The promotion, nurturing and consolidation of democracy amongst the nations of Africa should be seen as a positive imperative of British foreign policy. How energetically we respond as the people of Tunisia, Egypt, the Ivory Coast and others reach for freedom may determine a course of direction for nations across Africa.
Over the past decades, the West has moved from the era of “Wind of Change” , through the use of African dictatorships as proxies in the Cold War, the Band Aid generation that built, a now much critiqued, “aid dependency” view of Africa and now onward to the more hopeful embrace of African democracy and a growing consumer middle class.
Challenges no doubt remain, from the continuing needs for aid and development, to the menacing evils of dictators growing daily more conscious that their time may soon be up. However, the opportunities outweigh the challenges and those who love freedom have good cause to reach out and assist.
The key characteristic of the Tunisian revolution was not its apparent spontaneity and the immediacy of Ben-Ali’s exile; it was that it was a home-grown, broad based expression of a people. The revolution was not imposed from outside, it was not partisan and it was not religious. The interim government under Md Ghannouchi is working hard to fill the power vacuum that naturally occurred as a result of this and to prepare the grounds for free elections. No easy task.