By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon
The Phrase ‘Aluta Continua’ was the rallying cry of the FRELIMO movement during Mozambique’s war for independence. It was used popularly by the nation’s first president and leader of Frelimo, the beloved Samora Machel. Translated to English, the phrase is interpreted: “the struggle continues.”
Literally, in the life of the people, the masses, the people who legitimize power for politicians, are conduits for politicians to attain power, although they are usually trashed after that.
In my country, Liberia, there is the ‘dump-truck theory,’ a theory that the truck that builds the castle is not allowed there when the castle is fully constructed. The people that give power through their votes are left stranded, destitute, neglected and poor, by corrupt and sometimes inept men who hold the keys to power.
The firebrand face of the progressive movement in Liberia, the radical G. Bacchus Matthews, is credited with preceding the phrase with the clause, “in the cause of the people.”
So, the people are the common denominator in the fight for power in a democracy. They are akin to a voiceless child, whose sentiments, emotions and pains are heard and known to the hearts of mothers. A child’s mother understands when the child is hungry, in pain or probably just needs attention. The people are unable to communicate their feelings and hold discussions as a group, save through their elected leaders. In other words, they give their voice to one figurehead to go out there and speak for them and put their cases before the larger body. In a democracy, the legislature is a body of men and women that are the direct voices of the common man to ensure checks and balances, to avoid, among other things, domineering leaders in the executive branch of government to rule unchecked. Usually, there is either a conspiracy of power or a collision of power. When the leaders entrusted by the people collide, conspire or connive to betray the voice of the people, the result is frustration, dissent and the urge to revolt.
When the people become frustrated and disenchanted, it gives rise to a new group of opportunists and power enthusiasts: the demagogues. These are the brand that appeal to popular sentiments capable of rallying the masses to follow their loose rhetoric with little direction and incoherent logic. The demagogues have a script that appeals to the soul of the masses. They neither have a thorough understanding of the issues nor a blueprint to solutions. They are a stitch in time; they slide in when those in power close the line of communication with the people and ignore their cries. The people, in constant need of reassurance, are mesmerized by the rhetoric of the demagogues and follow them. Sadly, and often so, when the demagogues ascend to power, they leave the masses staring at the gates, thus leading to a vicious cycle of a rise in demagogues at different points in time in history. Demagogues are so influentially dangerous that they are able to rally the masses to war and destruction.
Disappointedly, when the people lose faith in demagogues, they retrieve their power from everyone and take it in their hands. When power is not used wisely, the people reveal, through frustrations, that they are the real custodians of power. History has proved this. People can remove kingdoms.
During the French Revolution, market women led a march that ended the independence of King Louis XVI in what became known in history as ‘The March on Versailles.’ This was one of the several events leading to the French Revolution. The market women along with some agitators grew in their ranks and began a revolution that brought reforms in France. Hunger and women’s despair in the economic realities in France were cited as reasons for ‘The March on Versailles.’ This is symbolic of the power of people to effect change, sometimes disorderly and leading to chaos.
In all regards, the power of the people is best utilized when their elected representatives use them sensibly to benefit the cause of the people. If not, either aroused by a demagogue or fed up with the system, the people, taking back their power violently from their elected leaders, can be disastrous. The raw use of power by the people can have positive or negative effects. There is an insatiable urge for representation and fair dealings in a democracy, which leads its subjects to allow the rise of insincere leaders who use the backs of the people to cross over. They then end up whipping the backs of the masses to submit, and rain insults on those that gave them the keys to power. Until the people can understand and define the crux of the struggle for rights, social justice, empowerment and upliftment, the journey is long and uncertain. Aluta Continua!
Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Writer, Poet, Pan Africanist and the Founder of Africa’s Life. He can be reached at [email protected]