Photo by Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Protesters holding a banner saying, Oromo lives matter, during the demonstration. Ethiopian Oromo community in London protest demanding justice for Slain singer, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. Haacaaluu sang in the Oromo language, Ethiopias largest ethnic group and his music became the melody of a protest movement that helped bring down Ethiopia's government in 2018.

Deep Dive: Protest Movements Across the Continent

Here is a detailed look at the major protests which have engulfed a number of African countries thus far in 2020.

This year, although only seven months in, has and continues to be an eventful one across all fronts. While the entire world is collectively reeling from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there have been considerable shifts on the socio-political landscapes of many African countries. As a result, there have been a number of mass demonstrations taking place across the continent as those who are fed up by the alleged corruption, increasing poverty and inequality at the hands of their respective governments, have said "no more". From anti-government protests in Algeria to youth protests against police brutality in Kenya, here is a list of the major protest action currently taking place (or that has already taken place) across the continent.

This list is in no particular order.

Ethiopia, January 2020

Protesters holding a banner saying, Oromo lives matter,

Photo by Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Ethiopia's most recent protests come after the death of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa, whose music is credited for giving voice to the Oromo Lives Matter movement. Hundessa was gunned down last month in Addis Ababa although the details around his death are not yet known. Almost two weeks ago, protests erupted in the Oromia region and led to the death of at least 145 civilians and another 10 in the capital, according to the BBC. Ethnic tensions in Ethiopia continue to worsen under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

At the beginning of this year, thousands of Ethiopians took to the street to protest against the government's failure to locate 18 students who had been abducted towards the end of 2019. The students, who are from the Amhara community in the northern parts of Ethiopia, were studying at Dembi Dollo University. Although some believed that the Oromo Liberation Army was behind the abductions, the army refuted the allegations and cast the blame on the government instead.

Nigeria, January 2020

Several mass protests against continued gender-based violence (GBV) in Nigeria have been taking place since 2019. Last year, Nigerian women protested the spate of murders of at least eight women in various Port Harcourt hotels. Last month,#JusticeForUwa saw many Nigerians demanding justice for 22-year-old student Vera Omozuwa who was attacked and murdered by a group of men while in a Benin City church. That online movement then grew into the much larger #WeAreTired movement which was championed by the likes of Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Don Jazzy. By the end of June, the Nigerian government had declared a state of emergency on rape in the country.

Guinea, January 2020

Protesters confornt the army in the streets in Conakry on March 22, 2020, during a constitutional referendum in the country.

Photo by CELLOU BINANI/AFP via Getty Images.

There have been massive anti-government protests in Guinea since last year. The protests come after President Alpha Condé announced that his government would be looking into a new constitution which would allow him to remain in power for a third term. The protests, which are largely concentrated in Conakry, Boffa and N'Zerekore, have resulted in the deaths of at least seven people thus far. Additionally, six protesters were recently killed following clashes with the police over measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Citizens were reportedly frustrated by alleged corruption at the hands of authorities.

Zimbabwe, January 2020

A doctor with a loud hailer shouts slogans during a protest march by senior medical doctors in Harare, on December 4, 2019.

Photo by JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP via Getty Images.

Anti-government protests have been taking place in Zimbabwe since last year. While the government, under current President Emmerson Mnangagwa's leadership, has been condemned for the police violence targeting protesters from the opposition, there have been additional protests led by health professionals in the country. Doctors downed their tools and took to the streets for over four months demanding better pay and working conditions––conditions which have only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The protests eventually came to a halt when Zimbabwean telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwaannounced that he would set up a fund which would help doctors manage living costs.

Fresh protests threaten to erupt, however, following the arrest of prominent journalist Hopewell Chin'ono whose work has exposed the alleged corruption by the government during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Chin'ono was arrested alongside opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume and kept on charges of "incitement to participate in public violence".

Senegal, January 2020

Similar to the protests in Guinea, mass demonstrations erupted in Senegal's Dakara, Mbacké, Touba, Tambacounda and Diourbel with youths taking to the streets to protest against the curfew and ban on regional travel amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 were reportedly causing further economic hardships for the youth and their livelihoods.

The Gambia, January 2020

Demonstrators against the regime of Yahya Jammeh, the former President of the Gambia, gather in the streets during a demonstration asking for Yahya Jammeh to be brought to justice in Banjul on January 25, 2020.

