What are the lessons to be learned from these cases? What are the common characteristics and what are the unique elements in each case?
The most obvious common factor is the absence of violence by those who demand a change. Even with a more nuanced view on violence it is difficult to see these movements as violent actors. In most cases the leadership has actively argued against the use of violent means, even when met by brutal force from police and militaries. In most cases the arguments for not taking up arms or use counter-violence is based on a pragmatic point of view. Extremely few moral or pacifistic arguments are used by those who oppose violence. Hey regard it more as “stupid” than ethical wrong to meet violence with more violence. “The states are in most cases superior when it comes to violent means” is a frequent argument. “We want to meet them where we have a fair chance to win” is another.
The other common factor is that at a certain critical time huge groups of persons have gathered in central places in the capital (and often if other cities) and made the opposition visible and heard. Confronting the police and army with flowers, symbols, slogans and peaceful behavior have made it difficult for a regime to use brutal force without risking a serious backfire effect. In the same way as a regime is almost obliged to use violence when confronted with armed upraising it is almost impossible to justify massive killing of unarmed citizens. The peaceful protesters have the ethical argument on their side and will most probably gain moral support from external actors as well as from the public.
One of the most debated factors in these cases is the importance of external support; more specifically external financial support. Critical voices from abroad join in with the establishment in disapproval of an oppositional movement being financed from abroad. “He who pays the player decides the tune” is a recurrent argument. But in only a few cases the greater parts of the money have been raised abroad. In Ukraine it was around 20%, the rest came from domestic sources.
It is possible to identify links between a numbers of these cases. Not only vague inspirations, but also very practical help in preparations and training have taken place. Most significantly in the recent wave of so called Colored Revolutions, but also similar channels of communication and support in earlier revolutionary processes.
There is clearly a need for more research on these revolutions. Specifically the African cases are under researched, but much more is still to be done in the others as well. Most literature today has focused on the “political science side” of these revolutions. Researchers with background in Social Movements and Conflict studies will have important contributions to complement what is done already. The complexity of these revolutionary processes are still to be mapped, analyzed, and understood. The impact from many external and/or contextual factors are still not properly understood and the conditions under which these events occur is still unknown.