When 26 year old Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in Tunisia, he unconsciously set ablaze a chain of events that can shape the History of the Middle East and African countries. His extreme act set ahead a domino effect with major protests in Egypt and gradual dissent in Libya. This act of violence can be traced back to government apathy and oppression for years. What started off in Tunisia can well be understood as a year following the systematic breakdown and vituperation of liberal democracies by Julian Assange. The founder of wikileaks (a terrorist organization according to some senators in America) tore apart governments across the world and sent a cannon ball flying through the heart of American diplomacy. The press underestimated the potential damage and once its ramifications were truly understood, a horde of journalists jumped the bandwagon hurling names at Assange.
2011, started in true Assange style. The Tunisian people decided that it was time their dictatorial leader, Ben Ali got the sack since ruling from 1987. An interesting note is the way the Internet ensured that Bouazizi’s act remained in the minds of the people. Al-Jazeera (kudos to them) posted the video of his immolation and small uprisings in their website when much of the local channels refused to broadcast the item. Bolstered by the revolts it became a National movement from a small village in Tunisia. Not a single political party of the opposition was involved in organizing the riots. This was truly a peoples’ revolution motivated at the face of government indifference.
Dubbed as the Jasmine revolution (National flower of Tunisia) the fate of Ben ALi was swift and disastrous. The President has currently been exiled from the country. The void created in the government office should uphold democratic credentials lest the people of Tunisia have failed in their dire endeavours. Rachid Ghannouchi is largely being tipped to be the new President of Tunisia. These are ominous concerns for a secular nation and Mr. Ghannouchi has a record of religious intolerance and his fundamentalist ideas of Islam. A number of political pundits are also predicting the possibility of an Iranian theocratic state similar to the likes of the Iranian revolution in 1979. If this happens, it defeats the essence of the revolution and could have immense ramifications on the sustenance of an already fledgling economy. I say this because I am wary of America’s power in trade and other government’s pandering towards the superpower.
When President Obama chose to make his iconic speech in 2009 to reach out to the Muslim world, he chose Cairo as the obvious destination. Egypt’s strategic location and its Muslim culture was the ideal venue to air the American Presidents’ speech. In his speech, he spoke about the need for democracy even if not an American one. It is indeed ironical that Egypt has a President, Mr. Hosni Mubarak who has magically been voted in favour for 30 years, from 1987. That is hardly surprising when American democracy itself has a 98% return rate for government incumbents. The Soviet politburo had a 92% return rate!
The Egyptian revolution drew inspiration from neighbouring Tunisia on the same issues plaguing its country. Low wages, Unemployment, high food inflation and apathy bordering on sheer arrogance. As I craft this article, the protests have entered the 6th day and the people want Hosni Mubarak to step down. The timing of his departure is crucial as elections will commence on September this year. The objective of the protesters will be to deport Mr. Hosni and not allow him to contest the elections. If Mr. Hosni does attempt to put his son Gamal for the elections the purpose of the protests will be lost.
Similar to Tunisia, the protests in Egypt seems to have found ground amongst its people. Its testimonial to the resilience in which the people have flogged the streets of Egypt. Many political pundits believe that the most deprived masses are yet to join the revolution and it will soon crumble. I however find that hard to believe because the present protests are in itself a handful and it will only bolster the objectives, should more people join the revolution.
After the revolts in Egypt, folks in Washington seemed to be confused with their responses. That too is hardly surprising when you have channels like Fox and CNN. While Mrs Clinton staunchly spoke against the revolt and appealed for peace and calm, Mr. Obama’s views were varied based on the surge of the protests. As there was a spike in protests Washington seems to have gradually demanding answers and acting ambivalent. (Again, hardly surprising?)
I sincerely hope other African countries will draw inspiration from the two countires and start a revolution like the French revolution of 1868. Keeping in mind the destitute conditions Africa has endured, the British colonial rule too seems like a welcome change. It is time the African people demanded for their share of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
Which brings me to the final point. INDIA. Though the revolutions’ domino might not reach the shores of Indian soil, there are many parallels that can be drawn from the 2 countries. 3 Multi crore scams, high food inflation and hilarious nepotism. I say hilarious only because it is unfathomable when we look at the power of dynasty politics India has so easily fallen prey too. Buying the most basic of all products like Onions for 100 rupees, does not help the cause either. This seems to be the time to join the humanitarian fight, just when we have found common interest from other countries. So, will it be time for a Permanent Revolution as JP Narayanan cried out loud during Indira Gandhi’s totalitarian regime?
If it does happen, I will be in the streets… Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and a whole bunch of selected words, all over again…