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News > World

2010s: A Decade of Transformations in Africa

  • The Sudanese separation and conflict, the strengthening of ethnic and religious conflict and the rise of economic players mark a transformative decade for Africa.

    The Sudanese separation and conflict, the strengthening of ethnic and religious conflict and the rise of economic players mark a transformative decade for Africa. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 December 2019

As the decade ends, teleSUR looks back to the ten most important events that have shaped the lives of millions in the African continent.

The 2010s can be described as a decade of important political and social changes and transformations for Africa.

As the decade comes to an end, teleSUR looks back to the ten most important events that have shaped the lives of millions in the Sub-Saharian African continent:


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1. The Second Ivorian Civil War

The second civil war in Ivory Coast broke out in March 2011 when a post-election crisis escalated into a full-blown military conflict between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the country’s president from 2000 to 2010, and backers of the newly elected President Alassane Ouattara. 

After months of failed talks and sporadic violence between the supporters of both parties, the critical stage of the crisis began as Ouattara's forces gained control over most of the country with the help of the United Nations and the French forces, while Gbagbo and his allies found themselves confined in the capital Abidjan. 

In April 2011, Gbagbo was arrested in his home in Abidjan by supporters of Ouattara, with aid and assistance from the French military. Ivory Coast’s former strongman was then handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. In January 2019, however, he was acquitted by the ICC whose judges stated that “the prosecution has not demonstrated that there was a 'common plan' to keep Gbagbo in power, including the commission of crimes against civilians.”

The violence, which left around 3,000 dead and more than 500,000 displaced, was far from being unexpected, reflecting, on the contrary, the ethnic and religious differences that have long been brewing under the apparent peaceful surface of the world’s largest cocoa producer. 

2. South Sudan, the World's 193rd Nation 

In January 2011 South Sudan voted in a referendum to decide if the landlocked region located in East-Central Africa will separate from the North and become independent. As the result was overwhelmingly for separation, with more than 98 percent of the votes in favor, the future Republic of South Sudan seceded from Sudan and joined the United Nations as its 193rd country.

Yet the celebration of the independence did not last very long as fightings broke out in December 2013 between ethnic Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard, igniting the South Sudanese civil war. 

Six years later, the small country is still gripped by the conflict that has killed more than 400,000 and displaced 2.3 million, causing the worst refugee crisis in Africa. 

In December 2019, the country’s president Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar, commanders of both warring sides, announced that they reached an agreement to form a transitional unity government by the first months of 2020. The announcement raised hopes that the years-long war - whose reasons range from ethnic tensions, management of oil resources and a power struggle between the two leaders - may come to an end.

3. The Situation in Mali

Between 2011 and 2013, Mali’s military and central government were facing a complex political and security crisis, whereas a humanitarian crisis was devastating to its northern populations. 

In the North of the country, members of the semi-nomadic Tuareg minority launched a separatist movement, utilizing fighters and arms from war-torn Libya and counting on the support of a local group linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).

Meanwhile, in early 2012, members of the Malian security forces dissatisfied by the handling of the war rebelled against the government and ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure in a coup, following which the northern rebels declared an independent state: Azawad. 

But AQMI outmaneuvered the separatists’ plans and set down control over most of the north, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands and exacerbating a regional humanitarian crisis worsened by severe waves of drought.

In 2013 the French military, with logistical support from the United States, began an intervention, and two years later a peace agreement was signed by the government with the northern separatists. Yet, to this date, the war is far from being over and the foreign intervention did very little to solve the conflict. The 2015 deal remains un-implemented as the signatory groups still resort to violence to work out differences.


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4. The Ebola Outbreak

In December 2013, an 18-month-old boy from a small village in Guinea was believed to have been infected by bats. Some months later, as a disease with the same symptoms had spread to Guinea’s capital Conakry, the country’s Ministry of Health issued an alert for an unidentified illness. The French Pasteur Institute then confirmed the illness as the Ebola virus while the World Health Organization (WHO) was officially declaring it an outbreak in March 2014.

In August of that same year, WHO declared the deteriorating situation in West Africa - with Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone as the most affected countries - a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

Liberia was the first country to be declared Ebola-free in May 2015. After that, more cases were still being discovered until the West African country finally announced in January 2016 it was Ebola-free with no additional cases detected since.

Still, four years after this first outbreak, the 2018 North Kivu and Ituri provinces Ebola pandemic began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It has since become the second-biggest outbreak of the virus. During the first eight months of the epidemic, more than 1,000 cases were reported but the number doubled between April and June 2019, with a slow decline witnessed since August. The outbreak has caused 2,228 deaths so far.

5. Burkina Faso's Compaore Resigns

The uprising in Burkina Faso took place in October 2014 as a response to attempts by the government to change the constitution and allow President Blaise Compaore to run for another term, extending in this way his 27 years in office.

