Today in Africa we see authoritarian, Bonapartist and dictatorial presidents who have ruled their countries for decades leaving power. All due to popular mobilization and widespread discontent.
By Américo Gomes
Recently in Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to resign after nearly 20 years in power, forced by two months of popular demonstrations. Then, after four months of protests against the government, the Sudanese army was forced to overthrow and arrest the dictator Omar al-Bashir, in power for 30 years.
Some analysts, journalists and historians begin to speak of a “new African era” that begins with democratic revolutions, and dictators who will not resist for long.
What we could call it the “African Spring” or an “Arab Spring 2.0”, following the path of the protests that took Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan over a year ago. But in a situation that could be much more explosive for the region, when combined with the instability generated by the military conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The problem is that so far, in most countries that are experiencing this process, the Bonapartist regimes get rid of the most hated dictators in an attempt to maintain the very regime. This happened in Angola where João Lourenço replaced the well-known corrupt José dos Santos; in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe, 93, was replaced by the bloodthirsty Emmerson Mnangagwa; in the Congo with Joseph Kabila conducting fraudulent elections to empower his “opponent” Felix Tshisekedi; in Burkina Faso, which elected the first civilian president in 50 years; and now in Sudan and Algeria. In a way, it is the same process that occurred in South Africa where power passed from the hands of Jacob Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa. All belong to the same parties as their predecessors. It’s the “better lose the saddle than the horse,” forging an incomplete revolutionary process that is still ongoing.
Dictators and authoritarian regimes are scared
These rulers are scared, but they want to remain in power, and apply in the first place a violent and brutal repression. When it does not work and collide with the resistance of the masses, the regimes turn to political maneuvering.
In Sudan, Defense Minister General Awad Ibn Auf said that after the overthrow of the president, the country will be headed for the next two years by a “transitional military government.” In Algeria, the legislature announced a transition period that will begin on July 4 with general elections and the reform of the constitution, led by Senate President Abdelkader Bensalah, who will be the interim head of state from now on. A transition that will last at least a year.
The plan is to remove the most worn-out rulers, but to maintain the regime, and to conduct a transition that doesn’t get anyone anywhere, changing only the flies.
These proposals are not appealing to anyone. In Sudan, protest leaders rejected the “regime-led coup.” In Algeria, demonstrations have already begun, with the students ahead against Bensalah’s appointment, correctly accused of “continuity,” as well as the army chief, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah. Demonstrations that are being suppressed by the police with tear gas and blows of batons.
A new Spring
Since the Arab Spring at the end of 2010, there has been massive repression of protests in almost every country in the region. In the Islamic Republic of Iran of Hassan Rohani; in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of Prince Mohammad bin Salman; in the Emirate of Qatar of Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; in the Tunisian semi-presidential republic of Beji Caïd Essebsi; or in the Arab Republics of Turkey of Erdoğan and Egypt by Abdel al-Sissi.
On the other hand, what distinguishes the current Spring from the previous one is that it begins with democratic demands, but soon become linked with economic demands from a young, miserable, working class without future fighting for radical changes in economic policies implemented by governments that maintain the International Monetary Fund’s former orientations, fighting their austerity policies and the withdrawal of investments, the result of imperialist colonial heritage. All mixed with high corruption levels that provide poor living conditions for the peoples, despite the immense resources and economic potential of the region, driving the population to hate their rulers.
These protests also have in common the old age of their rulers and the youth and feminine composition of the demonstrators. More than 60 per cent of the African continent’s population is under 25 years old, the youngest in the world. The average age of the demonstrators is 19 years old, they communicate via social media networks, while in 15 countries the rulers are more than 70 years old.
Women and the youth are playing a leading role in all countries, rejoicing again in a reciprocal chain. A new generation after a decade of protests in Tahrir Square has passed.
Learning from mistakes and defeats
One cannot claim only the highly positive aspects of the mass mobilizations of the African Spring. One must also learn from mistakes, setbacks and defeats.
The Algerian and Sudanese generals, following the example of Egypt, surrendered their dictators to placate the wrath of the demonstrators and remain in power. Recalling that in Egypt the generals who helped to overthrow Hosni Mubarak were celebrated as guardians of the revolution and then were the main agents of the new dictatorial regime. Now the Algerian generals expressly speak of avoiding “the Egyptian situation.” But they are the real danger, because the interim government is full of allies of Buteflika, including the prime minister.
In Libya, General Jalifa Hafter wants to take advantage of the crisis established by imperialism, after the resounding victory of the masses by overthrowing Gaddafi, to establish a new dictatorship, following the example of Assad in Syria and the intervention of Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The imperialist governments that try to appear as democratic, followed by many organizations claiming to be working-class ones, try to show that the 2011 uprisings in the region only led to chaos and disorder, and more oppression.
The workers of these countries have the challenge of continuing to confront these regimes rooted in corruption, imperialist submission and overexploitation of the workers. The young proletarians from Africa must understand that it is not enough to overthrow the dictator, the whole regime must be destroyed. To achieve that it is fundamental and necessary to build workers’ organizations that are autonomous and independent of the local capitalists, of imperialism and of all their political representatives, conducted in a democratic way in their meetings and assemblies.
Security forces have already killed dozens of protesters in Sudan and attack indiscriminately in Algeria. But some troops began to protect those who protested against the police repression and paramilitary groups. It is imperative that the workers join these soldiers and set up self-defense groups to continue to protect and watch over demonstrators.
In this new Spring, Algerian and Sudanese demonstrators, as well as Angolans, Zimbabweans and Congolese, can not just celebrate or be happy with the fall of their dictators, they must grab this victory to advance further, at this moment when their class enemy is struck by mobilizations. They must continue on the streets betting on their self-organization demanding deep changes in the regimes and the “system” in which they live, organizing in the workplaces for the next confrontations. If they can make progress on this, we will witness a victorious Spring that will spread throughout the region.