Why has Africa been left out of conversations about protests worldwide? What is driving this ongoing wave? What is distinctive about African protest?
These are three questions that Adam Branch and Zachariah Mampilly seek to answer in their book Africa Uprising! Popular Protest and Political Change. On Friday, Oct. 24 Branch and Mampilly visited Charleston and spoke to CofC students about their book. Students were given a background of Africa’s political struggles and the ways in which popular protest has been successful in achieving liberation, among other political goals in African countries.
Africa’s political system, for years, was dominated by violence. Branch and Mampilly want to bring attention to the trend of popular protest, a nonviolent form of protest where people are taking to the streets rather than taking up arms.
In the eyes of individuals around the world, Africa is a poverty-stricken continent consumed by violence. Branch and Mampilly make clear that this is not the case. Africa is currently the fastest urbanizing country in the world. Additionally, Africa has a very large working population, with one third of people between the ages of 15 and 24. This age group participates most heavily in the mass protests.
Branch and Mampilly both hold teaching jobs at universities in Africa. These men witnessed firsthand popular protesting, and conducted hands-on research. Inspiration for the book came to Mampilly in April 2011 while teaching a lecture on Aristotle when he and his students were driven out by tear gas meant for student demonstrators across campus. These students were protesting the rising fuel prices in Uganda, a mass protesting movement known as “Walk to Work.”
Can unarmed protests achieve as much as armed protests? This is a question Branch and Mampilly pondered over while analyzing the waves of mass popular protesting throughout Africa. Historical evidence says yes. African countries have been able to achieve sovereignty and liberation, beginning in 1970 when the trend of popular protest began.
People, according the Branch and Mampilly, tend to dismiss these protests as riots with no cause.
“It is our job as analysts to make sense of the politics of these actions and not simply to accept characterizations that they are riots,” Mampilly said. “No one is paying attention to these brave activists. We need new political visions all over the world.”
Africa Uprising! Popular Protest and Political Change by Adam Branch and Zachariah Mampilly will be available in early 2015.