On October 30, the National Assembly and other government buildings, as well as the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party’s central office, were set on fire. Compaore dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency before finally escaping the country to find refuge in Ivory Coast, with the support of President Alassane Ouattara.

After another day of massive protests and mounting pressure from civil society and especially the youth, Compaore, the former comrade and then murderer in 1987 of revolutionary icon Thomas Sankara, resigned from the presidency on Oct.31, just a few days after the riots started.

6. The Strengthening of Boko Haram

The terrorist organization of Boko Haram was born in the early 2000s in northern Nigeria, but it also developed active cells in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group, whose actions were nonviolent when it was first created, quickly radicalized, forcing the Nigerian military forces to intervene in 2009 and to kill its leader Mohammed Yusuf in July of that year. 

The organization, however, unexpectedly rose again following the intervention, increasing the number of its attacks, and varying its targets which included civilians, police buildings and the United Nations office in the capital Abuja. The government's establishment of a state of emergency in 2012 and 2013 to cover the entire northeast of Nigeria, worsened the situation in the area, leading to an increase in both security forces' abuses and militant attacks.

Since their ongoing insurgency started 10 years ago, Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands and caused the displacement of 2.3 million, being at one time, the world’s deadliest terror group according to the Global Terrorism Index.

In 2014, at the heights of its power, it killed more than 6,600 people and carried out several mass abductions including the kidnapping of 276 teenage girls from Chibok (a local government in the northern state of Borno). In 2015 the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

The militants then gained control of swathes of territory in and around Borno, but they could not capture the state’s main city, Maiduguri.

Attacks from the group have been continuing over the past years, although 2019 has seen a decline of Boko Haram’s influence and the loss of much of the territory it once controlled.

7. Mugabe: The Death of an African Revolutionary

In 2019, the world saw the death at 95-year-old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, revolutionary, icon of the independence, ideologically an African nationalist who also identified as a Marxist-Leninist. 

Mugabe’s political trajectory had started with the struggle for Zimbabwe's independence from the racist regime led by a white minority in Southern Rhodesia.

In 1980, thanks to its intense activity in the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), a peace agreement was signed transferring the power and control of the country to black citizens (95 percent of the country's population). Mugabe became Prime Minister and renamed Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe.

During his administration illiteracy was reduced under 10 percent and the country experienced high economic growth.

In 2017, the long-time President was ousted from power after a military coup. While Mugabe was forced to resign, the ex-President was still revered in the government and considered a political icon that helped the country achieve independence. 


8. Sudanese Revolution 

The Sudanese Revolution represented a significant change in the political dynamics of the country's politics. It started in December 2018 with street protests throughout the country and continued with a strong and sustained civil disobedience for about eight months, until the April 11, 2019 coup that deposed President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power.

On June 3 however, a massacre took place in the capital Khartoum under the leadership of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that replaced al-Bashir. After weeks of negotiations supervised by the region’s political powers including Egypt, the TMC and the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) signed in August a political deal and a draft constitutional declaration defining a planned 39-month phase of transition to a civilian rule. 

In September 2019, the TMC formally transferred executive power to a mixed military-civilian collective head of state: the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, to a civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and a mostly civilian cabinet.

9. South Africa 2010 World Cup

For the first time in history, the decade saw a FIFA World Cup organized on the African continent, as the 19th World Cup was held in South Africa between June 11 and July 10, 2010. 

The event was the occasion for the government of the country to present itself as one of the new players in the global economy.

The decision to organize it in South Africa was however criticized by many who saw a contradiction between the "world-class" spectacle delivered to an audience of billions in the context of a country marred by extreme levels of poverty and inequality. Other critics, also said that the event projected a false and sanitized version of Africa in order to make it acceptable in the eyes of an international audience.


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10. The Death of Nelson Mandela

Independence leader, anti-apartheid revolutionary, and president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Nelson Mandela died in 2013 at the age of 95. 

The leader’s years in power were dedicated to the dismantlement of apartheid’s legacy, to the promotion of racial reconciliation, and the improvement of the lives of millions of South Africans.

Mandela had been involved since his young years in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics. He joined the  African National Congress (ANC) in 1943 and because of his political activism, served 27 years in prison. He was eventually released in 1990 by President Frederik Willem de Klerk, amid increasing domestic and international pressure, and fears of racial civil war. 

Mandela and de Klerk then led joint efforts to negotiate an end to the country’s system of racial segregation, resulting in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became South Africa’s first black president. 

He will be remembered by his fellow countrymen as well as people in the world as the one who paved the way for women into the political sphere, who joined the fight against AIDS in his country, who brought education to rural students, who expanded voting rights to all South Africans and who fought for peace and justice around the world.

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