African Democracy and The French Revolution
“A fledgling democracy born out of revolution can be fragile. Its leaders have to learn how to manage the new business of politics, often with very little previous experience. Revolutions are by their very nature unstable and perilous, often beset by internal conflict and outside intervention. State violence and militarism can bring a return to stability, but at a price. Revolutionary leaders who started out as humanitarian idealists, given certain circumstances, may adopt brutal methods; they may choose to use political violence, even terror, either to defend the gains of the revolution or, more cynically, to maintain themselves in power. The quest for liberty and equality can be a disheartening experience.” (Marissa Linton)
A lengthy but necessary quote that characterizes the challenges faced by Revolutionary Movements in general throughout History and opens an avenue to explore the relationship between evolving African Democracy and the French Revolution.
The resignation or more appropriately removal of Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe by means of a ‘soft Coup’ is in my view a clear example of the reconstruction and governance challenges faced by Post-Colonial African Governments being born out of Revolutionary Movements and showing a similar challenges between African Democracy and the French Revolution .
After the initial euphoria of Independence subsided, Post-Colonial African States from Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria to Zimbabwe have all faced the challenge of converting a Revolution into a sustainable Government for the prosperity of the Citizenry…On this score African Democracy and the French Revolution faced essentially the same challenge of establishing a Post-Revolutionary Society.
Invariably, Leaders like Mugabe viewed as ‘Liberators’ by the Citizens exploited the ‘Messianic’ resonance their Leadership of the Armed Struggle and delivery of Independence had in the minds of the Citizens, reducing themselves to Dictators and turning most fledgling Post-Colonial African States into personal Fiefdoms.
The creation of Kleptocracies in newly Independent Post-Colonial African States is not surprising…Africa has had less than 100 years of self-governance, and in my view, Africa’s Governance issues are merely stumbling blocks along the path towards a greater destiny.
If the French Revolution is anything to go by, we can observe that the consolidation of a Revolution into a coherent State is a volatile journey. The French Revolution was plagued by the Jacobin Terror, and Africa’s Post-Revolutionary Societies have faced the terrors of the Neo-Colonial Age…Another dimension of confluence between African Democracy and the French Revolution.
With the removal of each ‘Liberator Dictator’ we march towards the fulfillment of our destiny, and we must not be disheartened by criticism from those who have had over 300 years to crystallize their own Revolutions and coalesce into the Nation States referred to as the ‘Developed’ World today.
Our Political Crises are part of the unforeseen mess our Colonisers left us to resolve, and we must carry on with the task of Nation and Continent Building with even greater confidence and hope.
In the context of Zimbabwe, the departure of Robert Mugabe is such a monumental transition it can be described as a Revolution or ‘Chimurenga’ in itself.
Chimurenga is a word in the Shona language, roughly meaning “revolutionary struggle”. In specific historical terms, it also refers to the Ndebele and Shona insurrections against administration by the British South Africa Company during the late 1890s—the Second Matabele War, or First Chimurenga—and the war fought between African nationalist guerrillas and the predominantly white Rhodesian government during the 1960s and 1970s—the Rhodesian Bush War, or Second Chimurenga.
The concept is also occasionally used in reference to the land reform programme undertaken by the Government of Zimbabwe since 2000, which some call a Third Chimurenga. Proponents of land reform regard it as the final phase in what they hold to be the liberation of Zimbabwe through economic and agrarian reforms intended to empower indigenous people.
Zimbabwe has therefore been through Three Chimurengas, and Mugabe’s removal should seriously be considered as the Fourth.
We now wait to see what the future holds, and trust that the lessons learnt from the ‘Mugabe Experience’ will be taken to heart for as long as the nation of Zimbabwe continues to exist.
Peep the Home Page for our featured 1979 Documentary showing Zimbabwe as it shifted towards the realisation of Independence through the armed struggle, with Mugabe at the height of his powers…How the mighty have fallen!
Much like Robespierre during the French Revolution, Mugabe has fallen victim to the terror of his own revolution.
Links to opinion articles on what the future holds for Zimbabwe following Mugabe’s departure are also below. We will also be running a series on his Legacy soon so look out for that.
Links and Credits
Zim Post-Mugabe Opinion: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/post-mugabe-zimbabwe-fiefdom-171121155603841.html
Zim New Era: http://www.herald.co.zw/comment-dawn-of-a-new-era/
French Revolution Lessons: https://blog.oup.com/2013/07/french-revolution-democracy-terror/