Leadership and governance: Some lessons from Algeria and Sudan

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Algeria and Sudan have one thing in common that happened recently, both their populations went to the streets to dismiss their presidents: Adelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan. So can we ask; why the elections, if the results can be nullified through street demonstrations? In Sudan, high cost of living, in a context of structural economic crisis is what led to demonstrations that chucked out El-Bashir who had ruled for 30 years. In Algeria, people took to the streets to demand alternation, because Algeria had become the laughing stock to the world . Although alternation is not a panacea, it remains an indicator for a healthy democratic system. The experience of Algeria and Sudan is rich in lessons for the peoples of Central Africa that has large concentration of countries where alternation in power is a rare commodity. Whether it is Cameroon, Chad, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea, these are countries where these two, even three, last decades, the alternation is a vain word.

The first lesson to draw from these events,  is that where elections have often failed, demonstrations have sometimes succeeded in provoking alternation. Indeed, it took people power to dislodge Bouteflika and Omar El-Bashir who had clung power. Men, women, young and old alike, Algerians and Sudanese chose to forget the divisions but unite for a worthy cause: to bring down systems that did  not serve them as a nation.

The second lesson is that a people united around a noble cause is invincible. The voice of the people is the voice of God, it is often said. The Algerian and Sudanese have demonstrated that power belongs to the people. For once, the term “democracy” makes sense, this time on the street and not through the ballot box. When a people transcends their internal divisions to say “No”, nothing can resist it. A united people around the same course releases a force that can move the mountains.

The third lesson is that it is not only enough to bring down a dictator who has stayed in power, but system must  be completely weeded out. Bouteflika and El-Bashir have certainly left, but the truth is that it is not easy to defeat a multi-decade-old system that has multiple ramifications, including in the army. This is why the people continue to resist. But if it is appropriate to salute the choices made by the army in Algeria where it was able to read the signs of the times , blood flowed in Sudan where there are already hundreds of dead among the demonstrators. Now, the challenge is to ensure a truly democratic transition, and it is far from won.

Decentralization is one crisis of governance in Africa. The key concepts of governance discourse today is precisely inclusive governance. Simply defined, it is a mode of governance of human or material resources that not only takes into account the interests of everyone, men and women, both old and young, in short, of all segments of society. But experience has shown that taking into account the interests of all involves the participation of all in public policy processes, hence the importance of civil society organizations as public oversight bodies. The Center for Study and Training for Development (CEFOD), a Jesuit-inspired institution based in N’Djamena, has for some years been supporting Chadian society in the difficult delivery of decentralization and local governance. In order to promote inclusive governance, CEFOD supports municipalities in setting up consultation frameworks where the elaboration of local development projects promotes the participation of all segments of society, women as well as men,  young and old, state actors and non-state actors. It is a difficult but promising experience. As African societies are predominantly young, there is still a need to find ways to promote young people’s political engagement at local and national levels.
Ludovic Lado SJ
CEFOD, N’Djamena, Chad.


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