Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a warning to African leaders today: reform or potentially face the same unrest that has threatened to topple longtime rulers in North Africa and the Middle East.
In a speech to the African Union in Ethiopia, Clinton said that citizens are no longer accepting repressive governments and that the internet and social media are providing a platform like no other for these ideas to spread and take root.
“This wave of activism, which came to be known as the Arab Spring, has particular significance for leaders in Africa and elsewhere who hold on to power at all costs, who suppress dissent, who enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their own people,” she said.
“If you believe that the freedoms and opportunities that we speak about as universal should not be shared by your own people, men and women equally, or if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history, and time will prove that,” Clinton added pointedly.
Africa’s leaders might have good reason to follow her advice, as Clinton has a track record of being right about this.
In January, in a speech to Arab leaders at a conference in Qatar, Clinton warned that they must reform soon or watch progress “sink into sand.”
Just days later Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali became the first dictator to fall and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak soon followed suit. Over the following months uprisings threatened to topple the rulers of Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco and elsewhere.