Protesters in Khartoum, Sudan, April 2019
Umit Bektas / Reuters

A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.

The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.

Since the 1970s, Africa’s nonviolent uprisings have also had the highest success rate

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  • ZOE MARKS is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and member of the Harvard Center for African Studies Executive Committee.
  • JIDE OKEKE is a Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.
  • ERICA CHENOWETH is Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
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