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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 16:08 GMT
Africa: Power to the people?

When General Robert Guei suspended the Electoral Commission and claimed that he had won the election, the people of Ivory Coast rose up against him.

News and Information for Africa
He was swept aside and relinquished the presidency to veteran opposition leader, Laurent Gbagbo.

Is this Yugoslavia-style toppling of tyrants the way forward for Africa? Or should people rely on the rule of law?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Guei underestimated the will of the Ivorian people

Albert Gui, Ivorian, Canada.
Guei underestimated the will of the Ivorian people. We are sick of corrupt leaders and so-called "Fathers of the Nation". People need health insurance, opportunities to create their own small businesses and a decent life, not generals.
Albert Gui, Ivorian, Canada.

It is premature to say that what happened in Ivory Coast is a new way of removing dictators from power. The problem is that in most African countries the majority of the electorate are not very educated, nor properly informed about their rights. When they see a politician, they see him as a master who should be feared even when they have not done anything wrong. This atttitude therefore puts the electorate at a disadvantage to the extent that they cannot question politicians later on and make them accountable for their deeds.
Luke Chimuka, Sweden

African leaders should be aware that popular uprising may be the only alternative to remove dictators from power

Hadji Tofik, USA
Yugoslavia's case has nothing to do with dictatorial and authoritarian regimes in Africa. African leaders should be aware that popular uprising may be the only alternative to remove dictators from power. There is no rule of law and justice in Africa and people should demonstrate and refuse their leadership rigging polls and declaring themselves winner of so-called fair and democratic elections. Power belongs to people and no one can lead against people's will and people are responsible of not rejecting everything done without their consent.
Hadji Tofik, USA

Ever since independence, Africans have not realized the power they have. They have been afraid to rise up against tyrants because they did not realize that with numbers on their side, they can choose whoever they wanted to lead them. However, this is changing as Africans realize that they hold the real power. And as we enter the new millennium, the revolution in Ivory Coast is just a preview of many more such popular uprisings that would change the face of African politics forever
Samba Sow, Liberian, USA

The belief by some African leaders that they are the only ones capable of solving the problems in their country is fundamental to this issue. This belief is linked to egotism. Even when incompetence is clearly apparent, the ego kicks in making the leaders believe they could never make mistakes. The people must take their rights back from such despots. John F. Kennedy once said: "Civil rights are never handed to people on a silver platter. The people must reach out and seize them for their own benefit". This is the only way the African people will change the status quo.
Sam O., Canada

The only advice for African leaders is to give the people their rights to avoid embarrassment and unnecessary bloodshed

Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone
Where the rule of law fails to deliver the goods, the people are ready to make things their way. With all the means of social communication spreading throughout the world, Africans can easily become copycats for their own good. The leaders have failed to see that these so-called sleeping giants are au fait with all the happenings in the world through radio, television and the Internet. The world is getting smaller by the day in this century. The only advice for African leaders is to give the people their rights to avoid embarrassment and unnecessary bloodshed. They will finally get what is their right and the world is not sleeping.
Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone

I am not sure whether we should read too much into the events that occurred in Ivory Coast, it has happened before. In Mali it was student uprising that triggered the removal of that dictator Musa Taraore. The problem with African leaders is their willingness to use any force on their people for power, as recent massacre of innocent Gambian students has demonstrated. I would also applaud one of the correspondents who said that no leader can bring about development without the participation of the people. People in Africa have been deceived for a long time with this illusive notion of omnipotent leaders who can swing the magic wand and make instant changes in people's lives. Of course they are responsible of creating the right environment and policies for development to happen, but ultimately our destiny rest in our hands.
Musa Bah, Gambian in UK

The lesson to learn is that power resides in people

Damilola Olajide, Australia
The recent experiences Yugoslavia and lately Cote D'Ivoire should not be a surprise to anyone. Even the highly draconian regimes in history have had to succumb to the wishes of the people at the end of the day. The World has had many of these cases. The lesson to learn is that power resides in people. Thus the ultimate source of power is the people. The people can give it, and they can take it. Also, it has shown that there is limitation in human endurance. The people can endure abuse of power initially, but they will soon rise against it.
Damilola Olajide, Nigerian in Melbourne, Australia

