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  • on 02.02.2011
  • at 02:22 PM
  • by Staff

Why some African leaders are smiling at the storm in North Africa 0

It’s been more than a month since protests that began in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid spread across North Africa and the Middle East.

The protests in Tunisia were sparked by the action Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old street vendor who on December 17, 2010 set himself on fire in front of the municipal building protesting his ill-treatment by local police who confiscated his merchandise.

By the time Bouazizi died on January 4, 2011, protests had gripped Tunisia, many Tunisians poured in the streets to challenge the regime of –President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali was later forced to flee to Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 year old rule.

The Tunisian revolution, entirely engineered from within, spread ripples to the rest of the Arab world and protests have been going on ever since. Africans have largely followed the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Sudan through different media. In Uganda where local TV stations air direct feeds from Al Jazeera and other international networks, many people especially in the capital have watched in disbelief. They have hardly seen determined people standing up to a regime without the help of a gun.

Many Ugandans in the social networks have facebook status and tweets warning or wishing the same could happen in Uganda. I have refused to be optimistic about the events in North Africa. However a good look at Zimbabwe, Angola, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville to Uganda  you would understand the excitement.

The first post I made when Ben Ali was ousted by Tunisians was “the African club of dictators has lost a member and they will be doing some rethinking.” May be I should have been more specific on which leaders. So far only Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and to some extent, the self-baptised Africa’s king of Kings, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi are feeling the quakes and tremors.

At  the African Union summit  in Addis Ababa, Tunisia was missing on the agenda but the AU president hailed the maturity of Tunisian people. The summit largely dwelt on the Ivory Coast election row where they are yet to reach an agreement.

The protests in North Africa have been largely around unemployment rate, corruption, poor living conditions and curtailing of freedoms of masses by the regimes. A look at the statistics tells you a story that would trick most of Africa into thinking they too could have a shot at bringing down their own dictators.

Almost two thirds of Egypt’s population has been born since President Hosni Mubarak came to power. Unemployment rate is North Africa has been as their leaders live a royalty life. Corruption has been so rampant that the middle class in these countries never saw the reason why they paid taxes.  The living conditions in these countries for most of the population were terrible.  Only one percent of rural people in Tunisia have access to clean water and unemployment was at 14.2 percent as of 2009.

Compare the situation in these countries to Uganda you will find a lot of similarities.

About 77 per cent of Uganda’s population is youth. According to a 2008 World Bank report, Uganda has the highest youth unemployment rate and the youngest population in the world.

The African Development Indicators [ADI] report 2008/2009, showed youth have borne the burden of unemployment with the rate at 83 percent.

Talk of standard of living, Uganda having worse development indicators than the North African countries. Most Ugandans rely on out of pocket expenditure for their health, public health services are very hard to access and even when you get to hospitals there are no drugs. Soroti, a Regional Referral Hospital has only three maternity beds, it serves a population of over 20,000. The Universal primary education enrolled pupils and in the end we have produced half-baked primary education drop outs across the country with girls being affected most.

We cannot forget that President Museveni has been in power for now 25 years and he’s seeking re-election to step in the shoes of Mubarak.

By Rosebell KagumireContinue Reading on Rosebell’s Blog

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