Showing posts tagged as "Arab Spring"

Showing posts tagged Arab Spring

27 May
Tunisia could be the first Arab Spring success. But it’s not there yet | Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman visited political, business, and civil society leaders in Tunisia as part of a recent trip with the International Crisis Group, of which she is a board member. This article originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
In Roman times wild animals paced beneath Tunisia’s El Jem colosseum, ready to spring into mortal combat with gladiators – usually slaves fighting for their lives and sometimes freedom – as an audience looked on. Recently I paced the floor of this same amphitheater, trying to imagine its history – and future.
Today, Tunisia is engaged in its own struggle for the life of its new democracy. Though a small country – 64,000 square miles with 11 million people – Tunisia is vital to regional stability. Now this ancient North African country where the Arab Spring began is poised to become the first success in the region – but only if it can shore up a weak economy, curb the dual threats of terrorism and crime, and continue needed government reforms.
Three years after a young street vendor set himself on fire to protest the authorities’ harassment and corruption, three years after the citizens rose up and ejected their longtime autocratic leader, Tunisia has laid the groundwork for its future. In January, the citizenry adopted a new Constitution that was widely debated and passed with the votes of more than 90 percent of the Constituent Assembly. All sectors endorse and are proud of the forward-leaning Constitution, which balances the secular and religious and is looked at as a model for the region.
As a further mark of progress, the Assembly recently passed a law establishing a judicial body to determine the constitutionality of new laws. It will be replaced by a new constitutional court after the next election. This opens the way now for the Assembly to pass a law to set up elections, which are anticipated this year.
Many donors and investors, particularly in the West and in the Gulf, are awaiting these elections before they commit further aid. Citizens are hoping the partisanship that divided the country after the revolution won’t reemerge. As one trade union leader told me, this frustration helped pave the way for the new government: “Technocrats were accepted as an interim government because people were fed up with political parties.”
A Marshall Plan for Tunisia
Still, large challenges lie ahead for Tunisia. The greatest is the economy, which remains state-controlled and relies on large subsidies it can’t afford. Some say the country is on the brink of bankruptcy. Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa visited the United States and the Gulf in April looking for financial assistance, including loan guarantees. 
Mr. Jomaa has agreed with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund that the subsidy programs must be cut back or ended, but there are political and societal costs when prices on energy and food suddenly rise and government employment decreases. Unemployment is already more than 15 percent and as much as 40 percent among youth. In a show of good faith, President Moncef Marzouki recently announced he is taking a two-thirds pay cut.
But Tunisia’s future will not be assured without international support. As Mustapha Ben Jaafar, president of the Constituent Assembly, said to me and a small gathering of international observers: “We need a Marshall Plan for Tunisia and the Maghreb.”
The threat of terrorism
Another threat to Tunisia’s progress is terrorism, along with weapons flows and black market smuggling across the borders of neighboring Algeria and Libya.
“Gangsters control weapons and drug traffic,” Sihem Bensedrine, a prominent journalist and human rights activist, told me. She explained the context that gives rise to violence and illicit activity. “We don’t want to give religious cover to jihadists who are really criminals. The violence is created by poverty. There is a generation of young people marginalized. The state doesn’t have money. The money is in the gray economy, which some say is 60 percent of the economy.”
In order to curb the threat of violent extremism and its links to crime, Tunisia must continue to address the poverty and disillusionment that fuel it. Economic reforms and foreign aid to support economic growth are thus doubly important to Tunisia’s future.
Out with the old
Tunisia must also dismantle and reform the structures of the old dictatorship, including the police and the Ministry of the Interior. Close observers say that the success of the country’s democratic transition depends on the government’s ability to decentralize as well.
The concentration of government at the national level has bred corruption. As Ms. Bensedrine put it: “As long as [the] administration is centralized, it gets many privileges.” Decentralization (establishing more empowered regional governments) has been enshrined in the new Constitution to allow a more equitable distribution of revenue and governance.
“The country has long been divided by its coastal wealth and poorer interior,” former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali explained to me and our small group of international visitors. Some legislators are thus looking to redraw regions so each includes both coastal and interior areas.
Reasons to hope
In spite of the challenges it faces, Tunisia has many advantages that set it up well for progress. For one, it has an educated population (both women and men) and has a 90 percent literacy rate. Women also hold key positions in the public and private workforce.
In addition, Tunisia’s proximity to Europe (geographically, culturally, and historically) facilitates exports and manufacturing. Tunisia also offers a historical bridge between Islam and secularism, one that has played a key role in its democratic transition – and will help it maintain international support going forward.
As I stood in Tunisia’s famous amphitheater (the setting for the movie “Gladiator”), two things were clear to me: The beasts of poverty, terrorism, and criminality wait just beneath the surface to destroy Tunisia’s democratic dream. But Tunisia is also poised to show that more-benevolent and more-moderate forces, including the citizens’ own determination to have democracy, can prevail. 
We – the international community – are the spectators in this great match. But we cannot just sit in the audience and watch. For the sake of Tunisia – and the region – the world must engage and support Tunisia’s economic and political progress. As one local governor told me, “We are determined to succeed with a democratic state. We will not go back!”
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)
Photo:  Wassim Ben Rhouma/flickr

