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Across Africa, citizens have challenged their governments to demand more democracy and better socioeconomic conditions. This has led to the rise of contentious politics: demonstrations, strikes, riots, and even military coups, which have transformed "the street" into a site of peacebuilding. However, there has been little analysis of street protests as a peacemaking process in African countries. This paper seeks to understand this new phenomenon in Africa and how it differs from similar protests, which have signaled changes in other parts of the world, such as the U.S. civil rights movement. It argues that this new form of street protest as peacebuilding has been more effective in toppling authoritarian regimes in Africa than the measures used in previous decades. Understanding the rationale for these new types of protest and their contribution to peace in Africa will help to strengthen peacebuilding mechanisms specific to the African continent. 

The Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) is a continent-wide network of African policy, research, and academic organizations that works with the Wilson Center’s Africa Program to bring African knowledge and perspectives to U.S., African, and international policy on peacebuilding in Africa. Established in 2011 and supported by the generous financial support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project provides avenues for African researchers and practitioners to engage with, inform, and exchange analyses and perspectives with U.S., African, and international policymakers in order to develop the most appropriate, cohesive, and inclusive policy frameworks and approaches to achieving sustainable peace in Africa. This publication was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed in this paper are solely the responsibility of the author and do not represent the views of the Wilson Center or the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

To mark the SVNP’s 10th anniversary and as part of its mission to strengthen collaboration among members and share African knowledge about peacebuilding and state-building,  the SVNP established a competition for co-authored research papers analyzing key existing or emerging issues in peacebuilding in Africa, highlighting issues and lessons learned, and offering concrete actions that African and international policymakers can take to advance peacebuilding on the continent.  

This, and the paper entitled "#EndSARS Youth Protests in Nigeria: Lessons and Opportunities for Regional Stability" by Mr. Osei Baffour Frimpong and Mr. Richmond Commodore, were declared co-winners of the 2021 SVNP Joint Research Award.

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more