A Force More Powerful
The documentary explores the development of non-violent resistance movements across
five countries namely: India, the U.S.A., South Africa, Poland, Denmark, and Chile
(International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, n.d.). In all cases, the protagonists were
challenging authority figures in a bid to change the status quo. Mahatma Gandhi led the Indian
struggle for independence, emphasizing non-violent strategies such as mass demonstrations.
Students from Fisk University and the American Baptist College organized sit-ins at segregated
restaurants to demonstrate against overt segregation in Nashville, Tennessee. In Port Elizabeth,
South Africa, social activists led by Mkhuseli Jack organized consumer boycotts of white-owned
businesses in protest against the Apartheid regime. Denmark’s general population resisted the
Nazi occupation non-violent means such as songfests, go-slows and sabotage in factories, and
rescuing Danish Jews who were targeted by the regime. The interfactory strikes in Poland, led by
Lech Walesa, sought improved working conditions and unionization from the Communist
government. Lastly, go-slows and mass demonstrations in Chile targeted the hostile regime of
The non-violent movements reviewed in A Force More Powerful were successful.
Gandhi’s mobilization of the masses culminated in India’s independence from the British in
1947. The Nashville sit-ins gained national media coverage and massive support from the local
African American community, leading to the sanctioning of desegregation by Mayor Ben West.
The consumer boycott of Port Elizabeth increased pressure on local government forcing the local
Chamber of Commerce to accept the demands of African leaders due to deteriorating business.
Ultimately the nonviolent action forced the resignation of Prime Minister Botha, leading up to
the end of apartheid. Non-violent resistance in Denmark prevented the massive loss of life and
property, while still overturning Nazi rule. The Gdansk strikes in Poland resulted in free unions,
free press, and parliamentary elections. Union activist, Lech Walesa, became Poland’s first
democratically elected president. Lastly, mass mobilization leading up to the 1988 referendum
led to a win for the No Campaign and an end to Pinochet’s regime.
The methods used for civil resistance were perfect for their purposes. The highlighted
groups would not have achieved their aims using an armed struggle. Mass demonstrations in
Denmark at the beginning of the Nazi occupation could perhaps have inspired parliament to
devise a collaborative strategy rather than leaving the country under the direct rule of the Nazi.
Bringing Down a Dictator
Otpor was a pro-democracy movement whose goal was to end the reign of Slobodan
Milosevic nonviolently. The dictator terrorized the Balkans, taking Serbia to war in Croatia,
Bosnia, and Kosovo. Milosevic’s actions resulted in ethnic cleansing, repression, unemployment,
corruption, and poverty. Otpor, which was founded by student activists, sought to end
Milosevic’s reign, which had robbed them of 10 years. Otpor organized non-violent protests in
Belgrade and other cities across the country, demanding accountability from Milosevic’s
government. Otpor also fostered the collaboration of opposition leaders in Serbia leading to the
formation of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). Despite the organization being
primarily made up of young adults, it attracted worldwide attention thus garnering overt financial
aid from the USA and European nations.
Otpor succeeded in removing Slobodan Milosevic from power through non-violent
means. By fostering the union of opposition leaders, Otpor strengthened the opposition’s chances
of unseating Milosevic. By this time, Otpor was popular throughout the country for its insistence
on the removal of the dictator. Otpor was a significant player in the opposition’s campaign, using
independent media to spread the message of a new Serbia. Otpor’s strategy of persistence and
patience after the elections ensured that protests did not erupt into violence. The resultant public
uprising forced Milosevic to leave power.
Otpor’s strategies revolved around political activism. However, perhaps the movement
could have been more effective if it considered economically-focused strategies. Union action is
usually effective in forcing government action. By organizing nationwide worker strikes, Otpor
could have heaped more pressure on Milosevic’s government. The rationale is that the
government could not afford further economic downturn given Serbia’s economic problems.
The Orange Revolution was formed in opposition to the corrupt regime of Leonid
Kuchma and his appointed successor Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition, led by individuals
such as Viktor Yuschenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, spearheaded the movement. The government
targeted the movement by blocking the opposition’s access to mainstream media and using
security agencies for intimidation. The principal weapon of the Orange Revolution was mass
demonstration. The opposition organized tent cities across the country to coordinate protests.
