FOR the dwindling number of African leaders resisting a groundswell for democracy, the message coming out of West Africa this month is: Watch out! Two African leaders were toppled this week under pressure from pro-democracy movements in their nations. And two other leaders were made to promise democratic reforms after protests against their one-party rule.
In Mali, the Army said on March 26 that it had arrested President Moussa Traore after he refused to give in to demonstrators demanding democratic reforms. Diplomats in Mali estimate at least 150 people were killed during the five days of protests.
Given the strength and size of the pro-democracy movement in Mali and confidence gained from toppling a dictator, it is unlikely opposition leaders will accept any attempt by the Army to stay in power. They want multiparty democracy, and without firm promises of that, more strikes, riots, and violence are more than likely.
In Benin, President Mathieu Kerekou lost his country's first free presidential elections. He was beaten 2 to 1 by Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo, installed last year after months of protests against the government.
In Togo, earlier this month, thousands of women demanded release of more than 20 students missing or detained after recent pro-democracy demonstrations. As a result, Togolese dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema promised further steps toward multiparty elections.
In Cameroon, thousands rioted this month, forcing the government to allow several additional parties to be formed.