The 1990s witnessed profound political change throughout the continent of Africa. Tired and frustrated with one-party, autocratic, and often military rule, ordinary African citizens in country after country began to voice and demonstrate their discontent in 1990. As the former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe broke ranks with the Soviet Union to claim their independence, these extraordinary events served as an added catalyst to African civil servants, market women, taxi drivers and peri-urban inhabitants to rise up against what they increasingly viewed as repressive governments and regimes, which had done little or nothing to improve their living standards and conditions. Almost ten years later, twenty-plus nations have held democratic elections at least twice; elements of civil society are evident; government has become more participatory and transparent; freedom of the press and free speech are evident everywhere; military regimes are becoming a relic of the past; and economic reforms and real growth are beginning to register a positive impact on formerly ravaged countries such as Mozambique and Uganda. There have been difficulties and setbacks in several countries, but overall, the future looks promising for the world's last frontier.

Nigeria, a complicated, complex, and troubled nation of an estimated 120 million people, where the military has ruled for all but ten years of independence, looms as Africa's most important country in political transition. With the passing of former hardline dictator General Sani Abacha and the ascendency of his enlightened and reform minded-successor, General Abdusalami Abubakar, Nigerians, as well as the international community, are somewhat optimistic that this pivotal nation may finally participate in democratic elections to return the country to civilian rule.



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