Tunisia could be the first Arab Spring success. But it’s not there yet | Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman visited political, business, and civil society leaders in Tunisia as part of a recent trip with the International Crisis Group, of which she is a board member. This article originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.

In Roman times wild animals paced beneath Tunisia’s El Jem colosseum, ready to spring into mortal combat with gladiators – usually slaves fighting for their lives and sometimes freedom – as an audience looked on. Recently I paced the floor of this same amphitheater, trying to imagine its history – and future.

Today, Tunisia is engaged in its own struggle for the life of its new democracy. Though a small country – 64,000 square miles with 11 million people – Tunisia is vital to regional stability. Now this ancient North African country where the Arab Spring began is poised to become the first success in the region – but only if it can shore up a weak economy, curb the dual threats of terrorism and crime, and continue needed government reforms.

Three years after a young street vendor set himself on fire to protest the authorities’ harassment and corruption, three years after the citizens rose up and ejected their longtime autocratic leader, Tunisia has laid the groundwork for its future. In January, the citizenry adopted a new Constitution that was widely debated and passed with the votes of more than 90 percent of the Constituent Assembly. All sectors endorse and are proud of the forward-leaning Constitution, which balances the secular and religious and is looked at as a model for the region.

As a further mark of progress, the Assembly recently passed a law establishing a judicial body to determine the constitutionality of new laws. It will be replaced by a new constitutional court after the next election. This opens the way now for the Assembly to pass a law to set up elections, which are anticipated this year.

Many donors and investors, particularly in the West and in the Gulf, are awaiting these elections before they commit further aid. Citizens are hoping the partisanship that divided the country after the revolution won’t reemerge. As one trade union leader told me, this frustration helped pave the way for the new government: “Technocrats were accepted as an interim government because people were fed up with political parties.”

A Marshall Plan for Tunisia

Still, large challenges lie ahead for Tunisia. The greatest is the economy, which remains state-controlled and relies on large subsidies it can’t afford. Some say the country is on the brink of bankruptcy. Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa visited the United States and the Gulf in April looking for financial assistance, including loan guarantees. 

Mr. Jomaa has agreed with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund that the subsidy programs must be cut back or ended, but there are political and societal costs when prices on energy and food suddenly rise and government employment decreases. Unemployment is already more than 15 percent and as much as 40 percent among youth. In a show of good faith, President Moncef Marzouki recently announced he is taking a two-thirds pay cut.

But Tunisia’s future will not be assured without international support. As Mustapha Ben Jaafar, president of the Constituent Assembly, said to me and a small gathering of international observers: “We need a Marshall Plan for Tunisia and the Maghreb.”

The threat of terrorism

Another threat to Tunisia’s progress is terrorism, along with weapons flows and black market smuggling across the borders of neighboring Algeria and Libya.

“Gangsters control weapons and drug traffic,” Sihem Bensedrine, a prominent journalist and human rights activist, told me. She explained the context that gives rise to violence and illicit activity. “We don’t want to give religious cover to jihadists who are really criminals. The violence is created by poverty. There is a generation of young people marginalized. The state doesn’t have money. The money is in the gray economy, which some say is 60 percent of the economy.”

In order to curb the threat of violent extremism and its links to crime, Tunisia must continue to address the poverty and disillusionment that fuel it. Economic reforms and foreign aid to support economic growth are thus doubly important to Tunisia’s future.

Out with the old

Tunisia must also dismantle and reform the structures of the old dictatorship, including the police and the Ministry of the Interior. Close observers say that the success of the country’s democratic transition depends on the government’s ability to decentralize as well.

The concentration of government at the national level has bred corruption. As Ms. Bensedrine put it: “As long as [the] administration is centralized, it gets many privileges.” Decentralization (establishing more empowered regional governments) has been enshrined in the new Constitution to allow a more equitable distribution of revenue and governance.

“The country has long been divided by its coastal wealth and poorer interior,” former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali explained to me and our small group of international visitors. Some legislators are thus looking to redraw regions so each includes both coastal and interior areas.

