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Home arrow Africa arrow ARABIAN POLITICAL REVOLT AND WORLD’S NEW POLITICAL REALITIES.
ARABIAN POLITICAL REVOLT AND WORLD’S NEW POLITICAL REALITIES. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joseph Ifeanyi Chikunie., Special Columnist, Nigerian News   
Feb 07, 2011 at 02:53 AM

 
Political watchers and scholars all over the world who were not convnced about Wiki leaks exposition of United States America’s foreign policy as hypocritical and in the main, self-serving; would no doubt have had a change of heart by now. This is due to latest political developments in the Arab world and Barack Obama administration’s reactions to it. I shall revisit this matter shortly.

 

As a doctoral student of Political philosophy then at the University, I often wondered why the widely accepted best system of governance, democracy in its purest form has been undermined in the Middle East, notably the Arab world. Leaders in such countries as Tunisia until of late, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria et cetera have not only ruled their people for so many years but some have even openly groomed their sons to take over from them.

Furthermore, these monarchical-democrats are stupendously wealthy while majority of the citizenry wallow in abject poverty. For a very long time, the people acquiesced to the domination of their rulers and could only mutter and grumble.

The despotic regimes in these Arab countries crushed any dissent while throwing many of their opponents into jail following convictions arising from trump up charges. Elections conducted were not credible and in most cases, the incumbent always wins landslide, ‘waterslide’ and ‘air slide’. The rigged elections always produced very corrupt government officials. As long as members of the government pay homage and remain loyal to the dictatorial lords, they could always get away with their loot.

In the meantime, the youths of these countries were allowed access to the internet, globalization and western civilization. Many of them luckily, could afford education in Europe and America thereby witnessing firsthand, the dividends accruing from true democracy. They became conversant with good governance and how countries are developed, not by the opulence of the oligarch but by the distribution of wealth equitably among the population.

The education of the Arabian youth has turned out to be the albatross of the corrupt elite who by now must be wondering if it was wise to allow the children of their subjects to be exposed to western civilization rather than censoring information from them.

It all started in Tunisia. Twenty-six year old Mohamed Bouazizi had been the sole income earner in his extended family of eight. He operated a purportedly unlicensed vegetable cart for seven years in Sidi Bouzid, 190 miles (300 km) south of Tunis.

On December 17, 2010 a policewoman seized his cart and produce. Bouazizi, who had suffered a similar experience in the past, tried to pay the 10-dinar fine (a day's wages, equivalent to 7USD). In response, the policewoman slapped him, spat in his face, and insulted his deceased father.

A humiliated Bouazizi then went to the provincial headquarters in an attempt to complain to local municipality officials. He was refused an audience. Without alerting his family, at 11:30 a.m. and within an hour of the initial confrontation, Bouazizi returned to the headquarters, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire. Public outrage quickly grew over the incident, leading to protests. This immolation and the subsequent heavy-handed response by the police to peaceful marchers caused riots the next day in Sidi Bouzid that went largely unnoticed, although social media sites such as Face book and YouTube featured images of police dispersing youths who attacked shop windows and damaged cars.

Bouazizi was subsequently transferred to a hospital near Tunis. In an attempt to quell the unrest President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali visited Bouazizi in hospital on December 28, 2010 but this Presidential redemption was too little, too late as Bouazizi died on January 4, 2011. His death became a unifying focal inspiration for the mostly youth uprising that eventually swept President Zine Ben Ali from power in Tunisia while having a regional impact soon after.

Sensitized and conscious youths all over the Arab world took notice and soon what happened in Tunisia spread like a wild tornado through the entire region. Since then, Egypt has remained practically paralyzed as millions of people demand Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Jordan have also witnessed protests. It is noteworthy that the Yemeni leader immediately offered not to renew his ‘mandate’ while also ruling out his son from assuming power after him.

However, it is the event in Egypt in particular, which has influenced billions of people to stay glued to their Television sets. The determination, tenacity and fearless disposition of the protesters have emboldened many people around the world. It will be foolish for rulers in other parts of the world not to learn from the events being played out in Egypt.

However, the so-called God’s own country, America has been entertaining us with her officials’ reactions to the fast evolving developments in Egypt. Let me simply take readers through the various statements by American leaders to the Egyptian uprising and I shall quote them verbatim.