African leadership is contagious

Ndung'u Ndegwah, Kenya
African leadership is contagious. A new leader will always be welcomed with pomp and ceremony but this is before the citizens get to see the kind of person he/ she is. Few of our heads of state are leaders for long since they undergo some funny changes and graduate to become rulers and dictators who will never listen to reason. This is the unfortunate state of affairs in Africa. No country is satisfied with their leadership and this situation will manifest itself in Ivory Coast in the not too distant future.
Ndung'u Ndegwah, Kenya

Africa is decades away from the Polish, East German, and Yugoslav-style democratic uprising in the sense that there has never been any real tradition of democracy in Africa. We either elect retired military dictators or political despots with military backing. A lot more of these dictatorial African "governments" will come undone very soon, but what we replace them with is where the real problem lies.
Felix Oti, USA

A Zimbabwean minister a few days ago said something to the effect, "We fought hard for power. We are not going to give it up easily". In the future there will be many more fights in Africa to overthrow those who fought so hard to get into power.
Tobias, UK/ ex Zambia

It is foolhardy to compare recent events in Ivory Coast to those in Yugoslavia

Zainab, USA
It is foolhardy to compare recent events in Ivory Coast to those in Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the man who came to power was elected by the entire country. In Ivory Coast, Gbagbo insisted on being sworn as president even though the election that brought him to power was fraudulent. In order to be credible, he has to step down and call for fresh free and fair elections that would include all political parties. Only then can we compare events there to those of Yugoslavia where the people's choice came to power.
Zainab, USA

African Heads of State are neo-colonialists. Some are even worse and more brutal than the old colonial masters.
Sukumawiki, USA

The issue is no longer power being given to the people, but people taking the power they deserve. The truth will prevail.
Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Gambian in UK

The people of Ivory Coast have shown the entire world that power belongs to the people. Gone are the days when criminals like Idi Amin and the likes of General Guei ran our nations upside down. The people of Ivory Coast are now on a journey to turn their nation the right side up.
Elison, Ugandan living in UK

There will never be peace and prosperity in Africa regardless of who is elected, unless he or she is a magician

Richard, USA
There will never be peace and prosperity in Africa regardless of who is elected, unless he or she is a magician. Nothing ever gets accomplished in nations where the people don't depend on themselves and expect "leaders" to solve their problems. Each individual has to do as much as he can for himself, and accept responsibility. The people of Africa are hearing the wrong message; no leader can create a successful country. This can only be achieved through two or three generations of extremely hard work and education by the general population. There are no short cuts to success.
Richard, USA

Ever heard "Power to the People"? That's Côte d'Ivoire!
Augustine J. Zaizay Jr, USA

Why is it taking African dictators and their cronies so long to understand that their gangster-style, one-party state governments are not going to be tolerated by the hard-working and all-suffering people of Africa. African leaders need to take example from Nelson Mandela who achieved his people's wishes and bowed down to let new blood run South Africa. What is happening in the Ivory Coast could happen in various hot-spots throughout Africa. Zimbabwe is a perfect example of a crumbling dictatorship. Mugabe is seemingly unaware that 'his people' do not want him any longer. The people of Africa must take charge of such corrupt and self-preserving dinosaurs.
Gavin Dallas, Zimbabwean now living in the UK

What's wrong with Africa's Heads of State?

