Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Does Public Opinion influence reforms in contemporary Africa?

22.03.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
A French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in his philosophy spoke so much on Freedom or how Free man is. He once said ‘’ believed that human beings live in constant anguish, not solely because life is miserable, but because we are 'condemned to be free.’’ In other words, this means that even though we were born free, our freedom still has a limit when the gaze of others have to count. One can categorically say freedom of thoughts and expression can be linked to what is called public opinion. But does public opinion have a place in the present-day society and especially in Africa? This is actually a problematic question that civil society and other advocates of democracy have been asking for years.

What is Public Opinion?

As defined by Wikipedia, Public opinion entails of the desires, wants, and thinking of the majority of the people. In other words, it refers to the communal belief exercised by a particular people of a society or state on an issue or problem. Since man is at the center of decision making and controls what happens around him, it was therefore imperative to reconcile people’s thoughts into the daily life given its changing nature.

According to Deric Ngong Ndi; Resource person on Comparative Education, in its, must outward view over history, every successful nation or organization has always credited an individual or a group for bringing about such opinions that led to better changes in the state or the world at large. He quoted ‘’In history though out of Africa, one cannot fail to mention even Jesus whom we call the Christ today for his total change of perspective on what leadership, justice and peaceful coexistence was all about in his time’’. ‘’We can also mention Martin Luther King Jr of the United States for his public opinion on black’s equality, we talk also of Mahad Magandi of India on his public demonstration with the choice of peace over violence.’’

Expressing Public Opinion

Mr. Deric Ngong Ndi, Resource person on Comparative Education who also doubles as an independent researcher holds that Public opinion is expressed through various channels like public demonstrations, credible and verifiable news broadcast, Internet reactions (twitter, Facebook and others), religious gatherings and even political rallies.  This, however, is very common where there is freedom of speech and of public manifestation.

In contemporary society, most nations across the globe have the right to freely express their opinions, call for reforms through peaceful marches etc. This must, however, be backed by the constitution. Most of these laws permit groups or individuals to democratically air their views on how they are governed or the stake of affairs in their countries which they feel patriotic to.

Public opinion influencing reforms in Africa

In modern-day Africa, Public Opinion has largely influenced reforms both political and economic changes. The atmosphere has been very turbulent on the continent as patriots and advocates of democracy in one accord call for reforms in their respective nations. The latest developments in some African countries showed that Public Opinion still has a place in today’s Africa, but to what extent.

Where public opinion has caused changes

Algeria           

The persistent protesting Algeria against the re-election of ailing and outgoing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The demonstrations that persisted for several weeks in and out of the national territory caused incumbent Bouteflika to decline from seeking a fifth. Not undermining the rule played by Bouteflika in reviving the country and making it stable after the Arab spring, the concerned patriots felt that he was no longer physical upright to rule the nation. Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 and has since been confined to a wheelchair. He has become more of a ceremonial leader, which is against the Algerian constitution.  Algerians were expected to vote in the presidential poll on April 18, but the election has been pushed to an unknown date.

Togo

In 2017 the Togolese populace came out to denounce the attempt of a constitutional change that would see serving President Faure Ngnassingbe seek another term in 2020. The populace together with fourteen opposition party is calling for an end to Ngnassingbe reign.

Kenya

In Kenya back in (2010) the people’s demonstration brought the country to reform its constitutions scraping the Presidential term limits to five years renewable once after President Moi Kibaki had ruled for almost 27years.

Rwanda

Interesting in Rwanda, public opinion played a major rule in seeing President Paul Kagame remain at the center of the Affairs of Rwandan presidency.   In 2015, Rwandans overwhelming voted a change in the country’s constitution that gave President Paul Kagame, who has been president since 2000 to seek re-election in 2017.  This was however different as constitutional reforms have always caused chaos and violence in many African nations like Togo and Burundi.

None the less, in countries like Sudan and the Republic of Cameroon remain in the spotlight, as the peoples’ plights have failed to materialize. Since December 2018, there have been persistent protests calling for the resignation of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, blaming him of not being able to take the country out of its economic woes.

There is a litany of the very many reforms that have come in African, thanks to Public Opinion. As stated by  Deric Ngong Ndi, Resource person on Comparative Education, where democracy is not followed, the public opinion is seen as a threat against the state but where democracy triumphs, every public opinion contributes to positive reforms that lead to peace, justice and better leadership.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image: google images

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