Mail and Guardian by Jean-Jacques Cornish

The year 2011 began with the Arab Spring that changed the face of North Africa and possibly beyond. The question asked further down the continent — by both the people and their leaders — was when, if at all, the popular uprisings fuelled by social networks would spread southwards.

Protests in Egypt

Midyear, the normally tranquil and grindingly poor Malawi saw at least 18 people die in protests against Bingu wa Mutharika’s autocratic rule and economic mismanagement. Eventually it was a heart attack and not the people that brought him down, but more about that later.

By Easter, unconstitutional changes in power, reminiscent of West Africa’s past, had ruled out two of the two dozen elections scheduled for continent in 2012.

Between 1963 — when the first elected president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio, was overthrown — and the year 2000, there were 27 successful military takeovers in West Africa. One could have been forgiven for thinking that coups were an infectious disease endemic in West Africa.  Read more…