Two years ago, when “Arab Spring” uprisings started toppling regimes of North Africa, many wondered if populations in Sub-Saharan Africa would rise up, too, to challenge the status quo in their respective countries.
There were demonstrations in quite a number of sub-Saharan nations, including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mauritania, the Sudan, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa and others. Some of the protests were inspired by North African revolutions, as illustrated by the battle cries of the crowds and the self-immolations copying the act of despair of Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi.
Expectations of an “African Spring” were based on the assumption that countries of Sub-Saharan Africa shared many of the problems, which had led to revolts in North Africa, including youth unemployment, economic hardship, corruption, inefficient governance, restrictions on freedoms, and unhappiness over the long tenure of many of the rulers. There were in fact leaders, like President Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who had been in power since 1979 and 1980.
The fate of the North African regimes was sealed by socio-economic factors, amongst them the role of the middle classes and the elites as they eventually sided with the protest movementOussama Romdhani
But the so-called “African Spring” failed to materialize, as Sub-Saharan African governments quickly drew the lessons of the North Africa revolts, each in its own way. Senegal held free elections where the ballot box put an end to the turmoil. Burkina Faso established a consultative council to address protestors’ demands. Rwanda and Kenya introduced fuel subsidies. Others just cracked down on demonstrators.