Posts Tagged ‘ Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ’

Third World Thugs and Dictators- A History of Self Serving Interests

By Manzer Munir, Pakistanis for Peace

What is it about power and its hold on a person? Not just the common man, but even the most noblest and patriotic of men have let its allure defy the loyalty to their county’s best interests. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The recent events in Egypt have proven this axiom quite aptly as we are witnessing history in the making with the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

There is a popular, ï»żï»żgrassroots, and mostly peaceful uprising against the repressive and longtime authoritative administration of President Hosni Mubarak. Only the fourth president in the history of the modern day republic of Egypt, Mubarak was a soldier in the Yom Kippur War against Israel and served as the Commander of the Air Force as well as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Having served nearly 30 years, he is the only leader most people in Egypt have ever known where more than half the population is under 25. Long seen by the outside world as a model of stability in the volatile neighborhood of the Middle East, Mubarak’s policies of continuing the peace treaty with Israel signed by his predecessor Anwar Sadat, belied the fact that at home in Egypt he had employed many heavy handed and authoritarian tactics to quell dissent at various times in his 30 year rule.

But what may have appeared as strengths to the outside world were weaknesses at a domestic level. Mubarak came to be seen by the average Egyptians as presiding over policies that increased unemployment and also raised the cost of living for many already struggling people. For many, the economic reforms had come to be equated with corruption, as many political leaders were mixing  family business interests with their official roles, and corruption at the highest levels has fully become entrenched in all levels of Egyptian society, much like in many developing countries.

Another example of the measure of cronyism and despotic rule practiced in Mubarak’s Egypt that showed contempt for the democratic aspirations of the common man was his grooming of his son Gamal for eventual leadership of Egypt. It was no surprise in the international community that for the last 8 years Mubarak was exposing his son to more and more official state functions and visits, having most recently brought Gamal to Washington for the opening of Middle East peace talks in the fall of 2010.

Now in the last few weeks, after protests in another North African Arab country of Tunisia that saw the toppling of the 24 year reign of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Mubarak’s iron grip on power seems a lot less secure to Egyptians who have been bolstered by the ouster of Ali, another notoriously corrupt and dictatorial ruler of Mubarak’s ilk.

It has become common place to see time after time, in developing countries across the world, but especially in Africa and Asia, autocratic and corrupt rulers who either seize power in military coups or are initially elected in some democratic way, only to hold on to power any way they can. Whether the ruler be Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has held power of that country since 1980 and who despite having lost even the last few rigged elections, has remained defiantly in power. One could also point to another African leader, Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast who refuses to step down from power after having lost the elections of his country in November of 2010 to Alassane Ouattara. Despite losing the election he sits in the presidential palace in the capital Yamoussoukro, still refusing to listen to the world community and even personal pleas from President Obama to relinquish power to the victor of the Ivory Coast elections, Alassane Ouattara.

An Indonesian friend mentioned to me that what is happening in Egypt is exactly how the Indonesians got rid of Suharto, who had come to power and control over Indonesia 32 years prior in large part due to his service and rank in the military.

Examples of such greed for power, money and influence as well as the disregard for the health and well being of their nations are more commonplace in the developing world than in the industrialized nations. It is not to say that in European and western countries there have not been cases of greed and corruption.  However, when the stability and very health of a country’s political system was severely tested, as in my homeland of the United States, a president like Richard Nixon resigned from power, however embarrassingly and went off quietly into history, rather than hold on to the last vestiges of power and control over a sinking country and its national spirit.

For Mubarak, the question should be asked how can this soldier of the uniform can look in the mirror the last few days knowing that every passing day that there are riots in the streets of Cairo, he is undermining the sovereignty, nationhood and the very peace of his motherland. A person like this obviously cares more about their place in history than the well being of their people, their institutions, and their country.

Sooner or later, the chants will get loud enough to be heard outside Mubarak’s residence in the presidential Heliopolis Palace and the people will undoubtedly ask: “Oh Mubarak can’t you see? Time to join Ben Ali.”

