By Cudjoe Kpor, economic analyst at Independent Newspapers Limited, reflects on the wind of change blowing across the continent...
A new, disorderly decapitation of government has hit the continent's corrupt, tinpot dictators. It is not a military coup by the armed forces: the jackbook dictators terrorise the entire population, especially when they are messing up, worse in governance than the incompetent civilians they toppled. Nor is it the spontaneous uprising of civilians who resort to guerilla warfare against the government. It is not the passive, collective resistance through civil disobedience for addressing specific grievances either.
The name of this wave of forceful overthrow of the corrupt tyrants and their henchmen is colour revolution: so far, Jasmine for Tunisia and Black for Egypt - and counting. Perhaps Green for Libya is next, though the sanguinary repression of the unarmed civilians by the desperate Muammar Ghaddafi regime's security forces makes political pundits see its imminent fall albeit more tardy. A bad government's bloodthirsty violence against civilian protestors only hardens them when they begin to count their dead, who number at least 200 so far nationwide: but yes, the Ghaddafi regime is history.
And the warning bell is not tolling for only the home-grown dictators: some of the Western nations' favourite despots are also being swept off. No tyrant appears safe in the cocoon of his luxury presidential palace till the protestors' motion stops - or never started at all - on good governance. No empty platitudes acceptable either. And the hurricane sweeping them off? It is the mass of humanity, peaceful civilian protestors, using the new media, Internet chatrooms and social sites on the cyber-highway to organise the protests.
The domino theory's prediction has begun. The continent's corrupt despots have begun tumbling from power. As said, the power is not oozing from the turrets of tanks and barrels of AK47 assault rifles. These are wielded by usually disgruntled soldiers. But their often brutal dictatorships are worse than the illiterate civilians they threw out. Needless to say, it is finally obvious: as the old saw says, the most terrible civilian government is absolutely better than the most benign military dictatorship!
More importantly, the disorderly usurpers of power from the tyrants are their dissatisfied compatriots who stage peaceful revolts starting as street protests over mundane frustrations like unemployment, escalating food prices and corruption in high places. At the point of their fall, not even the most tight security networks which they once used to suppress the population, committed all the heinous atrocities against their populace, are of any help to the tyrants.
That is the irony of it: the tyrants used the security forces to abuse the rights of their compatriots flagrantly. The excesses provoke their regime's ouster. But at the point of their fall, the security network turns around, in cunning betrayal, to mastermind toppling the "wicked regime" they once propped up to subjugate their populace in bondage. It makes no difference if the bondage is the bird-cage freedom.
Hosni Mubarak, whom his Egyptian praise-singers called "pharaoh", is gone! So did Ben Ali in Tunisia. And the barbarity with which Ghadafi unleashed his ruthless security dogs, a still loyal faction of the armed forces and revolutionary militias on the peaceful protestors in Libyan cities, has only aggravated the protests which snowballed into an increasingly outraged citizenry nationwide. Now, the angry Libyans abroad are pressurising foreign governments to help the peaceful protestors.
But a tall list of similar, tinpot dictators are on the African Union's (AU) list. All of them are now wondering whether the fall of the one-time "powerful" Ghaddafi, who spearheaded the drive for the transformation of OAU into AU, would spread to them, too. Meantime, AU is silent over the deplorable bloodbath in Libya, though its current chairman, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, was a dictator-basher. Predictably, other dictators are chafing in their palaces, hoping or believing, that the hurricane could only blow away other heads of states: Sudan, Morocco, Gambia, Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Fasso, Gabon, Cameroun, etc are all tainted. Contrarily, the real transformers of the backward continent into modernity are too few to list.
For now, all these dictators are "trapped" in the opulence of their presidential palaces, hemmed in by the power, prestige and glamour of their offices. Their myrmidons and praise-singers butter their egos to make them believe they are gods on earth. Their security network, in its ignorance or bootlicking, or both, makes them believe that anyone who reminded them, or better still, taught them, that the sole goal of governance is assuring the welfare and happiness of the significant majority of the population at all times, or all the population some of the times, is public enemy number one. The ignoramuses in the security networks thus arrest, detain, torture, harass and jail these so-called enemies, especially if they recommend uncharted paths to advancing their economies which confuse their no-better-informed tinpot dictators in the state houses.
These security networks, which every country sets up as state insurance policy, are usually lawless, wasteful and know nothing about accountability. In the hands of dictators, they turn into a law unto themselves: they commit murders, maimings and tortures with glee, boasting into the bargain that "nothing will happen." In the advanced countries, only First Class university graduates are recruited into security networks, except the illiterates, brawns and retired agents retained to do the menial chores. That way, even if they cannot trick or fool their foreign enemies, which is their common currency, at least they themselves cannot be fooled by the enemies. Not so, on the continent: the dropouts predominate, plus the unenlightened ones a psychologist called mesomorphs of obviously limited intelligence: in Lagos parlance, the animals. No wonder they are the easily fooled like zombis.
Worse still, the same Western nations, particularly Britain and USA, supply them tonnes of foolish, harassing gases with which they torture their citizens with the reckless abandon of primitive illiterates who mistake the gases for babies' toys. Now, the British and Americans have taken their treachery one step up: they corrupted some of the ignorant zombis in the networks to implant a fake, manipulative, mind-bug hi-tech in the brains of their own ignorant tribesmen and women to turn the latter into perpetual daydreamers once the complementary foolish gases are sprayed around. Predictably, the continent will witness pockets of inter-tribal wars which the combatants on both sides of the conflict have no clue what caused them - except their daydreams....
The continent is terribly unfortunate: Preposterously, dictators who hit the skids in the bad governance and economic mismanagement lane perpetuate the vicious circle of recruiting more wasteful security agents - rather than cut down on their numbers to channel recurrent expenditure funds into regenerating their economies to attenuate the citizens' anger. Not surprisingly, Mubarak's Egypt recruited one million security agents to police its 80 million population.
When the end comes, the same security network, in their avowed quest for state stability, would turn around to betray the dictator without qualms. In Egypt, Vice President Omar Suleiman read only two sentences to oust Mubarak in classic security betrayal - and melted back into the shadows.
Suleiman, at the head of the Directorate General of Intelligence, was the single most powerful man in the country. Worse still, he was also the notoriously ugly face of the regime. Too many of the egregious atrocities perpetrated by the Mubarak regime, some of which brought the peaceful mob into Tahrir Square in Cairo, were committed against their own people by the soiled hands of Suleiman. Of course, the Western nations looked away when the heinous human rights abuses - detention without trials, torture, death and disappearances, frame-ups and trumped-up charges - were committed, hailing the regime as the Mubarak strongman, a stable bulwark against terrorism.
When Mubarak's opponents were silenced, Suleiman exported his bestiality, specifically, to the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). When the hairbrained former US president George Bush launched his discredited extraordinary rendition bestiality on the world, Suleiman opened Egypt's detention cells for Bush. Egypt became notorious for its black sites or interrogation and torture centres for both Egyptians and other Middle East victims of the extraordinary rendition, no doubt including the callous waterboarding.