In Proto (sub-saharan) Africa, we are complete and total novices when it comes to civil disobedience and protesting. We still seem to engage in the antiquated and basic forms of protest which is; to march, hold ineligible placards, chant and sing songs, grab a tree branch or two (passive sign of peace by the way) all until when the unlawful police decide to commence their usual onslaught of brutality on defenceless youth advocating for change. An hour later, reports of use of tear gas and indiscriminate shooting with live rounds trickle through, “few murdered in cold blood, more battered to within an inch of their life, and dozens arrested”. It all dies down and everyone disperses to come back another day, if they do.
This has been our story of protest. There is no coordination or strategy behind our protests, no efficiency or measurable outcome except you count for the poor trees that have lost their branches recently. Some say government oppression of protest in Africa is more brutal than other parts of the world, which is why we see such pathetic fronts, but I beg to differ.
When you look at what is going on in places like Hong Kong, France, Ukraine, Russia, USA, China, North “Arab” Africa and even closer to home with the example of apartheid South Africa, you will see that we are getting it wrong. Protests must have a variety of tools to get the widespread attention and outcome they need. Civil disobedience must come in all forms and some of it must be ready to deal with brutality in good measure. Many times, in other countries accustomed to advanced forms of protest, you will see civilians with body armour, gas masks, shields, lasers to disorientate the aggressors, helmets, balaclavas (face masks) and sunglasses to protect their identities.
All of this ensures fewer injuries and deaths and allows for longer sustained efforts. For example, there are rarely protests at night when it would obviously be harder for the police to exercise their duties due to being off duty for the most part, bad lighting due to lack of electrification and it also being easier to escape brutality in the cover of moonlight. All this thinking and strategy is totally absent from our protests and we wonder why it is so easy for the powers that be to dispel any efforts.
Then there are other psychological methods to exert pressure on the government or elected officials in question – like a protest at the state of potholes in Russia where the government official in charge was drawn on the pothole itself prompting him to eventually act after going viral on social media.
In other places, we see climate change protesters, Extinction Rebellion (EX), Anti-Fracking protests, anti-fur campaigners, anti-animal testing and many others using ingenious ways to garner attention which we are still to borrow a note from.
Protest cannot be emotional alone, it should be more proactive than reactive, it should exhibit the ingenuity of the people and the diversity of thought and spirit. Protest should be able to display the aspirations of a people and how far they are willing to go to achieve it. Protest should be planned, coordinated and with a high level of strategic planning. Protest should not mean losing one’s life, however, for what is at stake, we must be prepared for it.