You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote wondering why the People’s Revolts of Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East haven’t spread to Africa. If you’re looking for dysfunctional government, after all, Africa offers a cornucopia of choice. My friend Wachira, a Kenya, answered with some of his observations.
Now he’s sent me this link to a long article in The East African with news of an outbreak of popular protest in Uganda. Uganda, as you may know, has seen its President Yoweri Museveni grow increasingly totalitarian in recent years. Now a failed opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, has managed to resurrect protest. The analysis in this article by Andrew Mwenda is quite interesting. It notes that most African protests have been around elections; thus the protestors come across as power-hungry politicians, sore losers, and often tribalists. But when the protests are over some neutral subject–in this case, government mismanagement of the economy–they can galvanize much wider support. Besigye has organized “Walk to Work” campaigns, which combine protests over the high price of gasoline (and transport) with the mobilization of large crowds on foot–a development that makes the government extremely nervous. It’s a brilliant tactic, putting the government in the awkward spot of trying to prevent people from walking to work, rather than trying to break up a political rally.