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What is the state of activism in Africa today? How effective is activism in bringing about the transformations that are needed to improve the lives of the African people? What should be done better? Pambazuka News invites articles exploring different perspectives on this theme.

There is a protest march taking place somewhere in Africa right now as you read this. Or a group of activists are seated somewhere planning action, or are out at a government office presenting a memorandum to the authorities. As the crisis of Capitalism deepens and the contradictions of neoliberal/elite democracies sharpen, with governments on the continent failing miserably to meet the needs of the masses of the people, there is an outpouring of public discontent in the form of protests.

Activism is now an established feature of public life in Africa. And it takes many diverse forms. In Cameroon, the “ghost town” campaigns demanding an end to extensive official discrimination against English-speaking regions have brought life to a stand still since last December. Protests in Ethiopia prompted the regime in Addis to declare a state of emergency that is ongoing – with the attendant atrocious human rights violations.

In Uganda last year, university researcher Stella Nyanzi stripped naked to protest injustices in the running of Makerere Institute of Social Research. Okiya Omtata once became famous in Kenya for chaining himself to public offices. Nowadays he seems to have specialized in suing public authorities whenever they break the law. In 2015, University of Cape Town students demanding the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the university smeared it with human excreta. And so on…

With the rapid growth of social media, activism has spread from the streets and market places of Africa to the keyboard. Thousands of hashtags, memes and petitions denouncing certain personalities in power or activities, or championing particular causes, are created daily in Africa. Some attract attention; most go unnoticed without achieving the change hoped for.

As usual, the state everywhere in Africa has never relented in cracking down on activists through arrests, jailing, torture, breaking up of protests by armed police, threats, bribery and co-optation of activists and, of course, assassination. In many instances, public authorities just wait out the protests to die down.

It is time to ask: What is the state of activism in Africa today and how effective is it in bringing about the transformations that are needed to improve the lives of the people?

This Special Issue of Pambazuka News will carry articles exploring this theme. The dimensions of the issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Cases: Successes, challenges and futures
  • Rethinking activism: New strategies for greater impact
  • From mobilization to organizing for transformative change
  • The fragmentation of struggles: The challenge of intersectionality
  • Protest art and the building of revolutionary consciousness: music, graffiti, drama, poetry
  • Working for or with the people? Career activism and building people power
  • Women and activism
  • NGO-ization of activism
  • Activism and the state: Repression, delegitimization and the shrinking civic space
  • Faith organizations and activism
  • The media and activism: mainstream media, alternative media, social media
  • Histories: Protest cultures and change
  • So what? Permanent activism vs. organizing to take power
  • Activism as a job: Activists, livelihoods, and personal needs
  • Student movements
  • Activism and Pan-Africanism: Embedding the liberation struggle with activism and progressive ideologies

Submission guidelines

  1. Word limit: Articles should ideally be 3,000 words long. But we have in the past accepted longer articles if subject treatment requires it.
  2. Authors should indicate references and list them fully at the end of their article. Please minimize the use of computer-generated footnotes.
  3. The article ends with a short bio of the author consisting of name, education (if preferred), designation and institutional (organization) affiliation if any.
  4. Articles should be submitted as a Word document attachment.
  5. Relevant pictures to illustrate an article may be sent as attachments. Any other graphics may be placed in the relevant sections of the article with captions.
  6. Articles should be e-mailed to [email protected]

Deadline and publication date

Authors have 6 weeks to write and submit their articles, beginning the date of publication of this call. That means the last day for submission is 27 April 2017. Publication day is 4 May 2017.