It has been a long time coming. Many thought it would never arrive. But slowly, the seers of our time have started confirming it. The long awaited African Century is finally here and it has announced its arrival with a series of revolutions in the Arab section of the continent.
The African Century is a term used to encapsulate a belief that the 21st century will bring unprecedented progress, peace, and prosperity for the African people. One by one, the dictatorships that have been synonymous with Africa’s miserable identity since the end of colonialism, are in the process of being swept aside. If this is not an indication that such a century has indeed dawned upon us, we have much reason to despair of a rosy future that always seems to be approaching but never really has a change of arriving.
Throughout history, it has often been noted that nothing can stand in the way of an idea whose time has come. In fact it was Victor Hugo who said, “greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come”.
In the 1950’s, before the independence movement took root to fan the winds of change that engulfed the entire African continent, there were isolated whirlwinds of discontent led by the likes of the Mau Mau in Kenya, Nkrumah in what was then the Gold Coast, now Ghana and Lumumba in the then Zaire, now the DRC.
Like the generation that lived in the 50’s, we too, are living in tumultuous times. More profoundly, it has now become our responsibility to correctly interpret the signs of our times so that we can shepherd the current movement to a successful and sustainable outcome for the rest of Africa. Should we fail to do this, history will judge us harshly as being among those who failed to decipher the writing on the wall in what was Africa’s most promising moment.
If you did not sit up and take notice when Tunisia happened, you might be forgiven of taking for granted what could easily have passed for yet another bad piece of news relating to unrest in yet another quarter of Africa. But then, Egypt happened, bringing to an end the formidable dictatorship of a latter day Pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak. It was an event that sent shockwaves reverberating in the Arab world and much elation in the hearts of those around the world who stood in solidarity with the Egyptian people. Since then, the Egyptian revolution has proved to be an understatement of what continues to happen next.
It is fair to say that thus far, the collective story of Africa has been one of false dawns and the dejection of millions of struggling livelihoods existing at the margins of the developed world. It is an uninspiring story to say the least. Indeed our collective story has always been one of the-more-things-change, the-more-they-remain-the-same. However, we need to be grateful that both episodes of protest and revolution in Egypt and Tunisia, turned out not to be another run of the mill story in the uncomplimentary commentary of Africa. They have instead, spawned a heretofore unthinkable era of people power that once again, stands poised to play a pivotal part in shaping Africa’s future.
As we speak, Libya is in the throes of a full blown insurrection as yet another lot of oppressed people have mustered the courage to rise against tyranny. Not only has the tide of revolution intensified, it has reached a tipping point.
As previously mentioned, before the winds of change blew everywhere on the continent in the 50’s, there were first whirlwinds of discontent here and there. It did not take long for the scattered whirlwinds to coalesce into a raging storm that swept away the political oppression of colonialism.
Likewise, the fall of dictatorship in Libya has more far reaching repercussions for Africa as a whole, than did the Egyptian and the Tunisian revolts in their singularity of occurrence.
This is because Moammar Gadaffi is no ordinary dictator. As the unofficial guardian of the AU and a trusted ally of many other tyrants such as Mugabe, Gadaffi is in so many ways, the last bastion of all surviving dictatorships in Africa. In truth, he represents an ideological last line of defence for all such dictatorships.
If safety is found in numbers, many a dictator will confess to the fact that they feel safer to persist in their dictatorship if they have a Gadaffi as a contemporary to draw succour from. Therefore it needs to be noted that if and when Gadaffi falls, we can be sure to expect a crumbling of all edifices of oppression across the continent as the rest of the dominoes of tyranny collapse. In the wake of his fall, we can expect a deluge of protests all over the continent.
The fall of Gadaffi might yet prove to be that political tipping point which has eluded Africa for so long. Should that be the case, we are assured that the dawn we seek in a new African Century is not a false one but has indeed arrived to guarantee both us and future generations of our place in the sun — free from Big Man politics and all the evils that come with it. But what part will you play in these unfolding momentous times and events?