Despite similarities, the protests in these three African countries don't symbolize a broader movement for change in Africa.
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Do protests in Nigeria, Uganda, and Burkina Faso have anything in common?
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Uganda, a medium-sized nation (about 35 million people), is a regional military power with steady economic growth. Uganda has had substantial political continuity during the quarter-century reign of President Yoweri Museveni, who won a fourth term in February. Since then, the opposition-led “Walk to Work” protests arose because of high food prices and, indirectly, because of Mr. Museveni’s February win. “Walk to Work,” which began last week, continued yesterday. That protest resulted in the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, a move that may fuel further dissent.
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Burkina Faso, meanwhile, is small (about 17 million people) and destitute. Its President Blaise Compaore – who has ruled nearly as long as Museveni – is a skillful and influential player in regional politics. Yet student protests over police brutality, a soldiers’ mutiny over unpaid wages, and a merchants’ demonstration over soldiers’ looting have thrown the country into unrest.
With different motivations driving the protests, we can’t say they all form one coherent movement. Nor can we say – although many sub-Saharan Africans are aware of the Arab protest movement – that the protests in northern Nigeria and Burkina Faso are directly inspired by the Arab revolutions. The case of Uganda is slightly different in that Ugandan opposition leaders have referenced the Arab protests, but even in Uganda the primary drivers of unrest seem local.
Finally, the responses of leaders have differed. Jonathan has appealed for calm but Nigerian police have also attempted to quell the riots by force. Museveni has cracked down. And Compaore has reorganized his government while attempting to regain the political upper hand.
Still, despite the differences, it’s worth thinking about commonalities. One is economic frustration. From northern Nigeria’s underdevelopment in comparison to the south of the country, to the burden of high prices in Uganda, to the soldiers’ empty pockets in Burkina Faso, economic unease is creating popular anger at political elites.Contine