Abdi Fatah, Somalian
What's wrong with Africa's Heads of State? When General Guei took over he seemed like a respectable, reasonable guy who would step down when the people elected their new leader. Instead, he declared himself a candidate and after losing the election, he still called himself the winner.That just shows how power makes every respectable, honest African leader greedy.
Abdi Fatah, Somalian

The basic rights of man and his desire for freedom can never be totally denied. I can only applaud those who have chosen this moment to make a stand. The struggle for freedom should run rampant throughout Africa.
Steve, USA

Certainly, the events in Ivory Coast has proved that African people are sick of leaders who see themselves as God above the people. I hope every African on the continent or abroad has learnt a great lesson on how to take care of situations like this in the future. I hope too, dictators have learnt the fact that the day they play with our intelligence is over.
Nvasekie N. Konneh, Liberia/ USA

It's time to shake off the shackles of political manipulation and distortion of facts

Kenneth N. Ngwa, Cameroonian, Princeton, USA
The question is not whether Africans should rise up against oppressive regimes, but rather why it has taken them such a long time to come to this point. It's time to shake off the shackles of political manipulation and distortion of facts. Better days for Africa may well lie ahead; in fact, they may be very near!
Kenneth N. Ngwa, Cameroonian, Princeton, USA

Yugoslavians demonstrated to us how to deal with people who usurp power - chase them away. There is no rule of law, if that law does not guarantee the noble aspirations of the people. After Ivory Coast, I foresee a showdown in the near future in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville.
Pascal Bessong, South Africa

I strongly believe that the time has come for the mass population of the African continent to put up with tyrant leaders no longer. Even those leaders who trade in the name of democracy and respect for human rights in many other countries in the region, should know that toppling dictatorial leadership is perhaps the only option people are left with. It is an indication that power lies in the hands of the mass population and not a single individual.
Pachakaa Anywaa, Gambela/ UK

I think the uprising in Ivory Coast is an example for the African continent and should be adopted as a message to other countries that live under dictatorship. The era of dictators is over, now it's time for prosperity
Henry Nyakarundi, Rwanda

The dawn of the 21st century should be the moment of the truth for Africa

Christian Toglan, Togo-USA
The events now in Côte d'Ivoire show how in the future African people can take back their respective countries from the bloodsucker hands of torturers on the continent. It is about time France and the West in general let Africans decide who should be their leaders. The dawn of the 21st century should be the moment of the truth for Africa and its future democratically elected leaders to take the continent out of misery and mismanagement.
Christian Toglan, Togo-USA

People are forced to act this way because they are denied the right to choose who should govern them. The fact that people risk their lives is a clear testimony that they are tired of empty promises. This should be a wake up call to many leaders who think that they can get away with oppression. It's not a matter of defying rule of law but rather reclaiming what is theirs in a situation where there is no other option.
Clement Chiwaya, Malawian studying in USA

What has taken place in Ivory Coast is ground-breaking. The whole world must applaud the courage and desire for freedom displayed by the people there. As an African it gives me hope: The days of absolute power and dictatorship will come to a quick end if our desire and belief for freedom continues to overcome our fear of dictatorship. Those who died for the struggle in Ivory Coast must never be forgotten but exalted as the true believers of democracy. Their deaths gave power to the people.
George Mutua, Kenya

People of Africa need new ideas to improve the continent's economy

Jewel Gbeh, USA
An election that is conducted sincerely will enable the citizens of a country to feel free to vote. Also, leaders must not suppress the electorate from voting for another party by executing innocent people, burning voting registrations and causing threats. Leaders of Africa must understand that when their terms are over, they are over. People of Africa need new ideas to improve the continent's economy.
Jewel Gbeh, USA

Where political incumbents do not play by the rules of free and fair elections and the judiciary is woefully hollowed-out through a system of appointment of judges that is solely in the hands of the executive and does not guarantee security of tenure for judges, and thus the independence of the judiciary, there is no rule of law for people to rely on. They have no other option but to resort to the Yugoslav style of removing the 'rascals' from power. One only hopes the events in Yugoslavia and Ivory coast have sent the right signals to other tyrants on the African continent hell-bent on sticking to power by hook or crook. The 'demonstration effect' of people-power in Eastern Europe which also provided the impetus for democratic change on the continent in the 1990's can only be overlooked by tyrants on the African continent at their own peril.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student studying in Germany

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Africa
Ivory Coast reins in soldiers
25 Oct 00 | Africa
In pictures: Ivory Coast uprising
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