I haven’t got much analysis on the Egyptian situation (I’ll leave that to the experts) but I wanted to register my reaction to the news that Mubarak has been forced out of office. Unbelievable! After 30 years and an 18 day stand-off by protesters, he’s gone. No one knows what’s going to happen next since the situation is still developing. For now though, the army is stepping in to take the reins and coordinate a transition to democracy. The unity, determination and commitment of the protesters so far has been stunning and I hope it lasts to carry the country through the next phase of the revolution because the biggest challenge of implementing reforms is surely just beginning.
I was particularly moved to remark on this outstanding event after reading some snippets yesterday of an interview with Pastor Adeboye of RCCG, one of the biggest and most influential Nigerian churches. What really caught my eye was his view that protesting is useless as a way of provoking social change. I wonder if the events in Egypt would cause him and other Nigerians to reconsider this opinion. I’m not saying that people should not pray for change. After all, in Egypt we saw people use prayer as protest. But I think it’s very complacent to believe that prayer alone is enough. I think those comments betray an attitude that is too often used to excuse a lack of action where it is needed.
I’m not saying either that everybody must go out on the streets to protest but my point is that God will not come down from heaven to change our communities for us. People have to do what they can to make their discontent known even if it involves risk. As we have seen in Egypt, there is no such thing as risk-free or sacrifice-free commitment. Many were injured and killed over the last 18 days but the people persisted until their demand for Mubarak’s resignation was met.
Many of the elements that contributed to cause the protests in Egypt and Tunisia are present in other African countries: pervasive corruption, stagnating economies, massive levels of unemployment, a high population of dissatisfied youth and social media technology to facilitate organising. Perhaps the penetration of facebook and twitter is not as great in other African countries because of problems with internet access but the influence of social media is growing. We are slowly building up to change. Tunisia and Egypt have shown us what it could look like when citizens become fed up with corruption, incompetence and lack of opportunity. People in other nations around the world can draw inspiration from these examples. If I were a despotic African leader or member of a ruling cabal, I would take careful note of January and February 2011 because they have shown us that you cannot suppress people forever. One day, the tides will turn.