Africa’s future in the hands of its post-Cold War generation – Hirsch

AFRICA’s new generation is at a potential turning point to either bring about new political leaders based on principles of democracy and human rights or continue with those that are entrenched in corruption and dictatorship, says former US Ambassador to Sierra Leon John Hirsch.

According to the International Press Institute (IPI’s) Global Observatory ‘Africa in Transition’ written by Hirsch, who is the IPI senior advisor, the choice of Africa’s direction was to a large extent in the hands of the continent’s next generation.

“Africa’s new generation is at a potential turning point. The founding post-colonial generation of leaders is gradually leaving the scene either by electoral defeat, compulsory retirement, coups, or death. Young men and women are now faced with the question of whether they can bring about a new African polity based on the principles of
democracy and human rights – to which continental and regional institutions are formally committed, or whether the politics of entrenched and often corrupt leaders who stayed in power for decades will continue, based on support from their majority ethnic base and passive acceptance by the international community,” Hirsch writes.

He further notes that some of Africa’s most egregious leaders, who have used their rule to benefit themselves and their families while leaving the great majority of their people in poverty, have recently been forced to step aside either by the military or by a wave of popular discontent.

Hirsch names leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who was in power for 37 years, and was succeeded by his former Vice-President and enforcer Emerson Mnangagwa, and Angola’s new President João Lourenço who is pushing out some of his predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos’ key allies and vowing to combat monopolies controlled by a family that has run the country for four decades.

He, however, wondered how much of a difference these leadership changes would make.

“Youth movements have begun to precipitate change in recent years, for example, in Senegal where a movement known as Y’ena a Marre meaning ‘Fed Up’ has fought to prevent former President Abdoulaye Wade from seeking a third term, or in Burkina Faso where the Le Balai Citoyen, which means civic broom has contributed to Blaise Compaoré leaving power. At the same time, a number of leaders remain in power indefinitely with support from their ethnic bases and international passivity and acquiescence, notwithstanding the AU’s formal commitment to democratic elections and good governance,” stated Hirsch.

“Ultimately Africa’s future will be in the hands of its post-Cold War generation. An increasing number of young Africans are obtaining higher level education in Africa or abroad, remaining in or returning to their countries…the question remains: will Africa’s youth and women be able to bring about a new polity based on the principles of democracy and human rights or will it continue to be constrained by the politics of entrenched corrupt leaders? The great majority of African youth want a better future for their families and children, where their governments are held accountable, based on free and fair elections, allowing for alternation of power and where public resources are used in the interest of their populations. Whether these goals can be achieved will have tremendous implications on Africa’s future. It is to a large extent up to the next generation to transform
Africa into a continent of prosperity and well-being for all.”

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