On October 30, as thousands of determined Burkinabe put an end to the 27 year rule of their Western-backed autocratic leader, Blaise Compaoré, journalist Hewete Selassie asked a question (in a tweet) that pops up whenever mass protests break out somewhere in Africa: “So is #BurkinaFaso the beginning of the African #Arabspring?”
It is one thing to wonder about the possibility of the Burkinabe revolution setting off domino-effect ripples in the region similar to the 2011 uprisings. After all, few periods in modern history have seen so much turbulence affecting so many millions of people as the early months of 2011. The “Arab Spring” has become our reference point for revolutions in this digital age. Yet, a far longer and rich history of African civil struggle is often missing in contextualizing today’s protest movements on the continent.