Protestors were provided with tents, sleeping bags, and food. The mass demonstrations attracted
hundreds of thousands across the country. The emphasis on non-violence was illustrated by the
insistence on non-engagement with police. The cordial relationship prevented clashes that could
have resulted in the loss of lives and damage of property, thus compromising their objective to
beat Viktor Yanukovych.
The movement was successful since it ultimately got Viktor Yuschenko the presidency.
The mass protests rattled the administration forcing strategic mistakes. The attempts to poison
Yuschenko increased support for the opposition. The intensity of the protests increased after
elections, which were marred by claims of vote manipulation by the government. The protests
continued throughout the election period since the Central Electoral Commission mandated the
second round of elections. Opting for legal redress for claims of voter manipulation rather than
violence also proved successful. Yanukovich’s win was overturned and Yuschenko went on to
win the rerun, becoming Ukraine’s third president.
The Orange Revolution could also have adopted other non-violent methods to
complement the mass protests. Go slows in workplaces forced the government to address
concerns raised by the opposition with more urgency. Additionally, involving trade unions could
also have been a viable option to increase pressure on the incumbents.
Confronting the Truth
The documentary explores the work of truth commissions in South Africa, Peru, East
Timor, and Morocco. Truth commissions seek to help society face painful pasts in addition to
helping chart a new course for the future. In South Africa, the truth commissions tackled the
horrors of the Apartheid regime, which imposed suffering on African communities across the
country. Peru’s truth commission sought to shed light on the persecution of indigenous peoples
of Ayacucho province. In East Timor, the focus was the population’s suffering during 24 years
of military occupation by Indonesia. Lastly, Morocco’s truth commission sought to uncover the
truth about political persecution during the reign of King Hassan II.
The goal of truth commissions is to provide remedies to victims of human rights
violations and educate current and future generations. In this regard, the truth commission
reviewed in Confronting the Truth was successful. In South Africa, most of the white population
was oblivious to the horrors of the Apartheid regime in black townships. The same applies to
Peru, where the urban population was unaware of human casualties during the government’s war
against the Shining Path. Morocco’s population knew little about the torture camps ran by the
government. The truth commission helped educate the public about the dangers of tyranny.
However, despite the success of the truth commissions in informing the public, there were
concerns about the implementation of recommendations by the government in all cases.
The limitations of truth commissions mean that a hybrid approach should be adopted to
heal nations. The introduction of comprehensive compensation packages for victims would help
right previous failings by the government. A balance between restorative and retributive justice
is also necessary. This would help deal with unresolved injustice.
Egypt: Revolution Interrupted
The Egyptian Revolution sought to depose President Hosni Mubarak and reintroduce
democratic rule in the country. The movement relied primarily on mass demonstrations. Groups
against the incumbent included the Kefaya Movement, the April 6 Youth Movement, and the
Muslim Brotherhood. The issues brought forward by the opposition groups against President
Mubarak were the use of state police, martial law, and torture as tools of repression. All groups
coordinated mass protests, eventually leading to Tahrir Square. The emphasis on non-violent
protest by the opposition groups ensured no loss of lives during the 2011 revolution. Besides
mass protests, the movement also recruited labor unions to join in the struggle. This affected the
economy, thus hastening the drive towards the goal of deposing President Mubarak.
The multidimensional nature of the Egyptian Revolution complicated the measure of
success. The revolution successfully deposed President Mubarak with the help of the military.
However, the entry of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) complicated matters for
the revolution since the military imposed military rule rather than democracy. The Muslim
Brotherhood’s decision to collaborate with the military also undermined the revolution since the
brotherhood sought to impose Islamist rule. The quest for democracy ultimately failed since
Egypt ended up under General El Sisi’s authoritarian regime marked by the repression of labor
unions, civil rights groups, and the media.
The mixed success of the Egyptian Revolution illustrates that the opposition could have
adopted other methods to prevent the country’s reversion to the military. The lack of clear
leadership of the opposition was a major reason for failure. Therefore, organization as a unified
political party, as was the case in Serbia, could have ensured a transition to civilian rule.
Additionally, the involvement of foreign allies could have prevented the two military coups.
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (n.d.). ICNC films. https://www.nonviolent-