During the past few months, the African continent has seen an upsurge in protests, most if not all of them coupled with violence. Countries hosting these protests have citizens that are screaming against injustice by the leaders of their nations. It has become very plain that African men and women now seek true freedom with more zeal since discovering that the freedom won when independence was gained by their respective countries has proven to be nothing more than a fable, a mere bed time story and a motivator at political rallies.
Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen uproars at the delay of presidential elections, Gabon has seen the army deployed on protesters after their disapproval of the “shady” election results and students in South Africa have taken to the streets after another University fees hike.
The Democratic Republic of Congo
In a number of violent confrontations, the police and demonstrators in the Democratic Republic of Congo have clashed. These clashes have been sparked by the current political mess that the Central African State has found itself steeped in. The root cause of the instability is the announcement by Joseph Kabila stating the delay of elections scheduled for later this year and their postponement to mid-2017. The general populace and opposition parties have seen this as an attempt by the president of the DRC to stay in power beyond the constitutionally set limit on his terms in office (which is two), whilst Kabila supporters say this is only a reaction to financial and logistical constraints. These constraints mean that if an election is put into effect now the results will not be fair as the current voters roll does not include a large part of the population.
Civilian lives have been lost in these clashes and even though the numbers are not in congruity the death toll is expected to still be on the rise. According to Human rights watch approximately 37 people were reported dead in the last wave of clashes, while reports by opposition groups state that close to 50 people were confirmed to be dead and government headed reports pegging the death toll at a mere 17 lives. Witnesses claim protesters beat a police officer to death during one of the clashes, this only serving to show the intensity of the turmoil. According to reports four people were also killed when the headquarters’ of three DRC opposition parties were torched in the night of the 19th and early on the 20th of September.
There is a differing opinion on the likeliness of the violence escalating to a level at which it will affect and attract the interference of neighbouring countries given the vast borders of the DRC.
Wednesday the 31st of August saw violence erupting in the capital of Gabon after Ali Bongo the incumbent president of the country won elections narrowly using reportedly underhanded techniques. The Bongo dynasty can possibly now rule Gabon for more than 50 years, thanks to this recently awarded extension. Shortly after the announcement of Bongos victory, crowds in Libreville attempted to storm the electoral commission.
Bongo won 49.80% of the vote against 48.23% for his rival, Jean Ping. The uproar came because there were reported discrepancies in at least one of the voting provinces which ironically turned out to be the incumbent leaders’ home province. The army allegedly fired teargas canisters at protesters who were outside the electoral commission headquarters chanting and more accurately calling for Bongo to step down. Bongos aides are refuting the reports that there was use of live ammunition on protestors even though ping strongly insists that this was the case as three were killed and numerous were injured in the onslaught. Bongos father Omar Bongo had been in power for more than forty years before his son got into power. This recent win is attributed to the same home province that Omar Bongo manipulated to maintain power, as it was notorious for giving him landslide victories after votes were tallied.
South Africa has seen a surge in protests against the rise in University tuition fees. Student protests led to the closure of some South African universities in recent weeks, the hub of the protests has proving to be the University of the Witwatersrand. Protests with regards to tuition fees issues had subsided after the government had facilitated a freeze on the hike in university fees, but these escalated on the 19th of September when fees increments were announced. The fact that there is an eight percent cap on the increment has not at all quelled the University students of Africa’s most industrialized country who have begun to demand free tertiary education with an even louder voice than before.
The latest bout of protests occurred on Tuesday the 4th of October with police being deployed on the WITS (University of the Witwatersrand) campus as the private security had seemingly failed to contain the escalating violence. Rocks were thrown in response to teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets that the police have opted to use in an attempt to disperse disgruntled students. The fees increase is predicted to disadvantage a lot of black South Africans who are of the view that the inequalities of apartheid still stand. The toyi-toyi a dance reminiscent of the protests against oppressive white rule during apartheid has been dominating the scene at protest sites.
The streets of Harare Zimbabwe have also as of recent months grown accustomed to the stench of teargas as the battles between the police and various groups of protestors have had a grip on the nation for what seems to be months now. What started with a call for a peaceful protest by Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean “Activist” who has since fled the Zimbabwean scene, has now turned into a wave of violent protests involving clashes between the police and civilians, baton sticks in hand teargas ablaze.