As the dominoes fall: a lesson from Africa

Alan Duff

Like dominoes falling, two authoritarian presidents have resigned from their positions in the past two months and the current ruler of Libya is now struggling with protesters in his country. For Africa, 2011 may be remembered as a year of freedom, and the year the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya learned that large protests could make a difference when it comes to their governments. Can the citizens of the United States learn from these revolutionaries?

Starting in early January, a revolution began as protestors filled the streets of Tunisia complaining against President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Just days after the protests began, Ben Ali left Tunisia Jan. 14 after ruling for 23 years.

After hearing about the success of the citizens of Tunisia, Egyptians began a mass protest Jan. 25 against President Hosni Mubarak who had ruled Egypt since 1981. Protestors originally used websites like Facebook and Twitter to coordinate protests before these websites were blocked in Egypt. Despite this setback, once again the people prevailed. Just weeks after the protests began the Egyptian government began to waver, and it was announced Feb. 11 that Mubarak was resigning from office.

The chain of protests didn’t end there, though. According to the Feb. 16 issue of The New York Times, several of Libya’s embassies have renounced Libya’s current actions and resigned along with many senior officials. As Muammar al-Qaddafi has lost power bit by bit, his top allies have disappeared and protests have increased throughout Libya. Only time will tell if the current revolution will be successful or not, but Africans are following the examples of their peers and fighting for freedom.

Truly, this shows the power that individuals have when they band together under a common cause or idea. This seems to be an idea that a large portion of Americans have forgotten. I cannot count the number of times I have had a conversation where someone complains about a governmental policy they have a problem with and when I ask why they don’t fight it they say, “What’s the use?” or “I can’t change anything. I’m only one person.” I respectfully disagree.

A lesson that African nations are learning from each other is that with enough people, a way to communicate and a goal in mind, anything is possible. Regimes that seemed invincible have been toppled thanks to the citizens of their countries banding together for something they believe in and are willing to fight for. That should ring a bell for all Americans.

While I have witnessed apathy from Americans, I have also witnessed protests and rallies. Whether you agree or disagree with the current union reforms happening in Wisconsin, each person should realize he or she has the power and the right to be heard. If you have a problem with a law or policy, use Facebook and Twitter, and I’m sure you will find people that agree with what you have to say.

As Americans we should recognize the amazing achievements the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia have made, and we should remember that we to have the power to change our government.