As the year 2011 opens up, some analysts of Africa have termed the calls for political change in countries such as Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Tunia, Egypt and Yemen, as “exciting” while some have termed it as “highly emotional”.
Indeed, when one looks at it critically, the year 2011 signals the onset of a new epoch in the political history of Africa.
It has been quite some time, since a collection of African presidents have been brought to account all at the same time.
The last time it happened was during the great winds of change in the late 1980s to early 1990s after the collapse of communism that ushered in more democratic space in very many African countries such as those within the Great Lakes region of Africa.
However, of all the countries witnessing these profound changes in Africa in 2011, it is the Egyptian experiment with change that stands out among the African countries witnessing this new shift in the political tectonics of Africa. Egypt is now hogging all the media limelight due to the fact that the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak having led the country for 30 years, will not be brushed off easily in the way Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ,the former Tunisian president for 23 years, was swept from the corridors of power in Tunis.
Revolutions in Africa happen as a struggle against leadership succession. Revolutions happen due to the fact that those in power within certain defining moments in Africa just like in the 1990s and even right now, often choose to retreat to the cocoon of state power when confronted with critical issues facing a vast majority of the population.
The Egyptian clamour for change like the Tunisian one is being spearheaded by the youth.
In Egypt it is said how the youth have largely been excluded in affairs of the state with rising unemployment and general political discrimination.
The Egyptian clamour for change has largely been brought to the fore using the new forms of social media that is popular with the youth such as Twitter and Face Book .Barely in their mid 20s as seen by images in the media, the youth in Egypt who constitute over 60 percent of the population, in a way carries the future aspirations and challenges currently facing Africa.
Looking back in history, the unfolding events in 2011 mirrors closely the events in early 1980s and mid 1990s within the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The only difference here is that in the 1990s the weapon of choice for the disenfranchised lot, was the AK 47 (as opposed to social media right now ), that largely did much of the talking to smoke out African dictators of the time such as Idi Amin Dada, Mobutu Seseko, Juvenile Habyarimana, Milton Obote, Mengistu Haile Mariam and the other cast members of the cold war era African dictators, whose time collectively had run out.
Meaning that from the mid 1990s, that is for the last 20 years, Africa cannot be said to have witnessed a major clamour for change the way it is witnessing right now. Now that there is so much talk of an African renaissance on the lips of commentators, can it be said that the current winds of change is a pregnancy of this new epoch coming up in African political history?
It is being said that the future holds more promises than the last 50 years of African independence. However to bring forth the actualization of a brighter future for our continent, leadership succession remains to be the major challenge on the African political scene in the past, now and even in the future.
The author is an editor with The New Times