Manzer Munir is a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, who is a Sufi Muslim and is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites such as www.DigitalJournal.com, www.Allvoices.com, www.Examiner.com and www.open.salon.com as a freelance journalist and writer. He asks that you join the official Facebook Page of Pakistanis for Peace to be informed of the latest articles  here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Pakistanis-for-Peace/141071882613054

 

Arab Pundits Cheer the Tunisia, Egypt Protests

ï»żBy Salameh Nematt for Newsweek

Following the political earthquake that removed Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power nearly two weeks ago, seismic waves have been shaking ruling regimes from Algeria to Egypt, and from Jordan to Yemen. But if political earthquakes could somehow be measured on a “political” Richter scale, the question would be: Is this a magnitude 3 mild tremor that will pass, leaving behind little damage to the region’s authoritarian regimes and dictatorships? Or will it prove to be a magnitude 7 shocker, causing serious damage to a number of regimes?

Watching and reading Arab pundits and political analysts offers no conclusive answer. Most of the pan-Arab press appears to be celebrating the “Jasmine Revolution” that brought down the Tunisian dictator, cheering on protesters in Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, and Jordan and the rest of the Arab world. Meanwhile, Arab leaders have been at pains not to appear opposed to “the will of the Tunisian people” while at the same time trying not to encourage the spread of the “democracy virus” to their own countries.

It is anybody’s guess how events will ultimately unfold in Tunisia, where a transitional government made up of remnants of the “ancien regime” and a group of opposition and independent figures is trying to appease the disorganized and still angry masses, promising sweeping political reforms and democratic elections within months. But so far Tunisia’s revolution has only gone halfway, removing a president and shaking the establishment but not gutting the entrenched regime that still holds considerable power. That regime includes a military-security establishment that might decide, at any moment, to take things into its own hands and decide the future of the country, for better or worse.

It would be naive to assume that Tunisia has already made the transition from dictatorship to democracy before the current standoff unfolds, a process that may take several months and could turn bloody at any moment.

But the events in the region have certainly dispelled a number of myths and offered a few lessons for governments and observers. Perhaps the most important myth is that the Arab regimes, most of which have been ruling for decades, are too resilient and cannot be toppled, except through foreign military intervention or an inside coup or seizure of power. The other myth now being seriously questioned throughout the Arab media is that Islamists are the only alternative to these secular or apparently secular regimes. In Tunisia, the Islamists appeared to have little visible influence in the popular uprising, while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has deliberately kept a low profile, perhaps for tactical reasons, leaving the disorganized popular masses of protesters of various political shades to take the lead.

Elaph.com, the Arab world’s most popular online newspaper, argues that the recent events in the region have demonstrated that “people are capable of breaking the fear barrier,” despite the ruthlessness of the ruling regimes. The paper quoted Burhan Ghalyoun, the director of a Middle East research center, as expressing surprise that the Tunisians “have achieved massive change at lightning speed, which goes to prove that change is not as difficult as we previously thought.”

Understandably, most of the official and semi-official Arab media have recognized people’s “right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression,” echoing calls from Washington and the West, but warned, at the same time, against actions that may undermine stability and security. Wisely, many governments in the region, including that of Jordan, have moved quickly to reduce the prices of consumer goods and promise political reforms to preempt an escalation of popular anger.

But unlike previous protests in Egypt and other Arab countries, this time the region’s leaders and their governments have not rushed to blame “foreign forces,” namely the U.S. and other Western countries, for instigating the riots. Tunisia’s government had always adopted a pro-Western stance, but today the West, which had turned a blind eye to human rights violations in that country for decades, is now almost silently watching as that regime crumbles, without any sign of wanting to do anything to save it.

However, one might argue that this month’s protests are not only the product of worsening living conditions resulting from the global economic crisis and homegrown corruption and mismanagement. They are also the product of decades of political oppression and humiliation by regimes that are now beginning to realize they can no longer oppress their own people with impunity. Social media and other modern and widely accessible communications tools have stripped these regimes of their monopoly on information. And since knowledge is power, the power is now shifting from the ruling few to the unruly masses, and these masses, in turn, are challenging the status quo throughout the region. But it is certainly too early for pro-democracy advocates in the region and beyond to bring out the Champagne glasses. It isn’t over till it’s over, and it is definitely not over yet.

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