Photo by ROMAIN CHANSON/AFP via Getty Images.

The protests in The Gambia are complex. Initially, protests at the beginning of this year were in support of former President Yahya Jammeh's safe return from exile after the politician claimed he had been "driven out of the country". Jammeh ruled the West African country for over two decades and subsequently lost to current President Adama Barrow in the national elections back in 2017. On the other hand, many other Gambians, along with the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, insisted that Jammeh return so that he could be arrested, charged and prosecuted for the crimes committed during his rule. There have also been continued protests calling for President Barrow to step down. After being sworn into office in 2017, President Barrow was only meant to be in office for three years. However, he has recently backtracked on that commitment which has subsequently given rise to the "Three Years Jotna" movement.

Liberia, January 2020

Liberia has been engulfed in anti-government protests for a while. Protesters have called for current President George Weah to resign following what they describe as a failure to resolve the country's dire economic situation in addition to rampant corruption by government officials. Back in June of last year, Liberians protested for the first time since President Weah took office in 2017. Failing to adequately address an investigation which uncovered the disappearance of millions of dollars, the government then restricted internet and social media access shortly before the protests took place.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), January 2020

In January of this year, students in the DRC protested against the increasing cost of tuition at Kinshasa University. After students were forced to vacate the university premises by police, President Felix Tshisekedi was reportedly set to meet with student leaders to discuss a way forward. In 2019, students at Lubumbashi University had protested against hikes in tuition fees as well as infrastructural issues. At least four people were killed during those protests, according to IOL.

Uganda, February 2020

Stella Nyanzi (C), a prominent Ugandan activist and government critic, is arrested by police officers as she organised a protest for more food distribution by the government to people who has been financially struggling by the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Kampala, on May 18, 2020.

Photo by SUMY SADURNI/AFP via Getty Images.

There have been numerous protests which have taken place in Uganda since last year. Students at Makerere University staged "Fees Must Fall" protests towards the end of 2019 while anti-governments protests against President Yoweri Museveni have been led by opposition leader Bobi Wine earlier this year, in the run-up to the 2021 presidential elections. More recently, activist Stella Nyanzi was arrested after protesting against the slow distribution of food during the country's lockdown.

Algeria, March 2020

People chant slogans at a weekly anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on March 13, 2020.

Photo by Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Protests in Algeria began last year in February shortly after then President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would be running for a fifth term in office. While the statesman eventually stepped down, following a two-decade long rule, mass demonstrations continued every week thereafter with protesters demanding that his entire government step down as well. In March of this year, protesters called off the weekly demonstrations for the first time in over a year amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mali, April 2020

There have been ongoing anti-government protests in Mali as protesters call for political reforms and the resignation of current President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. This comes after Malians headed to the voting stations in a long-delayed election this March. At least 11 people have been killed in the most recent protests where police and security forces used lethal force to disperse crowds of protesters. Both regional and international bodies have condemned the use of lethal force by the Malian government with the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger set to meet with President Keita in the hopes of mediating the ongoing conflict. The West African country has been engulfed in jihadist conflict since 2012 and at least 600 civilians have been killed as a result.

South Africa, June 2020

There have been a number of protests in South Africa this year. However, the major demonstrations thus far have been in support of the Black Lives Mattermovement with specific reference to instances of police brutality and gender-based violence (GBV) in the country. Since the country's national lockdown began a few months ago, several Black South Africans namely Collins Khosa, Sibusiso Amos, Petrus Miggels and Adane Emmanuel, have been killed by the police and/or members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Additionally, the GBV and femicide crisis has also continued to worsen despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenya, June 2020

Last month, Kenyans took to the streets to protest police brutality in the country which had claimed the lives of 15 people, according to a report by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA). The deaths were reportedly a result of a dusk-to-dawn curfew set in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. It is alleged that there had been numerous instances of law enforcement using excessive force and brutality.

Namibia, October 2020

Protesters hold placards while they gesture during the second day of the #ShutItDown Protests, where hundreds of Namibian youth protested against gender-based violence by shutting down Windhoeks Central Business District, in Windhoek, Namibia, on October 9, 2020.

Photo by HILDEGARD TITUS / AFP) (Photo by HILDEGARD TITUS/AFP via Getty Images).

