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The people’s mass revolution and the people’s military

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Bishop C. Johnson

That the military is the protector of the state is an understatement. In fact, the military is, and will remain the guarantor and last bastion of any state.

In the last decade, the military has proven its allegiance to the people and their constitution in a few country in Africa and beyond, where the military in the mist of mass citizen uprising against their sit-tight leaders took side with the people, arrested, ousted the leaders and restored democratic rule. The increasing role of the military in restoring democracy in several countries in the last decade has rekindle the hope of millions who are still under iron-fist, authoritarian and dictatorial rule.

On 25th of January 2011 a mass uprising broke out in Egypt. A revolution had began. The revolution quickly spread across Egypt. The end objective of this mass revolution was to oust a sit-tight leader who had led the country for decades with iron fist.

The revolution consisted of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, non-violent, civil-resistance acts of civil disobedience and strikes.

Millions of protesters from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.

On 11 February 2011, the Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak has resigned as president, turning power over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces(SCAF).The military junta, headed by effective head of state Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, announced on 13 February that the constitution is suspended, both houses of parliament dissolved and the military would govern for six months until elections could be held. The previous cabinet, including Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, would serve as a caretaker government until a new one was formed.

After the revolution against Mubarak and a period of rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt through a series of popular elections, with Egyptians electing Islamist Mohamed Morsi to the presidency in June 2012. 

In same month and same year in Tusia, president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced out of office in January 2011. The Tunisian Revolution, also called the Jasmine Revolution began to oust another sit-tight leader who also had led the country for several decades. It was an intensive campaign of civil resistance which included a series of street demonstrations and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The mass uprising succeeded and eventually led to a thorough and complete democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections.

Similar series of events as in Tunisia and Egypt took place in Zimbabwe when on the evening of 14 November 2017, elements of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces(ZDF) gathered around Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and seized control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and key areas of the city. The next day, the ZDF issued a statement saying that it was not a coup d’état and that President Robert Mugabe was safe, although the situation would return to normal only after the ZDF had dealt with the “criminals” around Mugabe responsible for the socio-economic problems of Zimbabwe.

The uprising in Zimbabwe took place amid tensions in the ruling ZANU–PF party between former First Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was backed by the ZDF and First Lady Grace Mugabe who was backed by the younger G40 faction over who would succeed their 93-year-old President Mugabe.

A week after Mnangagwa was fired and forced to flee the country, and a day before troops moved into Harare, Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief, Constantino Chiwenga issued a statement that purges of senior ZANU–PF officials like Mnangagwa had to stop.

On 19 November, ZANU-PF removed Mugabe as party leader, replacing him with Mnangagwa, and issued a deadline of 20 November for Mugabe to resign the presidency or face impeachment. Mugabe did not resign, so on 21 November a joint session of Zimbabwean Parliament met for his impeachment. After the session convened, Mugabe sent a letter to Zimbabwe’s Parliament resigning the presidency. Second Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko became the Acting President. Mnangagwa backed by the Zimbabwean Defense Force was later sworn in as President on 24 November 2017.

Zimbabwe had since held an election, although controversial, nevertheless ushered in a new democratic administration.

On 19 December 2018, a series of demonstrations broke out in several Sudanese cities due in part to rising costs of living and deterioration of economic conditions at all levels of society. The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The government’s voilent reaction to these peaceful demonstrations sparked international concern. On 22 February, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and dissolved the national and regional governments, replacing the latter with military and intelligence-service officers.  On 8 March, al-Bashir announced that all of the women jailed for protesting against the government would be released. On the weekend of 6–7 April, there were massive protests for the first time since the declaration of the state of emergency. On 10 April, soldiers were seen shielding protesters from security forces,[and on 11 April, the military removed al-Bashir from power in a coup d’état.

Since al-Bashir was deposed, demonstrations have continued, as protests organized by the Sudanese Professionals Association and democratic opposition groups have engaged in street demonstrations, calling on the ruling Transitional Military Council to “immediately and unconditionally” step aside in favor of a civilian-led transitional government, and urging other reforms in Sudan.

Venezuela, a socialist nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves has launched itself from one economic and political crisis after another. An otherwise a medium economy nation has in recent years seen its citizens fed from garbage dumps and mass exodus of its citizens to neighboring countries. These economic woes were blamed on its leader, Nicolas Maduro, a former vice president and ally of the late president, Hugo Chavez.

A crisis concerning who is the legitimate President of Venezuela has been underway since 10 January 2019, when the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent president Nicolás Maduro’s 2018 reelection was invalid and the body declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation.

Juan Guaidó, the newly appointed President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, began motions to form a provisional government shortly after assuming his new role on 5 January 2019, stating that whether or not Maduro began his new term on the 10th, the country would not have a legitimately elected president in either case. On behalf of the National Assembly, he stated that the country had fallen into a de facto dictatorship and had no leader, declaring that the nation faced a state of emergency. He called for “soldiers who wear their uniforms with honor to step forward and enforce the Constitution”, and asked “citizens for confidence, strength, and to accompany us on this path”.

Guaidó announced a public assembly, referred to as an open cabildo, on 11 January in a rally in the streets of Caracas, where the National Assembly announced that Guaidó was assuming the role of the acting president under the Constitution of Venezuela and announcing plans to remove President Maduro. Leaders of other political parties, trade unions, women, and the students of Venezuela were given a voice at the rally.

On 30 April protests by Guaido’s supporters erupted near an Airforce base in Caracas and shortly after, Venezuelan security forces on both sides were seen struggling it out.
Venezuelan authority led by Maduro say they are putting down a small coup attempt after opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced he was in the “final phase” of ending President Nicolás Maduro’s rule.

He appeared in a video with uniformed men, saying he had military support.

Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January, called for more members of the military to help him end Mr Maduro’s “usurpation” of power.

But military leaders appeared to be standing behind Mr Maduro.

Venezuela’s defence minister appeared on television to stress the point. However, photos from Caracas show some soldiers aligning themselves with Mr Guaido’s supporters.

Mr Maduro’s detractors hope the military will change its allegiance as resentment grows following years of hyperinflation, power cuts, food and medicine shortages.

So far, the armed forces have stood by Mr Maduro despite dozens of countries, including the US, the UK and most of Latin America, recognising Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

In this ongoing Venezuelan tussle for power, on which side the pendulum of victory will swing to will depend largely on who gets the full support of the Venezuelan military.

In all of these situations, a common factor has become evident, the support or lack of it thereof of the nation’s military. The pendulum will swing to the direction of the people or the government depending on which side the military backed.

Johnson is a former United States Army captain and a National Defense and Military Strategist.

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