International

African Leaders Confront a ‘Blue Wave’ Demanding Change

When Democrats captured one House seat after another in the midterm elections, observers brushed it off as a “blue trickle.” Later they had to admit: it was a giant blue wave.

Africans are also yearning for change and their frustration is erupting across the continent with a new crop of activists challenging the old order.

In Ethiopia, reforms are already underway since the installation last year of 42 year old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Women have been named to some of the government’s key positions – president, chief justice and half of all ministers. Thousands of political prisoners and journalists have been freed while senior officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption no longer enjoys immunity.

Ahmed overturned bans on opposition groups. His overture to Eritrea led to the end of a long-running conflict of neighbors.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it “a wind of hope blowing in the Horn of Africa.”

Since the unpopular Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was coaxed from power in 2017, a liberation fighter and former defense minister, Joao Lourenco, next in succession, stepped into the job. Today, even the toughest critics of the government say that in just more than a year, President Lourenco has accomplished more to stop corruption than any previous administration.

In Sudan, President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir is facing a determined movement of opposition on the heels of his third decade in power enabled by disputed elections. His late-arriving “reforms” fell flat as prices for bread and fuel were jacked up as per the advice of the IMF. Spontaneous, leaderless crowds are turning out in the thousands — not just in the capital, Khartoum, but countrywide.

“It’s like someone who has found himself on the back of a lion,” said one observer. “He can’t get off without the lion devouring him.”

Democratic reforms are also high on the wish list of people in Togo, who are fighting for term limits that would effectively end President Faure Gnassingbé’s nearly two decades in power. In Gabon, President Ali Bongo who remains in Morocco since suffering a stroke in October while traveling abroad, barely managed to survive a coup this week by a handful of young officers. Nigeria meanwhile goes to the polls on Feb. 16.

Finally, 46 million Congolese cast ballots on Dec. 30 only to learn that the electoral commission has counted less than half the votes and a winner will not be announced until a week or two or three, if ever.

So which way for the blue wave in the Congo? Stay tuned.

Global Information Network creates and distributes news and feature articles on current affairs in Africa to media outlets, scholars, students and activists in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to introduce important new voices on topics relevant to Americans, to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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