Following the death of a 22-year-old Namibian woman named Shannon Wasserfall, who reportedly went missing in April of this year, Namibian youth have since taken to the streets to protest against gender-based violence (GBV). Dubbed the #ShutItDown protests, demonstrations outside government buildings have been taking place with young women, university students and high school girls at the helm. The Southern African country has reportedly recorded at least 200 cases of GBV every month.

Nigeria, October 2020

#EndSARS: Nigerian protests against police brutality.

Photo by Rachel Seidu.

Over the past few weeks, Nigerian youth have taken to the streets to protest against continued police brutality in the country. The #EndSARS protests have called upon President Muhammadu Buhari to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which has been implicated in the harassment, abductions, torture and murder of Nigerians since its establishment back in 1992. However, while there are reports that SARS has been disbanded, these are in conflict with other reports that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, plans to reform the unit instead. Additionally, the 2020 protests are not the first. Protests calling for the disbanding of SARS in Nigeria were reported as far back as 2017.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the book’s publisher, One World is describing the book, which will be a novel, as a “gorgeously illustrated and moving modern fable for readers of all ages about forgiveness, acceptance and the secret to solidarity.” Although reports state that the book does not have a title yet, it is slated to be released this fall, and will bear a similar themes to stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Little Prince.

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Everything We Know About the Conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

From bouts of violence, casualties to a mounting number of refugees, we break down the events in Africa’s troubled central region.

Tensions in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo heightened last October. The conflict between its army and the once-dormant M23 rebel group has inflicted civilian harm, destroyed infrastructure, and cut off access to food, healthcare, and other essential needs for the country’s population.

As gun violence erupted across the North Kivu Province, there has been death and mass displacements. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 5.6 million people are internally displaced, with more than one million are seeking refuge abroad.

Fueling the crisis is a battle of control over the DRC’s abundant natural resources. Its natural wealth includes gold, diamonds, and oil, the largest producer of precious metals including cobalt, gold, copper, and tin. UN experts make mention that Rwanda and Uganda’s export of gold and tin originated from DRC as a result of exploitation.

M23 is only just one of the dominant rebel groups launching attacks in the country. Considered as a geopolitical battleground involving neighboring rivals like Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, they constitute the Great Lakes Region. The war precipitates from a violent history and, amidst a recent call for peace, its devastation is still ongoing with victims caught in the crossfire.

Who are the M23 rebels and what do they want?

The M23 stands for the March 23 Movement, named after March 23, 2009, when the Congolese army signed a peace treaty with a pro-Tutsi militia. It’s an agreement that stipulated terms that would be inclusive of the Tsuti ethnic minority. The origin of Tutsis ethnic group originates in Rwanda, at the time of the Rwandan Genocide.

On May 6, 2012, the rebel splinter of the formerly powerful National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) military army, previously led by Laurent Nkunda, integrated into the Congolese army. The CNDP apprehended a growing fiefdom in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nkunda seemed untouchable serving the interest of the Tutsi ethnic groups.

The rebels, primarily of Rwandophone minorities, accused the Congolese government of marginalizing the Tsuti minority group in Congo and therefore failed to uphold the terms of the agreement signed on March 23, 2009. Hence, the M23 rebel military group was born.

The rise of the M23 rebels pushed back the Congolese army and a large part of the North Kivu province. By November 2013, a large proportion of the population had fled. However, by the next month, the rebels filtered out of Goma and dissolved following a regional peace agreement promising to be reintegrated into the Congolese army. The M23 members were disarmed and displaced to camps in Uganda.

Almost 10 years later—towards the end of March 2022—the rebels left their camp and attacked the Congolese army. Since then, the rebels have restated their request to be reintegrated into the Congolese army and return to the lands they had been claiming. The Congolese government and its people continue to accuse Rwanda of the resurgence of the M23 rebel movement.

How has the conflict affected victims?

​Most of the women at the refugee sites are farmers, traders, and market women.

Photo by Arlette Bashizi for OkayAfrica

“I can't count the number of times I have fled from war since I was young, and now my children are being born and raised in the same situation. I wish it were different for them," Louise, a displaced mother at Kanyaruchinya, a makeshift site for internally displaced persons (IDP), told OkayAfrica, earlier this year.

After the war broke out, she had given birth immediately upon arriving at this IDP. Her baby is four months old now, and Louise laments the near-unlivable conditions she and her baby are forced to endure. “My only wish is to go home,” she said.

