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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Columnist: Mohammed, Harun-rasheed

From The Youth

In about a month and three weeks’ time it shall be the second anniversary of the “BlackBerry Riots” that took the world by surprise. It all began in Tottenham on August 6 2011; two days after police had shot and killed 29 year old Mark Duggan in what the police called Operation Trident. What followed afterwards was a peaceful protest organised by friends and relatives of Duggan, to demand justice for the family beginning from Broadwater Farm (which itself had seen its version of protests and riots in 1985 arising from a similar incident) and ending in front of the Tottenham Police Station. The cause of the protests? The shooting of a civilian that according to the Police was a “suspect” in an on-going investigation and a Police PR activity that failed to address the concerns of the public in relation to the shooting.

The revolutionary wave of protests and riots that hit the Arab world in December 2010 occurred about 8 months earlier before the London riots and indeed there are many versions of the Arab spring taking place all around us currently. These protests were uniquely characterised by the demand of the citizens for democracy, a society that respects the fundamental human rights and a just society that is based on the rule of law. Accountability and transparency were also part of the demands of the protesters and in some places the focus was on social interventions, investment into education, health, scientific research and an overall improvement in the lifestyle of the citizenry.

We move back to Europe where we’ve seen French protests in Paris on what was termed as the “flexicurity” accord; meant to restore the competitiveness of the French industry. The protesters were fighting against the change of the labour laws of France and increase in austerity which was subsequently going to weaken the protection of workers. In the end, the events of March 5 2013 sought to express a rejection of austerity and flexibility, the requirement of new solutions for social rights, employment, higher wages and pensions. Still in Europe, the Gezi Park protests of Istanbul, Ankara and over 70 other cities across Turkey also tell another story of people protesting over environmental concerns in relation to the redevelopment of the Gezi Park. These two European protests are also characterised uniquely by the fact that they are not protests for democracy but protests over concerns be it environmental, employment, social rights, higher wages and pensions.

Our journey of protests stops in the Americas with the Occupy World Street Protests in New York and the on-going protests taking shape across the major cities of Brazil. The focal point of the Occupy Wall Street Protests was income disparity in the US and economic inequality in general with the Brazilian protests initially focussed on increase in transport fares which later became a full blown anti-government protests.

One distinct feature of the protests in Turkey and Brazil is that the initial protests were mismanaged and hence the continuous anti-government protests. We’ve also seen that the voice of the people can never be suppressed. Undeniably these protests or “youthquakes”-for want of a better term are youth-led not associated/affiliated with any political group.

Agreeably, we are yet to see these kinds of both violent and non-violent protests in Africa but these protests should serve as warnings to our leaders for they have taken us for granted for quite a long time now. The proverb that says “when the beard of your Neighbour is on fire, flood yours with water” comes to mind at this point in time. Graduate unemployment, lack of first class 21st Century educational policies, political corruption, payment of judgement debts on non-existential contracts, exploitation of our natural resources at the expense of the local populace and the increasing polarisation of our society increasingly call for a peaceful youthquake. The signs are on the wall, the cracks visible and our needs urgent, our Governments need to be proactive and act to prevent such protests on our continent. The message is clear, don’t take the youth for granted!

Please Note: The events listed in this publication are not chronological.

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