African Women and the ‘Arab Spring’

Meeting in Morocco, 600 female politicians from the continent wonder if the winds of change sweeping North Africa will turn south -- to black Africa.

Sy Kadiatou Sow of Mali (Habibou Bangré)

Najoua, 19, a smiling tourism student, was more talkative but sounded as if she were reciting something she had memorized. “Our king is not a dictator, so the same revolution cannot happen. Every Moroccan loves our king, and we do not want to reduce his powers. We want to keep the monarchy. We do not want to be like Spain or Great Britain. We do not want the prime minister to hold every power because he will not be able to do more than the king already does.”

The truth is that not everyone is happy with Morocco’s royalty. Thousands of Moroccans have taken to the streets, asking for political, civil and judiciary reforms and the end of the “absolute power” held by Mohammed VI. The king announced a series of constitutional changes on March 9, with proposed new laws to be voted on in a national referendum.

Josephine Fizumugha Abeki, mayor of Patani, in southern Nigeria, was hopeful that the “Arab spring” would reach sub-Saharan Africa. “When the majority says, ‘We don’t want you!’ you cannot impose yourself on them because you will not have peace. You will not enjoy your stay, you will not enjoy your money and you will not enjoy your life!”

Sy Kadiatou Sow was even more optimistic: “Some [black African] leaders already consider that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt could happen to them if they go beyond their legal terms,” she said. Obviously, the “Arab spring” seems contagious.

Habibou Bangré is a freelance journalist living in France.

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