Coincidence Or Wave? The Growing Opposition Protests In Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, The Gambia And Senegal
A side-by-side image of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga, Nigeria’s Atiku Abubakar and Julius Malema of South Africa
Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga’s call for mass action on Monday, March 20, 2023, coincides with similar activities by opposition parties in other African countries.
In what is seemingly growing into pockets of demonstrations across African democracies, the nature of the protests varies on the basis of issues.
In Kenya, the opposition has planned a countrywide mass action, which seeks to compel the government to lower the cost of living. Opposition chief Raila Odinga said the demonstrations would be peaceful as he also urged participants to conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
“We do not want any kind of violence or bloodshed. It is going to be peaceful and I have also said that we do not want any handshake. We are only doing this because it is the only alternative that we have,” he said.
President William Ruto has warned the opposition against holding unlawful protests saying Kenya is a country governed by the rule of law.
In Nigeria, the country is facing a leadership transition following the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections that saw the All-Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu declared winner in the tightly contested poll.
His closest rival and Nigeria’s opposition leader Atiku Abubakar, who came second, has led street protests with his supporters in tow-disputing the election results.
With Tinubu set to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023, the opposition parties among them APC and Peter Obi’s Labor Party, have accused the country’s electoral body- the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)- of overseeing an exercise marred with massive vote-rigging.
Still, in West Africa, demonstrations have become the order of the day in The Gambia, thanks to runaway corruption and pilferage of public resources. It appears that the country is still reeling from the effects of the despotic rule of former president Yahya Jammeh.
kenya opposion rally for political change
His 22-year iron fist rule in the country saw the government announce that it will prosecute its former leader for murder, rape, torture and other alleged crimes. His stint in power, from July 1994 to January 2017, saw the country crawl sluggishly development-wise. His successor, President Adama Barrow, is facing a litany of protests in a country that is ranked among the most corrupt states.
According to Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index, The Gambia scored 34 out of 100 and ranked 110th out of 180 countries. Opposition-affiliated protesters have held anti-corruption marches in the capital Banjul over an array of corruption cases in government institutions and other local government councils.
In neighbouring Senegal, echoes of Jammeh’s rule in The Gambia still linger in the minds of many – a similarity that was birthed by the mass exit of Gambians to Senegal following extensive human rights abuses. With many victims of Jammeh’s rule having fled to the neighbouring country, Senegalese citizens have a concern of their own.
The incumbent, President Macky Sall is possibly eyeing a third term in office – a move that has irked the country’s opposition ahead of the 2024 elections. Droves of opposition supporters have held demonstrations in the West African country in solidarity with their leader Ousmane Sonko gathered in the capital, Dakar. The protests came ahead of the determination of a libel case in which Sonko accused the country’s Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang of alleged embezzlement.
Ousmane Sonko is also facing rape and alleged death threats charges against him over a reported 2021 incident pitting him against a beauty salon employee. He denies any wrongdoing. His supporters have furthered the premise that 61-year-old President Sall has an agenda of weakening the opposition. On the eve of Sonko’s trial, the authorities in Senegal banned rallies even as they manned Sonko’s Dakar home.
Further down south the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is pushing for what it termed as a national shutdown; with South Africa’s red beret movement accusing the President Cyril Ramaphosa-led administration of a growing list of challenges plaguing the country. The president has rubbished the planned demos saying South Africa will “not allow anarchy and disorder.”
On his part, EFF leader Julius Malema stated that Monday, March 20, 2023 event is a mere expression of dissatisfaction with Ramaphosa’s rule. This follows calls from the governing African National Congress (ANC), which downplayed the push for disruption of South Africa’s economic workings come Monday, terming it as a recipe for anarchy.
In Tunisia, anti-government demonstrations could dilute the country’s Independence Day holiday. The former French colony is known for conducting anti-government demos by holding rallies. The Free Destourian Party in Tunis is headlining the demonstrations against President Kais Saied’s dissolution of parliament. They also accuse him of planning to silently amend the Constitution.
He has in the recent past accused African migrants of being part of a conspiracy to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup amid a crackdown on migrants, sparking criticism by human rights groups. The opposition has in the meantime defied an official ban imposed by Saied’s regime, even as they pushed for the release of the incumbent’s critics.