constitutional, there’s a provision relating to the health of the incumbent, which is  “a solution has to be adopted which guarantees the satisfaction of all the legitimate demands of the Algerian people and which also guarantees respect of the constitution”.

The bone of contention for the nationwide demonstrations,  the largest in decades, erupted after President Bouteflika announced he would be seeking a fifth term at presidential elections that scheduled for April 18.

On his return to the country from Switzerland [where he was undergoing medical treatment], Bouteflika sought to appease the protesters by announcing that the elections would be postponed. Instead, a national conference would be held that would discuss reforms and set a new date for an election at which Bouteflika would not stand. But the protests continued and increasing numbers of the president’s allies deserted him, including politicians, business people and labour unions. Young demonstrators have been calling for the dismantlement of a regime they consider corrupt and dictatorial.

After being left with no choice, and the insurmountable pressure from the military and the protesters, Bouteflika, an ailing 82-year-old leader, resigned as the leader of Algeria. 

The big question now is whether Algeria’s army will permit a transition that really gives sovereignty to the people. And protesters continue to take to the street demanding returning the power to the civilian rule.

The two political upheavals [both in Sudan and Algeria] are reminiscent of the removal of former President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe by the military and subsequently sacked from the ruling ZANU-PF party as party leader. He was replaced by the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the ZANU-PF party leader. Mugabe was forced to quit when the military stepped in and ZANU-PF lawmakers had launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader.

In fact, the military moved against Mugabe after he sacked his then-deputy and heir-apparent Emmerson Mnangwga apparently fearing the nonagenarian was grooming his wife Grace to succeed him as president.

In all these dramatically political events, the message is ultimately that it is up to citizenry to decide who fits to lead with regard to their aspirations and wishes. If they accept any behaviour from their end, then they shouldn’t expect lots of respect from them.

The writer is a law expert.

views expressed in this article are of the author.