We recently caught reports of the first sign of the Arab Spring spreading to Sub-Sahara Africa. In clashes that started on Monday with protestors over government refusal to extend gasoline subsidies to citizens, the national army attacked protesting crowds. Three protestors were reportedly killed by government forces.
When the Nigerian government removed the subsidy, prices for gas rose around 40 cents a liter to a dollar, igniting widespread protest. Thousands marched in the overpopulated city Lagos, the capital Abuja and other cities. Economists have said the removal of the subsidies was necessary to stabilize the country’s economy and the government said it spent more than $8 billion on subsidies last year.
Economists say removing fuel subsidies is vital for the country to improve its woefully inadequate infrastructure and ease pressure on its foreign reserves.
The Nigerian paper The Tribune described the incidences as protestors being interloped by “gangs” “hoodlums” and “troublemakers” who used the occasion to rob people and wreak havoc. Some prominent advocates, including Femi Kuti, son of the late musical icon Fela Kuti, said the subsidy would cripple many of the citizens.
Up until now, it was uncertain whether the countries that make up the middle and southern region of the massive continent would be able to rise up against rampant stolen elections, corruption, abuse of power and substantial inequality. Most Sub-Saharan countries have a very small middle class and bourgeoisie elite, and a significant amount of poor.
As the Christian Science Monitor noted last November, Africans have been watching the uprisings in the Arab world and wondering would they, too, be powerful enough to stand up against the vast and corrupt despotic regimes that plague many nations. The region has all the ingredients that made up the boiling pot which led to revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Syria. It has a very young population, where 70 percent are under age 30 and 50 percent own cell phones. Furthermore, since 2000, independent commercial radio has grown 360 percent and Internet cafes are always spilling over with young people connecting with the world and exchanging ideas.
The younger, better educated populous is not going to sit by for long eyeing global norms and standards related to transparency and permit the continuous selling of resources for personal kickbacks and common pillage of public resources. Few are willing to stand by and watch the aimless, non-stop filling of elected officials’ coffers.
Africa’s cup may boileth over.