By Serhat Orakçı, World Bulletin
It seems that 2011 will be a historic year of Africa with popular uprisings, referendums, presidential elections and a new-born state. In couple of month, the continent witnessed high level of evolution that certainly has huge social, economic and political impact on Africa in general. Besides ongoing massive youth demonstrations in North Africa and South Sudan's separation from Sudan, in this year there are legislative, parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in not fewer than 20 different states across the continent. Through these elections democratic level and understanding of democracy will be tested in Africa where dictators are still dominant factor in a lot of countries. It might be a year observing democratic improvement to some extent and perhaps suffering of dictatorial regimes to remain.
Semi-autonomous South Sudan has already obtained chance to announce its independency in July after the historic referendum result accepted officially by ruling National Congress Party(NCP) in Sudan. Youth of Tunisia and Egypt has demolished long-standing dictatorial regimes of their countries. Tunisian ex-president has fled to Saudi Arabia with tons of gold costing billions of dollars. Mubarak despotism has finally ended after huge demonstrations in the Liberation Square. In these days, Libya's regime is under huge pressure of United Nations and international communities. Kaddafi regime is enjoying its last days in Libya. Chad has recently held parliamentary election while Uganda and Niger have held elections for presidency. Ivory Coast is still tense due to conflict between supporters of two rival presidential candidates after the recent election. We saw all these in two months time. I think, Africa will witness more than that during the rest of 2011. The continent will observe conflict between democracy believers and dictatorial regime supporters.
In this year, there are key elections in 27 various African countries on legislative, parliamentary and presidential levels. For presidency and national assembly, in April there will be crucial elections in Nigeria where tension still exists between Muslim and Christian communities. In the same month Djibouti will hold presidential election as well. While Benin will hold parliamentary election, Liberia will hold parliamentary, presidential elections and constitutional referendum in this year. Madagascar, Gambia, Chad, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central Africa Republic, Rwanda, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia and Egypt are also ahead of the polls in this year.
Political experts and analysts devote special attention to Africa in 2011 due to busy election season. It seems hopes and frustrations are mixed for expectations on the process of democracy. According to some analysts nothing will change after doubtful polls while for the others there is still hope. However, some central questions require to be answered. Will these elections be well-managed, credible, free and fair? Which mechanism will stop incumbent dictators from buying votes, bribery, intimidating on opposition groups during campaigns and using state media tools unequally?
It is not easy process to remove dictators from their post, especially in natural resources-rich states. Although they struggle, they will resist. In Libya, Kaddafi assures to remain and resist until his last blood like Mobarak did in Egypt. After controversial election in the last November, there are two presidents in Ivory Coast, one elected and one self-appointed. While the country faces civil war in these days, international community is already concerned by increase of death toll. Defeated ex-president's supporters are killing any demonstrator on the streets to keep the former regime alive. Mainly because of fighting between rival groups, around 450.000 people were displaced in a short period and some fled to Liberia. In Zimbabwe more than fifty people were arrested by security forces in last month while they were watching footage of Egypt uprising video. Some other African dictators have given harsh speeches warning and threatening any street demonstration seekers.
However, it should be considered that perhaps millions of young African under the influence of recent youth movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will go to polls for the first time in their life and elect their leaders and parliaments throughout 2011. They will vote for their future and the future of corrupt dictatorial regimes existing in Africa for decades. The youngest continent on earth will be changed by youth. There is hope and democratic election is the safest way to change political atmosphere that shaped by dictators in favor of their own self-interest. I think, North Africa uprisings will make positive effect on rest of the continent and opposition groups will be braver than ever during the election processes.
We will see how uprisings, democratic polls and separation of South Sudan will re-shape political landscape of the continent. We will also see whether expectations of youth for better future will be met or not and how leader profile will change at the end of the day. A historic battle has already taken place. We will wait and see who will be the winner: freedom believers or dictators?