On the 25th of January, 2011, the American Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton declared that “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable”. She again spoke the next day: “We are particularly hopeful that the Egyptian government will take this opportunity to implement political, economic and social reforms”. The next day, being the 27th of January, it was the turn of the gaffer Vice President, Joe Biden as he stated that “I will not refer him (Hosni Mubarak) as a dictator”. I observed that Biden spoke in a subdued and in an almost incomprehensible tone.

The President himself mounted the podium on the 28th of January, urging “a meaningful dialogue between government and the citizens”. Hillary Clinton returned on the 30th of January to tell the world that “it is not a question of who retain power in Egypt”. The protests persisted with government sponsored thugs and disguised security forces attacking protesters and it was not surprising that President Barack Obama unequivocally stated: “I indicated tonight to President Mubarak that it is my belief that the orderly transition must be meaningful, peaceful and it must begin now”. He again deemed it necessary to speak on the 3rd of February when he declared that “We pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized”.

Let us pause to state what rights and aspirations majority of Egyptians direly demand. They want their voices to be heard loud and clear that first and foremost, President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled them for thirty years must step down from power. To demonstrate their resolve, thousands of them have set up temporary homes in the liberation square called the Tahrir, in central Cairo where they have been protesting now for fourteen days!

The Americans are not through yet with their speeches from both sides of their mouths as the country’s former envoy to Egypt, pretentiously feigned ignorance of the true demand for an immediate regime change by Egyptians and waveringly supported by his own President.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner said at a security conference in Munich, Germany, that "President Mubarak remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future." 

Wisner said that Mubarak "must stay in office in order to steer those changes through. ... This is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward."  As a non serving foreign affairs official, the import of Wisner’s statement could have been undermined but here is a man who a few days ago, was appointed to mediate in the Egyptian crisis by the President himself. We know that foreign policy has never been the Democrats’ comfort zone for quite sometime in America’s politics but this oddity has raised the circus bar.

The theatre of absurd that the American foreign policy has become for ages witnessed an immediate disowning of Frank Wisner by his principals when State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "We have great respect for Frank Wisner and we were deeply appreciative of his willingness to travel to Egypt last week. He has not continued in any official capacity following the trip. The views he expressed today (Saturday, 5th February, 2011) are his own. He did not coordinate his comments with the U.S. government."

Regardless of Crowley’s grandstanding and posturing, the fact remains that America is in a dilemma over the Egyptian uprising. On the one hand, Barack Obama has so openly preached democracy and respect for citizens’ demands such that any failure on his part to back it up will seriously and fatally affect his legacy and possibly political career. On the other hand, America fears life in Post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt.

Somehow, the Americans have been mesmerized and brainwashed for years by Hosni and their own phobia that the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements most likely to be backed by Iran will take over power once Mubarak falls.

This thinking is misplaced because there is little or nothing to empirically prove that there is some sort of cultural or political affinity between Tehran and the organization.

Furthermore, it is intriguing to justify Mubarak’s attempt to midwife his own transition in what will be a pseudo democracy different in colour and tenor from that demanded for by most Egyptians.

Interestingly, the Muslim Brotherhood has intelligently read between the lines and having realized America’s fear for its vouched radical potency, has taken a back seat in the unfolding political drama in the country. Just yesterday, their leader told everyone who care to listen that the organization is not in the least, interested in political power. What the organization wants is simply a democracy that meets the expectations and aspirations of Egyptians. The question is, are the Americans and the western leaders convinced?

For many years, Hosni Mubarak has been tested and trusted as a helping hand for Americans. He has kept his own side of the bargain as far as peace with Israel is concerned. Egypt has been the ‘cooler’ in a region of  political conflagration. Mubarak himself has brokered peace deals between Israel and her restive neighbours. As pay back, he has annually enjoyed defense monetary grants running into millions of dollars. It is therefore easy to see why Americans hate to see their reliable friend go. But go, he must because Hosni Mubarak is a dead man walking as far as political power in Egypt is concerned.

History is replete with dictatorial rulers who have been nurtured, pampered and supported by America only for them to become evil and undesirable once they either outlive their usefulness or turn against the Americans themselves. Such personalities include Osama Bin Laden, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Saddam Hussein, Pervez Musharraf and now Hosni Mubarak among others.