On the other hand, Shukuru is expecting her sixth child. Having stayed for more than five months in a classroom-turned-IDP site, she witnessed firsthand the agony the conflict has inflicted on displaced persons. The classes are full, with a hopeless influx of women, men, and children. The roofs are rusting and threadbare so that when it rains, everyone gets drenched.

Most mornings, the classes are freed so that the students can study and when they leave, the families settle down again. “I was a farmer at home in Rumangabo, and my children did not lack anything, but here nothing goes, just to feed them is very difficult," Shukuru said. "I no longer think about their schooling, I only worry about how they will eat."

In one classroom, women gather around in clusters to breastfeed their babies. Elisa Babunga is one of them. She fled their house when she heard the sound of heavy gunfire, evacuating the city of Kibumba and its surroundings following clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels.

Most of the women are farmers, traders, and market women. Elisa had just harvested sacks of potatoes with the intention of surviving on them. But because of the war, these were abandoned with the paramount concern to flee conflict zones. “We have been fleeing wars since I was a teenager,” Elisa said. “We fled the M23 in 2012, the CNDP, the 1994 war, and here we are again, fleeing. We need peace in our village. Only the establishment of a lasting peace would help improve our lives.”

In Kibumba, Goma, which is a few kilometers from the war zone, medical doctor Mr. Innocent recounts his experience at the onset of the war. “When I was leaving the hospital to go to the city, I came down with eight injured—some lost their feet and others their arms," he said. "Many had lost consciousness while fleeing due to the bombs and gunshots. I have personally experienced this myself.”

Gunshots have left three members of Mr. Innocent’s family injured. After fleeing his home, he’s struggling to feed his family as he’s unable to earn an income. Worse yet, the war has taken a huge toll on his psychological well-being. “I have experienced war right next to me, people dying of bombs," he said. "Until today, I still see these images. I listen to music, and I speak to others, to distract myself. When there’s rain, our homes are flooded, and we can’t sleep.”

Mr. Innocent remembers how things were in the city before the war—some semblance of peace, with open markets. Now, catastrophe lies in its wake, with famine overtaking many nearby regions. Mr. Gandi, a married man with children, told OkayAfrica he lives in constant fear for his family and that one day everything will fall apart. “It doesn’t help either that the information received and published is often contradictory [to what’s happening],” he said.

Are Rwanda and Uganda politically involved?

An executive member of one of Congo’s major political parties, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS / French:Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social), Luc Kabunangu Katay Sheba, has indicted the roles Rwanda and Uganda have played in the conflicts. According to Kabunangu, both countries have obscured the rights of the Congolese people, highlighting President Paul Kagame’s expansionist views and lust for the DRC’s natural resources.

At the time of Joseph Kabila’s administration, the DRC’s former president, many armed groups had formed. “Uganda and Rwanda were supporting these armed groups," Kabunangu said. "So what had happened was you had foreign officials and military officers who were brought into the DRC Army, police, and the security system."

Since then, current DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his government have been aiming to dismantle these groups, a duty that the UDPS has undertaken as well. Because of the DRC’s lack of an identification system or database, some of DRC’s population is a mix of Randwese nationality.

“We know that we are Congolese based on our origins [by family name or patois] but given how long the Rwandese nationals have lived in the DRC, many have adopted the culture and it’s difficult to identify who among the population is a true Congolese native,’ Mr. Kabunangu said, indicting the DRC government and their inability to resolve this problem.

At the moment, the union members are in discussion about mobilizing an identification system but are weary of proceeding further given the country’s delicate period and upcoming elections.

Is there a history behind the conflict?

"He is already four months and I call him my war baby."

Photo by Arlette Bashizi for OkayAfrica

Yes. We can carbon-date the conflict to the Rwandan genocide which lasted 100 days, from April 7th, 1994 to July 15th. Over 800,000 members of the Tutsis minority ethnic group and moderate Hutus and Twa were murdered by the armed Hutu militias. And so the influx of Hutus ethnic groups sought refuge in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire).

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, only 7% of these refugees were perpetrators of the genocide and were known as the Federation for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The conflict between the DRC and the Rwandan-Ugandan coalition is noted to have begun in 1996, which initially began as an allied force alongside DRC’s fifth president, Laurent Kabila, to root out the remaining perpetrators of the genocide.

While Kabila necessitated the dismantling of former DRC president Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship reign, his turn against Rwanda and Uganda to force the departure of foreign troops in east DRC would elicit the onset of the First Congo War, which was then followed by the Second Congo War.

