Why the 'Arab Spring' Has Not Yet Become the Africa Spring

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Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: The political unrest in Senegal seems to fit right in with the uprisings of the Arab Spring. But there's no such thing as an African Spring, and as we mentioned uprisings against repressive governments have not taken hold in Sub-Saharan Africa - at least not yet. Andrew Meldrum is the Africa editor for the online news site GlobalPost. He says there is a thirst for change in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Andrew Meldrum: There are signs of populations really being inspired by the Arab Spring and saying we want more democracy in our countries. However, it hasn't resulted in an immediate domino effect, but in Sub-Saharan Africa there are specific countries that have entrenched governments where there is a sign of revitalized popular demonstrations.

Mullins: What is the sign and which countries are you...

Meldrum: Well...

Mullins: ... think are inspired.

Meldrum: ... I would say one is Senegal, which we've just heard about. Another, similar, is in Uganda. There have been a series of demonstration in Kampala. Several people have been killed, and so that is a kind of simmering problem.

Mullins: But there are often simmering problems that we've heard of including in Ivory Coast that happen post-elections. What makes something like this, in particular, look like it has the potential to end up in some kind of a revolt, if not deposing a government?

Meldrum: Well, the first thing is that in Uganda they are referring specifically to Mubarak. They are referring specifically to what happened in Tunisia.

Mullins: They being...

Meldrum: The demonstrators against Yoweri Museveni.

Mullins: And where are you hearing that, by the way? I mean, can you see it? Is it social media? Is it more through old fashioned sloganeering? How is it...

Meldrum: Yes. I do see it on Facebook. I see postings that people put on Facebook in response to, let's say, a GlobalPost article. And in interviews with men on the street, our reporters there say people, that we have quotes from people saying this is what we want.

Mullins: Meaning they want Yoweri Museveni to leave?

Meldrum: They don't want Yoweri Museveni to leave, but they want to feel that they have full, free and fair elections.

Mullins: And is this different from what you've seen before?

Meldrum: It is because they're not just talking about their own country. They're pointing to other countries and saying, that's what we want here as well.

Mullins: And beyond Uganda, where else do you see it?

Meldrum: Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe has a firm hold. I see a lot of social media comments saying, what are we waiting for? Why has everybody else gotten democracy and yet Mugabe still has us under his thumb. And, of course, Mugabe does have the Zimbabwean population under his thumb. He has laws that prevent any public demonstration of three people or more without previous police approval. Well, OK, you can't have something like Tahrir Square in Egypt if five people immediately gets hit by police, and that's what happens in Zimbabwe.

Mullins: What are the differences in terms of how the revolutions are expressing themselves, to the extent they are, in Sub-Saharan Africa versus in the Middle East.

Meldrum: I would say, one is that in a lot of the Arab countries the leadership had become complacent. They were caught unawares by the demonstrations. Also, the armies made a decision not to back the entrenched leaders and instead to back the demonstrators. Once you see a split of the security forces from the political leadership, that's when you're going to see change.

Mullins: If we see a split.

Meldrum: If we see a split.

Mullins: Alright. Thank you very much. Andrew Meldrum. Africa editor for the online news site GlobalPost talking to us about the possibility of an African Spring, or I guess by now African Summer. Andy Meldrum, thank you.

Meldrum: Thank you, Lisa.