Reasons to hope

In spite of the challenges it faces, Tunisia has many advantages that set it up well for progress. For one, it has an educated population (both women and men) and has a 90 percent literacy rate. Women also hold key positions in the public and private workforce.

In addition, Tunisia’s proximity to Europe (geographically, culturally, and historically) facilitates exports and manufacturing. Tunisia also offers a historical bridge between Islam and secularism, one that has played a key role in its democratic transition – and will help it maintain international support going forward.

As I stood in Tunisia’s famous amphitheater (the setting for the movie “Gladiator”), two things were clear to me: The beasts of poverty, terrorism, and criminality wait just beneath the surface to destroy Tunisia’s democratic dream. But Tunisia is also poised to show that more-benevolent and more-moderate forces, including the citizens’ own determination to have democracy, can prevail. 

We – the international community – are the spectators in this great match. But we cannot just sit in the audience and watch. For the sake of Tunisia – and the region – the world must engage and support Tunisia’s economic and political progress. As one local governor told me, “We are determined to succeed with a democratic state. We will not go back!”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)

Photo:  Wassim Ben Rhouma/flickr

26 Mar
'Contagion of polarisation' dominates post-Arab Spring scene | Nadeen Shaker
Pundits studying the Middle East often cite Islamism as the most scathing malaise currently afflicting the region. To Issandr El-Amrani, owner of The Arabist blog and project director of International Crisis Group’s North African Project, however, differences between ruling groups, aside from their ideological beliefs, drive polarisation in post-revolutionary Arab countries.
In a lecture at the American University in Cairo on Wednesday, entitled “Egypt, Libya, Tunisia: From the Contagion of Revolution to the Contagion of Polarisation,” El-Amrani developed the metaphor of “contagion” — adapting the domino effect scenario, in which Arab uprisings contagiously spread — to one where “polarisation”, not revolution, was the final outcome.
FULL ARTICLE (Ahram Online)
Photo: Jonathan Rashad/Wikimedia Commons

'Contagion of polarisation' dominates post-Arab Spring scene | Nadeen Shaker

Pundits studying the Middle East often cite Islamism as the most scathing malaise currently afflicting the region. To Issandr El-Amrani, owner of The Arabist blog and project director of International Crisis Group’s North African Project, however, differences between ruling groups, aside from their ideological beliefs, drive polarisation in post-revolutionary Arab countries.

In a lecture at the American University in Cairo on Wednesday, entitled “Egypt, Libya, Tunisia: From the Contagion of Revolution to the Contagion of Polarisation,” El-Amrani developed the metaphor of “contagion” — adapting the domino effect scenario, in which Arab uprisings contagiously spread — to one where “polarisation”, not revolution, was the final outcome.

FULL ARTICLE (Ahram Online)

Photo: Jonathan Rashad/Wikimedia Commons

19 Feb
Arab Spring turmoil mutes Morocco protest movement | AFP
When Arab Spring protests erupted in early 2011, Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement mobilised mass demonstrations, but three years on its goals remain frustrated and regional turmoil has dampened demand for change.
The movement that once brought tens of thousands onto the streets of main cities now musters just a few dozen activists to call for democratic reforms or denounce the high cost of living.
"It does seem that as a movement, the February 20 movement hasn’t gone anywhere, its demonstrations have ended, it hasn’t drafted the same level of support … that it initially attracted in early 2011," said analyst Issandr Amrani of the International Crisis Group (ICG).
FULL ARTICLE (Agence France-Presse)
Photo:  Hasna Lahmini/flickr

Arab Spring turmoil mutes Morocco protest movement | AFP

When Arab Spring protests erupted in early 2011, Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement mobilised mass demonstrations, but three years on its goals remain frustrated and regional turmoil has dampened demand for change.

The movement that once brought tens of thousands onto the streets of main cities now musters just a few dozen activists to call for democratic reforms or denounce the high cost of living.