Will America ever learn? How can a country preach the spread of true democracy around the world yet prefer a situation where certain groups of people do not become democratic rulers regardless of whether their people want them or not? The reality of the Hamas government rising in power in Palestine has taught Americans to be careful about what she desires. That radical organization defeated the Fatah party in very free and fair elections to the chagrin of the Yankees.

Though Hosni prefers to leave honourably at the end of his tenure in September, I doubt if he will succeed judging from how resolute his people are in their bid to push him out now. Whereas his family is worth 70 billion dollars, many of his subjects are mostly unemployed, without houses and living below the poverty line.

The Egyptian crisis is a further manifestation of new political realities only the naïve will ignore. The Arabian political storm is a wake up call to all rulers in so many ways.

The first of such realities is that some people can be fooled sometime but all the people cannot be fooled all the time. This statement made popular by the legendary Bob Marley though simple is ominous.

Secondly, all rulers who live lavishly while flouting ill-gotten wealth in the glare of their deprived citizenry must understand that one day, the anger of the populace will be kindled against them.

Thirdly, world powers as America and her allies must take a different direction in world politics. For years, they have hypocritically handled international affairs with bias depending on how best their interest can be protected. They keep encouraging despots once they can guarantee regional peace, a clampdown on radical elements and a free flow of wealth.

This has proven unsustainable and there must be an alternative. The West and the Americans must address the root causes of fundamentalism. Social and political inequalities must be phased out. It is high time that the Americans especially started calling a spade what it is. The bias against the Palestinians in their standoff with Israel is at the heart of radicalism in the Middle East.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister continues to erect settlements in contentious land. The Palestinians were responding to this through sporadic attacks on Israel and the American government urged them to stop if the peace process must continue. They further guaranteed that Israel will be prevailed upon to stop further construction of settlement in disputed land.

The Palestinians obliged yet Israel has not relented in their expansionism. The Americans could only offer rhetoric without any force or any strong United Nations resolutions against Israel. The double standard becomes clearly evident if we were to assume that it is the Palestinians who are expanding their bases in disputed land.

Justice does not recognize colour, race, creed or alliances. If a friend misbehaves against an enemy, it is fair to reprimand the friend and possibly win over the enemy. This is one lesson world rulers especially America and the West must learn.

Furthermore, it is only good governance, which guarantees the happiness and satisfaction of the citizenry. Hosni Mubarak was loved and highly respected when he came to power some thirty years ago. A historian is left bemused at the degree of hatred, disgust and resentment he now suffers from his own people. His son, Gamal who he has been grooming to take over from him just resigned his position from the party thereby foreclosing his future political career. The cookies have crumbled indeed.

Finally, the root cause of this Arabian revolt is corruption. This is a malaise that has destroyed many nations. I cannot end this piece without bringing this matter home. The government of Nigeria should not feel insulated from the Egyptian experience. It is instructive to note that Vice President Sambo vowed to tackle corruption soon after the Egyptian uprising. I wonder if Nigerians take his statement seriously.

The Nigerian government tolerates corruption and this is no more a secret. We see men who have been accused of corruption, arrested, sometimes arraigned only to be released inexplicably. These same men soon take up new appointments in juicy government departments. Few Nigerians will bet against one Chief Olabode George being appointed into an important office in the near future. This government continues to frolic and dine with shady characters perhaps in its bid to win the upcoming elections by fire, by  subtle force.

There is an African adage, which states that “when your neighbour’s beard catches fire, you must wet yours in time”. Goodluck Jonathan and his cohorts must take heed because the signs are already there. Nigerians can see events in other climes and with their eagle eyes; they watch how this government carries out the administration of this country.

Good governance and the equitable distribution of our resources coupled with a total clampdown on corruption with a truly zero tolerance in force is one sure way to head off this Arabian volcano from Nigeria.


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Last Updated ( Feb 07, 2011 at 04:09 AM )
Newsflash

The desperation in the Clinton camp showed the night before these latest primaries and caucus in what seems a shoot in all directions and praying one bullet hits the target tactics. And so, the campaign descended so low into plagiarism battle of wit in which only Lou Dobbs seemed to buy or care about. America has grown past Lou Dobbs and others who prowl on people's fear.

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