Since the Rwandan Genocide, eastern DRC has been a point for refugees to amass large factions of various ethnic groups -- the majority of Rwandan origin. The lack of governance of militia groups, however, failed to resolve the ethnic and tribal tensions. For instance, in 2009, an armed militia known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) led by Nkunda in the Kivu region of the DRC against the nation's military split, and its leader was arrested by the Rwandan government.

However, the remaining splinter group of the CNDP, led by Bosco Ntaganda, awoke the aforementioned rebel group known as the M23. They became active in 2012. Other groups including the FDLR and the Allied Democratic Forces have all been proxies to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi’s governments serving each country’s interests.

What would become of the eastern DRC today is a testament to the lack of resolution between the Rwandan-Ugandan coalition and the DRC.

Why isn’t the war a bigger media story?

Elisa Babunga, 32, is breastfeeding her child in one of the classrooms of the Kanyaruchinya school, where several displaced people have taken refuge.

Photo by Arlette Bashizi for OkayAfrica

It’s almost expected to see how little media attention is given to the conflict, considering media coverage needs to sensibly maneuver the attention to protect the interests of those profiting from DRC’s struggle.

“This game has been facilitated by the international community that has been benefiting from the minerals trafficked through Rwanda and Uganda," Kabunagu said. "In Uganda, one would mostly find DRC gold, and coffee, amongst others. In Rwanda, gold, coltan, coffee, and even DRC mountain gorillas breed tourist attractions.”

The media is polarized to serve the interest of Eurocentric agendas, which infiltrate many walks of life from socio-political debates to what we see now as human rights movements. Isn't it ironic that since the visit of Pope Francis to DRC and his call for peace, media attention has been more pronounced than previously?

While the DRC boasts a predominantly Catholic society, the point of the matter is: Why did it take a European priest to stand in prayer for the DRC for the cries of the African people to be heard?

What is the current situation?

"I can't count the number of times I have fled from war since I was young, and now my children are being born and raised in the same situation. I wish it were different for them," Louise, a displaced mother she met at the Kanyaruchinya IDP site, told OkayAfrica.

Photo by Arlette Bashizi for OkayAfrica

As the war continues to spread further into the North Kivu province, displacement of its habitants continues to rise in alarming numbers. According to UNHCR Africa, presently, “5.8 million people are displaced across the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika. Over 522,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in the DRC, [and] over 1 million DRC refugees and asylum-seekers in countries neighboring the DRC... In January 2023 alone, more than 200 civilians were killed in Ituri Province in a series of attacks by non-state armed groups, which also destroyed 2,000 houses and closed or demolished 80 schools.”

On February 16, The Forces Armées de la démocratique du Congo (FARDC) announced that 356 militaries from the Rwandese army arrived on Congolese soil. It is believed they are reinforcement for the M23 rebels.

The M23 rebels comprise nationals who aren't of Congolese descent but were filtered into the population due to the Rwandese genocide. Therefore, a critical analysis of the facts and so-called negotiation around the rebels’ request to be integrated into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s security system is absurd.

The resurgence of the M23 rebels into the eastern regions of DRC came as a result of a failed agreement to introduce ex-soldiers of Tsuti origin into the Congolese defense system. “Some of those terms are that these soldiers from Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) integrate the DRC security forces, army, police, and intelligence services,” Kabunangu said. “Ninety percent of their force remain in the east on the pretense of protecting Tutsis who are discriminated against and killed. Basically taking over the control of the eastern part of the DRC with the rest of the RDF and UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Force) as their backup.”

Kabunangu also highlights that under Kabila’s administration, Rwandese nationals occupied these spaces. However, under current president Felix Tshisekedi’s administration, the goal is to put an end to this.

Arguably, President Tshisekedi’s position is validated given the impact it has as we continue to observe the status of the country. The risk of filtering rebel soldiers into the Congolese defense force comes with the potentiality of political and military sabotage.

As it stands, on one hand, we observe a political debacle of a power-hungry militia whose end goal is parasitic to a host that is not theirs to claim, but feels entitled. A Rwandese militia whose landmark doesn’t even occupy an area of DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

On the other hand, the richness of DRC’s resources draws economic threat to its rightful inhabitants and an air of entitlement driven by blood-lust, leaders who hide behind rebel groups to carry out their objectives. All the while, large corporations lay quietly in the background, profiting from the bloodshed of innocents.

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