"It does seem that as a movement, the February 20 movement hasn’t gone anywhere, its demonstrations have ended, it hasn’t drafted the same level of support … that it initially attracted in early 2011," said analyst Issandr Amrani of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

FULL ARTICLE (Agence France-Presse)

Photo:  Hasna Lahmini/flickr

6 Nov
Libyan Federalists Raise Tensions | Jamie Dettmer
Tensions in Libya are rising this week after federalism advocates in oil-rich eastern Libya have announced the formation of their own regional administration.
Sunday in the town of Ajdabiya, 150 kilometers south of Benghazi, Ibrahim Jathran and other federalist leaders accused the central government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan of “incompetence and corruption.”   Jathran, a former head of Libya’s Petroleum Protection Force turned on Zeidan earlier this year by using the force, which is largely made up of militias, to seize the country’s biggest oil-exporting ports Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider.
Federalist leaders who named a prime minister and a 24-member cabinet say that since the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Zeidan’s government and the Libyan parliament known as  the General National Congress have failed the country, and especially eastern Libya which they call by its traditional name of Cyrenaica. 
FULL ARTICLE (VOA News) 
Photo: Crethi Plethi/Flickr 

Libyan Federalists Raise Tensions | Jamie Dettmer

Tensions in Libya are rising this week after federalism advocates in oil-rich eastern Libya have announced the formation of their own regional administration.

Sunday in the town of Ajdabiya, 150 kilometers south of Benghazi, Ibrahim Jathran and other federalist leaders accused the central government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan of “incompetence and corruption.”   Jathran, a former head of Libya’s Petroleum Protection Force turned on Zeidan earlier this year by using the force, which is largely made up of militias, to seize the country’s biggest oil-exporting ports Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider.

Federalist leaders who named a prime minister and a 24-member cabinet say that since the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Zeidan’s government and the Libyan parliament known as  the General National Congress have failed the country, and especially eastern Libya which they call by its traditional name of Cyrenaica. 

FULL ARTICLE (VOA News) 

Photo: Crethi Plethi/Flickr 

28 Aug
La Tunisie a besoin d’une élite administrative et politique consensuelle | Xinhua
La Tunisie doit impérativement se doter d’une élite administrative et politique consensuelle en laquelle son peuple a confiance, a affirmé à Xinhua l’analyste franco-tunisien opérant pour “Tunisie International Crisis Group”, Michael Béchir Ayari.
Le pays doit mettre en sourdine, pour un temps, les conflits idéologiques parfois stériles qui paralysent les réformes politiques, économiques, sociales et sécuritaires, a-t-il dit, estimant que la Tunisie est dans une certaine mesure le dernier espoir du printemps arabe.
Lire tout l’article (Centre d’Informations Internet de Chine) 
Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

La Tunisie a besoin d’une élite administrative et politique consensuelle | Xinhua

La Tunisie doit impérativement se doter d’une élite administrative et politique consensuelle en laquelle son peuple a confiance, a affirmé à Xinhua l’analyste franco-tunisien opérant pour “Tunisie International Crisis Group”, Michael Béchir Ayari.

Le pays doit mettre en sourdine, pour un temps, les conflits idéologiques parfois stériles qui paralysent les réformes politiques, économiques, sociales et sécuritaires, a-t-il dit, estimant que la Tunisie est dans une certaine mesure le dernier espoir du printemps arabe.

Lire tout l’article (Centre d’Informations Internet de Chine) 

Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

26 Aug
Last Hope | James Traub
Last week Tunisia seemed to be heading for the whirlpool that has sucked Egypt down. The secular opposition had taken to the streets to demand that the Islamist government resign. The National Constituent Assembly, charged with writing a constitution, had been shut down. The state was paralyzed. This week, all the warring parties are talking to each other. The spirit of compromise could evaporate, but my impression, from talking to people on all sides over the last few days, is that Tunisia has a decent chance of avoiding catastrophe. Why is that?
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)
Photo: Gwenael Piaser/Flickr

Last Hope | James Traub

Last week Tunisia seemed to be heading for the whirlpool that has sucked Egypt down. The secular opposition had taken to the streets to demand that the Islamist government resign. The National Constituent Assembly, charged with writing a constitution, had been shut down. The state was paralyzed. This week, all the warring parties are talking to each other. The spirit of compromise could evaporate, but my impression, from talking to people on all sides over the last few days, is that Tunisia has a decent chance of avoiding catastrophe. Why is that?

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)

Photo: Gwenael Piaser/Flickr

22 Jul
The Arab Spring is just getting started | David Rohde
After the Egyptian army toppled President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the U.S. Congress expressed the sentiment of many in Washington.
“The army is the only stable institution in the country,” he said.
In the Western media, Arab Spring post-mortems proliferated, including a 15-page special report in The Economist that asked, “Has the Arab Spring failed?” The answer: “That view is at best premature, at worst wrong.”
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Charles Roffey/Flickr

The Arab Spring is just getting started | David Rohde

After the Egyptian army toppled President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the U.S. Congress expressed the sentiment of many in Washington.

“The army is the only stable institution in the country,” he said.

