After 30 years of Hosni Mubarak, the regime collapsed under the might of unarmed and peaceful people in the liberation square. Majority of the protestors were youth who had known only one regime - that of Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. These dictators projected themselves as the saviours and messiahs that had liberated their people from the repressive regimes of the past and as thus were the founding fathers of their 'new' countries.
A majority of African countries have had and continue to have such leaders. They repetitively maintain the rhetoric of liberation, always reminding their people of where they got them from and that people should forever be grateful. They believe and act like they are the 'alphas' and 'omegas' without whom the country cannot be stable or even move beyond. We have seen it in South Africa where the ANC continues to consolidate power other than democracy on the trump card of being the liberators. The corruption is slowly finding itself into the government coffers as the ordinary blacks sleep in shams in the townships while the liberators enjoy luxury.
In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who inherited the jewel of Africa under liberation movement of ZANU-PF, has turned this jewel into a begging entity characterised by suppression of civil liberties, and a defunct service delivery system as the good flamboyant wife of the liberator continues to oscillate between Paris and New York for shopping! In Mozambique, the fierce FRELIMO started by the fallen popular pro-people leader Samora Machel has lost focus but still reminds the people of how they overcame the Portuguese and liberated them!
In Angola, SWAPO continues to assert its liberation credentials amidst a poor people and corrupt gang of leaders. These leaders often excuse themselves from the current sufferings their people go through and conveniently rely on the past heroic acts to seek legitimacy for a future they cannot direct because their nationalist ideologies have become bankrupt. In Uganda, we know the story.
In all of Africa, the script of the liberators has been the same: to counter radicals that want to change-archaic laws such as sedition; teargas and torture have been the answer; to counter the moderates that threaten the regime - buy them off with lots of money and they will parrot what you say; to the majority people that have no civic competence of their rights, keep them in this position, allow no one to awaken them - give them some money and always remind them of the liberation and how far you have gotten them.
The script has no doubt been effective. Is the tide changing? The events in Tunisia and Egypt seem to suggest so. The formerly revered liberators seem to be under fire. The common man is questioning the liberation. Which liberation is that which does not change peoples' welfare? Which liberation is that where hospitals are death traps with demotivated staff and no drugs? Who was exactly liberated and from what? Was it a few people liberated from poverty - the presidents' yesmen?
The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the biggest numbers of people asking these questions are youth who have very little or no attachment at all with these war stories of liberation. They cannot eat the liberation. They need jobs on the table, they are striving to survive. By their actions, the Egyptians and Tunisians may not have known but they have just redefined the notion of liberation/revolutionaries in Africa. They have depicted that these self-confessed alphas and omegas and of the nations are touchable and surmountable by the people if they stand together.
Mr Nkuubi is a lawyer with HURINET-U