Youth Power in Burkina Faso ejected a dictator
[Black Star News Editorial]
Burkina Faso’s dictator Blaise Compaore is the latest ruler to be ousted by youth power in Africa.
This may be the start of a new African Spring.
Disgusted with Compaore’s attempt to tear up the country’s constitution in order to run for a fifth term the youth took to the streets and by the end of the day the Parliament building as well as the headquarters of the dictator’s ruling party had been set ablaze. Even then Compaore insisted he would stay in office. But the army, unable to contain the spontaneous uprising told him “no more” after three young people had been shot dead.
Compaore, who himself seized power in 1987 when he assassinated popular leader Thomas Sankara, was forced to resign.
The African continent has the highest percentage of young people relative to the population in the world and they also suffer from record unemployment rates.
About 300 million of the continent’s population of 1.1 billion are between 10 and 24 years of age.
Youth unemployment rate in some African countries is believed to be as high as 80% or even more. The youth will increasingly take out their frustrations on leaders who try to cling to power or to extend their rule even as they fail to create jobs.
In 2012 when Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade tried to extend his own rule by running again, the opposition led by Macky Sall mobilized the youth vote and dealt him a humiliating defeat, 65% to 35%.
Other African rulers should pay attention to the lesson from Burkina Faso’s youth.
In Uganda, where the youth unemployment is estimated to be the highest in the world, at between an astronomical 63% to 83%, the country’s U.S.-backed dictator of 28 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni is seeking office again in 2016. According to the the 2012 State of Uganda population report by the UN Population Fund Uganda has the world’s largest proportion of young people under 30, at 78%.
Gen. Museveni has become so politically bankrupt that he faces challenge not only from well-known opposition leaders such as Dr. Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Olara Otunnu and Norbert Mao, but from within his own ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Recently, Gen. Museveni fired his own prime minister Amama Mbabazi, who had dared to float the idea that he too was considering a run for the presidency. His police force, under Gen. Kale Kayihura functions like a Mafia hit squad and is now busy arresting young Ugandans who had started campaigning for Mbabazi.
He has also become so paranoid that his office has issued a press statement ordering that anyone who registers young people with the offer of employment should be reported to the authorities because it would mean they are being recruited into rebellion.
Perhaps the general should worry. The magazine Africa Renewal, in an article under the provocative headline posed the question: “Africa’s youth: a ‘ticking time bomb’ or an opportunity?” and also quoted a 2011 survey by The World Bank that said “about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by a lack of jobs.”
Many analysts doubt that Gen. Museveni will be able to even successfully rig another election “victory.” His army is now divided and more than 9,000 soldiers have deserted, which is an indication of a potential violent struggle ahead should the increasingly isolated general insist on running. More recently Ugandan academics have been pushing the idea of a transitional government of national unity, attracting members from all the political parties and all of the countries major regions.
In Kenya it’s also estimated that youth unemployment is over 65% and in South Africa, youth frustration also propelled Julius Malema as a player on the national political stage to be reckoned with.
This past summer, in recognition of the potential power of Africa’s young women and men the Obama administration hosted the Young African Leaders gathering before the U.S.-Africa Leaders summit.
The administration can help youth in Africa by making it clear that it will not side with any of the remaining dictators who still hold back their potential.
With the demise of Compaore, that’s one less undesirable ruler on the continent.