In the Western media, Arab Spring post-mortems proliferated, including a 15-page special report in The Economist that asked, “Has the Arab Spring failed?” The answer: “That view is at best premature, at worst wrong.”

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Charles Roffey/Flickr

4 Feb
Defterios: Why Egypt’s transition from its Arab Spring is so painful | CNN
By John Defterios
It was January 25, 2011 — day two of the World Economic Forum — when the brisk winds of change from Tahrir Square swept through the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.
Just a month before, in Tunisia, a vegetable seller triggered the Arab Spring when he doused himself with petrol and lit himself on fire. He had been frustrated by a sheer lack of opportunity, despite headline economic growth that looked promising on paper.
Tunisia, with a population of just over 10 million, is one matter. Egypt is eight times larger, and 40% of its people live on less than $2 a day.
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)
Photo: Nick Bygon/Flickr

Defterios: Why Egypt’s transition from its Arab Spring is so painful | CNN

By John Defterios

It was January 25, 2011 — day two of the World Economic Forum — when the brisk winds of change from Tahrir Square swept through the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

Just a month before, in Tunisia, a vegetable seller triggered the Arab Spring when he doused himself with petrol and lit himself on fire. He had been frustrated by a sheer lack of opportunity, despite headline economic growth that looked promising on paper.

Tunisia, with a population of just over 10 million, is one matter. Egypt is eight times larger, and 40% of its people live on less than $2 a day.

FULL ARTICLE (CNN)

Photo: Nick Bygon/Flickr

23 Jan
"Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists."

—Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director, on Arab uprisings and Al Qaeda in The New York Times, “Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring

16 Jan
Jemen ein Jahr danach: Der Regimewechsel steht noch aus | der Standard
von Gudrun Harrer
Ali Mohsen steht der islamistischen Partei Islah nahe - und Präsident Hadi hat in letzter Zeit viele Islah-Leute in wichtige Posten gehievt, zu viele für den Geschmack der revolutionären Jugend, aber sogar für den von manchen anderen Mitgliedern des oppositionellen Parteienbündnisses JMP. Die Islah ist ohne Zweifel heute die stärkste Partei des Jemen - auch hier fährt der Zug in Richtung mehr staatlicher Islam -, aber noch hat sie keine Wahlen gewonnen. Dass sie dennoch jetzt schon abkassiert, stört viele.
Manchmal scheint Hadi überhaupt zu vergessen, dass er nur einer Not-Transitionsregierung vorsteht, schreibt der Thinktank International Crisis Group (ICG) in einem Bericht im Oktober. Auch Hadi platziert vermehrt Leute aus seinem Clan - auch er hat einen Sohn - rund um sich. Angesichts der schlechten Sicherheitssituation ist verständlich, dass er enge Vertraute für seinen Schutz einsetzt, aber in der Politik haben sie eigentlich nichts zu suchen. Spöttisch spricht man jetzt schon von einer “Abyanisierung”, die Salehs “Sanhanisierung” abgelöst habe. Hadi stammt aus Abyan, so wie Saleh aus Sanhan stammte.
GANZEN ARTIKEL (der Standard)
Foto: kebnekaise/Flickr

Jemen ein Jahr danach: Der Regimewechsel steht noch aus | der Standard

von Gudrun Harrer

Ali Mohsen steht der islamistischen Partei Islah nahe - und Präsident Hadi hat in letzter Zeit viele Islah-Leute in wichtige Posten gehievt, zu viele für den Geschmack der revolutionären Jugend, aber sogar für den von manchen anderen Mitgliedern des oppositionellen Parteienbündnisses JMP. Die Islah ist ohne Zweifel heute die stärkste Partei des Jemen - auch hier fährt der Zug in Richtung mehr staatlicher Islam -, aber noch hat sie keine Wahlen gewonnen. Dass sie dennoch jetzt schon abkassiert, stört viele.

Manchmal scheint Hadi überhaupt zu vergessen, dass er nur einer Not-Transitionsregierung vorsteht, schreibt der Thinktank International Crisis Group (ICG) in einem Bericht im Oktober. Auch Hadi platziert vermehrt Leute aus seinem Clan - auch er hat einen Sohn - rund um sich. Angesichts der schlechten Sicherheitssituation ist verständlich, dass er enge Vertraute für seinen Schutz einsetzt, aber in der Politik haben sie eigentlich nichts zu suchen. Spöttisch spricht man jetzt schon von einer “Abyanisierung”, die Salehs “Sanhanisierung” abgelöst habe. Hadi stammt aus Abyan, so wie Saleh aus Sanhan stammte.

GANZEN ARTIKEL (der Standard)

Foto: kebnekaise/Flickr