The state of grassroots activism in Africa, A lesson for Australia

Amongst Africa’s recurring issues has been the weakness of its institutions, which has denied the people the ability to hold bad political figures accountable for their actions. This has allowed authoritarians like Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak and Yoweri Museveni to serve incredibly long terms in office, obstructing any opportunity for change. It is arguable that African nations in past decades have engaged in civil unrest as a result of grassroots activism, this has been the case in the past year. In the 2011 Egyptian uprising the longest ruling President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, was forced out of office by an Egyptian nation hungry for change. With problems of unemployment and poverty being among their top priorities, the people had had enough of an autocratic government that abused weaknesses in the system and so aided by social media they were able to bring cities to a standstill, with organized non-violent protests and open acts of rebellion.

Another country in Africa that we may want to consider is Uganda, who re-elected President Yoweri Museveni on the 20th of February 2011 to serve his fourth term in office, marking 25 years in power. The election was questionable according to both the European Union and the opposition leader, Dr Kizza Besigye. However, unlike the case of Bush Vs Gore, there was no confidence in what is equivalent to the Supreme court, to appeal to. As the cost of living has steadily risen in Uganda following Museveni’s re-election, Kizza Besigye, encouraged the people of Uganda to join him in his ‘walk-to-work’ protest; highlighting the rising costs of fuel and other consumer goods. Dr Besigye has since been arrested and physically assaulted by police four times; Museveni announcing walk-to-work protests illegal in Uganda. Dr Besigye’s actions are another clear example of grassroots activism against an oppressive government. His resilience has enabled him to gain support from the people of Uganda, who are disturbed by the government’s acts of physical abuse against him, for merely encouraging them to non-violently address the high cost of living by simply walking to work instead of driving. Dr Besigye’s actions have unmasked the oppressive regime that exists under Museveni’s rule.

A notable difference between Australia and Africa is that desperation in African nations as well as the apparent need for reform has been the inspiration behind grassroots activism. Australia on the other hand lacks a sense of urgency for change that would encourage Australian’s to demand more from their government. So in instances like that of Pomona and its outrage at the quarry trucks that have recently started using their streets en route to a destination, the towns-people are not fuelled enough by the issue to make the impact that could bring the desired change. With poverty being at such high levels in Africa, activism defines a refusal to settle for a life of suffering – as citizens become aware of their rights and organise to demand these. In Australia on the other hand, it is easier to leave the status quo, since this costs less.


1 Comment

Filed under Africa

One response to “The state of grassroots activism in Africa, A lesson for Australia

  1. You could be right. However, fear also leads people to resist activism in Africa, unfortunately. The costs are high.

    In Australia, we need to protect our right to speak out, or we will lose it – we should never take what we have for granted.

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